Statement presented to my Church Council (Thursday 17, August, 2000)

Authority in the Lutheran Church of Australia

The Lutheran Church of Australia confesses that “we accept, without reservation, the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as a whole and in all their parts, as the divinely inspired, written, and inerrant word of God, and as the only infallible source and norm for all matters of faith, doctrine, and life.”

The Lutheran church accepts the confessions of the Lutheran Church, “without reservation, as true expositions of the word of God”.

The Lutheran Church, along with the church of all ages, regards the authoritative interpretation of God’s Word as belonging by divine right to the authority of the office of the ministry:

AC XXVIII; 21-26 “According to divine right, therefore, it is the office of the bishop to preach the Gospel, forgive sins, judge doctrine and condemn doctrine that is contrary to the Gospel, and exclude from the Christian community the ungodly whose wicked conduct is manifest. All this is to be done not by human power but by God's Word alone. On this account parish ministers and churches are bound to be obedient to the bishops according to the saying of Christ in Luke 10:16, "He who hears you hears me." On the other hand, if they teach, introduce, or institute anything contrary to the Gospel, we have God's command not to be obedient in such cases, for Christ says in Matt. 7:15, "Beware of false prophets." St. Paul also writes in Gal. 1:8, "Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed," and in 2 Cor. 13:8, "We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth." Again Paul refers to "the authority which the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down."
The doctrine of the Lutheran Church of Australia, and all practices that follow from it, was determined at its inception by the “Theses of Agreement”, which were accepted by the Synods of the UELCA and ELCA. The constitution of the LCA requires a two thirds majority of Synod to change this doctrine, or any practice that follows from it.

The unwritten rule, set by precedent in the LCA on the basis of AC XXVIII, is that no doctrinal issue shall discussed or voted on at Synod that has not been previously discussed by and recommended to the Synod by the Pastors Conference.

The Lutheran Church of Australia does not teach that the authority of the office of the ministry is derived from the priesthood of all believers, but directly from the mandate of Christ.

In the same way, it has been accepted that the Pastors Conference does not receive its authority from the Synod, but from Christ by virtue of his institution of the office of the ministry.

This Synod and Pastors Conference has called into question key elements of this balance of authority in the LCA.
The issue of the ordination of women is one that requires an interpretation of scripture. Since scripture alone is recognised by the LCA as the only infallible source and norm of all doctrine in the church, this has created a crisis in our understanding of the authority of scripture in the church. (ie. how can it be the only source and norm of our doctrine, when we are using other means to interpret it? does this not mean that we are in fact seeking an authority higher than scripture itself, on which we can depend for this interpretation?)

Synod took upon itself the role as interpreter of God’s word and judge of true and false doctrine by voting on the matter of ordination of women. Since Synod is clearly without a divine mandate to interpret and judge God’s word, this has created a crisis in our understanding of the authority of the Synod. (What is the Synod’s source of authority? Who authorised it? Can Synod authorise itself?)

Synod voted on an issue that had been rejected by the vote of Pastors Conference. This has created a crisis in our understanding of the relationship between Pastors Conference and Synod.

A majority of the Synod voted for the ordination of women, although not enough to change the practice of the church. This has created a crisis in our understanding of the authority of the constitution: how many need to vote for something before we can say that it is truly God’s will?

The vote at Pastors Conference was against the ordination of women, but only by three votes. Since the Pastors Conference is the one body in the church that could, by virtue of the office of the ministry, claim a divine mandate as interpreter and judge of doctrine, this has created a crisis in our understanding of the authority of Pastors Conference in the LCA. (Moreover, other questions have been raised: such as the inclusion of retired pastors (which has never been questioned before). And a majority of pastors in the Pastors Conference itself directly repudiated any notion that the Pastors Conference may act as an authority in interpreting the word--”send it to the people” was the cry)

Moreover, all other authoritive bodies in the church have been shown to be helpless in deciding this issue, be it Commision on Theology, General President, College of Presidents, or General Church Council (which will now decide future action).

Personal Questions:

Can a democratic vote “of the people” ever determine what is the true will of God?

How can the church today reach an authoritative interpretation of the bible?

What is it that makes our confessions “true”? Does “true” mean the same as “infallible”? What gives the writers of the confessions (eg. Luther and Melanchthon) an infallibility that the Lutheran Church denies to anything or anyone other than the scriptures?

How and from whom does the Synod of the LCA receive its authority to teach on matters of doctrine?

How and from whom does the Synod of the LCA receive its authority to authorise the ordination of anyone? [I have been taught that Christ authorises me to serve as an ordained servant of the word through the call of the Lutheran Church of Australia. Presumably this means that it is the Synod that authorised me. Who authorised the Synod of the LCA?]

When I preach, I am required to preach the “truth”. Who decides the “truth”? Me? Synod? Pastors Conference? Dare I preach as God’s Word what is simply my opinion/interpretation? Dare I preach as God’s word what is simply the opinion/interpretation of two thirds of the delegates to Synod?

Pastors (and all Christians) should stand “beneath” the word, as its obedient recipients, not “above” the word as its critics and judges. Yet am I not required to do the latter, in so far as I, as an exegete, am trying to determine the “true meaning” of scripture? (eg. law forbidding divorce).

I have been told that “we cannot ever know for certain what God’s will is, and must simply rely on God’s grace, doing what seems best to us.” Would Christ really have sent out his apostles “to make disciples of all nations by baptising and teaching” without giving them some means by which they could know for certain what they were to teach?

I have been told that the Church has made mistakes in the past. The failure to recognise that it is God’s will that the church ordain women is just one of them. If this is so, could the church not have erred (eg.) in regard to the doctrine of the two natures of Christ? or the Trinity? or salvation by faith? or the exact extent of canon of scriptures? If the church has no way of infallibly knowing the will of God, then how can we trust that we have not long ago gone way of the rails and that we are indeed following God’s will at all any more?

In essence, whenever anyone recognises a crisis of authority one is simultaneously faced with a crisis of faith. How can I believe if I do not know what to believe?

Monday, 21 August, 2000

I should have written in this journal a week ago. This has been a busy week with regard to my “conversion”, and I only hope that I can remember it all.

Last Monday, Cathy’s parents came to tea, and I took the opportunity to tell them of my decision. It wasn’t easy, but Cathy had said that her mother was asking if everything was alright now (the District President had told her that he was almost in daily contact with me, which was a bit of an exageration). When I finally did find the courage to tell them, and to tell them why, my mother-in-law's first reaction was sheer horror--not at what this might mean personally for Cathy, Maddy and I, but at the dogmatic question of authority.

“But they’re only men!” she repeated, again and again, in horror.

When I outlined the need I had personally to be able to know what it was I should believe in, ie. what the will of God is for his church, she responded: “But we can never know, that’s just it. We do what seems best to us and trust in God that we are going the right way.” If that is true, I said, then the only alternative for me would be atheism (at this point, my father-in-law pointed to himself, indicating that this was his chosen option!).

The choice for me was as clear as that: Catholicism or atheism. I had to raise the personal aspect (my mother-in-law seemed not to be able to get over her horror at the idea of me accepting the Catholic faith). I reassured her that this did not mean that I was leaving Cathy and Maddy, and told them about my efforts towards my annulment. Unfortunately, I had to leave early in this discussion for a meeting down at Casey, but it was a little more traumatic than I had expected.

Interesting to compare it to my own parents' reaction when I stopped in Pinnaroo on my way home from Synod. Mum had said “I always believed that there was right and wrong in the church, and that the pastors were supposed to be trained to follow and teach according to the rules, I just wish you didn’t have to become Catholic.” She and Dad, at least, could understand what my need for certain authority was. I don’t think that my mother-in-law could.

I commented about this to Cathy the next day, and we considered how much we have actually received from our parents of our understanding of faith.

The next day was Zone Pastors’ Conference. The District President attended, but spent most of the time he was there discussing the Eucharistic Hospitality issue. He went to great pains to show how carefully this would be applied, and all the hoops that would be necessary before jumping through them. I must say I felt a bit cynical, and commented afterwards that while I could imagine him and the Anglican Bishop of Ballarat being scrupulous in this regard, I could not imagine the other Lutheran presidents and (say) some Uniting Church moderators being so careful about the interpretation of the rule.

During the lunch break, I took up a discusion with Pastor DB. He had suggested that the Heidelberg Disputation be the topic of consideration next time, in particular the distinction between the theology of the cross and a theology of glory. I took up with him an issue that had been bothering me. Was it a theology of glory to desire a clear and certain line of authority in the church, whereby God’s word could be clearly and infallibly known? The answer, in his opinion, was “no”, since it was still required that such authoritative statements be received in faith; and that such authority was still excercised by sinful men (shades of my mother-in-law's objection?), under whom the authority of the church was still “hidden” rather than “manifest”. This was a good answer, it seemed to me.

Then we had the discussion regarding Synod. Pastors HP and GW tried to defend the Synod, and wondered why the two sides of the issue must be church divisive. We talked about the crisis of Authority in the church (some are still closing there eyes to this, but most now recognise it). And I asked a question, saying: “If anyone has an answer to this, they may have the power of changing my life. What authority does Synod have to determine the will of God, and where does it get its authority from?”. HP answered “Synod authorises Synod”, which was exactly the answer I had suspected, but did not want to hear. Pastor SP disappointed me in saying “What do we do when we no longer have a clear authority in the church? We just act--we sin ‘boldly and even more boldly believe in Christ’--and we trust in God’s grace.” This seemed to be my mother-in-law's model for ecclesiology, but I am not sure SP actually believes it.

