9-0

A unanimous US Supreme Court has dismissed the employment discrimination case against Hosanna-Tabor Lutheran Church. This is the best decision for the religious life of the nation – though I remain immensely uncomfortable with the MO Synod’s language about “ministers.”  Read all about it.

HT: Herr Vehse

 

+HRC

Other articles on it:

ABA Journal

The Washington Post

St Louis Today including written notes from Rev. Matt Harrison.


Comments

9-0 — 97 Comments

  1. I am just a Lutheran day school parent, and not knowledgeable on all this but I want the teachers to be teaching in line with our LCMS even if they are teaching little kids. I feel better knowing that they were LCMS trained and are committed to what we believe. Could we really have that kind of assurance if they aren’t somehow more accountable to us than just ordinary employees who are doing accounting or building maintenance? I just wonder if in this day and age we aren’t better off on the side of the wall that the First Amendment creates. All of the teachers in the day school are under the supervision of the pastor as they teach the children. While the English word “minister” connotes something beyond what these teachers are doing, they have to be labeled something that indicates they are on the other side of the wall and that the church’s teaching, not the EEOC will determine their employment or termination. I think the main thing this case does is let all know that when they cross over that wall, the government will no longer take an interest in protecting their employment status.

  2. @Mrs. Hume #51
    Well put.

    One thing we will have to realize is that the government isn’t going to use theological language nor does it care about our theological definitions. The governmental definition of minister is a purely functional definition. In distinguishing between a “called” teacher as a “minister” and a “contracted” teacher as an “employee” we have been trying to force a theological perspective onto what is essentially a very simple question from the government “is proclaiming the doctrine of your church an integral part of the job your teachers?” Under that functional definition, teachers are indeed ministers, from the government’s point of view.

    We are in a situation where we have a word that is used with one definition by the government and has a different definition in theology. Until we realize that and stop trying to reconcile the two definitions we will continue with a weird “neither fish nor fowl” view of the position of teacher.

  3. You mean we aren’t ALL ministers? I’ll have to check my Oscar Feucht references. He has a lot to answer for, anyway.

    Johannes

  4. I am an LCMS teacher, and I keep seeing it put forth in various blogs that us teachers will have to choose between a title or tax exemption or protection from the government. I’m tired of that silly nonsense.

    The “tax exemption” that is given to teachers is not helpful at all unless they make enough to itemize and take advantage of taxbreaks. I don’t. After paying the self-employment tax on the entirety of my salary, I pay nearly the same or more in taxes–depending on what was actually spent on housing–that I would as a regular employee. I hired an adviser to do my rather complicated taxes (more complicated than the easy form, at any rate), and he has stated more than once that it would be better for me, tax-wise, to be employed by the school. In other words, I am paying more in taxes as a commissioned minister.

    Furthermore, my status as “Commissioned Minister” places me in limbo in regards to my role in the church. I am told I am not a layman. I am not a pastor. I apparently can’t even vote in synod, though I’ve heard that may have been changed at the last convention. The title I’ve been given makes me an advisory non-entity.

    I have to sign a “contract” from year-to-year. I can be “not offered” that “contract” at the end of a year. Commissioned ministers do not have guaranteed jobs. Especially when the number of LCMS schools going under is taken into consideration.

    The people who are villainizing “Commissioned Ministers” by lumping them together as title-hungry, benefit-seeking, tenured tax-evaders need to stop. It’s not true. And it’s not amusing.

  5. #51: “While the English word “minister” connotes something beyond what these teachers are doing, they have to be labeled something that indicates they are on the other side of the wall and that the church’s teaching, not the EEOC will determine their employment or termination.”

    Thank you, Mrs. Hume. You’ve just helped me see that (even if we were only trying to fool the IRS into giving a minister’s tax break to a school teacher) it is wise under the law to have our teachers “on the other side of the wall.”

  6. I have a few thoughts I’d like to share on this situation:

    (1) First, it is a tremendous victory for First Ammendment freedom and protection in this nation. It is a great blessing to be in a country that does NOT try to interfere in matters of the Church and we should thank God for this fact.

    (2) The Church is where the Church should deal with and sort out its disputes and troubles among itself. St. Paul is quite clear that going to the civil authorities is a lose-lose situation. With all due respect to my mentor, Robert Preus, I think he did the wrong thing by going to civil court.

    (3) As for speculations about the precise details of this situation, such speculations are not founded/grounded in knowledge of the situation at the church. The media reports on the situation are not reliable sources of information, so it is unwise to try to delve into the specifics of the case we all know very little, to nothing, about.

