Thursday, 1st March 2001: In which the President calls a "Summit" to discuss our cases, I prepare my case, & receive a letter from my godmother

I am losing enthusiasm for this journal. The reason, I think, is that I have few things I still need to work through. Writing has been for me not so much a way of recording the journey, as of actually making the journey. Now, although much is happening, and there is much that someone in the future would probably be interested in (eg. How did he go about telling everyone, and what were their reactions), yet little is happening in the sense of my journey. It is as if I have come to a landing half-way along the stairway, or the lift has become stuck between floors, and there is little to do but to sit and wait it out. I am waiting for my annulment. I am waiting for a job. I am waiting for my resignation to take effect. I am simply waiting...

In the mean time, the District President has summoned a ‘Diet’ to meet next Friday. Yesterday he emailed all Victorian pastors with the following email:

Dear Brethren,

I am convening a summit for Friday the 9th March at St. Pauls Box Hill from 10.00am - 3.00pm.

The purpose of the Summit is to clarify and discuss the doctrinal concerns of the brethren David Schutz, Peter Holmes and [P.]. To that end I am asking David, Peter and [P.] to prepare an A4 (1 page) specifying the concerns that are troubling you. I am further asking that [Pastors PK, DB and GW] prepare an A4 (1 page) response to David, [P.] and Peter. NB. David, [P.] and Peter send your statement to [PK] (David), [DB]([P.]) and [GW] (Peter) by Tuesday of next week at the latest and then kindly email it to all of the brethren listed above.

...I have invited the people named above for specific reasons. They are either pastors on DCC, Zone Counsellors, colleagues in ministry (team ministry, class mates) or they have been asked to fulfill a specific role in regard to each of the brethren. I have also been conscious of the need to try and avoid overpowering the brethren with concerns. If I have overlooked someone who falls into one of the above categories please contact me.

Those of you not specifically involved please use a proportion of your day on the Friday for specific prayer for those attending the summit. I urge all of you to make this matter a matter of prayerful concern in the days leading up to the summit and beyond it.

He followed this up with a second email:

Dear Brothers,

If you re-read my email on this matter you will note that I sent an invite to 21people and then sent a copy to all of you. The 21 were [RA, AB, DB, PG, PH, JH, AH, Holmes, VK, PK, GL, SM, P., SP, GS, CS, Schutz, DS, GS, GW and JW].

I did say that if I have overlooked anyone according to the criteria for invitation in email, please let me know and I will invite. If someone else would very much like to be there please let me know.

I also called the rest of you to prayer.

We got a foretaste of what it this "Diet of Box Hill" would be like when Zone Pastor’s conference met on Tuesday. I had asked for time to tell the brethren what was happening, and Peter [Holmes] and P. were invited to join in. Most people are stunned at “how far” I have “gone”.

Although by now all these questions are simply academic for me, since I have committed myself to the path that I am on, I have drafted the following questions for the Summit:

1) In ecumenical theology, two ecclesiologies are possible: 1) The true Church of Christ on earth is a visible reality which is manifested and recognised by certain “marks” and is to be identified with a particular denomination to the extent that it preserves these “marks” in their fullness/purity; or 2) the true Church of Christ is an invisible reality that consists of the spiritual communion of true believers who are known only to God, and who may be found in any denomination, or indeed, even beyond the bounds of organised Christianity. I do not believe the second option to be valid: the church is the body of Christ, and Christ is incarnate (he is not “the invisible man”). It is my understanding that historically the Lutheran Church (and even more specifically, the LCA) has held the former definition, and has regarded itself to be the true church because it alone has perfectly preserved the true Word and Sacraments. For this reason, we have been wary of entering into communion other churches, because of a perceived lack of purity in the preservation of these marks. If so, is the Lutheran Church not claiming to be the one holy catholic church, and, if so, how is this claim to be justified?

