Tuesday, 16th January, 2001 – Part B: In which I front up for an interview with my District President and am faced with an ULTIMATUM!

(Still working from notes about the past week.)

The next day, Wednesday 10th of January, was a big day for this call crisis. I went to see my the chairman of the Knox congregation at 9am, and asked him whether, in his opinion, this was a good or bad time to be leaving Our Saviour’s. (Note: I sought him out for this interview. No other member of Knox has volunteered or asked to talk with me regarding the call, whereas at both Casey and Frankston members have been anxious to discuss the issue). We realised that there were both positives and negatives. He reads the situation much the same as I do. Probably in the balance it would be good for Knox to have a change. Still, they are not currently prepared for a vacancy; and the parish arrangements are not in place.

I then drove to Box Hill to keep my longstanding appointment with the District President. Just before going in to see him, I wrote in my note book:

It is now clear to me that the only way forward (I can see at the present) that I feel would be really “right” is to both take this call and continue my process into the RCC in the Melbourne Diocese. This is not now a matter of what I want—other considerations (from what significant others have said) have shown that to decide against one or the other would be a wrong choice.
This indicates that although John Fleming and Cathy had both told me NOT to take the call to Adelaide, I was still aching to do so, yet could not reconcile this with my other aching desire to enter the Catholic Church.

I went into the President's office at 10:30am. He invited me to start off, but I lobbed the ball back into his court, and he began with his point of view.

1) As he read my AGM report and sermons (which I had emailed to him about a month ago) he said he heard a “Quo vadis” cry from David Schütz: "Ministry in LCA" or "ministry elsewhere" or "not ministry at all"?

2) He had had a phone call regarding the degree to which my preaching had changed at Knox, and the way in which I was taking my issues out on the congregation. Not liking anonymous phone calls as a method, I pressed him for the identity of the caller, and he told me (on the proviso that I do not let the individual know he told me) that it was one of my elders. So. This issue (which was raised at the last—disastrous—elders meeting back in November) must have been immediately reported to the President.

3) He said that the vacant parish of Hobart in Tasmania had asked him for names of pastors to call, and that he had put my name forward.
This last comment was quite a surprise—I had often thought I would like to live in Tasmania. Why are these temptations all coming now?

Then he went on to say:

All this leads to raise the question of the primary call to the ministry of the LCA and the secondary call as to the location where that ministry is exercised.

Apparently, the Presidents had asked the Hope Valley Homes to consider a seminary graduate for their position (they still have one that they are trying to foist off onto someone), but they had refused.

So now that you have this call, it is necessary to “test” the call.

There have been significant changes of dynamic in your life since coming to Knox—divorce, remarriage, children. This tests your call to marriage and family life. Moving would test your call as a husband and a father.

From a human perspective, this call to Hope Valley is a good match.

Your time would much more manageable. It would provide time to read and to “produce” [I added “and to pray”]. Adelaide would thrust you into the hurly-burly of controversy and questioning and heighten your questions.
Then I raised my deliberations from the day before, raising the issues of “integrity”, “security” and “boundaries”.

Regarding “integrity” (which I said was “critical” in the whole issue) the President gave an opinion which differed from that of Pastor DB:

Not going to Adelaide means not affirming the call to Knox. By that I mean, that usually when one turns down a call to another location, this is because one is affirming the call that one already has. But you would be turning down the call to Adelaide because you are pursuing the call to Rome. This raises the integrity of staying on at Knox. Not going to Adelaide would be rejecting Lutheran ministry.
Regarding “security” and “boundaries”, he said:

I have seen these issues in you ever since I have known you. These are unaddressed issues that will not be addressed by either Adelaide or Rome. When boundaries are no longer or improperly defined, our security/personhood is threatened by chaos. Monastery, Warradale, Hermannsburg, Hope Valley all offered or offer security in boundaries. Divorce, part-time ministry, Knox/Casey/Frankston all threaten boundaries.
He also asked:

So to what extent is your desire to enter Rome a desire for security and boundaries?
At the time, I actually answered “none” to the last question, because of course, getting there means that my boundaries would have to be broken and I would have to enter into a good deal of insecurity, but of course, it is undeniable that there are clear faith boundaries and faith securities in Rome that do not exist in the Lutheran church or elsewhere. Still, what I immediately heard him saying is that the basic reason for my conversion to Rome is my inner personal need for security and boundaries, and I could just imagine him dismissing my conversion at some future pastors' conference as being the result of some inner problem (much as he did of Marco Vervoost's move to the Traditional Anglican Communion).