Then after this rather disatisfying episode, I had an hour before meeting Cathy at Wattle Park Clinic for a pregancy checkup, so I went down to the District President in his office and told him that I was back at square one again, that I was applying for the annulment, and that I was hanging on by my fingernails to my faith as a Lutheran. I told him that I would be taking steps along the way to develop a process whereby I could be received into the Catholic Church--not that I had yet decided to (little white lie, there), but that I wanted all extraneous material out of the way so I could make my decision. He told me that he not only had the three of us (or four, including Marco) with a foot in Rome, but he was also facing five pastors in the Western districts and seven congregations who were threatening to leave the LCA. He says he is going to make a statement at the October Pastors’ Conferance. He also outlined his plan for working with the issue of Women’s Ordination--he wants to see that it never comes back to a Synod again unless the Pastors Conference is agreed on the matter.

To that end, I applied myself to preparing a document for my elders, with whom I am meeting this Thursday. After trying to explain issues to my Church Council on Thursday night, I decided that I needed to put some things down on paper--not hinting at my “Catholic solution”, but outlining the reasons for suspecting a crisis of authority in the church following this Synod. I sent copies to a large number of the brethren, and am surprised to see that it has sparked quite a healthy debate regarding church polity and authority and the legality of the debate at Synod etc.

I have also put in a lot of effort into writing my written statement for my annulment application. I have complete this today--it is a full 10 pages, but I am quite happy with it. I have offered it to Cathy to read, and she has said that she is interested, if I am willing to share it. I am nominating my oldest and closest friends, Pastor A., Pastor D. and his wife, G. and Pastor T (who was my pastor and celebrant at my first marriage) as witnesses. I have written a letter to T., which I will send soon, and I called D.'s wife on her mobile (D. in the United States)--and got her in Rundle Mall outside Myers! She is staying with her parents there in Adelaide. I asked her to be a witness also, because she knew both me and my first wife, and is not another “Rev.” on the list.

I rang the Tribunal and asked to speak to Fr Tony Kerin, the priest I saw the first time around. Unfortunately, I had to deal with the assistant, and she was very brusque, saying that I did not need another appointment, but just send the document in. I said I wanted to talk to Father Kerin about getting a dissolution for Cathy, since her first husband was not baptised. She said that Cathy had to come in and make an application for that herself. I tried to explain the situation, that I wanted to know what the process would be, but she was very adamant that I was not going to get an appointment to see Tony. So I have included a request in this regard in my covering letter to accompany the application.

The road ahead is still very long and winding. I can see the goal, but not how to get there. I have come to realise that it may be as much as two years before I can make the change (given that the annulment application itself may take 18 months). In fact, it is probably better that it does take this long, when I consider the fact that I am financially committed to paying of my car (still owing $11,000) and that I have 11 weeks of long service leave due to me in Nov 2002. Mum and Dad rang me on Sunday (they are travelling in outback WA at the moment) and wanted to know if I was still in the Lutheran Church. I said that it was likely to be a long drawn out process, so not to worry for some time yet.

I am reading an excellent book from P. (my source of all books Catholic--I accused him of being a “voyeur” the other day, with his room full of “pornography”--ie. he was looking lustfully from the outside without intention to enter into the committment, and meanwhile filling his shelves with books of Catholic theology!). This one is called “The Church and the Culture War” by Joyce Little, a Catholic female theologian. It is sheer brilliance, and, next to Ratzinger’s “Called to Communion”, is the one thing I have read in the last six months that has most made me want to affirm the Catholic faith.

Monday, 14th August, 2000

The last two weeks have been hard. They have been filled with dialogue via email with a number of fellow pastors in the LCA--two who know my decision and three who do not. I have been watching the LCAi discussion list on the net again, and there is nothing that gives me joy.

Main events in the last fortnight was meeting meeting on Friday night a week ago with the elder who wants an elders meeting to discuss what is on my mind. He wanted the meeting before I went away, but we could not find the time. I had to drop in to see him about something else, so I got onto telling him my fears about our Synodical process as a means of doctrinal teaching. He concurred with my conclusions for the most part, and although I did not tell him what my final conclusion was, I think he knows. He said that I have three choices: either I get out, or I put blinkers on, or I try to change to system. Neither of us could accept the second solution, and I told him that I did not think it was possible to change the system; that leaves “get out”. We didn’t go into that, but I think he knows what my choice would be. He himself converted from RC to Lutheran--not because he was ever disloyal to the Catholic Church, but rather because pre-marriage discussions with his wife led him to believe that being Lutheran was better.

Then last Friday night, P. invited me around for a drink after the Ministry to Adolescents Program (Confirmation lessons) and we talked about the reactions of a few of the pastors of the LCA. We also had look at the Apology to the Augsburg Confession articles VII and VIII and concluded that it was a very thin and inadequate ecclesiology.

I have felt quite despondent in the last few weeks. Above all, to be able to do this job, you have to believe in it.

Monday, 31st July, 2000

[Not recorded here is the fact that on the way home from Synod, I stayed with my parents again in Pinnaroo, and told them that it was now only a question of time before I left the Lutheran Church. - David 11/12/06]

I am in very low spirits at the moment. I woke up in a cold sweat at about 2am on Saturday morning (now at home) after having had a dream argument with the LCA General President that reached passionate hieghts. I remember the final words: “But don’t you see that that will be the end of the church!?” I have no idea what the issue was that I was so passionate about! Then last night I dreamed about the eucharistic hospitality issue. This is obviously weighing heavily on my mind!

I told Cathy this morning that I have no further desire to remain in the LCA. I am going ahead with the anullment, and then going from there. She took it calmly enough. I think she expected it.

I have been corresponding all day with other pastors who were at the Synod. And I have corresponded further with Fr John Fleming.

The three of us (P., Peter and I) are meeting on Wednesday to “debrief”.

One of my elders wants an elders meeting to discuss whatever it was on my mind last time we met. I don’t know how to tell them, or if I will, but I do think that we must address the consequences of Synod.

Tuesday, 25th July, 2000

I am sitting here in the Synod, up at the front table where I am supposed to be taking minutes on my laptop computer (actually, it turns out that I have been given the job of doing the powerpoint presentations of the motions and ammendments as they come from the floor). There is an Openbook presentation going on, so I am not very busy. I have just put away the book on Newman by Jaki that I am reading, and decided to write a few things down for this.

A couple of things that Jaki’s book on Newman claims he taught:

"Did he not most emphatically deny to the laity precisely that leadership which is to speak authoritatively in matters theological, even though he wanted them to be consulted and to be fully articulate?"

"A book cannot defend itself from false interpretations."

I am in a bit of a turbulent state at the moment. At the end of the last session, the vote on the Ordination of Women was announced: 220 for, 195 against, 1 abstaining. We had spent the whole day debating this, with almost 60 speakers. Just before the announcement, I found myself in a discussion with one pastor with whom I went through Seminary and who now looks like taking a teaching role in the church, a man who claims to stand for confessional scriptural theology, but in fact does neither (and, incidentally, claims that infant baptism is in the same category as ordination of women, since it is ‘permited’ by scripture, but not explicitly commanded). He would claim that such a statement as I have just made is “arrogant in the extreme”. When I told him that I do not think that scripture or confessions can be interpreted rightly apart from the tradition of the church, he said that I was moving outside of my ordination vows. He went on to say that he “feared for" me and would “pray for" me, implying that my theology is going off the rails and that I am in mortal danger of some kind. What arrogance on his part!

In any case, I really am not feeling at all well in my soul. (Perhaps I am in mortal danger!) A result such as this is a loss for both sides—for the pro-side because it was not over 66%, and for the anti-side because it was under 50%.

I cannot accept that this Synod has any teaching authority in the church at all. P. says that although this Synod opened with the statement that it regards the Scriptures as the only infallible source and norm of all doctrine, yet it regards itself as an additional infallible interpreter of the scriptures. I cannot accept that it has authority to do this.

Now I have a true crisis of authority: the pastors’ conference does not regard itself as having the right to teach on doctrine, the synod does. This is back to front.

Lutherans for Life did a short presentation with some pictures of little babies in it. I started crying. I miss Maddy and Cathy and I just wanted to go home to be with them. I know that Cathy does not share my views, but she does sympathise, and I long for her love and her comfort. I feel very much out in the cold at the moment. I am a long way from home, and I am still sailing that deep wide ocean between saying “I want to be a Roman Catholic” and actually finding my way into the harbour of the Church.

I am back at my aunt's now. I think it is pretty obvious now where the church is headed. It can do no other than eventually pass this motion for women to be ordained to the office of the ministry. O God. I really have to face far more now than I ever have before the possibility that the Lutheran Church of Australia is no church at all.

Another senior pastor and teacher whom I greatly respect came up to me today, took me aside and said: "Don’t leave us". When I told him that the most important thing of all for me was that I be the Catholic that I am, he said: "Be a Catholic in the Lutheran Church". Now, this was before the vote was announced--if I thought before that I cannot be a Catholic in the Lutheran Church, I certainly think it now.

When I get home, I will begin preparation for my anulment application. I will hang around in the LCA until my anulment is granted and our marriage is blessed, and then I will move on. I will begin other procedural explorations as well. In the meantime, God grant me the grace to continue my ministry in good faith until it is possible for me to profess my faith as a Roman Catholic. I can’t stay in the LCA, I just cannot. To do so would be completely against the grain for me.

It seems that there are both objective and subjective forces at work within me. The subjective force is the recognition that I am, at heart, a Catholic, and that my greatest desire is to be in communion with the Roman Pontiff. The objective forces are those forces within the LCA that are making it more and more impossible for me to remain faithful to the Catholic faith within the LCA.

