Rev. Jack Cascione Brings to Light an LCMS Lawsuit Against Four Simple Church Ladies in California, by Pr. Rossow

This is one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen. Below is a two part video of Rev. Jack Cascione interviewing four simple church ladies in Oakland, California about a lawsuit that  which calls for the taking of  the church property away from these ladies and the eleven other members of the congregation.

As you will see from the video, the details of the lawsuit are rather complex. One would need a lot more detail to determine who is in the right.

That is not the point. Say what you will about Rev. Cascione – I myself have criticized his position that the voters assembly is the voice of God in the local congregation, but I also think that a group that he belongs to (ULMA) and that we invite to post on this site, has something to offer and say in the whole scheme of confessional Lutheranism – but he has done all LCMS members a service by bringing to light this litigious action of our synod leadership. Rev. Cascione is a former member of the LCMS. He and his congregation left the synod a few years ago on account of many of the same things that we complain about on this website: contemporary worship, false ecumenism, the unscriptural role of women, etc.

Those of us who witnessed the aggressive nature in which  the synod leadership conducted the firing of Todd Wilken and Jeff Schwarz are not surprised to see the aggressive nature of this action with the four simple church ladies in California.

This is more proof that it is time for a change in the leadership in the LCMS. This aggressive and litigious activity of the current leadership appears to be very  un-churchly behavior.

Does anyone reading this understand who at the International Center is responsible for such lawsuits? Is it the board of directors? Is it the synodical president? Is it the council of district presidents? Any and all comments for clarification would be appreciated.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Rev. Jack Cascione Brings to Light an LCMS Lawsuit Against Four Simple Church Ladies in California, by Pr. Rossow — 64 Comments

  1. I think there is a lot going on here, but I just read the Answer to the Complaint. It is available at the link in my post #45.

    The defendants (i.e. the four women) are claiming in their 4th Affirmative Defense (at paragraph 9) that nothing in the text or doctrine referenced in either the congregation’s constitution or the LCMS constitution requires utilization of only a male pastor.
    I understand that lawsuits are not to be undertaken lightly, but are we sure the District is really the bad guy here? These women hired a female priest and are now claiming that nothing in the Book of Concord or the Doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church prevents female clergy. That is not what the District is claiming the defendants did – it is what the defendants are saying they did. It is not an allegation; it is an admission.

  2. These court documents are a few years old. They did admit in the video that having a woman priest was wrong and repented of that.

    I think the real problem is the shennanigans of calling unscheduled meetings and “lording it over” by show of force, and the resulting confusion, turning out the lights, pulling the fire alarm, locking the gates to the church etc. This is devilish destructive stuff done by good people. What these dear sheep need is a shepherd, a pastor who can catechize them in what is right, to use their zeal and energy for the good, to the glory of God, and love their neighbor.


  3. Reading through the court documents:
    NOBODY has “clean hands” in this mess.
    It reads like an Abbot and Costello “who’s on first?” scenario. Who IS the President? Sounds like a couple of cliques in nomal(?) infighting in a congregation. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
    Newton’s failure to provide pastoral relief is AN argument, BUT the congregation could have called anybody from Synod’s roster, whether he liked it or not. (Lots of luck with that! Who’s going to accept a call to a admittedly failing congregation, steadily declining in membership and resources?)
    Those of us in the area have known that Redeemer really hasn’t been “viable” for a long time. They’ve been encouraged, and not just by Newton and Sauer, to merge with other congregations in the Circuit.
    It seems that a lot of unwarranted pride and failure to recognize reality exists here. And not a whole heck of a lot of brotherly love.

  4. Thanks to frequent commentor Alex, who spent a good deal of time compiling these documents, all the legal filings for this case are now available in PDF format.

    Click here for an index to the documents.

    There are three documents at the top which combine each individual document listed below them.


  5. [email protected]

    [[[editor’s comment; our reader already made these available to BJS readers — downloading the separate files and formatting them as PDF’s, which are easier to read and view.]]]

    You are invited to discuss this issue on

    September 14, 2009

    “Download Lawsuit LCMS President Says Synod Didn’t File”

    When you are caught red handed, the LCMS solution is simply to lie about it.

    The LCMS President published a letter on September 10, 2009 categorically denying that the LCMS is suing Sharon Bowles, Mary-Ann Hill, Portia Ridgeway, and Celia Moyer for the ownership of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Oakland, California because they voted their congregation out of the LCMS. The defendants have already spent $220,000 defending themselves against the LCMS.

