Here is some more interesting news from the lawsuit in California. Can it get any stranger? We wish we could verify all of this but …
Armed Guards Remove LCMS District President from Voters’ Meeting
Dr. Robert Newton, District President of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, was escorted out of a Voters’ Assembly at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Oakland, California on Tuesday evening September 21, 2010.
Newton and District Executive Rev. David Sauer arrived uninvited at the meeting. Newton announced to the assembly that he came to bring “peace” and “love” and then began to distribute and read a 3 ½ page letter criticizing the congregation’s effort to disaffiliate and defame the officers. The meeting had been closed to non-Voters. Newton was ruled out of order by the paid professional parliamentarian and refused to be silenced by the chair. Two paid armed guards were signaled by the trustees to remove Newton from the meeting.
The Voters’ Assembly was hardly in a mood to hear Newton’s plea for peace and love. The District continues to sue members of the congregation for its church property and they must pay more than $500,000 in legal fees to defend themselves from the Synod.
The LCMS Council of District Presidents believes that the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion nullifies an LCMS congregation’s Constitutional right to private property.
On December 21, 2007, attorney Sherri Strand, legal counsel to the LCMS Board of Directors, filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court for the LCMS-CNHD against Sharon Bowles, Mary-Ann Hill, Portia Ridgeway, and Celia Moyer for the church property of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church of Oakland, CA (case number RG07363452 on the website). The Synod filed suit because Our Redeemer Lutheran Church voted itself out of the LCMS. The congregation voted to leave the LCMS because the District has refused to give them a call list since 2002 and told the congregation “to close with dignity.” The Synod claims a prior interest in the property because Our Redeemer’s constitution deeds the property to the District if the
church closes. However, the church didn’t close.
In late August of 2010, Judge Marshall Whitley denied Strand’s Motion for Summary Judgment against the defendants and granted plaintiffs’ summary adjudication against the District on its claims on the basis that it had no legal standing to sue the church members.
On September 9, 2010 Strand filed a Motion to Reconsider the day before Judge Whitley’s ruling became final. Strand asked Judge Whitley to reconsider based on a new Commission on Constitutional Matters Opinion CCM 10-2581 that was published in response to losing the suit on the morning of September 9, 2010. Strand’s Motion to Reconsider explains to the court that CCM 10-2581 means that the LCMS is “hierarchical” and has Episcopal ownership over all churches in the LCMS. Whitley rescheduled the hearing for January 14th 2011. The trial, if any, is scheduled for April 18th 2011.
In late August of 2010, the congregation’s president received a threatening phone call from Newton demanding that the congregation remove their current pastor, Rev. Lawrence Richmond, and that Newton would replace him with his own appointee. He did this despite the new CCM 10-2581 prohibiting him from imposing a pastor or interfering with church governance. The COP are lawless men running a real estate scam in the name of Jesus Christ. After Newton’s threatening phone call the congregation understood that they would need armed guards to keep order in their church services and Voters’ Assemblies.
Thus far, guards have removed people sent by the District from two meetings. A guard also followed Newton around the building during a Sunday morning service. Newton told Rev. Richmond he wanted to announce for Communion. Members of the church immediately moved the Lord’s Supper from the altar because they refuse to take communion with devils.
The California-Nevada-Hawaii District removed Rev. Richmond, a 1985 St. Louis Seminary graduate, from the LCMS clergy roster 14 years ago because Richmond refused to practice Open Communion.
In her Motion to Reconsider, Strand argues that the defendants are guilty of “persistent violation of LCMS and Our Redeemer doctrine in contracting with a female pastor as early as 2004 and continuing until present time.” Strand makes no mention that the District refused to give the congregation a call list since 2002. Local LCMS pastors refuse any pulpit assistance to the congregation on fear of breaking the District President’s order that the church should close.
The congregation has had no LCMS pastor to advise them since 2003. They could only find Dr. Katherine Ward, and Episcopal Priest, to cover the vacancy until they contracted ELCA Seminarian Ross Tevis in 2006. Tevis left after six months and the congregation found occasional guest pastors. Members of the congregation often conducted their own Sunday morning devotions until locating Rev. Julian Maire of the LCMS in the summer of 2009, but the plane tickets were expensive. In the fall of 2009 they contracted Rev. Lawrence Richmond until the present day. Newton and Strand are well aware that Richmond has been serving Our Redeemer for over a year, yet they deceive the court with the words, “persistent violation continuing until present time.” Strand refuses to acknowledge that Pastor Richmond is a man and has been married for more than 30 years.
The District directed an LCMS clergy-boycott against the congregation as a charade to close the church and seize the property on the pretext of false doctrine. During his deposition on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 17th 2010, LCMS President Kieschnick was not able to name the Bible passages which Our Redeemer was violating.
Our Redeemer always wanted an LCMS pastor but couldn’t find a permanent solution until they located Rev. Richmond, who lives with his wife about 135 miles from the congregation. After 14 years without a call, the situation has reversed. Suddenly Newton has twice asked Richmond to meet with him and Richmond refuses to serve Holy Communion to an unrepentant Newton. LCMS Convention Resolution 2007 8-02A says it is a sin to file suit against another Christian. What the COP meant was they can sue you—but you can’t sue them.
Thus far, the LCMS has spent more than an estimated million dollars suing Our Redeemer Lutheran Church with an endless supply of mission funds.
The new CCM 10-2581 Opinion is nothing more than an attempt to change church law after the fact. Strand writes to the Court, “‘a district president must be able to determine who, on behalf of the congregation properly speaks for the congregation…’ (Opinion [10-2581] pgs. 2-5) and that the district president ‘has authority to investigate and review such information as may be necessary to settle’ a dispute with a congregation ‘consistent with the Constitution, Bylaws, and resolutions of the Synod…’” Strand’s point is that the newly-hierarchical nature of the LCMS gives the district president the right to remove elected congregation officers and recognize members of his own choice to speak for the congregation. Strand quotes a number of cases from Episcopal Church case law to support her position.
The COP and CCM have reinterpreted the LCMS Handbook for the courts which states that the Synod has no equity in church property and that congregations are autonomous. At this point, 20 voters, defense attorney Paul Nelson, and Judge Marshall Whitley are all that prevent the LCMS COP from establishing case law to support their Episcopal authority over LCMS congregations and their property.
C. F. W. Walther, the Synod’s founder, would be surprised to learn that defense of the doctrine of congregational autonomy would be in the hands of one lone iron-willed Voters’ Assembly that protects itself from the LCMS with armed guards while 6,000 congregations pay no attention. The LCMS locomotive stops in Oakland. He is still the God of orphans and widows.
View interview with Oakland Four
Oakland Four’ Sued by LCMS – Interview by Rev. Cascione (first half)
‘Oakland Four’ Sued by LCMS – Interview by Rev. Cascione (second half)
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Oakland CA is under siege by an LCMS District in a suit that is about nothing more doctrinally significant than taking the congregation’s property. Our Redeemer Lutheran Church seeks donations to help pay for legal fees to defend itself from a suit filed by Attorney Sherri Strand, legal counsel for the LCMS Board of Directors, in behalf of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the LCMS. Tax deductible donations can be sent directly to a new dedicated account. Donations of any amount may be sent to:
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Account number 0536971270
Bank of America
4054 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland CA 94619
Please send only checks and place the account number in the memo line. All donations to this account are tax deductible. For more information and eyewitness information to the depositions contact Dr. Sharon Bowles at [email protected] or attorney Paul Nelson at [email protected]