There is one song that has been repeated a couple of times today: “The Church of Christ in every age”. Its verses are very pertinent in some places:

The Church of Christ in every age
beset by change, but Spirit led,
must claim and test its heritage
and keep on rising from the dead.

We have no mission but to serve
in full obedience to our Lord;
to care for all, without reserve,
and spread his liberating Word.
There it is.

Sunday, 23rd July, 2000

Today, the Synod began. I am staying at my aunt's home in Nuriootpa. Its very late. I just got in after a late session of Aboriginal Reconciliation rites.

Incidentally (as if it were relevant) Mike Semmler was elected next General President.

But the reason why I have fired up the computer this late at night is to say that after the speech by Dr Ishmael Noko (General Secretary of the LWF), P. lent across to me and said “I think I am a Roman Catholic”. This is the most positively that he has yet stated it. Later when I was talking to him, I said that I had rather thoughtlessly told Vernon that we had been to see John Fleming. P. said: “I don’t care who knows anymore.”

Saturday, 22nd July, 2000

I arrived at John Fleming’s home just before P. and Peter. John welcomed me by saying “It’s been a long time”, and later asked after “that other Lutheran who used come with you” (namely R.). So he had not forgotten me.

We sat down, and Peter led off the discussion, asking about the doctrine of vocation, especially citing those who said that since we were in the Lutheran Church and called to the Lutheran Church, that is where God wanted us to be. John replied that he was told much the same thing, but that it doesn’t follow either logically or theologically. Otherwise he said, no one would ever come to faith (being called from unbelief to belief) or be called to the priesthood (since this also means leaving a vocation for another one).

When we raised the issue of our vows, I refered to my suspicions of what he said on the tape [see earlier blog] that because his call to Rome was the call the truth, then his vows were null and void. I asked if this was not like a man who comes to me saying that God is calling him to leave his wife and marry someone else. John answered that the analogy does not follow, because in the former case, God’s call was based on objective, demonstrable truth, and in the latter case the “call” was no more than an undemonstrable feeling. Fair enough.

I asked whether Newman was not right when he said that one should only convert to another church when one feels that one can no longer be saved in the church to which you belong. John said that this was only an opinion of Newman’s, whereas the Vat II council declared it to be the ultimate duty of every human being to seek the truth and to follow its dictates when they have found it.

Peter Holmes asked how would know that this is truly the calling of the Spirit. John replied that with people such as ourselves, logic and intellect would play a great part in that calling.

We talked about our seminary mentor's assertion that the Catholic church was where the orthodox liturgy was celebrated. John concurred with this to a certain extent, as long as it included a validly ordained priest as the celebrant of the liturgy. Ipso facto, a Roman priest.

We talked about many other things, but somehow we got onto the topic of the fact that we were all married. John seemed confident that once we converted to the Church there would be little impediment to us being cleared for ordination to the priesthood. He said that George Pell was instrumental in clearing the way for his own ordination with the authorities in Rome, and that we could expect, as ordained ministers converting to the church, to be treated the same way.

At first I was going to say nothing about my own marital status, but in the end, my heart was sinking as I listened to him (as one does when a great possibility is held before one, but not the possibility of grasping it). So I told him about my divorce and remarriage. He concurred with Fr Tony Kieran that the fact that my former partner did not desire to have children with me, compounded by the early age of our marriage, was very good grounds for anullment. But then I said, having gone through the anulment process and been remarried, it was unlikely that I would then be okayed for ordination. He asked “Why not? The Roman Catholic Church is very consistent. If it declares that your first marriage was null and void, and if it blesses your current marriage, what is there to find fault with?”

I must say that this was very, very good news for me. More than I could have hoped for. I had to leave early to go to lunch with my first wife's parents (who are still good friends although I have not seen them for a long time), but John closed by saying to us: “Give immeadiate attention to process. Think through what you will do if you will do it. This is perhaps more important at this stage than making the decision to convert.”

I agree with him. From what I was hearing from P. and Peter, they were hearing and lapping up what John was saying. I think the three of us need to give some serious consideration to this question.

As I was listening to John, I knew that what he was saying was right. I have to become a Roman Catholic. I will not be able to continue ad infinitum as a Lutheran with a good conscience. I do not think that I will follow David Stolz’s advice after all--I do not think that I can--given what happened at Pastors’ Conference--and take the line of “in statu confessionis”. Rather, I will hold my cards to my chest and proceed with the anulment application, and with the application to declare Cathy’s marriage to her former husband as non-sacramental. When I have a result from this, I believe then I will be able to move forward with a clearer vision.

Deus in adjutorium meum intende!

Friday, 21st July, 2000

[The publication of this post at this time is very ironic, as the very same discussion has just taken place at the 2006 LCA Pastors’ Conference. See my post on Sentire Cum Ecclesia.]

General Pastors’ Conference ended today. The vote on the ordination of women was taken this morning: 115 for, 118 against, 14 abstaining. That leaves everyone in a quandary. But more worrying is what transpired soon after the vote. My Seminary lecturer and mentor raised the question: What would happen should the Synod vote for this resolution when the Pastors’ Conference has rejected it (however narrowly). This was not really answered, but in the debate that followed, it became clear that the majority of the members of the conference do not regard themselves as being anything like the “teaching magisterium” that my mentor has claimed that it is. DB rightly got up and pointed out that the CA includes teaching doctrine as part of the office of the keys, but this was not persuasive. What happens then, when the “teaching magisterium” of the church does not recognise itself as such?

Back-peddling a little, Tuesday night, P., Peter Holmes and I met with our seminary mentor. Actually we had tea at the his place first, and this meant that his brother was there too. Given that his brother is Vice-President of the District, and that it would have been difficult to exclude him, we invited him to join us (although he is now being less than discreet about the matter). The discussion with our mentor was, of course, all over the place. I found it hard to see where he was coming from or going to in his argumentation. He was vigorously defending being “evangelical catholic” over being “Roman Catholic”, and followed the Pelikan line that as a result of the Reformation, both the Lutheran and Roman churches are less than catholic. After the others had left (at about 11pm), and I was putting on my motorcycle gear getting ready to leave, I was still talking to our mentor and his brother. It was then, and only then, that I realised where he was at. I made the comment: “Be it ever so catholic, the LCA can never be the catholic church.” He agreed, but added “Neither can the Roman church.” Something sounded familiar here, so I went on and asked: “But that is to say then that the true catholic church is an article of faith, and cannot be identified with any one institution?” He agreed, and replied: “But that does not mean that it is invisible--it is visible wherever the orthodox liturgy is celebrated.”

I realised then that, with the addition of this closing liturgical argument, our mentor’s current position is not unlike that which I had held for the last 15 years. Talking to P. the next day, I asked if our mentor had made sense to him. “Yes and no”, was the answer. I told him what he had said about being catholic, namely that “Be it ever so catholic, the LCA cannot be The Catholic Church; and be it ever so catholic, the Roman Church cannot be The Catholic Church”. He and I agreed that we could agree with the former proposition, but were not so sure about the second proposition.

Wednesday saw the finalisation of nominations for General President: it has come down to the current SA president and the current NZ president. The latter would be an utter disaster if he were elected. If he was, I would leave the LCA immediately. I could not submit to his authority. The SA candidate on the other hand would be great, but electing him will leave a hole in the SA presidency, that could all to easily be filled by another church-growther. Another terrible possibility. This is very, very dangerous, and I pray that God would lead both synods in the right direction. Best would be if that we could abolish the GP position as well as the Vice Presidents, and simply have a District President act as primate.

Thursday saw a very long and lengthy discussion of the ordination of women question. Some 40 speakers spoke on the subject. At the end of the day, it was decided that we would vote first thing in the morning. Then, because I was going out to Grandma Schutz’s for the evening, and had no place to have tea, I asked my Victorian District President (who was also on his own) if we should have tea together. This was good. He asked me how I thought the vote would go, and I said “It will be close”. I didn’t realise how close.

Also today, without much thought, the Conference okayed Eucharistic hospitality with Anglicans and Uniting. Wrong direction entirely.

Someone today, can’t think who it was--probably Pastor DB--raised the question in connection with the discussion of the Joint Declaration on Justification: “What do protestants do when they have nothing left to protest about?” Good question.

In all, the Conference has not been the encouraging thing that it could have been. Although on Tuesday, the Seminary Principal clearly enunciated the choice that the church has to make, that is, between being “evangelical catholic or evangelical protestant”, yet I do not think there has been any clear decision or direction of decision making indicated by the last few days. Worse than ever, our pastorate is divided. More than ever it has shown that it is completely unable to discern the will of God, let alone able to direct the church in the application of his will. Moreover, there is a complete abdication of responsibility for doing this, in favour of a more egalitarian democratic model of “letting the people decide”.

The Synod is yet to come, but my enthusiasm is not high.

Tomorrow morning (Saturday), I am returning to the point at which it all began: I, together with P. and Peter Holmes, am meeting with Father John Fleming--once Anglican, now Catholic. P. contacted him during the week, mentioned my name as well (John Fleming did remember me), and then found himself invited enthusiastically to come around with us to John’s home. So we will do that. I am afraid that John Fleming will make more sense than our Seminary mentor on this, simply because he will tell me what I want to hear.

Yet do I want to hear that I must become a Roman Catholic after all? How can I in my current marital and occupational status?

