Monday, 19th March, 2001: In which I turn 34, have a final interview with the President, check out mass at my new parish, and receive letters

They say a week in politics is a long time--well, so is a week in a conversion story. Much has happened, and I have to run my mind over the last week again.

I happily celebrated my birthday on Monday. Cathy had arranged a number of “surprise” events, including lunch at her parents with a number of friends and dinner at a restaurant with the Spikes and Brooks (minus children). Unfortunately, I was feeling very “off” by the evening and did not have the opportunity to chin-wag over red wine late into the night as I would have liked.

Tuesday brought a summons into the President's office, so I made the appointment for Wednesday after meeting with P. and Peter and waited to see what would happen.

On Wednesday, we gathered together as usual, and I found that on Tuesday Peter had also answered a summons. Peter said that the President had basically accused him of trying to be a “David Schutz” clone, and was recommending that he have no more contact with me. He was not supposed even to be at our meeting this morning--a fact that instantly had P. thinking that we had better call an end to the meeting here and now. Peter reassured him that there was nothing to fear, because he had drafted his letter of resignation. He read it out to us. It made clear that he intended to resign from both his parish and the LCA ministry forthwith.

So, forewarned is forearmed, and I went to see the President immediately afterwards. He said he had heard a number of reports that he wanted to check up on.

Firstly he had heard that I “had been catechised”. I said that he knew that I was seeing Anthony Fisher for this express purpose since I had told him of it at the very beginning.

Then he moved onto the subject of when I would be ceasing my ministry, and I got in first and told him that I would be ending on Palm Sunday. He welcomed this decision.

Then he said that as far as he could tell there was no point in continuing the “process” from his end, because as far as he could see I had already “converted”. I said this was true to an extent. There was nothing that would deter me from my decision that I have made, nor from the answers that I had found to my questions, but that I was happy to continue discussion with the pastor whom he had assigned to me to clarify the issues for the LCA.

Continuing on his conviction that I had already “converted”, he then asked me to resign completely from the ministry of the LCA. I told him I was not going to do so voluntarily, but he was welcome to bring charges against me and begin the process of having me removed from the roll if that was what he wanted. He indicated that he was not willing to do this. I assured him that the Summit would be the last time I would be meeting with the Pastors of the district as a pastor, that I would not be attending Pastor’s Conference in April, and that I would in no way function or act as a pastor of the church while I was on leave of absence. With this he had to be satisfied.

I closed by saying that I was sorry if this reflected poorly upon him among his fellow presidents. He indicated that he was a little uncomfortable about it.

So that was that. I do not expect to have another interview with him on this matter.

Thursday morning I finally received two letters in the post telling me that the Mt Scopus and Montrose applications had both been unsuccessful. This was disappointing, but I had already accepted the fact (I would have heard earlier otherwise), and so it simply “put me out of my misery”, as they say.

That afternoon I met with Fr Greg Pritchard to pick up some forms that needed to be filled out for the Music Coordinator position. I think I will really enjoy this work. We talked about a number of issues, and I think we will see eye to eye on most things, or I will learn to adapt my tastes to fit his and the parishes. I resolved to attend at least one or two main Sunday or Vigil masses between now and when I take up office, so that I have some practical feel for the situation.

Friday night I received a phone call from Peter. He had taken his letter of resignation into the President, and was announcing his decision on Sunday. I must say news of this shook me a little. It shouldn’t have, since I was fully forewarned, yet I had just been feeling a bit sorry for myself and for my uncertain future that the thought that Peter and Susie and their children were going to have to bear it also was a little too much for me.

On Saturday I spoke to A., who said that his wife had been the receptionist in the president's office who received Peter’s “envelope” and suspected its nature. A. said that he had actually asked the President whether he was taking the whole business “personally”, and he had indicated that he was.