    President Gerald Kieschnick writes:

    “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is neither a party to the lawsuit pending in California as referenced in the article, nor involved in any property dispute with the parties in that lawsuit. Further, the LCMS has not paid any legal fees related to the lawsuit. Since the LCMS is not involved in the litigation or dispute, we cannot comment further on it.”

    The Chairman of the Council of District Presidents of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Dr. Larry Stoterau, speaking for all the District Presidents writes:

    “Thank you for your e-mail to President Kieschnick concerning the article in Reclaim News and for the opportunity to address the misstatements in the article. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is neither a party to the lawsuit pending in California as referenced in the article, nor involved in any property dispute with the parties in that lawsuit. Further, the LCMS has not paid any legal fees related to the lawsuit. Since the LCMS is not involved in the litigation or dispute, we cannot comment further on it.”

    If you want to read the actual lawsuit on the internet that the LCMS says does not exist, follow these instructions.

    This is the link:

    When you arrive at the court’s website click on “CASE SUMMARY.” When you pull up the next webpage, put the case number in the box. The case number is: RG07363452 (that is a zero after the G). Then hit enter. It will bring up the case and a menu of options to select on the left margin of the page. Click on “Register of Actions.” That lists the documents and filings in the case. Then select the first item, which is the complaint filed in our case on December 28, 2007 (it was served the defendants in January 2008, which is when they first learned of it). Select it by clicking on “IMAGE (JAVA).” I assume you have Java software installed on your computer. The document will then uploaded and you can print it out page by page (the complaint is about 20 pp). Click on the printer icon at the top to print. The same thing can be done for any of the other documents filed in the case that are PUBLIC and not deemed confidential (like mandatory settlement conference statements that are deemed confidential).

    The attorney representing the LCMS, Sherri Strand, has her name on the first and the last page of the 19 page suit. The name “Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” appears on the first page of the suit.

    The words “Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod” or “LCMS” appear in the suit at least 60 times.

    President Kieschnick’s denial that the LCMS is involved in suing these four ladies shows he is either a liar or a fool. One would have to believe that anyone could sue someone else in the name of another corporation without the knowledge of the corporation.

    Of course the issue is that if the Synodical President denies that the Synod is involved in a suit, many clergy and laypeople in the LCMS will believe the “leader” instead of the facts. This is one of the hallmarks of a cult and a cult following. The “leader’s” words have more authority than facts, legal documents, constitutions, and the Bible.

    The following are quotes from the LCMS handbook that clearly show the LCMS is suing these four ladies regardless of what the “cult leaders” say.

    According to the Synodical Constitution and Bylaws of Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod:

    Article XII.1, “The Synod is divided into districts, the geographical boundaries of which are determined by the Synod and are altered by it according to circumstances.”

    Article XII.2 “This constitution is also the constitution of each district of the Synod; however, each district is at liberty to adopt such bylaws…”

    Article XII.9.a “The district presidents shall see to it that all resolutions of the Synod which concern the districts are made known to the districts and are carried out by them.”

    Article XII.9.b “The district presidents shall submit an annual report of their administration to the President of the Synod and, in general, permit him to obtain all necessary insight into their official activities as district presidents.”

    Bylaw 1.3.2 “The Synod divides itself into districts and authorizes its districts to create circuits. The criteria for the creation of districts and circuits are determined by the Synod in convention. Districts and circuits are included among the component parts of the Synod.”

    Section 1.2.1 of the synodical bylaws says;

    (e) District: A division of the Synod as determined by a national convention of the Synod.

    4. District Organization. p.187 (2004) A district is the Synod itself performing the functions of the Synod. p. 187

    4.1.6 The relationship of a congregation to the district is the same the relationship of the congregation to the Synod and as defined in Article VII of the Constitution of the Synod and Bylaw sections 1.3, 1.6, 1.7, and 1.8. p.188

    Kieschnick’s letter may indeed convince a majority of his mindless followers that there is no suit but he has now exposed the LCMS to a huge settlement for bringing false suit. Rare is the plaintiff who denies that he filed suit against the defendants.

    See interview with “Oakland four” on YouTube.