I am being faced with two very, very real temptations at the moment. One to which I could give in, the other in which I am continually invoking the name of Jesus to strengthen me and at the same time cursing the devil who puts such ideas into my head. The first is the temptation to flee from the fellowship of pastors in which I have found myself. As I looked over the crowd of 200+ pastors today, I saw how very few of them stand on common ground with me. I felt very alone, to tell the truth. None more than when we stood to vote, and I discovered myself standing when three of my close pastor friends were sitting and vice versa. Then an older pastor (who had been in team ministry with my Vicar Father during my vicarage before ordination) attacked me over afternoon tea concerning my rejection of the priesthood of all believers as a central tenant of the Lutheran Church. I was getting really angry at that point—and then on of my close friends, who had voted in favour of WO, came up to me saying that he had reflected on what he had done and was both ashamed and sorry of his decision to vote in that way. He had now decided (after a talk with our mentor) that he wanted to be counted as a conservative! It was a little embarrassing for me—a bit as if he was coming to me as a penitent wanting to be received back into fellowship—but also because I had thought myself abandoned, and yet here was one who was yet again standing with me—or, more to the point, together with whom I was called to stand. My friend is afraid of appearing fundamentalistic if he takes a conservative stand on the Word of God—I need to encourage him that the only way to take such a stand without becoming a fundie is to do it as a catholic. In any case, this was a sobering experience. My brothers need me and I need them. But am I strong enough to strengthen them?

The other temptation is worse still—it is that I will come to devalue my marriage to Cathy. This is a terrible, terrible temptation. The “what if” questions, such as “What if I were single again”... or some such unmentionable thing... come into my mind utterly and totally unbidden like the seductions of Satan himself. I cannot let myself think like this. The worst of it is that it has led me to question whether I truly love Cathy or not! Yet tonight, when I switched on my laptop computer, and saw the picture of Cathy on my background looking back at me, there was no doubt, no doubt at all, but only a strong passionate longing for her. No, my marriage to Cathy is a gift from God, and nothing will shake this. Let me be a married Catholic layman who can never receive the sacrament, but let our marriage last till we die!

Two other things that I must say. I have been reading P.’s copy of Braaten and Jenson’s “The Catholicity of the Reformation”. Not everything in this book impressed me, but two things did. First of all, Braaten says at one point:

Churches of the Reformation have retained some structures of authority—the authority of the Word, the Holy Scriptures, the ecumenical creeds, and their respective confessional writings. But they do not possess any effective official and public locus of authority whose task is to interpret and implement the normative sources of faith and doctrine. Leaving it all up to a voters’ assembly based on representative principles is a formula for disaster. Where does the buck stop when it comes to matters of interpretation and discipline? The church must have not only normative sources written down on paper but also authoritative office-holders ordained to teach the whole church. Protestants do not know who these officeholders are. They seem to have vanished. (pages 64-65)

Braaten is a clear advocate for the restoration of a teaching magisterium in the church. Only we can’t do it. As I said to my District President last night, the teaching magisterium cannot be created by the church—it must be received by the church as a gift from the Lord. And it seems that Jenson takes it a little further than Braaten:

...the bishop/pastor is first and foremost the shepherd of the flock that belongs together but tends to stray. And the place where this unity becomes actual and therefore tended is the Eucharist. The centre of the pastoral office and so of the ordained ministry is presidency at the Eucharist. The same is true of the communion of local communions. Whether we call those who tend churchly communion “pastors” or “bishops”, they are the ministers also of this unity. It is exactly their communion with one another, their mutual recognition of one another’s local communities, that constitutes the communion of communions. Two mandates surely have force at this point, both of which would be satisfied by a right churchly polity, but which historically have been in some conflict with each other. First, what is often called the collegiality simply of pastors or bishops with each other is what establishes churchly unity. Second, the communion thus constituted needs it own pastor, its own minister of unity. So in a standard episcopal polity, every parish has two pastors: its priest and its bishop. The priest serves as the parish’s own pastor and the bishop as the pastor of the larger though still local communion within which the parish has its place. Moreover, these mandates repeat themselves at however many further levels of churchly communion there are or should be. (page 9-10)

I added the emphasis in the last sentence because this is the point that Braaten leaves out—and it is precisely the hierarchical argument for the papacy as the ministry of unity. Peter Holmes—and our Seminary mentor—may ask: Yes, but why this ministry—why the Roman pontiff? The answer is: because this is the gift of unity and authority that the church has been given, and because the church cannot create its own teaching magisterium.

Wednesday, 12th July, 2000

I must be feeling a little despondent in the lead up to Synod, but I am back to wondering if I really can be catholic and a Lutheran at the same time. I’m wondering if sooner or later, I will just have to bite the bullet and become Catholic after all.

Thursday, 6th July, 2000

I didn’t see P. yesterday, because he was at a camp, but I did go round to Peter Holmes’. Susie was at home too, and I had lunch with them. Peter debriefed a little about the Church Planting Conference he had been too (I had some sympathy, because I had been to the first one that was held last year—it played no small part in preparing me for my current direction), and then we talked about the matter at hand.

I asked Peter (who is seeing our District President today) if he could join me in a “in statu confessionis” move. He was reluctant, not because he did not believe it was the correct thing to do, but because to do so would be to lose the confidence of his congregation—at least at this point. He has built up a reputation for being confessional, and of that which is “catholic” which he has managed to achieve he has done so on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions. To now take a position that is contrary to the clear statement of the Confessions seems to him to be undermining our position, rather than strengthening it.

Oddly, this is the same comment that Fr D. made when I met with him for coffee before the Victorian Council of Churches Executive meeting yesterday evening. He was interested in the direction I had chosen, glad that I was not “acting precipitously”, interested also to hear how the marriage tribunal meeting went (I think he expected the interviewer to be a little more empathic—but I assured him that this was probably not what I needed), and then we talked about the current state of the Lutheran Church of Australia. He wanted to know if there was a way I could base my current position on the confessional statements of our church.

So that is what I am now thinking. While I have recognised that the big problem with being pro-papal is the clear statements in the Smalcald Articles and The Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope that the papacy can only have authority de iure humano, probably not much is going to be gained by simply taking a position that denies this. We have to find a way forward, and we have to show that the way forward is not in conflict with the confession of faith contained in the Book of Concord.

Indeed, it will require a bit of a “John Henry Newman/39articles” job. But surely it can be done. After all, the three of us, P., Peter and I, and our supporters, are all among the most confessional of the Lutheran Pastors in the LCA. If the confessions have led us to this position, then there must be a thread within the confessions that can lead the church that way—if they are willing to go. It seems to me that if we can do this (and it will require much more than a simple statement of belief, but pages of carefully thought out and logically worded argument) we will be leading off on the right foot.

For instance, since the CTICR [Commission on Theology and Interchurch Relations] could revisit The Treatise on the question of “Is the Pope the Antichrist?”, and come to an opposite conclusion to that which The Treatise itself came to, and since this was accepted by the LCA, surely a similar thing can be done with the de iure terminology.

For instance, we could point out that this language is that of the medieval law courts—it is jurdicial, rather than pastoral language. We could point out that The Treatise viewed the pope as primarily a magistrate rather than as a pastor, and because of this they were able to follow the sixteenth century doctrine of “the resistance of magistrates”, which was particularly relevant to the political situation of the Smalcald War (Nb. I did a study of this at University—it is very, very relevant). We could point out that the same documents support the authority of kings and princes as being established in scripture, and therefore of divine right, although the passage of scripture on which this is based is very tenuous.

So much for The Treatise. The rest of the Confessions, especially the Augsburg Confession, will be a mine of support for the point of view that the intention of the Reformers, at least before the Smalcald War, was for reunion with Rome. If we are true to the very nature of the Confessions themselves, we must hold this up for all to see.

On matters like that of bishops, we need to show how the teaching that apostolic succession lies only in faithfulness to the teaching of the apostles is just a Lutheran opinion, and is nowhere clearly supported in the Confessions, since the question of apostolic succession (defined as it has been by the Anglican church) had not arisen at that point. Much has been made of the point that the confessions regard the office of pastor as equal to the office of bishop. The opposite therefore must also be true—the office of bishop is as important to the church as the office of pastor.

Other issues, such as the essential nature of the liturgy and of authority in the church, can also be argued on the basis of the Confessions. Perhaps, therefore, this is the way to go, even though it will not be an opinion or interpretation shared by all, yet it will have the maximum swaying power. Simply getting up and saying: “I believe in the Pope” will not, in the end, be very helpful.

Wednesday, 5th July, 2000

I didn’t record in the last entry that I met with my spiritual director at the Wantirna Pub to tell him where things stand at the moment. It was a good time together, and he was confident and pleased that I had been led to work this out “in communio”. He said that he had the feeling of being present at something historic. Well, I don’t know about that.

I also met with P., as usual, last Wednesday, and an interesting insight came out of that. I have been pushing him to come down on one side of the fence or the other, and he has been reluctant until he is able to speak to our Seminary mentor at Synod. However, he says that our mentor will not be able to “argue him out of it” since his argumentation and logic are all correct as far as he can see (Peter Holmes is still having doubts on this score). He said “My head is there already, but my heart isn’t”. And then I realised that for me it has been exactly the other way around: My heart has been there for ages--these last two months have simply been trying to build a line between where I am and where my heart is. Peter Holmes is still “line-checking”. Anyway, I am meeting with them both today.

Two friends from Cathy’s parish came for tea last Friday night. I told them about my journey as Cathy was putting Maddy to sleep. I think she understands a little more than he did. He was quite scornful--he said I am only seeing things through the eyes of history, rather than through the eyes of present reality. Personally, I think to really understand present reality, we have to understand history. Time is not one dimensional.

I also had a good “trial run” discussion with Cathy’s parents on Sunday. They were both still at the dinner table (at Cathy’s brother’s place) long after everyone else had left, and somehow we got onto the topic of the papacy. I played “devil’s advocate” (or is that “Rome’s Advocate”) without disclosing my current beliefs. I think it went fairly well, with Cathy’s father conceding that the papacy was perhaps more reasonable than he had previously supposed.