I was too late getting Maddy ready for Mass Saturday morning (Mia was starting swimming at 12:30pm so we were going to the pool later than normal), and so I decided to go to the vigil mass on Saturday night. Fr Paul was celebrating, but I really wanted to see what happened music wise. The congregation was about 60% capacity, mostly elderly, which surprised me as I thought the Saturday evening would be more “young people” orientated. The songs and the mass settings were not the easiest to sing. I knew the Psalm setting and the offering song (“Be with me Lord, when I am in trouble”--a favourite), but the rest was certainly not the most tuneful material.

They had sung entrance song, kyrie, psalm, verse, offering song, sanctus, lamb of God, communion song and recessional. Some of the overhead screens were only hand written and not easy to see on the other side of the church where I sat down at first. I shifted to the other side just to see the screen better. We will have to do something about that. One organist, one cantor, and an overhead projector assistant.

But the liturgy was done well. Paul is a rather odd preacher, but he can do a very reverent liturgy. There were crucifer, torch bearers, book bearers etc. and all the servers did their jobs competently and confidently. I found myself rather surprised at how surprised I was when I felt the strong need to receive holy communion. Somehow this was different from what I had been doing every Sunday morning for the last nine years. And I wanted desperately to be a part of it.

Yesterday I did my last “three service Sunday + confirmation lesson + BBQ”, only I felt too tired to go to the BBQ at Casey, and in the end it was wet and cold and only one family came along prepared for it. They had been up in Bendigo, where it was bright and sunny, and were not aware of the weather down here. We had a good service at Casey, but they were sad to realise it was “second to last”. I tried ringing Peter but he was “incommunicado”.

Today I had contact from all three priests, Fr John Fleming (by phone this evening to see how we were all getting along), Fr Greg Pritchard (by mail to confirm my appointment), and Fr Anthony Fisher with the following email.

Dear David,

Herewith a document that might be useful for us to go through when next we meet. Any questions you have about any of it, please scribble them down.

I will be speaking with the Archbishop further about your situation his week and wonder if you could email me a summary of our financial needs, both in terms of what and when (as far as ou can predict it), esp re job, house, car, loans...

God bless David.

Anthony OP

The attachment was Paul IV’s “Credo”, and my reply to this email was as follows:

Dear Anthony,

Thank you for the document. I wonder if we can meet this Friday morning (eg. 10am?) at the Priory to discuss it? I would be happy to move along these lines of directed reading. I am still reading through the Catechism, and have come across only one place that I would like clarification, and that is on the relationship of original sin and concupiscence (as adressed in para. 406).

Would you have an evening free in the first week in April to come to dinner? Thursday is out, but any other evening should be fine.

Thank you for your concern regarding our financial needs. As I see it, the situation is as follows:


I will celebrate my last service as a Lutehran paster on Palm Sunday. Greg Pritchard has kindly offered me "two days a week" at $10,000 a year (inc. work cover and super) at Our Lady's in Ringwood as "Music Coordinator". I may be able to pick up one or two hours a week extra at the parish school. As I see it, I would need an extra $20,000+ to bring the household into fiscal solvency. In the short term, I have some work (at $20 an hour) doing the final revision of the Lutheran Worship Resources. I may be able to string this out for a month or two at the most. Then there remains the offer of factory work from my parishioner at Frankston. But this would be a last resort for me. Last time I talked to him, he thought he could find some stuff for me to do in the office. I have considered asking you about the possibility we once touched upon of perhaps a scholarship to study in your institute. Some study at this time may not be a bad thing--enabling me time for reflection and intellectual processing--but I would require financial support. I am still hopeful of finding part-time library work. It was unfortunate that nothing came of the two library positions I was interviewed for a fortnight ago, but I am sure something else will come up. I have a couple of applications in at the moment, and I know that a position will come up at my previous place of employment in Footscray in a week or two, which they have encouraged me to apply for. At the same time, if something were to come up at the Archdiocese, I would consider that too. I noticed that there have been advertisements in the paper for a part-time administrative secretary for a project in one of the Archdiocesan offices, and have even wondered if I might not have the skills for a position like that. As you can see, I am thinking of all possibilities!