2) The Lutheran Church holds that the true church is present wherever the Word and Sacraments (the liturgy of the church) are celebrated. If the church does not have an organic reality apart from the event of the celebration of the liturgy, what must we say of our church when it abandons on a large scale the very liturgy that is supposed to bring it into existence?

3) What is the locus of Christ’s authority in the Lutheran Church? Who can claim to be the “you” in Luke 10:16 today and on what grounds? How is this authority validated, ie. how is it communicated incarnationally from Christ himself? Whether authority is claimed by the presidents, the pastors conferance, the synod, the local congregation, the confessions, the Theses of Agreement or the theologians of the church, on what grounds would we regard such authority to be validated?

4) When the LCA came into existence, the first Synod adopted a doctrinal position that said the ordination of men only was “binding upon all Christendom”. 35 years later, the same institution held a vote which potentially could have overthrown this “binding” practice. Apart from the question as to whether the truth can be determined by a vote, did this action not invalidate the authority of Synod itself? For while making doctrinal pronouncements which are binding for the LCA, it does not consider these statements to be binding upon itself for its future confession of faith. Hence no doctrine, currently considered “binding” by the church, can be safe from revision or rejection by the Synod in the future.

5) I do not believe the Lutheran Church will ever reach agreement on the doctrine of the ministry, since there is an inherant ambiguity in the Lutheran tradition on the matter of whether the authority of the ministry comes from ‘above’ or ‘below’ (popularly refered to as a ‘high’ and ‘low’ view of the ministry). GL’s paper at our last Pastors Conference demonstrated the difficulty in trying to resolve this ambiguity. Is there any way of resolving these tensions without ultimately chosing either between a fully catholic understanding of orders or congregationalism?

6) The LCA regards the external validation of the call by the church to be essential to the ordained ministry, for it is by this external validation that authority to exercise the ministry is confered from those who already have it (understanding that one cannot exercise the office without the authority to do so, and that only those who have the authority can confer it upon others). Although the Augsburg Confession recognises the authority of the episcopate (CA 28), the 16th Century saw a radical break in the continuity of the orders when the bishops of the church did not validate Lutheran ordinations. How then can we consider the ministry of the Lutheran Church to be validly authorised?

7) The historic episcopate and episcopal succession has, since the very beginning of the church, been regarded as essential to the church, since by this succession a tangible continuity of authority has been maintained with the apostles who were first commissioned by Christ. The LCA does not have bishops and cannot create an episcopate simply by giving them authority ‘from below’ since such authority must be given by Christ (ie. ‘from above’). Is it not therefore clear that we lack one of the essential marks of the church, and that this ‘lack’ cannot be repaired?

8) Some Lutheran theologians and pastors have claimed that the Lutheran Church is an “evangelical catholic” church. On what grounds can the Lutheran Church of Australia claim to be “catholic”? Is it even possible to reach a clear agreement on what it means to be “catholic” if communion with the bishop of Rome is not included in that definition?

9) Sasse: “Gentlmen, 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.” Given the priority of the Roman Catholic Church (ie. it was there first--we broke away from it, not vice versa, despite the old “Luther never wanted to start a new church” line), Lutherans are guilty of committing the sin of schism by continuing to separate themselves from the Roman communion. The evil of schism may be justified if it is undertaken in order to avoid a greater evil, namely, apostacy from the catholic faith. Yet it is evident from the bi-lateral dialogues and agreed statements, and from Rome’s own official documents, that the Roman church has remained faithful to the catholic faith, when many other churches, Lutheran churches included, have apostasised. Rome has not only remained faithful in the face of contemporary attacks upon the ordained ministry, the inerrancy of scripture and the sanctity of life and marriage from liberalism and feminism, it has recently proven its orthodoxy in such documents as the Joint Declaration on Justification and the declaration Dominus Jesus. Are the continuing differences between Lutheran and Roman Christians so serious as to continue to justify schism?

