Tuesday, 13th February, 2001: In which My District President Broadcasts My Confidences to All and Sundry

Although the last two weeks have been momentous in terms of my journey, I have not been in the frame of mind to enter much into my journal. As I have said, I spent the past week in peace. Very significant was a meeting last Thursday with the Casey congregation where I was clear and open about my reasons for resignation. They seemed to need to know this, so that they could come to terms with my decision. They were quite accepting. I am hoping for a similar reaction from a congregational meeting at Knox this Thursday.

In the mean time, my district president issued the following in his “Pastor to Pastor” newsletter yesterday:

Omnium Gatherum

Many of you will have heard directly from David Schutz that he has resigned as pastor of the Knox, Frankston and Casey parish (effective around May) and is applying to the LCA for 2 years leave of Absence. I am deeply saddened by this decision and in particular by the reasons that occasion it. David wrote:

I have growing doubts about my interior call to the ministry of the Lutheran Church. These doubts have made it increasingly difficult for me to function as a public representative of the LCA.

David will be seeking other employment and using the time to fully explore the issue enumerated above. Bound up with this issue is the possible renunciation of membership in the LCA and the joining of the Roman Catholic Church. [My emphasis--I considered this more or less confidential information] I urge your prayers for David, Cathy and their children.

I am also in discussion with two other brothers: [Here he names the person I have referred to in this journal as "P."] and Peter Holmes who have similar concerns to David. Those concerns revolve around the question of Authority. At the recent meeting of the Pastors of DCC, endorsement was given to my proposal to appoint pastoral advisors/carers to each of these men (that also includes David and Cathy). I am also exploring the possibility of a forum of pastors where these concerns can be aired among us in a very focused way. I urge your prayers also for ["P."] and Peter and their families.

John Wilksch [my father's cousin, then pastor at Dandenong] has been called to Hope Valley Homes (Adelaide) as an associate pastor with John Hartwich in aged care ministry....

I was very disappointed with this. Cathy was actually angry, and rang her own pastor to get it all of her chest this morning (since the president has appointed him as our ‘pastoral carer’, she thought she would let him have it!). I sent a copy of the president's email to Anthony Fisher with the following comments:

I am rather disappointed with [my district president] for the following reasons:

1) He here expresses nothing but disappointment in my decision. When I last talked to him, he said he also felt joy that I had decided to affirm my faith in the Catholic Church.

2) He correctly quoted from my circular letter the only reason I have publically given for seeking leave of absence. I invited anyone who wanted to know more to contact me personally. Many have done so, and I have been as frank with them as the situation demanded. I think he rather overstepped the mark by publically stating the reasons I gave him in confidence.

3) He put a negative spin on my decision by saying that I was considering "renouncing" the LCA--I may be leaving it, but I wouldn't have used the word "renounce".

4) He included [P.] and Peter in this. Peter is a long way from being ready for his questions to be public knowledge, and [P.] won't even admit to himself that he is thinking about becoming Catholic, let alone anyone else.

5) He has decided on a process without consulting any of us; and appointed "pastoral carers", not only for ourselves, but for our wives as well, again, without any consultation.

I also understand that he may have contacted George [Pell] asking him to tell his priests to maintain their distance from us. If he has done this, I take it as a personal affront.

I am disappointed, but I really feel for [P.] and Peter. I am already as good as out of it. Please pray for us.

Peter and Susie were very upset over this. The District President is demanding that they jump through all sorts of hoops. I do not understand why I was spared all this.

It just so happened, that today I was on a scheduled retreat with the President and five other pastors. I was feeling ill at ease all day, probably due to the President's letter of the night before, but I shared my “emotional journey” rather than “theological journey” with the brothers towards the end of the day.

I also took the president to task privately during lunch time re his comments in the newsletter. Apparently P. was shown these comments during his interview yesterday and did not object. I am a bit annoyed at P., although I know I shouldn’t be. But he has walked with us so far along this journey, but now appears to be turning back at the last minute. And how could he not have realised, seeing the President's letter, that those comments would cause heartache for Peter and me?

The President tried to use the image of “wandering in wilderness” for me with the brothers today. I corrected him and said I prefered to use the “Abraham” image--in the desert maybe, but not aimlessly wandering. He still seems to think, though, that I will come back to the Lutheran fold. He must be kidding! It would require such an about face...

On the way home, I was thinking about the fact that I may never be received into the Catholic Church (because of my marital status). Then, with the district president's wilderness image in mind, I came to thinking about Moses--a member of God’s people, leading them right up to the promised land, but not being allowed to go in himself, instead only viewing it from the top of Mt Nebo.