Archive for February, 2011

Wait… What?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 28, 2011 by Country Preacher

In the mail recently, I received a missive from a small town in MN (Saint Paul is a small town, no?)  In it, there is a reprint of a theological opinion from the CTCRast regarding Laymen presiding over the Sacrament.  Now, given the Witchita Variata, one might assume that the CTCRast finds itself in an awkward position : Declaring the truth of our confessions in spite of our synod’s unfaithfulness.  But fret not, the CTCR, while condemning Lay-administration, notes in footnote 1, “…this request does not pertain to questions about the service of ‘licenced lay deacons,’ but about lay men ‘commissioned’ by the congregation….”  So, it’s all ok then.

Of course, one might wonder what would happen if the CTCR were asked specifically about that case, given that their answer in other cases roughly translates to “Are you daft, man!  Have you not read Augustana XIV!”

Perhaps it is time to fix this little problem we have with our confessions.

Dare to dream…

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A Clarification

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2011 by Country Preacher

In my previous post, I said, “They should be sued.”  Do I then mean that I think the government should be able to direct churches to hire (or rehire) certain teachers?  Am I suggesting that LCMS members should not abide by the dispute resolution process to which we implicitly (or explicitly, depending our your point of view) agree when we become members of the synod?  You can also insert here any other questions regarding the major legal issues regarding this case, because the answer to all of them is :

NO!

My point, amid all those words, was very simply this:

The church exists for a specific purpose.  So then also should any and all schools that the church may open.  We really need to keep that purpose front and center.  When the focus wanders, strange things happen, and we end up doing things that act against that purpose.

Also, we can not justify each and every action we take with the statement “We are The Church!  Of course our actions are justified.”  Such arguments have fueled injustice from the beginning of time, including the death of the prophets, the death of our Lord, the absolute certainty that the Roman Pontiff couldn’t be wrong about Luther, and even the recent death sentence handed down to Said Musa for the crime of converting to Christianity.  (By the Grace of God, he has been released, and is now safely in another country.)

Courts Note LCMS “Commissioned Minister” Fiction

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2011 by Country Preacher

It was bound to happen.  The fiction that teachers are “Commissioned Ministers”, executing a ministerial and religious role (kingdom of the right) instead of a secular (kingdom of the left) has been found out by the sixth circuit court, and  may even be adjudicated by the Supremes themselves.  What happened?

A congregation “fired” (word used by the court) a so-“called teacher” who then filed suit under the ADA retaliation law.  (Actually the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission filed suit, but the teacher joined in.)  The Court of appeals ruled that teacher was not specifically a religious employee, because:

1) Her duties before being colloquized and after did not change.

2) Most of the instruction was not specifically religious – she could only remember two occasions in five years where religious instruction was given in ‘secular’ topics

3) Even the contract (including one non-Lutheran!) teachers led chapel, making it not a specifically ministerial duty.

Read the whole thing yourself, if you wish.  Volokh talks about it here.  You can find the Appeals Court ruling here.  A law firm that seems to be unconnected to the case has a note about it here.  Which I mention because of the following statement from the concurring opinion by Judge White:

Tipping the scale against the ministerial exception in this case is that, as the majority points out, there is evidence here that the school itself did not envision its teachers as religious leaders, or as occupying ‘ministerial’ roles. Hosanna-Tabor’s teachers are not required to be called or even Lutheran to teach or to lead daily religious activities. The fact that the duties of the contract teachers are the same as the duties of the called teachers is telling.

Indeed it is.  There are other disturbing things about this, including, but not limited to the following*

1. That the congregation simply assumed that a called worker would resign when asked.  That’s why they are called, so you can’t do that.

2. That the congregation had non-Lutheran’s leading chapel!!!

3. That so little religious content was included in the regular course of instruction.

4. That the mere threat of someone asserting their legal rights under the law in the face of unjust termination was considered by anyone “insubordination and disruptive”.

