Sierra Pacific Hijinx, 1: We hear that near the end of January when the San Francisco Conference met to elect its dean, there was at first a vote to "abstain" from electing a dean at all in order to protest the requirement that the conference dean must be on the ELCA clergy roster.
Subsequently a motion was offered to lift the "ELCA roster" requirement. To the dismay of the Bishop's assistant who was present, the motion passed.
After the first ballot, the only nominees willing to stand for the dean's office were ELM clergy, and shortly thereafter, Pr. Steve Sabin of Christ Church Lutheran in San Francisco was elected dean of the conference. He is not the first "unrostered with the ELCA" pastor to be elected dean in the Sierra Pacific Synod.
A few days later (we hear) email went out from Bishop David Mullen quoting SB12.01.04 and SB12.01.05 from the synod constitution.
The bishop declared the office of dean vacant because Pr. Sabin is not rostered with the ELCA, directed the Conference Cabinet to appoint an interim dean who is duly rostered, and directed the conference to elect a duly rostered dean at the next conference assembly.

More Hijinx: At about the same time as the SF conference assembly, the Sierra Pacific Synod Council met, and one of it's actions was to offer a synodical call to Pr. Susan Strouse (pictured) if certain "conditions" could be met.
Pr. Strouse is an ELCA pastor who has been called by and serves First United (SF), an independent Lutheran church since being expelled from the ELCA in 1995 for its role in calling and ordaining Pr. Ruth Frost, Pr. Phyllis Zillhart and Pr. Jeff Johnson in 1990.
To date, the synod has not recognized Pr. Strouse's call to First United, and the ELCA lists Pr. Strouse as "on leave from call." She will eventually be dropped from the roster if that status continues.
The condition that the synod council placed on the offer of a synodical call to Pr. Strouse is that First United must re-apply for membership in the Synod. This, we understand, is extremely unlikely since the policy that caused First United to be expelled in 1995 is still in effect. And after all, if the congregation were to rejoin the synod, there would be no need for a synodical call, would there?

The Road to 2009: The dates for the January meeting of the Task Force for Studies on Sexuality (January 24-26) have come and gone. According to the schedule, the main order of business was to "finalize work on the draft of a social statement on human sexuality."
In February the task force will report to the Church in Society program committee. In March, the Conference of Bishops will review the draft report at it's March 6 meeting, rostered leaders will get advance access to the draft on March 12 and the draft will be released to the public on March 13.
Those who follow the task force's progress will want to keep track of the occasional changes to the timeline (last updated Novenber 9, 2007).

The Next Day: Pr. Erik Christensen preached a great sermon at Salem Lutheran in Minneapolis on January 20, the day after


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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:

    Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.

    Pr. Jen Nagel's ordination. Thanks to ELM for posting the text.

    Run On Water (March 1): Preparations are underway in the Central Great Lakes Synod for this year's Run On Water. Bishop Thorvald "Wally" Noe-Effingway has been training for weeks and he has encouraged all the Synod's clergy to join him in the run.

    Ask Pr. Sophie: Pr. Sophie Fortresson, our resident expert on all matters of theology, Lutheran etiquette, and social protocol, answers questions submitted by our readers and occasionally simply volunteers advice when no question has been asked. If you have questions (and who among us doesn't?) send them to pr_sophie@lutheranconfessions.com.
    Dear Pastor Sophie: My partner and I have been members of a Lutheran church for the last 10 years. We came out to the congregation 8 years ago, and people have been very supportive. Last year we decided that we were ready to have our relationship solemnized, and we asked our pastor and the church council if we could have a service of blessing at church later this year. We were thrilled when they said yes and we started making plans.
    Last week, the pastor called to say there might be a snag: she'd mentioned the service to the bishop and apparently the bishop got all huffy and told her the service couldn't be at our church and if she did go ahead with the service, she'd lose her job.
    We need a reality check. Is that for real? Could our pastor really be fired for presiding at our commitment service or for letting us have the service at church?
    Thanks,
    Bud and Dude
    Location Withheld

    Dear Bud and Dude: First, congratulations on having found each other and having found an accepting congregation. Pr. Sophie is sure your Wedding will be simply fabulous and she wishes you well.
    Now, about your pastor's predicament: ordinarily, a bishop could not fire a pastor outright, but could initiate disciplinary proceedings by filing written charges. According to the ELCA constitution (and everyone should read the constitution), a disciplinary process against a pastor may result in censure, suspension from the pastoral office, or removal from the roster. However, those outcomes don't invalidate the congregation's call to its pastor. If your pastor is called by the congregation, the bishop could cause some bad things to happen, but could not simply fire your pastor.
    In the case of synodical calls, however, the bishop has a great deal more influence. Interim pastors, for example, serve under a letter of call from the synod council and are appointed by the bishop. Presumably the bishop could also terminate an interim's appointment or request that the Synod Council revoke its call to an interim.
    Pr. Sophie believes that in human interactions, and especially interactions with people in authority (bishops, clergy, etc.) it is best to keep in mind the doctrine of original sin. Inevitably, the person before you will do some self-serving thing, take unfair advantage, fail to be charitable or possibly do something even worse. We all fall short. Your pastor and your bishop are no holier than you, no less likely than you are to misrepresent things. The trick is to identify these lapses (again, read the constitution!), to protect yourself as well as you can when they occur, and to cultivate the grace to be forgiving.

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