Skip to comments.16 pastors file charges against Penn. pastor
Posted on 06/15/2010 5:27:11 PM PDT by lightman
16 pastors file charges against Penn. pastor
Sixteen pastors from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are challenging their bishops decision to return an admitted predatory pastor to parish ministry.
The pastors filed ecclesastical charges today against Pastor Alan Wenrich, who was arrested last year for soliciting one of his female counseling patients for sex in exchange for money.
A letter and document containing the charges were delivered to the office of Bishop B. Penrose Hoover in Harrisburg, Penn. Hoover, who serves the ELCAs Lower Susquehanna Synod, recently allowed Wenrich to take a position serving Trinity Evangelical Lutheran on Rolleston Street in Harrisburg.
Leaders of the synod could not be reached for comment.
In filing charges against Wenrich, the 16 pastors were following the few avenues they have in the ELCA Constitution for possibly removing a pastor from ministry. The Constitution requires that 10 pastors signatures are needed to file charges against another pastor.
The pastors action is also a means to challenge the bishops decision to return Wenrich to ministry. In a letter to Hoover, Pastor Elizabeth Polanzke said that such decisions shouldnt be made unilaterally by a bishop.
We understand the ELCA to hold a zero tolerance policy, as stated by Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson at the forum he conducted at the June 2010 Synod Assembly, Polanzke, of York, Pa., said in the letter.
We believe this to mean that these matters of sexual misconduct will not be handled in the back rooms of the Synod office, but rather in a clear, even-handed, open process utilizing those committees and parties available to the Bishops Office to adjudicate these matters, the letter said.
In January, a year after Wenrichs arrest, Pretty Good Lutherans reported in that the pastor was still on the ELCA clergy roster. Wenrich has also had his professional counseling licensed suspended by the Pennsylvania State Board of Social Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and Professional Counselors.
When asked six months ago why Wenrich was still a pastor, Hoover told Pretty Good Lutherans: Because his misconduct did not rise to the level of sexual misconduct as we define it. It was solicitation, not the act of sex.
Pretty Good Lutherans then asked: So a woman has to allow a pastor to have sex with her before the ELCA considers his behavior sexual misconduct?
The bishop responded: I think this conversation needs to end. Then he hung up the phone.
~ ~ ~
Below are the letter and charges filed today by 16 pastors:
Dear Bishop Hoover,
Enclosed you will find a document filing charges in the case of sexual misconduct by Pastor Alan Wenrich as permitted by the ELCA Constitution. While the ELCA Constitutional requirement is for only ten signatures, there were more than ten pastors who wished to go on record in this matter.
In addition to the charges, we wish to communicate to the Office of the Synodical Bishop, that the way in which this matter has been adjudicated to date does not meet with our expectations.
We understand the ELCA to hold a zero tolerance policy, as stated by Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson at the forum he conducted at the June 2010 Synod Assembly.
We believe this to mean that these matters of sexual misconduct will not be handled in the back rooms of the Synod office, but rather in a clear, even-handed, open process utilizing those committees and parties available to the Bishops Office to adjudicate these matters.
The bottom line, if this were something any of us did, we would expect charges to be filed and the matter to be adjudicated by the Disciplinary Committee.
We hope that this sets a new precedent in our Synod and sets forth a new path of ethical dealings in these matters.
I take responsibility for the authorship of this document and organization of obtaining signatures. I am willing to serve as liaison between the undersigned and your office in this matter.
Thank you for your attention to this.
