Tuesday, 24th April, 2001: I start my new life... and the letter of resignation I wrote to the Pastors Conference
Just heading off to my second day of work at Thomas Mitchel Primary School in Endeavour Hills. I had my first day yesterday, and I must say it was an enjoyable event. A good atmosphere to work with. There were times when I thought "Good Lord, how am I going to be able to manage this?", but I don't think that there is anything that is actually beyond me, it is a challenging job, it is an interesting job working with interesting people doing interesting things. Probably exactly what I need. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed being a librarian, almost unbelievably how much, an experience I have never had before. I once dreamed I would have this experience with the Seminary library. I enjoy the thought "This is my Library", "I am librarian of this library". It is a scarry thought in some ways, but in other ways, as I said to Cathy when I got home, it is a huge ego boost. I just love being able to say to people "Hi! I'm David Schütz, I'm the librarian." I don't think the workload will be too taxing, and I will be able to come home without bringing any work home with me. I feel very good about it. Probably famous last words, it is only the second day after one day's experience there after all, but time flew yesterday and I barely noticed it. It was that good.
Tomorrow is Anzac Day, and Fr Greg has me cantoring for the Anzac Day mass, and this Sunday coming will be the first time that I cantor for the Sunday Masses at Our Lady's.
So really, things are turning out fairly well. I know that both of these jobs, my music coordinator job is going to be reviewed in October and there is not an endless pit of money there to pay me forever, and my Thomas Mitchell job is only a contract until the 21st of December, so by Christmas I might not have either of them, but both of them will set me in a good place to be by the time I get there. This is invaluable experience I am receiving in the library in Thomas Mitchell.
And on the other hand, this job at Our Lady's has given me a place in the Catholic Church even before I ever suspected I have a place in the Catholic Church. And that's a really wonderful thing, and I think that has led me to the position where I can say "I am Catholic, I am no longer a Lutheran".
Today the Pastors Retreat begins out at Sacred Heart. I won't be there. Peter won't be there. We will never be there again. I've written a letter to the Pastor's Conference. It will be interesting to see whether it gets read. "I bet they won't read this letter at the conference" [Sung to Monty Python tune about singing "this song" on the radio] , but I hope it will, and a number of people know that I HAVE written it, so I will know if it is not read.
[The text of this letter is given here, although it was not in my original journal:]
To the Pastors of the Lutheran Church of Australia--Victoria District (including Tasmania) assembled at Sacred Heart, Croydon:
I am writing to give you my greetings as you meet together. I am very sorry that I am not able to join you in this retreat, but it would be inappropriate, under the circumstances, for me to do so.
I am also writing say goodbye, and to briefly give my reasons for leaving your fellowship. Many things will no doubt be said about me, but I feel that some last word from me to you is required. Good manners, let alone the debt of love to brothers with whom I have shared so much for so long, would require me to do something by way of saying “farewell”.
In my early years at the seminary, some 15 years ago, I underwent (what I have come to call) my first “catholic conversion”. At that time, I became convinced that it was essential for me not only to be a Christian, but to hold and practice the “true catholic faith”, without which I could not be saved (as the Athanasian Creed reminds us).
Although at first this conversion manifested itself in a strong desire to join the Catholic Church, I came to believe that I could fulfill my obligation to the catholic faith by being an “evangelical catholic” in the Lutheran Church. I also decided that the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” of the Nicene Creed was an article of faith rather than a visible society upon earth.
With greater or lesser success, I lived by this creed until last year. The intervening decade had seen two great changes within the LCA: the introduction of Church Growth theology and methodologies, and the movement for the ordination of women. The former undermined the liturgical life of the church, and the latter eventually posed (and continues to pose) a real threat to the doctrine and authority structures of the LCA. These issues were enough to make me re-examine my thoughts on catholicity. Two pastors especially challenged my ecclesiology, and I found that it just did not stand up. The way in which the Augsburg Accord was (or, more to the point, was not) received by the Lutheran Church also made an impression. With regard to women’s ordination, by Easter 2000 I had serious questions about a church in which it was possible to repudiate former binding doctrine and replace it with an entirely new teaching and practice on the basis of a Synodical vote.
I wish to make it clear that I asked these questions “as a Lutheran pastor”--what else was I? But as I re-read all the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue material from both the local and US dialogues, I found myself agreeing more and more with the Catholics than the Lutherans. Before long, I began to suspect that I was, in reality, a Catholic, and that my Lutheranism was in fact nothing other than an inherited context.
After the Tanunda Synod last year, I began to actively explore the Catholic faith by seeking direct dialogue with Catholic priests, in particular Fr Anthony Fisher (who spoke to this conference last year). I did not do this without Dr Stolz’s knowledge. Doubts about the Lutheran confession of faith grew--and concerns about the supposed “errors” of the Catholic church dwindled. Yet it was not until I received the call to Hope Valley in January, that I realised that I was unable to accept this call, and, conversely, that I was unable to reaffirm my call to the Knox parish. My only alternative was to resign, and I took this step immeadiately. To do anything else would have been to place my integrity in question.
Still, some have questioned my integrity. Although I have resigned my parish, it is clear that some believe that I am being duplicitous (or trying to “have a bet both ways”) by holding on to my identity as a Lutheran pastor while actively exploring becoming a Roman Catholic. I will not have my integrity questioned, especially on the basis of lack of information or mis-information. Nor can I accept the stricture of the DCC banning me from giving an account of my catholic faith to any member of the LCA (including, one presumes, my own immeadiate family). Therefore, I have determined that I will tender my resignation from the ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and membership in the LCA to the District Church Council at its next sitting, to be effective from the end of June this year.
