The discipline hearing committee constituted to hear charges against Pastor Bradley Schmeling has released its decision. You can view the complete trial decision or abbreviated update at the St. John Atlanta web site. It has also been posted on the ELCA news server. News networks will surely be picking up the story in a matter of hours. What a joyous decision for the church and for all people in the church not just GLBT people. The following bullets extracted from the summary highlight the findings.
- The ELCA’s disciplinary policy regarding clergy in committed same-gender relationships is not contained in the ELCA Constitution, but in the document Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline. The committee has expressed near-unanimous concern that the ELCA’s policy against pastors in same-gender relationships “may very well violate the constitution and bylaws of this church.”
- The committee has affirmed Pastor Schmeling’s ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church, finding as a fact that the congregation has flourished in membership, participation, and giving during Pastor Schmeling’s service.
- The committee has called for the ELCA to remove the policy through both the church’s highest judicial and legislative bodies, Committee on Appeals and the Churchwide Assembly. And the committee has delayed removing Pastor Bradley until after the 2007 Churchwide Assembly (which meets August 6-12, 2007, in Chicago).
What does this mean?
- The committee expressed nearly unanimous concern that the church’s policies on pastors in same-gender relationships “are at least bad policy, and may very well violate the constitution and bylaws of this church.
- The committee said that, under ELCA’s constitutional standards, they “would find almost unanimously that Pastor Schmeling is not engaged in conduct that is incompatible with the ministerial office, and would find with near unanimity that no discipline of any sort should be imposed against him.”
- The committee has found that, during Pastor Schmeling’s time at St. John’s, congregational membership, attendance in worship, participation by young people, and benevolent giving have all increased. All of these things are decreasing in the ELCA as a whole.
- The committee called for the ELCA’s highest judicial and legislative authorities to change the policy, because of its concern that it is “at least bad policy, and may very well violate the constitution and bylaws of this church.”
- The committee has delayed action until Pr. Schmeling has had a chance to appeal the decision and the denomination has attempted to change the policy.