Your sister in Christ,
Pastor Elizabeth Polanzke
Whereas Alan Curtis Wenrich, ordained minister of Word and Sacrament of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), was adjudicated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2009 for the charges of Criminal Solicitation and Patronizing Prostitution, and
Whereas the ELCA has publicly stated that all forms of sexual misbehavior by clergy are unacceptable within the life of the church. The church should be a safe place where people can worship, learn, work, love, and receive care in a manner that is free from sexual misconduct.[i], and has repeatedly condemned sexual misconduct in its adopted and public statements and policies[ii], and
Whereas the ELCA, does not tolerate the abuse of the ministerial office for personal sexual gratification. This church holds high expectations for those individuals called to serve as rostered leaders. Pastors who abuse the trust placed in them by engaging in promiscuity, infidelity, adultery, or forms of sexual abuse violate those high standards. Such violations severely damage the credibility of the public ministry to which this church and its leaders are called,[iii] and
Whereas Alan Wenrich remains on the ELCA Roster of Ordained Ministers[iv], and
Whereas in accordance with Chapter 20.21.03.d. of the ELCA Constitution regarding the discipline of an ordained minister, charges against an ordained minister which could lead to discipline must be specific and in writing, subscribed to by the accusers , and be made by at least 10 ordained ministers of the synod on whose roster the accused ordained minister is listed, submitted to the synodical bishop, and
Whereas the ELCA Constitution also states in C20.21.06, When charges are brought other than by the synodical bishop or the presiding bishop of this church, the synodical bishop may refer such charges to a consultation panel as provided in 20.21.04.a. [of said constitution], be it
Resolved that we the undersigned ordained ministers charge Alan Curtis Wenrich, ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office (ELCA Constitution, C20.21.01.b), specifically the solicitation of a counselee as documented by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and be it further
Resolved that in the interest of upholding the statements and policies of this church, its public integrity, and the protection of vulnerable persons, we request of Bishop Penrose Hoover and the consultation panel a formal hearing by the Discipline Hearing Committee of the Lower Susquehanna Synod as provided in the ELCA Constitution (C20.21.08 ff) for the case of misconduct by Alan C. Wenrich.
[i] ELCA website: http://www.elca.org/Growing-In-Faith/Vocation/Rostered-Leadership/Leadership-Support/Safe-Place.aspx, February 6, 2010.
[ii] The ELCA states in Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline of Ordained Ministers (January 1999) in section numbered four, regarding Sexual Matters that the misuse of counseling relationships for sexual favors constitute conduct that is incompatible with the character of the ministerial office, and
The ELCA document governing the conduct of Ordained Ministers, Vision and Expectations (p. 13) states in its section concerning Sexual Conduct that Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual gratification, and all attempts to sexual seduction and sexual harassment, including taking physical or emotional advantage of others, and
The Conference of Bishops moved to support the ELCA strategy for Responding to Sexual Abuse in the Church by unanimous vote in November 1992.
As a result of that Strategy educational resources were created, including Safe Connections: What Parishioners Can Do to Understand and Prevent Clergy Sexual Abuse. It states that processes of discipline are in place to help this church provide a safe connection for the people of God and to the gospel. When pastors fail in their responsibility for maintaining this safe connection, the church is empowered to take action to remove them from those opportunities that enable them to use others and to derail the mission of the church, (p. 29.)
Also in Safe Connections: What Parishioners Can Do to Understand and Prevent Clergy Sexual Abuse under the heading Upholding the integrity of the Gospel witness and protecting the people of God, pg. 30, it states:
This discipline is distinct from the matter of forgiveness. The offender may be truly sorry, but still not free from the overwhelming temptation to hurt others, or to lie, or steal, or whatever the offense may be. We can forgive an offender and still not sanction their free and unfettered access to and participation within the community.
Being a pastor is a privilege, not a right. And it is the right of the community of faith, the church, to make decisions about who is trustworthy to serve in that position of responsibility and power. When serious offenses are committed, the church has the responsibility to remove the offender from the position or place that provides for that opportunity to be carried out.
The ELCA Church Council adopted in its document Sexuality: Some Common Convictions (adopted November 9, 1996) that Gods Law serves (to order sexual expectations and expression) by providing guidance and exposing sinfulness
* Destructive abuses of power that harm others are prohibited (Fifth Commandment) * Truth-telling is essential in all relationships (Eighth Commandment) * Sexual desire that lures one away from spouse or family is condemned (Tenth Commandment)
This document also states under the heading Abuse: Abuse can be physical, verbal, psychological, or emotional. Sexual abuse is the sinful use of power to dominate or control another person sexually. Victims of abuse are vulnerable because of their age, status, and emotional or physical condition. All forms of abuse are sinful
Furthermore, the document states that Trust and confidence are betrayed when a person of grater age or status manipulates one who is younger or more vulnerable to engage in sexual acts. Such acts are not mutual because of the power differences involved. This includes the sexual exploitation of clients by professional or parishioners by clergy. Those who engage in such conduct sin against God and against the persons who are their victims (page 6), and
Under the heading Prostitution: Prostitution is sinful because it involves the casual buying and selling of sex, often in demeaning and exploitative ways, and
In the ELCA Resolution on Sexual Harassment adopted by the 1989 ELCA Churchwide Assembly it resolved, that the ELCA will not tolerate any forms of sexual abuse or harassment by any of its personnel.