Cathy asked last night if I was doing anything about the annulment. I said, not for now, although I am thinking about it a lot. I will do something after Synod.

I am hanging out for the national Synod in South Australia. Really. I am especially looking forward to the motorcycle ride there and back. Some thinking time.

Monday 26th June 2000 - In which I have a conversation with Jaroslav Pelikan!

Mum and Dad came to stay for a few days on the weekend. I had not intended to tell them of my “decision” since I hadn’t made one, but I think that now I can say more definitely that I will not be “swimming the Tiber” straight away, and so I thought I would share my concerns with them.

They were not surprised either, although their interrogation was similar to that which I received from the pastor’s wives. They acknowledged the problem of authority in the church, but they were judging the Catholic Church by some of its worst proponents: catholic lay people they knew. They especially cited the case of my sister-in-law’s mother, who prays to St Anthony every time she loses something! But there was no great anxiety about it.

G. rang yesterday, and was glad to know that I was not going over straight away either, but that I was going to try to be “noble” but not “selfish”. That was a good and reassuring talk.

Cathy and I had tea at P.’s home last night, and talked further. P. is not yet at the stage, he said, that he can call himself a Roman Catholic (as I say I am a Roman Catholic by conviction, if not by profession—although I am still a Lutheran in my theology [I am not sure what I meant by that – David, 09-08-06]). Yet he is wondering how long he can continue to hold this position, because he is quite clear about where the logic of his arguments is leading.

I finished reading Pelikan’s “Riddle of Roman Catholicism”, and especially appreciated the last chapters on the “Way of Conversion”. There he tries to point out that while this is an option that some feel compelled to take because of conscience, it is at best a “short-cut”, that, although it arrives at the destination desired, it misses out on the benefits of the journey, and at worst it is a blind alley. And yet he himself, in March 1998, at the age of 74, did convert--not to Rome, but to the Orthodox Church in America.

So what was the answer to this. I decided to try and get in contact with him and ask. I was looking for his email, but in actual fact, I found his telephone number, and phoned him in New Haven, Connecticut! It was thrilling to be talking to the great man himself, but disappointing in the end, because he declined to talk about his personal journey. He said that he doesn’t do email. I told him my situation, and he declined to go any further with his own comments. He says JH Newman converted at 44 years, and wrote a 600 page book; whereas he converted at 74 and would require a 1000page book to do my query justice. He also said that he had had between 750 and 1000 calls similar to mine. I apologised for interrupting his evening, but he was very gracious about it. I said that if he ever did write that book, I would definitely buy it, and he said, “Yep, I think it will be a best seller!”.

Friday 23rd June, 2000

Today I shared the above entry with P. We are both very encouraged. This gives us a way forward. In fact, it gives us a way forward together. I think that P. was somewhat alienated by my personal decision to swim the Tiber. He was not ready to make that decision. But I think that he was in fact working towards the situation we are now in. He and I are as one with regard to the truths of the Catholic Church. We are also as one with regard to the difficulties that one must have if one is trying to defend the Lutheran Church as a catholic church. He was searching for a way to follow his conscience that would do justice to all his ethical responsibilities: to himself, to the LCA, to his parish, to our President, to his family and friends, and to this remarkable realisation to which we have both come. Simply becoming a Catholic would only have done justice to the first and the last in that list, and not the bits in between. [Reading this now in 2006, I find it remarkably prescient, for in the end, our final duty is to be true to ourselves and to follow the truth in so far as we have come to know it. No other “duty” compares to this, as both St Thomas More and Vatican II made clear – Schütz.]

This way forward, the way of “in statu confessionis”, supported by our District President, would provide a churchly way of following our consciences, even if we must take a necessarily “long view” of that journey.  I must say that it also addresses for me one of the questions that my spiritual director raised for me: Was I just being selfish when I decided to become a Roman Catholic? In fact, I think the answer was yes. But there was also that other side of the equation that both Fr D. and G.—and my spiritual director—acknowledged: the “noble” side, the side of integrity, the side of courage and conviction. If I just resigned myself to remaining in the LCA, it would be to abandon this “noble” road, in order to be “unselfish”. The District President has shown a way for both P. and I to move forward in complete integrity.

I am also comforted by the thought that I am not acting alone any more. At least P. and Peter Holmes is there too. Probably there are others who would take the journey. P. and I acknowledged that we now have to seek out these people and band together.

In the mean time, I now must address some theological issues, because I am going to attempt to continue in the Lutheran Church as a convicted Roman Catholic, if not a professed one. So I am going to have to dialogue with the confessions and the church to show that my—our—position is true. [In 2006, I do have to say at this point to avoid any confusion, that in fact the District President had completely misunderstood where I was at. I don’t think he understood that I considered myself at this point a “convicted Roman Catholic”. I think he thought I was in someway simply a frustrated conservative Lutheran…His advice was therefore quite invalid. There really is no way a “convicted Roman Catholic” could continue in Lutheran ministry! – Schütz]

I began this by reading through last night the “Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope” in the Book of Concord. I found this a very dissatisfying document—not the least because it does not accurately represent the papacy or the Roman church as it currently exists, and hence, in hindsight, the Catholic Church of history. Many of Melanchthon’s views were ill informed, or there simply was not yet the evidence of the centuries to show otherwise, eg. his claim that the pope abrogates the power of the bishops. Vat II shows that it is in fact the other way around. Communion with the pope empowers the bishops in their teaching authority.

But one of the major issues that I believe must be addressed is the issue of whether the pope’s authority is “de iure humano” or “de iure divino”. This language is a favourite with Melanchthon, as he said at the end of the Smalcald Articles that he would accept the pope’s authority by human right. He goes further in the Treatise, but it still begs the question. First of all, what sort of authority is this “human” right? I would argue that it would be no authority at all, because anyone would be free to disagree with the pope everytime at any time they thought they knew better. On the other hand, I wonder if it is in fact a false distinction? Jesus said “All authority in heaven and earth is given to me”. Luther, in his interpretation of the 4th Commandment, says that all legitimate authority is from God—whether of parents, magistrates, or pastors. Surely then, all authority in the church, lawfully ordained, is authority from God. Assuredly this authority can be abused, but it is still “de iure divino”, for want of a better way of saying it. This is an area that needs more investigation.

P. and I also read together the CTICR’s statement “Is the Pope Anti-Christ?”, which has some very positive things to say about the papacy, and also gives some direction as to how modern Lutherans can regard past pronouncements of the church.

Thursday 22nd June, 2000

Well, the meeting with my District President went well. After I told him everything that had been happening and all that I had been thinking, he reacted by saying: “I’m not surprised”.

He then said he wanted to assure me first of all that the crisis in the LCA may well be addressed at this Synod. Firstly, he acknowledged that there is a crisis of authority in the church—in terms of the authority of scripture, of the confessions, of the ministry, and of the presidents. He then went on to say that he expects the Synod to deal with this fairly forthrightly in terms of 1) ordination of women, and 2) the General Presidency. In the first case, he feels that the days of the ordination of women’s ordination movement in the LCA are numbered, and that the Synod will give a resounding “No” to the question. Secondly, the of the three men who are currently standing for General President, the top two can be relied on to lead the Church in a confessional direction. Added to this is the new appointment of the President of the Seminary (who is also, fortuitously, Chairman of the Roman Catholic Lutheran Dialogue), and he thinks we have a good recipe for the ascendancy of Evangelical Catholicism in the Lutheran Church of Australia.

As an aside, it has been my opinion of late that the Evangelical Catholic interpretation of Lutheranism cannot claim to be the only faithful version of Lutheranism, because it has only ever been championed by a few among the many. However, it now occurs to me that never-the-less, we, the LCA, are free to determine what sort of Lutherans we wish to be, and if we decide—as a church—that Evangelical Catholicism is the way to go, we can work at making the LCA an Evangelical Catholic Church. It won’t make it the Catholic Church, but it will put us in a position better to accept the necessity for reunion with Rome.

The District President went on to say that when he signed, together with those in charge of the Australian Catholic University, the agreement on the Lutheran Education unit to be taught at Ballarat, he repeated to the Catholic brethren what Herman Sasse always used to say to his students:

“Gentlemen, if there were no Lutheran Church, where would you go? You would go back to Rome. But why go back to Rome? Is it not full of evils? Yes, but they have preserved the sacraments.”

As an aside again, I am aware that this was Sasse’s view—only I would go further: they have preserved the episcopacy, the continuity with the apostolic church, the teaching magisterium of the church, holy orders, etc. etc.—ie. the very things we have lost in terms of ecclesiology and doctrine of ministry.

Then he said, and I have recorded this word for word:

“I intend, and I have every confidence, that the alignment of the LCA will be with the Roman Catholic Church, and those other denominations (eg. Anglican Bishop Silk of Ballarat) that stand in the Catholic tradition. That’s our future.”

He made the interesting observation (not really to do with my journey, but I’ll stick it in anyway) that the visiting lecturer was very impressed with our Continuing Education for Pastors Conference back in May—and is telling everyone “back home” in Adelaide that the path that Victoria has taken is the way to go!

When I raised the question concerning the issue of Eucharistic hospitality with the Anglicans and UCA. Wasn’t this going the wrong direction? He answered that—given the new turn of events in our Anglican and UCA dialogues—the RC dialogue has to change tack as well. He said that he has already spoken to the Chair of the Dialogue regarding this change in direction: ie. away from simply pursuing individual doctrinal matters toward pursuing the issue of intercommunion. He said that what has put us off track with the Romans is the old idea that before we have altar and pulpit sharing, we must have full agreement in every doctrine. This will never happen, he said. But if we start worshipping together, we will be confronted with the need to do our theology. He also added that we can only have a proper dialogue about authority with Rome, since it is non-existent in the Anglican church or in the UCA.