10) “Only the unity of the Church’s faith and her authority, which is binding on each member, assures us that we are not following human opinions and adhering to self-made party groupings but that we belong to the Lord and are obeying him.” Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Called to Communion. How does a Lutheran answer this statement?

I was talking to AB on the phone today (I also spent about an hour talking this morning to Pastor RT, a cousin of my mother-in-law who is preparing stuff for me for the Worship Resources--and I think this primed me up for the chat with A.), and I realised just how much conscience has played a part in what I am doing. If I could have gone any other way than I have and still been true to my conscience, I would have taken it. I was a bit stunned at a letter I received from aunt and godmother yesterday. It read as follows:

To dear David and Cathy,

You have been much in our thoughts and prayers in recent weeks. While we continue to disagree with just about everything in your rationale for the direction you have chosen, David, we hope that, ‘ere long, your theological turmoil will be replaced with peace. While we continue to believe that you are not acting wisely but makng your own and Cathy’s life very difficult, we want you to know we love you both and will be here to walk with you on the journey. In the final analysis, those of us who lvie under the thoelogy of the cross are called to suffer with and for eachother. We wish you well in the weeks ahead, as you look for a job and another place to live. You continue to be in our thoughts and prayers. Please keep in touch.

God bless,

Why should I find this letter disturbing? After all, Cathy read it as very supportive. The fact is, I think, that I feel uncomfortable with the notion that I have simply “chosen” a direction on the basis of a “theological rationale”. There is nothing “rational” about this (although I will admit that originally the questions were primarily intellectual and theological)! In the end, it has become such a matter of conscience and of faith and of integrity, that I could do no other. If this is what Martin Luther felt when he stood before the Diet of Worms, then I know just what he meant. He was personally convinced of the truth of his position, and he declared that he could not budge from it even if he wanted to. I feel much the same way. How I wish I had been able to accept the call to Hope Valley! There is still a little bit of me that pipes up from time to time and says “If JW turns the call down, you could say you want to be reconsidered!” But of course that bridge has now been definitively burned. There is no going back. There is, in fact, no going anywhere but forward.

And the fact of the matter is that the way forward may indeed be the way to the goal that God is leading me, and to turn back would be to turn away from the very destiny that he has laid out for me. Yet he is only revealing one step at a time--literally. I feel like I am walking across a chasm on an invisible bridge: stepping out into a nothingness that only becomes visible stone beneath my foot just as I am putting it down and shifting my weight onto it, such that I need to trust and to place my life into the decision to take each step. The stone bridge may not materialise, and I may fall forward into the chasm. But so far, the stone has been there, carrying me on. To use a more biblical picture--it is like stepping out of the boat, and walking on the water towards Jesus. I have to keep my eyes focused on the goal, and step out in trust.

And it may all come out right. I may get my annulment. Cathy may eventually get her application in and she might get her annulment. I might then be received into the church. I might get a job in the Church. I might even be considered for ordination. Then how wonderful it will all be! All that my heart desires may yet be given to me.

But of course, it might be the direct opposite. I might not get my annulment. There might never be a job for me in the church. I might never be received into the Catholic church. Trying to raise our children when Cathy and I belong to two different churches may be a disaster. I may be reduced to working in a factory somewhere. Then what will it all have been for? For my conscience and for my integrity and for my witness to the truth. And I will have made myself a martyr without any recognition of the effort it cost me. This is the worst of it. I and all I am doing may simply be ignored and forgotten.

Yet here the words of Christ from yesterday’s Ash Wednesday gospel ring in my ears: Do not do your works of righteousness before men, for if you do, you will have recieved all your reward. I have to be certain I am not doing this for fame or notoriety. If in the end, it goes as I have said in the paragraph above, and not as in the paragraph above that, then I will have done my duty and only my duty as a servant. And as in one of Jesus parables, does a slave expect to be praised for doing his duty?

I think I will stop now. Cathy is talking on the phone still, and I would like to pray.

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