[iii] Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust, Social Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, adopted August 19, 2009.
In the final campaign speech before election, Pr. Hoover spoke of how his most treasured possesion was a picture of his wife, who had deceased from cancer within the past year.
Within 30 seconds of the election being declared, Bishop-elect Hoover introduced the Assembly to his fiance, who had formerly been an Associate Pastor under him.
Within six months of the election Bishop Hoover announced that he was an alcoholic in treatment.
Pr. Wenrich had served as an Assistant to the Bishop under Bishop Guy Edmiston.
* as of August 19, AD 2009, a liberal protestant SECT, not part of the holy, catholic and apostolic CHURCH.
Be rooted in Christ!
Its the bishop who needs to be removed.
They both need to go.
An interesting position...
If fellow priests had not maintained a code of silence regarding the homosexual infiltration of the Catholic priesthood over the past half century, the Catholic Church would not be in its own shameful position today.
There will be a special place in Hell for Pastors/Priests etc. who willingly teach falsehoods in their profession.
Oh my dear Lord!
This is a total travesty - and sorry, but that “response” about women agreeing to sex make me LOL.
BTW - “lightman” - you are a pastor?
...well I had to look twice to see that it wasn’t the RC’s getting slammed again. I guess the other denominations have their problems too.
Good for the ten pastors. Taking care of the little guys.
Once you set the precedent of redefining sin to suit your own purposes, it becomes a lot easier to accept a lot of behaviors.
Sadly, I just think this is the state of America today.
We need some good old fashioned tent revivals, if we can find any evangelists who care more about souls than they do their pocket books!
My wife and I left the ELCA a few months ago due to the homosexual nonsense. The quality of leaders in the ELCA is now suspect, imho, and it will be a downhill struggle to control sexuality in the ELCA. Sure, it is not homosexual, but it represents a central philosophy that will permanently fracture the ELCA.
The fundamental issue is the authority of Scripture and the Creeds and Confessions which bear witness to Scripture.
The more deadly symptom is the severe infection of "inclusive language" in worship, particularly in the 2007 hymnal Evangelical Lutheran Worship
In that hymnal not only is naming God as "Father" avoided like the plague, His paternity is diminished by avoiding references to Jesus as the Son of God.
That's right: no longer do the opening prayers, addressed to God, conclude "through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord" but "through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord".
From those prayers one would never understand how Jesus is related to God the Father! +John the Evangelist has strong words about those who deny Jesus's Sonship.
Absolutely. And now the military will be fractured as well. Immorality rots a society from the inside.
Have the ambulance chasing attorneys run out of money with the Catholic Church?
And now they are attacking the Lutheran Church?
Prayers for all who have parishes in this area.
**I guess the other denominations have their problems too.**
Of course they do. We have been saying that all along.
I personally know of two pastors right here in my state who abused children. Protestant — not Catholic.
**symptom of a much greater disease.**
Greed, by any chance?
The political hierarchy in this nation is riddled with sexual misconduct because it is a slice of secular society. Perhaps we saints (with a small “s”) of Christ’s church need to be more cautious in how much power and prestige we accord to ecclesiastical hierarchies. Perhaps we need to emphasize in the new organization of churches the regional service of the bishop to the saints and not the glamour of sitting at national Power Tables and the illusion of informing politicians. As the Scriptures instruct:
“contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” Jude 3-4
Even the man after God’s own heart allowed his position of power to be corrupted and devolved into forbidden sexual activity. Power that is not prayerfully, humbly grounded in God corrupts. For sinful man, sex is power. For Jesus, humble submission to the Father was power.