Cathy has her two day a week job at St Paul's Lutheran Church at Box Hill. At the moment she is struggling to care for Maddy and Mia at the same time, and probably would not be coping if I was not taking things easier in the parish and making more time for them. She is thinking of taking a week or two off before I finish just to get Mia into a routine and feeding properly.

We have been kindly allowed to stay in the manse rent-free until the end of the financial year--but that will not leave very long for us to find new accommodation, and I hope to have a job by then to pay rent, bond, shifting costs etc. We will require a house with at least three bedrooms. Our current accommodation has four: Maddy has her own room, Mia sleeps with us, and we use the other two bedrooms as studies for each other (full of stuff!).

We own two cars and a motorbike. Cathy's Subaru station wagon and my bike are fully paid for, but I owe $9,160.73 on my Diahatsu Pyzar. Currently, as a pastor of the LCA, this loan is financed by the Lutheran Layperson's league at 4.5% interest per annum and a repayment schedule of $320 per month. As I have officially taken "leave of absence" rather than resigning from the Roll of Pastors entirely this arrangement will continue for the present. I have suggested to Cathy selling my car and using my bike for transport. In my estimation, after selling my car and paying off the outstanding loan, we would come out about $3000 ahead. But Cathy is less than keen on this idea, as it would severely restrict my ability to care for the children while she is at work or otherwise using her car. Of course, the bike could go, but bike riding is both a hobby and a social outlet for me which I would greatly miss. Still, I am not sure if we will be able to keep up the loan payments, plus the registration and servicing of all three vehicles. We may have to make a few tough decisions if we don't get the financial security we require.

On top of that, there are many day to day running costs that the parish have been paying for us. Of chief concern to me is our health insurance. Our health insurance is with Australian Unity, and we have a fairly high level of cover to cover maternity needs. Although we are not at the moment planning another child, changes in our method of family planning will have to allow for this eventuality! Each quarter we pay about $630 to this fund.

Other than this, we have no loans or financial commitments. At the same time we have no savings! We have always sailed pretty close to the edge financially. So that is our financial and accommodation and job situation. Naturally, I would be very grateful if there is anyway that the Archdiocese could help.

I have attached a new version of my resume, in case anyone wants it. Also, would it be possible to reclaim the two documents that I sent in with you to the Archbishop last time--the volume of Lutheran Worship Resources and the Bibliography?

I find that Peter's resignation has shaken me more than I expected, given that I knew it was going to happen. Knowing the anxiety that I am facing with the end of financial security for my family, I feel for him and Susie as they face the future. At the same time, I rejoice that they will be able to be received into the Church forthwith, and look forward to celebrating that day with them. I attended the vigil mass at Our Lady's last Saturday, and was surprisingly (?or should that be 'surprisingly surprisingly'?) struck by the intensity of my desire to be able to receive communion in the Church. I try to reassure people that I will be able to bear my time "in limbo" as I wait for the annulments to be granted, but sometimes I am 'all talk'.

David Schütz

At the same time, I received the President's latest ‘Pastor to Pastor’ newsletter.

Dear Brothers,

First of all, sincere thanks to all of you who spent time in prayer for those of us who attended the Summit on Friday the 9th.

Secondly, I want to say thanks to David Schutz, Peter Holmes and P. for the focused way that they presented their questions. Few of us who were there could not have been moved by the intensity with which these questions were troubling our brothers.

Thirdly, I want also to publicly express my appreciation to Pastors PK, GW and DB for their responses prepared at short notice. These helped to give further focus to the issues.

At the end of the day I indicated that I would need some time to consider where we go from here. To that end I had asked three teams of three people to prepare some focused issues for further study. It also had become clear to me that whatever processes were now to be followed they should be tailored for each of the brethren separately. On Tuesday I met with Peter Holmes and on Wednesday with David Schutz and on Friday with P. to a) get their impressions of the usefulness of the day and b) to test my proposals.