There is grief at this decision, to be sure. I have benifited so much from our fellowship together. I have regarded many of you as friends, not just as colleagues in the ministry. I hope that where there has been friendship, my decision will not alter these relationships. At the same time, I wish you all well for the future as you minister to one another and to the flocks in your care.
Some have asked whether it is my intention to seek ordination as a priest in the Catholic church. Let me simply say that this is a very distant (if not non-existant) possibility, and that I would rather just take one step at a time. I have been graciously welcomed into the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ringwood as their new liturgical music coordinator, and I have placed myself under the pastoral direction of the parish priest, Fr Gregory Pritchard. And so it is my earnest desire to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome at the earliest possible opportunity.
“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph 3:20,21)
[As it turned out, this letter was not read out to the Conference in the end. It was blocked by the District President at the planning committee stage on two grounds: 1) that it was effectively a letter of resignation, and that the proper process of resignation is an official letter to him, and 2) that the gathering was a spiritual retreat and not a gathering of the Pastors Conference.]
Last night Cathy and I and the kids went around to [A.]'s home. [D.] and his family were there and the another pastor and his family as well, and so we ate drank and talked late into the night. It became one of those "giving a testimony of the faith in which you believe" situations for me. They honed in on the usual things: you know, Mary, her immaculate conception, her assumption, purgatory, the usual things, these are the things that are really beyond them. They look at me and wonder how the hell he could believe such stupid nonsense. They don't see how it fits in the wider faith, and the categories in which they think of it, no wonder they reject it, because the categories are all wrong.
[D.] at one point said: "Aw, look, this will change for you, you change all the time, I mean you never stick at the one thing", and they were making the same accusations about Peter as well. But Cathy piped up, and said: "No, I think that is unfair. You can see quite clearly that this has been a development for them, and they have taken as much as they can when they can." And in the same sense, I made it clear to them that my true conversion to the Catholic Church took place 15 years ago. And everything since then has been more or less consistent.
[D.] cited times when I had more or less supported women's ordination, and yet I think I had to be there before I could get here. I had to go through a phase of that, and yet it's interesting, we've just completed the second National Music in Worship conference this weekend, because at the last National Music conference, I remember bailing up my Seminary mentor and saying to him: I don't understand your argument against women being ordained. You have the responsibility of making your arguments clear so to everybody so that they can understand you." And he replied: "No, I don't have that responsibility. My own responsibility is to witness to the truth. I am not in charge of making other people believe one thing or another." But I can remember bailing him up and saying that I really don't understand what he was on about. And yet the thing is that from that point (what? Three years ago now?) I can clearly remember now coming back and nutting it out in my head. "How is this so? Why would God not have women be pastors?" And following through the whole doctrine of ministry, the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine that the Father sent the Son and that the Son sends his apostles in the power of the Holy Spirit, and this authorisation that takes place there, and the succession of authorization that takes place there. I can see precisely now my growing arguments and that paper I wrote on why women cannot be pastors, was all preliminary to my acceptance of the authority of the Catholic Church. Without any of that I couldn't have then built upon this. It is a little bit like the doctrine of Mary's immaculate conception. It couldn’t have been phrased in those terms until the doctrine of original sin had been worked out.
So I think there is enough in my writings to show that since those early years in the seminary when I first came under the influence of Catholic theology, that since those times right through to my vicarage years and my conflicts there, even through the years when I flirted a little with liberalism, and at that time the monastic ideal was strong, its always been that strong Catholic undercurrent. I don't think anybody looking at it objectively could really honestly say to me that this is not a consistant path for me. Of course, there will always be people who attack ones integrity. It is amazing how many say: "It won't last, etc. etc.". But where do you go from Rome? If you lose faith in Rome, you lose faith in Christ! No I can't see it.
The LCA had, as I mentioned, its National Music in Worship Conference at St Paul's Lutheran Church. I went along with Father Greg and two other cantors from Our Lady's. And that was good, for I was for the first time being Catholic in the presence of my Lutheran brothers and sisters. It was actually at the Easter Vigil Saturday week ago that I realised that I can no longer identify myself with being Lutheran. I must now say that I am a Catholic. Even if I am not received into the communion of the Church, that's who I am, that the Church I must be identified with.
Now, there are a lot of people, and they said it again last night, who would say, "But you decided to become Catholic ages ago, and you have been doing something you don't believe in since then." Yes, it is far too easy to discount the process, to think that these things should be instantaneous. On this level, I think my Spiritual Director has been better than any, where he has been able to say "Take it easy, take time." You know the amazing thing is that they criticize Peter Holmes for doing what they said that I should have done, namely the moment he realised he couldn't do it any more, he stopped, even though people had little warning. People have had ample warning of what I have done. I've been so open about it that they have questioned my integrity. It's all a bit funny.
Cathy just finished reading the "There We Stood" book last night. And she said that it has really helped to understand what I am doing. She is interested in reading a book that compares Lutheran and Catholic theology so that she can see it written out. She enjoyed reading the stories. The stories told her more than it would have been in a dogmatic book. She also said that it had helped her understand my reasons for not taking communion any more. I don't know what she meant by that. We need to talk more about that.
Anyway the fact of the matter is that we are now here. It is the Tuesday of the octave after Easter, and I am precisely at the time of the year where I was one year ago, and yet the cycle has moved on. And I am now, within 12 months - and I can hardly believe that this is the case - within twelve months of making that decision at Cowes - at the other end of that journey. It has been a "Year of Grace".
I am, and God willing, I always will be, a Catholic.
Solo Dei Gloria. Amen.