    ‘Oakland Four’ Sued by LCMS – Interview by Rev. Cascione (first half)

    ‘Oakland Four’ Sued by LCMS – Interview by Rev. Cascione (second half)

    The LCMS President and the District Presidents duped the entire 2007 Convention into believing that the adoption of Resolution 8-02A was designed to follow God’s Word against Christians suing each other in court. At the same time, the Convention voted that the Synod could sue any churches if they left the Synod as follows:

    Resolution 8-02A states:

    “In the agreement to live and work together, a member of the Synod is required to rely exclusively and fully on the Synod’s system of reconciliation and conflict resolution. Unless the dispute is one concerning property rights or contract arrangements under Bylaw 1.10.3 (a) or (b), such suit would be a gross violation of the process of Bylaw section 1.10 and the covenants which bind members together in the Synod.”

    Messages in this topic (1) Reply (via web post) | Start a new topic

  6. Plaintiff Ron Lee Beers, David Booth
    Plaintiff Naomi Gatzke Beers, David Booth
    Plaintiff Joseph Thompson Jr. Beers, David Booth
    Plaintiff Miriam Thompson Beers, David Booth
    Plaintiff Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, a not for profit religious corporation Beers, David Booth
    Plaintiff The California-Nevada-Hawaii District of The Lutheran Church-Missouri SYNOD, a not for profit religious corporation Beers, David Booth
    Defendant Sharon Bowles Nelson, Paul D
    Defendant Mary-Ann Hill Nelson, Paul D
    Defendant Portia Ridgeway Nelson, Paul D
    Defendant Celia Moyer Nelson, Paul D

    02/28/08 Cross-Complaint: Bowles vs. Lee
    Role Party Name Representation
    Cross Complainant Sharon Bowles Nelson, Paul D
    Cross Complainant Mary-Ann Hill Nelson, Paul D
    Cross Complainant Portia Ridgeway Nelson, Paul D
    Cross Complainant Celia Moyer Nelson, Paul D
    Cross Defendant Ron Lee Stone, Elizabeth

  7. Since the case involves the California-Nevada-Hawaii District and Kieschnick is not in that district it is not unreasonable to think that he did not know about any of it. The whole synod is not involved in the case, just the one district. Kieschnick and Stoterau both denied involvement from synod or paying any legal fees regarding the case. I have not seen anything that would contradict those statements. The only link to St. Louis is Sherri Strand, though even she is not doing so on behalf of the synod as noted in comment #46 by Joe and the first page of the complaint.

    While I don’t always agree with Kieschnick I don’t expect him to know the particulars of the legal filings of each district or circuit filed nearly 2 years ago. I would hope that he allows the districts to handle their own problems unless they develop to a point that requires attention at a synodical level. Whether or not this lawsuit has developed to such a point could be debated but I suspect in either case that neither side sought input or action from synod. If nobody has informed Kieschnick of local problems how would he know about them?

    Rather then level accusations against him for the lawsuit it would be better to inform him about it and allow him to investigate and take action. If he fails to take action on a matter that does deserve his attention, which this lawsuit may or may not, then there would be cause for concern about what he has or has not done.

    Some of the sensationalism at the beginning of the post from reclaimnews is less than helpful in accusing synod of involvement in the lawsuit. I appreciate Pr. Rossow’s comment #44 about removing references to Kieschnick from the original post and waiting to see what will be done now that Kieschnick is aware of the situation. There are plenty of problems at synod already, we don’t need to blame them for things they were not involved in yet.

  8. I believe this is a test case to establish synodical “ownership” of congregational properties.
    As said above, this trend is happening in many “church” bodies. I know of a case in Pittsburg, Pa. that is going on now involving a mainline denomination (not sure which one).

  9. 1) Where is the congregational leaders in this? Don’t they speak?

    2) For an ELCA congregation to leave, one manuver is to call a non-rostered servant. These four called a non-rostered servant in an attempt to leave sainted Missouri? Say it ain’t so! Are they the only ones left in this church of no officers, elders, president, voting body?

    3) Synodical Board of Directors by policy is to remain informed of any litigation involving any syond properties, including Our Redeemer. So why clown around acting like you don’t have a clue? How does this help?

    4) Synod could end this mess by just sending a pastor. Why is that so hard unless it conflicts with District’s desire to close this church. Does the District have that much power or should it?

  10. For those who are following the progress of the Lee v. Bowles case, plaintiffs’ (Ron Lee, Naomi Gatzke, Joseph Thompson, Miriam Thompson, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church – Oakland and CNH District) Motion for Reconsideration of the denial of their Motion for Summary Judgment and the Granting of Defendants’ (Sharon Bowles, Mary-Ann Hill, Portia Ridgway & Celia Moyers) Motion for Summary Judgment was continued by the court’s motion on the previously scheduled hearing date, 14 January, 2011. It has been re-scheduled for 2nd of March, 2011, at 3:00 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.