I then said that this was all very nice, but where did it leave me personally? I mean, it gave me hope that indeed the rudders of the LCA could be so manoeuvred that we could turn the ship back in the direction of Rome—and this would mean that my conscience (in the long run) could be appeased—but what of the short term? I am still in a position where I believe that the claim of the Roman Church that the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic... Church, constituted and organised as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him” [as in Lumen Gentium 8]. How do I continue, with good conscience, in the Lutheran ministry, especially when I am resolved not to keep this belief private?

He said that I had two options: an official one and an unofficial one.

The first option, the official one, is to invoke the “in statu confessionis” provision in the church. This would mean making a public announcement both to my congregations, and to a synod (possibly the October District Synod), outlining my “confession” and staying with the LCA under duress. David stressed that I should not take this line until I know the direction that the church is taking after Synod. He said also, that I should not do it alone, because there is sure to be others (eg. P.—although he did not name him--and quite possibly a number of others) who would join me in this action. He actually said that he had been considering whether he could pastorally and responsibly lead the entire Victorian District into an “in statu confessionis” position over against the rest of the LCA, “identifying the confessional divergence we have with a significant element” of the church. However he does not feel that this is the point in time in which to do this, and is also waiting to see the outcome of the synod. He advised me to do the same.

The other possibility is the same, but without being so official and without invoking the “in statu confessionis” line. In other words, to my make beliefs public, but without making an official statement. He further said that this would be a good way to go, because I would probably find a good number of brothers in the Victorian District who would stand with me on this.

Either way, he feels it is necessary for me to wait and reflect upon what happens at the General Convention. In the meantime, I should continue the dialogue, and then ask myself what is best to do corporately and individually. Also, that I should not deny, but confirm, what I believe when asked.

I asked what the consequences of taking the “in statu confessionis” line would be. He answered that there would be none as far as he was concerned, but that I probably would not receive calls from certain presidents to their districts—however, he said this was already the case, as I know. But it would put the issue up front where the church could deal with it.

He also asked about how Cathy was dealing with this issue.

All this has left me with a little confusion. I guess it will become clearer as time goes by, and especially after the Synod meets. I think that what it does point to is that I can confess my beliefs, and challenge the church to address this issue, while at the same time working toward making the LCA a truly evangelical catholic church and moving it closer to reunion with Rome. If I can set myself this goal, and apply myself to it honestly and openly, then I think I could, in good conscience, remain in the LCA. For instance, I could find a role in helping the church deal with the fact that we are only 17 years off the 500th anniversary of the 95 theses and 30 years off the 500th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. If I was looking for a goal that would last for the rest of my ministry, reconciliation between Rome and the LCA could well be on this timetable!!!

I told David that, given my ability to handle the process emotionally, I would continue to work toward the annulment of my first marriage with the Tribunal for two reasons:
1) I did not want the issue of first my marriage clouding my decision
2) I believed that the process would be pastorally healthy for me

Wednesday, 21st June, 2000

The following letter was written by Peter Holmes to Marco Vervoost. Peter has given it to me to reprint. I think it is an admirable statement of the problem.

[Nb. I think this is the first time that Peter rates a mention in this journal. Marco has already rated a mention (see his blog site here). At about this time, Peter joined P. and me to read the Gospel for the coming Sunday in Latin each week. Peter is now a Catholic, working for Catholic Adult Education Centre in Sydney. Marco, as you will already be aware, is an Anglo-Catholic Anglican priest. Both Peter and Marco were still Lutheran pastors when this letter was written].


Dear Fr Vervoorst,

I've been thinking through the 'catholic' thing. I assume of course that you realise by 'catholic' I mean the one true, genuine. orthodox, faith passed down from the apostles.

Follow me here for a few lines:

If we are in the Lutheran church there are three main ways we can talk of the 'catholicity' of our church:

1. We ARE the true catholic church on earth (Proposed by most dogmatics texts I've read by Lutherans)
2. Being Lutheran is the best way to BE catholic
3. Who cares about catholicity, we decide what is true anyway!

I used to be pretty stuck on the second option. But I'm thinking it through more and more now. If the Lutheran Church is the BEST way to be catholic, then at what point does it cease being the BEST way to be catholic? Women's Ordination, or long before that? And if so.. which church then 'becomes' the best way to be the true catholic church.

This presents another problem. If I can simply choose a 'BETTER' church to best be catholic, then what makes the particular group the 'right' one? My choice? My decision that they are closest to what I perceive the 'true catholic church' to be? I know I could suggest that I either create a group, or join a group that reflect what I believe is the truth. But this is basically saying I can decide what is true or not by my own understanding. If this is the case, how am I different from any of the splinter groups from the 1960's, or even the sectarian/Congregationalist groups about the place?

The apostolic succession thing doesn't seem to hold much water if it is used in isolation to communion with Rome. It is either a succession of teaching (in which case we cannot deviate from whatever is apostolic teaching - which again seems determinative) or it is a living apostolic authority passed down from the apostles time to this day.

The 'catholicity' of a succession of 'apostolic teaching' seems determinative (if that is the right word). And yet, to claim some sort of 'apostolic succession' without any real communion with the church from which it all originates makes me wonder about it's catholicity. The fact that some bishop happened to lay hands on another hardly holds any water if (for example) he has been excommunicated by the church before the event. The apostolic authority is surely void as soon as the bishop is condemned by the church which gave him that authority declares he is teaching heresy? Surely to be valid, the apostolic successor must be in communion with the church from which he claims succession?

Let me know where my arguments went off the rails please?



Monday, 20th June, 2000

Well, it’s been ten days since I wrote in this journal, and some things have happened since.

Firstly, I received a reply from G. to the email I sent him (see my entry for the 10th of June). Here is my reply to him:

Dear G.

I respect that it took you a while to be able to respond to the last email. I also am actually glad you rang P. –he and I have been close on this issue. If you want to talk about it to any of the others who know—eg. A., and my spiritual director—you would be welcome.

I can recall a letter from you about 13 years ago where you raised the prospect of becoming an RC, so your revelation is stunning, but not surprising. That was obviously before your first marriage.

Yes, you are right. This isn't a new issue. It is one that I thought I had dealt with, and am surprised to find that in fact I have not. If I don't deal with it now, I expect it will come back one day.

(1) When you say that I may become involved does this refer to me being a provider of a statement/corroborating evidence about your first marriage?

Yes, that is what I meant. You and A. have probably had the closest and longest knowledge of my first marriage. It might mean that if and when I go on with the process of annulment, you might be one of the best witnesses. Now if that were the case, they would probably want to arrange for a statement to be made, or possibly the local tribunal in your city would conduct a short interview. I don't know. Your task in this would be to tell it as you saw it, not necessarily to corroborate what I said.

(2) Does this impact your marriage to Cathy?

No—not in the sense that it calls our marriage into question. I wouldn't consider it if it did. That would not be an option. Cathy is my wife and I love her and I am married to her. End of matter. Cathy is supportive of this change, even though she is not converting. We have since discovered that Cathy's first husband had not been baptised, so their marriage would not have been regarded as binding. This will make it somewhat easier along the road to getting our marriage recognised.

(3) On December 29 1998 I was charged with assisting in the upbringing of one Madeline Rose Schutz-Beaton in the Christian faith, a role I intended to take on to the absolute best of my ability (despite leaving the country). What impact will your decision have on this?

None. You will continue in your role in this regard. And I will expect you to fulfil it. I imagine Maddy would be brought up in both churches, just as at the moment she is brought up in both St Paul's and Our Saviours.

(4) My understanding of the Reformation is that it was not just centred around the doctrine of Justification by Faith, but also around all of the other rules and regulations the church imposed on its members that appeared to have no basis in Scripture. Has the Lutheran church also been doctrinally deficient in regards to:

As far as Luther was concerned, justification by faith was the be all and end all of the matter. All the rest was incidental. Even our Confessions are set out in this way--that is: Matters we cannot give up, and Matters we can discuss. Marriage of clergy, etc. was a "matter to discuss", not a cause for schism.


I would say that on this issue, we have tried to teach the same as the RC's but with less success. Divorce is not (contrary to popular opinion) condoned by the Lutheran Church of Australia. Remarriage of divorced persons is only done when the celebrant has satisfied himself that all efforts at reconciliation have failed, and due repentance has taken place. Even then, he is under no obligation to accept to officiate at the wedding. The only difference between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church on this matter s that for us the local pastor decides, whereas for them they have a tribunal to decide if someone can remarry. I prefer their method.

Birth control

Good one! Actually, when you read our Lutheran statements on birth control, they aren't much different. There is a high degree of mutuality here. Only the predominant Catholic opinion is against "unnatural" means of preventing a conception. I have asked Fr D. about this, and he said that in the end it is a "conscience" matter--it is not a binding law that all Catholics must adhere to on the pain of eternal damnation! That is why it is better to place it in the area of Doctrinal Opinion (even with the high authority of the Papacy) rather than Dogma. Even we make this distinction. [Nb. Conversion on the matter of birth-control was a slow matter for me, but by the time of my eventual decision to enter the Church, I and my wife had fully accepted Catholic teaching on the matter as binding to conscience. We haven’t used birth-control since. – Schütz]

Married clergy

Catholic Clergy can be married, but not those of the Roman Rite. For instance, the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which is in union with Rome, has married priests and deacons (but not bishops). I think celibacy is, in general, a good thing. However, it is not of the essence of the priesthood, as maleness is, but is a church law that could be changed at some stage. This is why it is possible for some married clergy converts to become priests in the Roman church.