5. That the congregation used this as the basis to “rescind the call”???  Let’s hope that the court simply erred in terminology.  You can’t do that (More under #6).  Assuming they declared her unfit, what was the specific charge?  Pointing out that the law protects the rights of church workers from unjust treatment?  The Synod(inc.) is not above the law.  We “INC.” our synod and the congregations to enjoy certain legal benefits that the government gives to “INCs”.  We can not then turn around and say, “We aren’t subject to any of the laws that would impede our ability to do whatever the heck we please” when we find it perfectly acceptable to be subject to the ones that benefit us.  Districts and congregations also “INC” themselves for the same reasons.  As an “INC”, you are then subject to the rules, and must play by them. That means either obeying the laws to which we are subject, or expecting people to sue us.

6. You can not rescind a call.  You can not fire a called church worker.  You can remove them for cause.  There was no cause here.  Let’s review.  1) False Teaching?  Nope.  2) Conduct Unbecoming? They didn’t even claim that in the court filing.  They simply said they were religious, and so didn’t need to follow the law.  3) Inability or unwillingness to carry out the duties?  According to her doctor, no.  So what cause had they?

Quite frankly, they should be sued.  Because they weren’t actually providing a Lutheran education.  They were using the call process to save money on salary, not because they actually believed that these people were ministering to children.  They were allowing chapel to be led by those who are scripturally ineligible to do so.

Oh yeah, and they broke the law by firing someone.

Now, the upside to this is that the government doesn’t communicate well with itself.  Because if it did, the IRS might find out that we have, for fifty years, been treating teachers like the ministers they aren’t solely for tax reasons.**    And if they find that out, they might decide they want their money.  And that would be bad.

*These are from the summary, which consists of the judicially determined facts in the case – either those not in dispute or those disputed, by which have received a judicial determination as to which version of facts are considered true by the court.

**Don’t believe me?  Guess who came up with the term “Commissioned Minister”?  It’s an IRS category.  You will search in vain through all the writings of the church through all of history, until the exact moment that the IRS came up with the word.  All of a sudden, it is a cherished Lutheran Doctrine.

Angelic Dialogue

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2011 by Country Preacher

“This is a situation that will require great sensitivity and the utmost pastoral care.”

“All we’ve got available is a hack in a collar.”

“Send him in.”

Chris Christie QOD

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2011 by Country Preacher

I haven’t really said too much about Chris Christie.  Which is a shame because he is awesome.

In an article in the WaPo, Dana Milbank quotes him as follows:

“You just have to have the spine to say, ‘I’m going to take the risk,’ ” the governor coaxed. “I think that’s what we elect leaders for. Hence the name.”

Not only a great commentary on politics, but on theology as well.  Pastors, remember these words.

Spooky

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2011 by Country Preacher

Life is imitating art again.

Back in my seminary days, we used to joke that +Dr Marquardt+ knew everything.  So, when the “Q” document came out, it would invariably note that he had just published a book on the anatomy of the crocodile, or perhaps on the history of management integration in mid sized corporations in the 1930’s, or (and I clearly remember this one) 18th century french architecture.

Turns out, we were ribbing the wrong professor.  An amazon search of David Scaer brings up this book, to which he contributed: The Depiction of Clothing in the French Medieval Manuscripts.  Could it possibly be the same David Scaer?

I once heard Scaer and Marquardt informally debate the merits of various economic systems used throughout the world.  They both knew a whole lot about corporate governance, the history of business and the wealth of nations, for men who ‘spent their lives locked in ivory towers’.  So I wouldn’t put it past DS to know about french fashion in medieval manuscripts.  Or for that matter, the anatomy of the crocodile.

Don’t Get Me Wrong…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2011 by Country Preacher

I really do love LSB.  The wealth of resources, the great Lutheran nature of the whole project, it is a source of great blessing for the church.

But…

Some days, the whole “politically correct” thing that somehow got infused  into it makes me sad, and a little bit nostalgic for TLH.