The meeting with David established two matters 1) there was little point continuing the discussion in any formalised way. David needed to be freed to pursue his journey. 2) In order to do that David had already come to a decision to actualize his resignation from the pastorate of Knox, Frankston and Casey at the conclusion of services on the 8th April - a month earlier than intended. I do want to make it clear that David has not resigned from the LCA. He is seeking Leave of Absence and that will be processed via DCC to GCC. He will not however participate in pastors conferences etc. He does not yet have any formal work. I commend him, Cathy and the children to you for your prayers.

The meeting with Peter also established that their was little value to be had in pursuing further formal discussions with him. On Thursday Peter put a letter on my desk which in part says:

"I must ask you to accept this letter as my resignation from the position of pastor of the Doncaster/Ivanhoe Lutheran Parish and from the office of public ministry in the Lutheran Church of Australia. .....I cannot continue to lead and teach people in the way of their salvation when I can no longer believe in that which must be taught according to the Lutheran Doctrinal statements. ...So for the sake of my family's souls, and also of my own, we must obey the call of our Lord, and return to His Church. ....I hope that those who seek to form opinions on the reasons and motivation for my resignation will do so in mind of the deep grief it causes myself and wife, and that they will take into account the integrity of deciding not taking a vow that I can no longer uphold in good conscience."

I spent three hours with Peter and Susan on Thursday night exploring the above decision of Peter and the implications of it. It is now quite clear that we have no option to allow Peter and Susan and family to take the journey that they have chosen. Peter announced his decision to his congregations yesterday. Peter and Susan and his people are now dealing with the trauma of all of this. I urge your prayers for them.

Peter and the leaders of Doncaster/Ivanhoe are negotiating a terminus for this ministry in consultation with me. It will probably be in about 6 weeks time. I will meet with Peter again tomorrow and test again his decision and the implications of it.

My discussions with P. made it very clear that much is to be gained in continuing the discussions. I will be appointing a small group of pastors to engage in this process. I am also exploring the possibility that P. might spend some time at the Seminary to engage the faculty in a discussion of the questions. I urge your prayers for him, his wife and their family.

I am seeking the endorsement of DCC to my proposal to have the questions of these men placed on the Agenda of CTICR and to that end to furnish their papers and the responses to CTICR for further study and response. It has become very clear to me that these are not just Victorian questions. I have been appraised of another 10 men in other Districts who are asking the same sorts of questions.

What are the questions? In short hand they have to do with ecclessiology, magesterium, and sola scriptura.

May I also ask for your prayers for the people of the parishes of Knox and Doncaster.

I talked to both P. and Peter today. Peter said they had a very busy day yesterday with a lot of shocked reaction from people who thought this was a sudden decision rather than one carefully worked through. Thankfully, Fr Greg Pritchard has been there to support them, and Alison Fleming sent through a bunch of flowers and a hamper for Susie on Saturday. They have set Easter as the end of their ministry in the LCA and Pentecost as the day they will be received as a family into the Catholic Church. I was very pleased to hear that they will be received at Our Lady’s--so I joked that I would get to chose the music for the occasion. Peter immediately said “Not ‘A mighty fortress’!” I might give him “In thee is gladness”, however... Seriously, it will be wonderful to be worshipping together as part of the same community. Peter said that Anthony is chasing up the same issues that he is chasing for me, so that is good.

P. is aware that we can no longer meet together at his office on Wednesdays. He must not be seen to be fraternising with us, as we are now clearly “persona non grata” in the church. However, he has asked if we could not go around to visit him tomorrow night! He is looking forward to his trip to Adelaide, something which he had been planning to do in his holidays anyway.

So that is how things stand at the moment. And I notice that I have finally gone over one hundred pages with this journal! It seems remarkable to me that I have been recording these thoughts for almost a year now. But in many ways, I did not expect things to go so quickly. It amazes me that once something is said or admitted to oneself, it is like one domino being pushed over and an unstoppable chain reaction is set in place. I hope it doesn’t stall before it reaches its conclusion.

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.

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