Eating meat on Friday (some RC friends of ours in the Barossa still lived by this rule when I was at school). I'm probably sounding silly here, but I hope you can see my point.

I had dinner with an auxiliary bishop of Sydney on Friday. He seemed to enjoy his roast beef as much as I did.

(5) I know that with your respective duties you and Cathy cannot always worship together, but if you and the rest of your family are of different faiths then it might become a difficult, if not impossible, situation.

Cathy and I have no intention of not worshipping together. We may (or may not) be able to commune together—this would depend on dispensations from both churches (I have heard of this happening). But the chances are we would worship together more often than we currently do. Also, I have already experienced one time at St Paul's when I went to worship with Cathy when I could not, in conscience, receive communion because I did not think it was a valid celebration. [Cathy and I do not, to this day, commune at each other’s churches – Schütz].

(6) Now, think about (5) if your annulment is not granted. You could not celebrate the sacrament of HC with your family ever again.

Ah yes, and this is something I have to think about very, very much. You have put your finger on the nub of it. The fact is that if I became a Catholic and could not get an annulment I could never receive the sacrament again ever. BIG problem. BIG sticking point. BIG reason why I have not gone ahead and done it.

Two words have come to mind: the first is "selfish" - selfish from the point of view of your parish/congregations, your family, your present church. But at the same time the other word that came to mind was "noble" - noble for having the guts to stand up for what you believe in. It was good for me to hear some of the same sentiments expressed by P. - it assured me that it was not just a Heinrich thing. [Nb. “Heinrich” was a nickname for me at Sem – after Heinrich Schütz the composer – Schütz]

I am glad you spoke to P. for exactly this reason. You are not the first one to ask the "selfish" question. My spiritual director has put it on the list of things I must consider as well. You will be pleased to know that I have, in the last week, determined not to act upon this matter until: 1) my first marriage has been annulled and Cathy's marriage declared not binding, so that we can both receive the blessing of the church on our marriage, 2) I have a job to go to, preferably a ministry position (lay) in the RC church, 3) our next child has been born, 4) the three congregations of Knox, Frankston and Casey have sorted themselves out a little more than currently is the case. Hence, we are probably talking at least 2 years here.

The Southern Baptist Church here (the second biggest Protestant church in the USA) has just completed their synod where they voted overwhelmingly against the ordination of women. Even within the Lutheran Church,  the WELS and the LCMS are pretty much against women's ordination, yet the ELCA (who have established close ties with the Episcopalians) are in favour of it and have been for some time.

Women's ordination itself is not the issue. My seminary mentor thinks that I am "jumping the gun". HOW we decide the issue, that is the important point. I don't think we can determine church doctrine on a show of hands. That doesn't seem at all right to me.

Thank you for this. We will continue the dialogue. Anything you think of, send my way to help me.


The other major event is as follows:

We went away to Bendigo with my pastor friends B., S. and A. and their families. On the second evening, after B.’s wife had been talking about their future plans, I decided it was time to share my own crisis. Of course, the guys already knew about this, but their wives were fairly shocked. It must have seemed to have come from “out of the blue”, since, as A.’s wife said, “You guys often talk theology together, but we are rarely aware of the issues that are going on.” The women were fairly blunt with me, I must say, raising a number of questions. Principal in their minds was what this would mean for Cathy and Maddy. They seemed incredulous when Cathy said that she thought it wouldn’t really make a lot of difference since we are already worshipping at separate congregations. It was a fairly frank talk, as I said, and the details now I cannot easily remember, but the net result is that afterwards I felt less inclined to make a sudden move, and even more inclined to take things slowly.

The next morning, I took Madeline with me up to the church on the corner (the Church of the Holy Rosary) for 9am mass. There were about 20 people there. The length of the service was just about right for Maddy—20 minutes! I showed her the statues of Mary and Jesus, and when we left she said “Bye bye Mar-mar; Bye by Chesus”. She also now knows about the water at the door of the church, and she is getting quite good at crossing herself (with just a little assistance!).

On the day we left, we went to Sacred Heart Cathedral—a beautiful building which displays the very best of ancient and modern church architecture.

During the last week, I have given further thought to what it would mean to delay action. On Thursday night, I went around to P’s place. We sat outside and smoked our pipes (in rather cool temperature) while talking. Both being convinced that there is no longer any good reason to remain out of communion with Rome, we believe that the only way we could really justify our continued existence in the LCA would be if the LCA were to adopt a clearly “pro-Rome” attitude, and put re-union high on the list of priorities. We prayed together for the first time about this. I think that prayer will form a greater part of our sharing on this issue in the future, since there seems little more to discuss. It is now only a question of God’s guidance and of our mutual support. Prayer will serve us well.

Today was unusual too. A local Uniting Church minister came to see me about possibly becoming a pastor in the Lutheran Church! Although he is also considering Anglicanism, our discussion soon strayed to the Catholic Church. It seemed that there were very similar issues for us both. One of his main concerns is the functional view of the ministry and the confusion of ministry and laity. I may spend more time with him in the future.

I have been thinking a number of things.

First of all, I really like the basic genius of Lutheran theology, and can’t see myself giving it up. When interpreted squarely within the Catholic tradition, Lutheran theology has a great deal to offer. But cut loose from that tradition, it can lead in ways that I am sure Luther himself never intended. Hence, I am very comfortable with a Lutheran theology, but not so comfortable with a Lutheran denomination. It is not the theology I question, but the denomination.

Secondly, I have been wondering how possible it would be for a Lutheran Church to be received into communion with the Catholic Church and still retain its Lutheran character and liturgy (eg. as with the Orthodox Uniate churches)? I expect that over time such a church would not look much different from the Roman church, but it would still be interesting as a experiment.

I am looking forward to meeting with my District President, but don’t quite know what I will say to him.

Saturday, 10th June, 2000

Here is an email I sent to G. (one of my oldest friends) today:

Dear G.,

I have intentionally not been writing to you because I have been going through a bit of a confusing period, and it was hard to write about it. I think now, though the matter is nowhere near resolved, I probably can tell you something of it. Mind you, please keep it under your hat—I tell you because you are a life long friend, and at some stage may become involved in the process and either way will be affected by it.

While I was on my three weeks stress leave, I decided that I would become a Roman Catholic. I can give several reasons for this:

1) I believe that since the Joint Declaration on Justification, the "emergency" situation of the 16th Century is now over. Because Rome clearly teaches that we are fully justified by grace alone, Lutheranism has no more excuse to maintain the schism that happened at the Reformation. If we do, we are at fault.

2) The Lutheran Church is deficient in a number of areas:

a) Though for the first one hundred years, the Lutheran Church maintained the liturgy, it fell into ruin during the enlightenment only to be revived again in the 19th century. I believe that the liturgy is again in decline among our churches, because we have not made the important connection that "word and sacrament" = "liturgy". Unfortunately, we are not only dealing with a Gospel-reductionism but also with a Sacrament-reductionism.

b) We do not have bishops. I have always been an “episcopalian”. However, just getting bishops from Anglicans or from Sweden is not the solution. For a bishop to have authority, his teaching must be in accord with the whole church.

c) This leads me to the major question, the question of Authority. I have been dismayed at the process by which our church (like other churches throughout Lutheranism) has approached the question of ordination of women. The decision process itself here in the LCA has shown that there is no single recognised authority among Lutherans. The Confessions are interpreted out of the context of the catholic tradition, the scriptures themselves are interpreted in new and novel ways that have no bearing on the teaching of the catholic church that created the canon itself. And we are going to decide this issue on a vote!

d) I can no longer accept some of the major tenants of the Lutheran Church, for instance, that the Article of Justification by Faith Alone is the article by which the church stands or falls. In fact, you could say this for many other articles as well: eg. the Incarnation, the Resurrection—but in fact, there are significant teachers in the Lutheran tradition that seem to say that all that matters is that Jesus loves you and you are forgiven and you can believe what you like from there. Also, I no longer accept the "Scripture Alone" tenant, if this means that we can interpret scripture apart from the sacred tradition of the church as is being done in the women's ordination debate.

3) Having read some good Catholic theology, especially in the area of the teaching magisterium of the Church, I have come to accept the claims of the Roman church with regard to authority and infallibility. Once one recognises this, there is not much hope for one as a Lutheran. I think our central tenant has not been "Justification by Faith Alone", but "The Pope is the AntiChrist".

4) finally, I will become a Catholic, because in truth, I am a Catholic. I am no longer a protestant, if I ever was, because there is nothing that I protest against any more. For some time I have been defending what is Catholic because it is Lutheran. From now on, I can only defend what is Lutheran if it is Catholic.

Of course, huge problems faced me once I made this decision. But I didn't know the half of it. When I made the decision, I was aware that I would be giving up my ministry in the Lutheran Church and my income etc. etc, and I was aware also that the chances of becoming a Catholic priest were slim, even with John Fleming's precedent. But what I had completely forgotten about is that I am a divorced person who is married to a divorced person, and under the RC Church's rules regarding marriage, I would be barred from receiving communion for as long as I remained in a relationship with Cathy.

This presented an intolerable situation in which two foundational truths for my life came into conflict. The first truth was the realisation that the fullness of the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. The second truth is that I am married to Cathy, and together with our child(ren) we are a family, and I love them very very much, and to call this relationship into question was beyond my understanding of what is just or right.

