Bethany Lutheran censured, admonished
ELCA congreaton in Minneapolis called a gay minister living in a committed relationship.
The Rev. Craig Johnson, bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), has sent a letter of “censure and admonition” to Bethany Lutheran Church, in Minneapolis’ Seward neighborhood (near Augsburg College), for its decision to call and ordain a person who was not eligible to serve as a pastor in the ELCA.
Jay A. Wiesner was ordained July 25 in an overflow worship service held at Plymouth Congregational Church, about 30 blocks from Bethany. On August 1, he was installed as Bethany’s associate pastor. Previously he had served as Bethany’s “pastoral minister for outreach.”
In his letter to the congregation, Johnson said he would postpone any disciplinary action against the congregation until the ELCA completes its decision-making process on two key issues: the possible ordination of people who are gay or lesbian and in committed relationships, and whether there should be a rite for the blessing of same-gender relationships. Decisions on these matters are expected to be made by voting members at the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando, Florida.
Johnson said he was censuring and admonishing the congregation with “sadness” and after much prayer and listening. He reminded the congregation of a “covenant” between the ELCA and its congregations. In particular, the bishop cited the ELCA Constitution and Bylaws, in which congregations “agree to call pastoral leadership from the clergy roster of this church in accordance with the call procedures of this church except in special circumstances and with the approval of the synodical bishop.”
“Bethany Lutheran Church after debate, discussion and vote willfully disregarded this critical accord of congregational life in the ELCA,” Johnson wrote.