So I told him straight out that if I go to Rome it will not be for “psychological reasons” (indeed, psychological reasons are why I want to go to Hope Valley), but because I have tried and tested the LCA and found it theologically wanting. Still, the President persisted and said that few of our motives are rarely without psychological dimensions. Again I interrupted him and said:

That may be so, but the primary reasons are theological. Don’t you dare say when the conversion takes place that ‘David converted to Rome because of very deep-seated and unaddressed psychological needs etc.’
I hope he took the point.

We then returned to the issue of integrity. The President said:

The question is not whether you stay on at Knox or go to Hope Valley, but whether you stay a Lutheran pastor or become a Catholic. I think you are saying to me that you have declined the call to Knox, and now you are struggling to decide whether you want to be Lutheran or Roman. If you say “no” to Hope Valley, you are saying “yes” to Catholic ministry, in which case you are throwing yourself into an even greater void: “They may not accept me.” Why did God call you into marriage when the call to monastic life was on the agenda? So the question now is, why is he calling you to Hope Valley when your call to Rome is so strong? Why were you led to answer God’s intervention re monastery and Hermannsburg in the way you did? Does that throw light on this decision...?
Reflecting on that question now, I wonder if in fact that does not point me toward a resolution to stay and continue the process into the Catholic Church? As much as God has blessed me in my marriage, yet I imagine there will be a niggling call to the cloister in the back of my mind all my life. It was not, in the end, the direction in which God called me, but I do wonder that I gave up what was such a strong desire so quickly and totally. I certainly never fully dealt with this call. I just dropped it, in exchange for something much better. Can I just “drop” the call to the Catholic Church? I think Cathy is right at the point.

Anyway, back to the interview. As I listened to him, I asked myself whether to accept the call to Hope Valley would not be selling my soul for the inestimable riches of security and personal and family boundaries? So I asked: “What about my conscience?” He replied:

If conscience is the issue, then you should be asking yourself: “Why does God keep intervening just when you think a door is opening?” Is he saying to you: “David, I want you to remain a Lutheran and to help Lutherans claim their catholicity in all its fullness”? You are uniquely gifted by God with a sharp mind. If the Lutheran Church is going to make the journey I think it needs to make, it is not going to be led by fools, but by people with sharp minds who have tasted the vista from the other side with a longing that only you can give expression to. This is fronting you with the theology of the cross. In the midst of the impossible, at the cross roads, Christ confronts.
At which point, I thought to myself: “Isn’t it strange that this call came up now. Only this call has the power to raise these questions for me and only at this time...”

Just before the end of the interview (we had been going for about 90 minutes), I asked the question which turned out to be the most important and decisive question of the whole interview: “What if I were sitting here with you, and now it is February, and I have turned down the call...what would you be saying to me?” He replied:

I would be asking you: ‘Where do you stand in your belief in Rome?’ If I heard you say what you have said today, I would suggest some leave of absence and time to consider that question. I don’t say that by way of blackmail. “Leave of absence” leaves the door open to return, but lets you work out your agenda between you and Rome, and not you, Rome and your congregation.
While he prayed at the end of the interview, I began to weep—feeling much like I had in the Cathedral after my first interview at the Tribunal. The District President had significantly increased the stakes—or was it God? I found myself feeling like I was playing a game of cards, and the other player had played a hand that could be the winning hand and, at the same time, raised the stakes, so that I was now in the situation where, without much time to consider, I had to decide whether to cut my losses or to play on in the hope of winning.

Straight afterwards, I went to P's office for my regular Latin meeting with him and Peter Holmes. I told them what the President had said. P. thought I was expressing the opinion that David was mad in presenting me with this ultimatum, and so said “That’s not unreasonable, Schütz”, to which I replied “I know that it’s not unreasonable, I’m just in shock that it has come to this at this point.” P. was then caught on the phone for the rest of the morning, and Peter and I talked together and went and got lunch together. Peter was good to help ease the pain and help me come to terms with what the President was demanding. The thing I kept asking Peter is whether or not I should simply capitulate and take the call—but wouldn’t that be like taking the 30 pieces of silver?

Still, I asked, who would blame me if I did? “The question is not who else would blame you,” he said, “but whether or not you would blame yourself.” And I think the simple answer to that is yes; I would blame myself if I took the “easy” road.