So, where to now? Well, I went to see my friend Fr D. while I was still on leave. He then checked out what I would have to do to be received into the Catholic Church. It was clear that I could only become a Catholic if I were to obtain an annulment of my marriage to Deidre and if Cathy were to do the same with regard to her former marriage. Now, Cathy was happy to stand with me on my decision, but she opposed to having to go through the annulment process herself. Fr D. got me an initial interview with the Tribunal of the Catholic Church (which I finally had on June 7th, last Wednesday). In the meantime, I took the time to think things through.

I talked to my spiritual director and to P. in depth. We also had Continuing Education for Pastors Retreat in the last week of May, so I got to talk to several other clergy friends. I have also talked with DB and friends and lecturers from the Seminary. So I have got lots of advice and direction. CEP also gave me an opportunity to observe the opinions of others generally regarding the church also.

So last Wednesday, I fronted up at the Tribunal. An annulment means that what is to all appearances a binding sacramental union (defined as the marriage of two baptised persons entered into with consent and the full awareness of the nature and the responsibilities of marriage—including childbearing) is declared to have been deficient in some way from the very beginning that reduces its binding nature. The process of getting an annulment includes writing an 8-10 page statement on many detailed points of the family background, courtship, wedding and honeymoon and early years of marriage and the eventual breakdown. 3-4 witnesses are required to give independent evidence that might corroborate the written statement. Then the tribunal goes to work and 8-18 months later they pass down a decision.

You can appreciate that such a process will be very emotionally demanding. A hard process to go through while one is conducting a demanding ministry and while all along this process is taking place because one believes that ministry to be in some sense no longer valid. At the same time, after hearing all this, I became less sure that I wanted to drag Cathy through it. There was, however, another possibility for Cathy—if her husband had not in fact been baptised then there is no need for this process. Her marriage is simply declared "invalid", and she is declared free to remarry.

I came close, on Wednesday, to the decision to resign my ministry there and then, just so that I had the strength to do what had to be done. But on Thursday I left to go to a Chaplains Conference at Horsham. While there I had a chance to talk to my spiritual director again. He especially emphasised that I should hasten slowly in this matter and give it as much time as possible. That night Cathy rang to say she had spoken to her former husband, and he had never been baptised. Coming back yesterday, I thought things over again, and I have, so to speak, come back from the brink. I am still certain that the time will come for me to act, but it is not yet. In the mean time, I have decided that I will initiate the annulment process, and take steps to see that Cathy's marriage is declared invalid, but that I will make no move until the way is clear.

I am not yet sure that this is indeed God's will for me. I also need to see what happens at Synod in a month's time. That will have a big effect on my decisions from here.

As you can appreciate, this is all pretty life shattering stuff, and I wanted you to know just so that the lines of communication were open and honest between us. Please do not breath a word of this to another person.

Again, sorry for the silence. I hope this explains a little of what has been going on.


I have put this email letter into this journal in order to give a quick overview of where I have come from. I now have to back up a little to add in what has been happening the last few days.

Wednesday morning I went entered the doors of the Tribunal of the Catholic Church in Albert Street to meet with Fr K. The interview was straightforward enough. He ran me through the details of what would be required and took preliminary details. He also read a draft statement that I had put together. He then told me what was required from this point on (see separate documentation). The interview was a little like a mixture between seeing a solicitor and seeing a marriage counsellor.

He said that as far as he could see, there were grounds upon which I would probably get an annulment. These would be that due to immaturity there was an improper understanding and evaluation of the nature and responsibilities of marriage, including childbearing. He distinguished between intellectual knowledge and mature evaluation. The process, once embarked upon, would require a donation toward the costs of $500, and would take between 8 and 18 months. He also said that it would be necessary for Cathy either to show that Ian had not been baptised, or to go through the same process before our marriage could be blessed. It would, however, not to be necessary for the annulment process to be complete before I was professed and began communing, because I could show that I was doing all in my conscience to set the situation right.

I must say that I felt quite emotional during this interview. Afterwards, because I had half an hour free before the parking was up on my car, I went across the road to the Cathedral, and sat down in one of the front pews. There I suddenly found myself weeping. Not for long, but really weeping. I felt as if my heart had become as heavy as lead within me, and I just could not see how I was going to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I think part of it was fear, fear at the loss of my ministry, fear at the loss of my livelihood, fear of the loss of my identity as member of the Lutheran Community. Anyway, I just wept.

I felt better afterwards, but still quite drained as I walked back to my car. When I got home, I found that Cathy was still out, so I took our dog Misha for a walk. While I was walking, I said to Misha, “I don’t know why I am doing this, but I guess it is all good for the soul.”

Later that afternoon, I got a chance to sit down with Cathy. We talked for a long time. I told her about the process, and my feelings, and my fears. She said that she was not afraid, that she was willing to find out about Ian’s baptism, but that she did not want to go through the annulment process. We talked about whether it was in fact time for me to resign, since I could not see how I was going to handle the trauma of this change and still carry out my ministry. I think, at that point, I believed that the time had come to act.

Then, surprisingly, I got a call from my Seminary mentor. He is on long service leave, travelling with his wife around northern Australia, and he was ringing from a gold phone in far-north Queensland. He was ringing to check with me on the ACOL (Australian Consultation on Liturgy) meetings that were coming up, but he also said that it had been on his mind for the last week to ring and have a chat to see how I was going with things in general. I asked him “Who has told you about me”, and when he said he didn’t know what I meant, I told him “I’m leaving the Lutheran Church and becoming a Roman Catholic.”

I should have broken it to him much more gently than that, but a part of me wanted to present it as a fait accompli so that he would realise how far it had gone. The poor man—he said that this had “ruined his holiday”. He really was dreadfully upset. He said “Do you have any idea how much hurt you will cause a lot of people? And how hard this will make it for those of us who remain in the church, like myself and P., and DB?” We talked for about three quarters of an hour (he had his credit card in the machine). He raised several theological problems for consideration, but he also said “I will bless you whatever you do—but please do not act in haste. Especially, since I know you are likely to want to make some sort of big romantic stand out of this, don’t resign, but take leave of absence to consider this.” Especially, he thought that I was “jumping the gun” and should wait to see what happened at Synod. He also argued that the LCA General Pastor’s Conference was the true teaching magisterium of the church.

With this in mind, I headed off for Horsham and the National LCA Chaplains Conference on Thursday morning. I had four and a half hours to think things over. In the afternoon I went rock climbing at the Arrapiles near Natimuk  with three other pastors: S. (one of my closest clergy friends), C. (whom I had gone to school with) and J. (who was my former senior pastor in my first parish). Actually, the S. and C. climbed, while J. and I watched. That is, until they challenged me to do an “easy” climb up the rockface...

Anyway, I got the chance to talk things over with my S., and bring him up to date on where things were while we were driving there (we went separately from J. and C.). While at the rocks, I talked over church issues with J. (just like old times). He said that he has changed his position on women’s ordination to opposing it, because he has seen the way the pro-ordination side has been treating scripture.

Then, in the afternoon, I met again with my spiritual director at the local pub and we talked for about an hour and a half. He raised a number of issues for me to consider:

1) in response to my question: How do I keep on getting myself into these situations? He suggested that I might want to try a clinical psychologist. This would round out the consideration of what I am trying to work through, as DB and my seminary mentor can provide the theological analysis, and he himself can help with the spiritual, but perhaps the psychological must be examined too. A good idea, but it will cost about $120 an hour.

2) He asked the question: Are you being selfish? What good will be served by this for any one other than yourself? This is one that I have to think through a lot, lot more. For instance, what will all this do to Cathy and Maddy? What about our child that is about to be born? What about the three congregations, all of whom are depending upon my continuing ministry for the stability to sail some very troubled waters?

3) As we were talking about decision-making, he raised the image of playing chess, and having to consider all the possibilities before moving the piece. I found this particularly enlightening for me, because I have always been a very reckless chess player--along the lines of “I wonder what will happen if I do this?”—and then having to face the consequences afterwards. I don’t want to make the same mistake here.

4) He asked if I had considered the possibility, that before I make the final decision, I should get all those whom I have spoken to about it: DB, B., S., my seminary mentor, P. and himself, and himself--and even perhaps Fr D.—together for a round table discussion along the lines of “Okay, give it to me straight.” I had considered this, in fact, but thought it was a bit fanciful. He, however, thinks it could be useful.

Finally, he instructed me to tell Cathy when I next spoke to her “You have a good woman there.”

I had, after all this, decided that I would not resign at this point: I had a lot more to think through. I also decided that if I found that Cathy’s former husband had been baptised, I would abandon the idea of converting to the Catholic Church entirely, because I would not ask Cathy to do what was abhorrent to her.

When I got home to S.’s place that night, Cathy rang to say that her previous husband had never been baptised (except as a Mormon!). I was so relieved. I slept perfectly that night, knowing that for the moment, I was continuing in the Lutheran Church, and, that when the time came to make the shift, it would be all the more easy now that Cathy would not require an annulment.

I determined that I would initiate the annulment process on my own marriage (not sure when, but soon—possibly after talking to my District President, possibly after the Synod) and the arrangements to get Cathy’s marriage declared invalid. This way, I would have my marital affairs sorted out when the time came for me to approach the Catholic hierarchy for admission into the fold. That way too, there could be continuity of employment, as I would be able to enter into employment in church agencies.

Nothing much has changed since, other than I spoke in depth about the state of the church to Pastor C.S. who came home with me, and wrote the email to G.  

What now? I will talk more to my three close pastor friends, A., S., and B. (and their wives) as we are going away to Bendigo together this week. I am reading Jaroslav Pelikan’s “The Riddle of Roman Catholicism”, even though it is 40 years old and rather out of date. I will continue to investigate.

Probably the next big step is talking to my District President on the 22nd of June. That may determine the way for me.