Press release

University Lutheran Chapel Calls The Rev. Jeff Johnson

On September 19, 1999, the congregation of University Lutheran Chapel in Berkeley, California, voted unanimously to extend a call to the Reverend Jeff Johnson to become its pastor. 

University Lutheran Chapel is a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and is both a parish ministry and the Lutheran campus ministry for the University of California at Berkeley. The congregation was previously served by the Reverend Gustav Schultz from 1969 to 1997. ULC's call to Reverend Johnson is the culmination of a two year process of self-study and spiritual discernment by the congregation, which considered candidates from two sources: the ELCA roster and the roster from the Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries (LLGM). 

Dr. Kathleen Gee, president of ULC's council, commented as follows: "We are thrilled to extend this call to Jeff Johnson. Our congregation has a complex set of needs. In addition to many long-time members with a wide variety of professions and backgrounds, we have families with young children, youth, and University students. We strongly believe that Jeff brings multiple gifts and excellent experience to the chapel, making him the best match to be our Pastor."

Steve Schultz, a member of the Call Committee stated: "As a parent of children of Sunday School age, I was particularly excited to both observe and hear about Jeff's approach to Christian Education. During my visit to his church, young children were a welcome part of the Sunday morning service, participating in a quiet activity in the midst of the congregation, and giving the sense that they really belonged. I came away with a real appreciation for his ideas and energy in this area of congregational life."

Johnson's background

Pastor Johnson currently serves First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco where he has served since his ordination in 1990. In 1988, Pastor Johnson graduated from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, but was ineligible for placement within the ELCA because of denominational policy which requires a pledge of celibacy of lesbian and gay pastors. In spite of this he was ordained in 1990 along with two lesbian women when First United and its sister parish, St. Francis Lutheran Church committed themselves to challenging this policy of discrimination by calling these three to be pastors. For their actions in extending these calls, First United and St. Francis were expelled from the ELCA in 1995.

Pastor Johnson's credentials for ordained Lutheran ministry have been affirmed by Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries [LLGM] and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project. Under the ELCA's current policy, the Chapel congregation may face disciplinary action for its decision to call Pastor Johnson because he is not on the ELCA's roster of ordained ministers. However, according to ULC's president, Dr. Gee, "Our actions make it obvious that we disagree with this policy, however the Chapel remains strongly committed to serving as the campus ministry for UC-Berkeley and supports the mission of the ELCA. We called Jeff Johnson because of his gifts as a minister. We look forward to continuing the Chapel's long history as 'a community of faith at work in the world under the new and energetic leadership of Pastor Jeff Johnson."

When asked about the consequences of this decision, Jody Kresge, Principal at the Concordia School and long-time member of the congregation, responded: "I didn't think so much about the 'consequences of the decision, but rather, what would Jesus Christ have done? For me it was a decision of faith. His life was a life of inclusion." During the congregational discussion which preceded the vote, one member said: "We've had a long history of helping others, now we need to do this for ourselves. so that we can continue to reach out to the community."

Call process

ULC's process leading to its decision Following Pastor Schultz resignation from active service in November 1997, the congregation worked through a self-study process, as is recommended by the ELCA. Under the guidance of an outside consultant recommended by the Sierra Pacific Synod, Chapel members had many important small- and large-group conversations, stimulating spiritual community and growth.

The congregation's self-study resulted in the adoption of the following mission statement: "University Lutheran Chapel remains a community of faith at work in the world. Our historic commitment to social justice continues and is reinvigorated. We are an intentionally inclusive Christian community centered around Word and Sacrament and the spiritual growth and care of our members." The Chapel also set goals for reinvigorating four central areas of its ministry: worship, community building, social ministry, and campus ministry.

The opportunity for reflection provided by the self-study process also allowed the congregation to examine through study and discussion groups the possibility of including in its call process candidates from the roster of the Extraordinary Candidacy Project, in addition to candidates rostered by the ELCA.

On January 24, 1999, the Chapel congregation elected a seven-person Call Committee. On that same day the congregation also voted overwhelmingly to give the following instructions to the Call Committee: "Consider, in addition to candidates provided by the Sierra Pacific Synod, qualified candidates who are not on the ELCA roster because of their sexual orientation and refusal to comply with the requirement for celibacy. The Call Committee will work with Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries and the Extraordinary Candidacy Project to identify qualified candidates for consideration. All candidates, whether rostered with ELCA or ECP, will be given equal consideration."

The Call Committee was charged with recommending to the congregation the best possible person to fill the role as the Chapel's next pastor. As recommended by the ELCA, the committee drafted a "profile" document describing the Chapel and its goals. The profile was given to representatives of both the ELCA and LLGM, which used the document as their principal guide for attempting to match the Chapel's needs with the gifts and experience of candidates on their rosters.

In all, 7 candidates were interviewed by the Chapel's Call Committee. Charles Jaeger, the committee's chair, summarized its work as follows: "Each member of our committee felt a great sense of responsibility for attempting to discern the will of God for the Chapel. We were blessed to interview many talented pastors. After much individual and collective prayer and consideration, we decided ? unanimously and enthusiastically ? that Pastor Johnson is truly called to be our next pastor." 

ULC history 

University Lutheran Chapel was founded in 1947 at Berkeley as an official campus ministry of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. In 1977, the Chapel left the LC-MS for the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC). In 1988, the AELC merged with the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America to form the ELCA, and the Chapel became a member of the ELCA's Sierra-Pacific Synod. 


 

For more information 

University Lutheran Chapel: The official spokespeople for the congregation are: 
  • Dr. Kathleen Gee, Chapel Council President 
  • Charles Jaeger, Call Committee Chairperson 
Both can be reached by contacting University Lutheran Chapel by phone at 510/843-6230 or by email at [email protected]

The Sierra-Pacific Synod of the ELCA: The Sierra-Pacific Synod can be contacted by phone at 510/430-0500 or by e-mail at [email protected]

Lutheran Lesbian and Gay Ministries: LLGM can be contacted by phone at 415/553-4026 or by e-mail at [email protected]