I phoned my spiritual director when I got home. He was somewhat angry at the President, saying that presenting me with this ultimatum in this was very characteristic of him, and asked me whether I thought that what he was proposing was the “loving and creative” thing to do. He raised the fact that I was facing the threat of having myself and my young family turfed out on the street, which was neither loving nor creative. He is still convinced that Hope Valley would offer a loving and creative opportunity for both me and my family. He feels that if I am to find any way of affirming Lutheran ministry, it will be once I get to Hope Valley, not before I go there. He keeps on reminding me to think of 1) my family and 2) the timing of God.

Tuesday, 16th January, 2001 - Part A: (In which John Fleming puts the hard word on me & think through the Adelaide call)

I am virtually working totally from notes that I have recorded over the last few days at the moment. We are still here at Cowes. I went up to the church this morning, thinking to say morning prayer there (I have, since Sunday morning, been saying all the offices) and found a mass in progress. It was a complete contrast to Sunday, as there were only two people other than the priest there, but after the mass, the priest ("Fr Feilan"--old and very Irish), chatted with me an explained that it was really a private mass on Tuesdays. He had a little pouch around his neck and a small purple stole on, so I figured he was on his way to do sick communions. He asked me if I were a seminary student, and I told him I was a Lutheran in the process of converting to the Catholic Church. I will go back tomorrow if I can for the regular mass at 9am. He allowed me to stay to pray morning prayer as long as I locked the door behind me.

Reading morning prayer, I came across this passage from Isaiah 38 “Like a swallow or a crane I clamour, I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my security!” The relevance of that passage will become clear below as I continue to recount my deliberations.

Now, to continue where I left off, relating the events at the dinner at the Holmes' with Fr John Fleming on Friday, 5th January.

When I told John about my call, he immeadiately said, without hesitation: “You shouldn’t take it. You have begun the process of reception, you have been given full episcopal assurances. This is a rich diocese where what the bishop [George Pell] says happens, and he was the one who eventually made things happen for me. For yourself, this is now the second time you have faced the decision to convert. If you turn back now, you will be back again in years to come. Now trust God and follow your calling to the Truth.”

So, that just about decided it for me. I told him as we were leaving that I would get a second opinion (from Anthony), but from that point on I have realised that I am not going to Adelaide after all. Whatever the virtues of a decision to take the call, my integrity would be in question.

The word “integrity” only entered this consideration the next day, however, when I was talking to Pastor DB on the phone. He said breaking off the process at this point would do significant damage to my integrity “in an engineering sense”--by which I took him to mean not my own interior integrity, but the way my integrity would be viewed externally by others in both churches. He went on to remind me of what he had often said before, that God will bless whatever decision I make, just as a father blesses whatever good thing his son decides to do. In other words, “whatever you decide, that will be God’s will for you.”

Still I was not at all comfortable with the fact that I was going to have to turn this call down. Some days later I was on my way between Martin Luther Homes and my chiropractor in Tecoma when it occured to me that this call was so attractive to me because it met some deep psychological needs in me. I wrote the following in the back of my travel log as I sat in the chiropractor’s waiting room:

What needs does this call meet in me? Why is it so powerful? As a call, it seems almost/at least as powerful as the call to the Catholic Church.
1) It gets me (and my family) out of a very stressful situation;
2) I really do have a strong impulse to work in an enclosed community as part of a a pastoral care team, where my skills are valued (Something of the monastry in this? Prayer and worship life?);
3) My call to pastoral ministry is still very strong--the chance to get away from the desk (although I enjoy that type of work, it isn’t very fulfilling) and into direct person to pastor pastoral care (nb. I ask myself my President’s question: "Do I desire this call because I can afirm my ministry? specifically in the Lutheran Church?" I don’t think so. It is almost that this call has a pull on my heart despite the fact that it is Lutheran);
4) Would this call be more/less powerful if a) it wasn’t in Adelaide? More. b) it wasn’t Lutheran but Catholic? More.
5) It provides a secure future--a career path--hence financial security also;
6) Some part of me senses that it might return my family to me and me to my family; that this would give me time for them and for myself--perhaps that is the more accurate reading: My need for time... structured time? Clear “on/off” time?
7) the need for clear, unambiguous job expectations which I know that I can fulfill.
What is it then that I am trying to get out of in this “stressful” situation alluded to in 1) above?
1) insecurity (future job and financial);
2) lack of personal/family/structured time;
3) no clear boundaries.
The call to Hope Valley would seem to provide all of these.