Title: ELCA Synod Bishop Censures Kansas City Congregation
ELCA NEWS SERVICE


April 5, 2001


ELCA SYNOD BISHOP CENSURES KANSAS CITY CONGREGATION
01-074-JB


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Charles H. Maahs, bishop of the Central
States Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),
censured and admonished Abiding Peace Lutheran Church, Kansas City, Mo.,
for "willfully violating" the ELCA's constitution by calling and
ordaining Donna Simon to serve as its pastor, according to a March 24
news release from the synod.   Simon is not on the official clergy
roster of the ELCA.
     Maahs, however, stopped short of recommending removal of the
congregation from the official roster of ELCA congregations, an action
he could have taken.  His decision was supported by resolutions of the
Central States Synod Council, which met March 23-24 in Kansas City.
     Maahs said he chose not to recommend removing the congregation
from the ELCA roster of congregations, in part, because of continuing
discussion in the church on human sexuality.
     "My primary reason for this is that the issue of homosexuality
continues to be under discussion in the ELCA, and the Central States
Synod can make a contribution to this discussion," he said in a report
to the synod council.
     "I am disappointed that in its professed concern for the ELCA,
Abiding Peace is willing to push constitutional boundaries rather than
consider other means of partnership that would be less damaging to the
potential unity of the ELCA," Maahs said in the report.
     The ELCA is organized into 65 synods, each headed by a bishop
elected by the synod.  The Central States Synod, with offices in Shawnee
Mission, Kan., has nearly 72,000 baptized members in 219 congregations
in Kansas and Missouri.
     Last year Abiding Peace called and ordained Simon to serve as the
congregation's pastor.  She is not on the clergy roster because she is
not in compliance with an ELCA requirement that ordained ministers who
are homosexual in their self-understanding refrain from homosexual
sexual relationships, the news release said.
      Members of Abiding Peace, while under censure and admonition,
will not be eligible to serve on any council, board, committee or other
group of the synod, except by special invitation to discuss issues of
homosexuality, according to the release.
     The censure remains in the effect until Abiding Peace conforms to
the constitutional requirements of the ELCA or until the ELCA changes
its clergy standards, Maahs said in his report.
     The ELCA constitution is "the fundamental covenant" describing how
the church's congregations will work together, Maahs said.  It states
that congregations must follow established procedures for calling
clergy.
     "It is a serious matter when a congregation intentionally breaks
this covenant," he said.
     "I have met regularly with Pastor Simon and the leadership of
Abiding Peace and have experienced them as people of good faith," Maahs
continued. "While they steadfastly believe that the ELCA's official
policy of excluding gays and lesbians from ordained ministry is wrong,
they have demonstrated an ability for open and respectful dialogue
without resorting to coercive and inflammatory tactics which all too
often damage the church."  The congregation has also said it is willing
to have discussions with other congregations, Maahs reported.
      In a similar case last September, the Rev. Robert W. Mattheis,
bishop of the ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, Oakland, Calif., declined to
file disciplinary charges against a Berkeley, Calif., congregation for
its decision to call a man to serve as its pastor who is not on the
ELCA's official clergy roster.