    (4) Without commenting on details about this specific situation, about which none of us have all the fact, in general I think we may be forgetting that incapacity and inability to discharge the duties of one’s call is grounds for having that call rescinded. There is nothing radical about this idea, it has long been one of the grounds for removal from a call.

    (5) The idea that we should “appeal to Caesar” in these matters is extremely dangerous. The sad history of the Lutheran Church in Germany shows precisely what happens the moment an unbelieving, wicked, or heterodox rule is suddenly put in charge of the Church in his territory. This happened quickly after Luther’s death when Maurice of Saxony betrayed the Lutheran Church. It happened when the Elector of Brandenburg went Calvinist. The Consistory system in which the ruler of the land ultimately had control over the church in his territory was a fatal error in the Lutheran church’s history in Germany. Luther’s appeal to the local territorial ruler to guard him from death by sword from the Pope and Emperor was one thing, we thank God for the protection granted him, but when Luther went as far as to call the Electors “emergency bishops” there the ball was sent rolling down the slippery slope that finally led to the union of 1817, which was directly responsibly, by the way for the formation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, here in this country, in 1844, by refugees from that dreadful government-imposed union of Calvinism and Lutheranism by the Prussian ruler.

    (6) As to the issue of the word “ministry” and “minister.” Here I think we are over-reacting just a tad. While my choice when it comes to nomenclature is name the person by the office they hold: pastor, teacher, etc. – the fact that The LCMS chose to use IRS language to classify its rostered/professional/full time church workers/servants, call them whatever you will. They are persons who are charged by the Synod with discharging essential functions of the one divinely instituted office of the ministry, for that reason, they are rightly called and put into their office in an ordered, churchly manner. This is not a new concept. Walther clearly asserts that in the Church, there are “helping offices” that support and aid the pastor in his ministry. And before we go and get too twisted up over the word “ministry” and “minister” let’s keep in mind it means, simply, “servant” … the old German was so helpful. We had the Predigtamt “preaching office” into which men were placed, who performed various functions, not only/merely being a “parish pastor” – we have the Lehramt … the teaching office. We had Kirchendiener … church servants…a wide variety of offices, but all understood to be persons who were trained and placed into specific full-time/lifelong positions of service in and to the Church and her people. I think it is unfortunate when we start squabbling over who has the “right” to be termed a servant, a ministry and who is the only one can say to be have a “ministry” or work of service in the church. I can’t help but be reminded of the argument the disciples had one day over who was the leader among them, who was the greatest. Jesus kind of settled that one by washing their stinking dirty feet.

    The main point in this case has been stipulated above, but bears repeating: the court has clearly affirmed the First Amendment and the right in this country for the Church to govern itself free from the interference of the state. Somebody should write a book on that subject!

    Oh, wait…somebody did already.

    The Proper Form of an Evangelical Lutheran Local Congregation Independent of the State.

    On sale now…bound together with The True Visible Church on Earth, from your favorite Lutheran publishing house, for only $12.99

    Link here:
    http://www.cph.org/p-2930-the-true-visible-church-and-the-form-of-a-christian-congregation.aspx?SearchTerm=Walther

  7. One more comment, tried to put this into my post, but my editing clock ran out, Norm…can you give us more time to edit our posts please?

    I’ve noticed in comments being made that “the government” is spoken of as if it is some kind of “thing” out there to which we are all beholden. There seems to be a misunderstanding. The United States of America and its Constitution and Ammendments to the same, the Bill of Rights, to be specific are not “imposed” on us by “the government.”

    Why?

    Because, we, the people, have formed this nation. We, the people, have asserted and agreed that there are certain fundamental inalienable rights given to us by the Creator Himself, and we, as free men, have the right to determine how we shall govern ourselves.

    Therefore, we, the people, decided immediately after adopting the Constitution that we would then adopt a Bill of Rights, first among them being the one involved in this case.

    The Supreme Court of, we, the people, have affirmed these rights. This is something not to be taken lightly or scoffed at.

  8. Rev. Paul T. McCain :
    (4) Without commenting on details about this specific situation, about which none of us have all the fact, in general I think we may be forgetting that incapacity and inability to discharge the duties of one’s call is grounds for having that call rescinded. There is nothing radical about this idea, it has long been one of the grounds for removal from a call.

    Had the ill church worker been a male pastor, would the congregation have terminated his call and begun the process of calling another pastor with the onset of his extended illness? Unless it was at the pastor’s suggestion, I doubt it. The more likely scenario is that the congregation would have employed an interim with the understanding that the called pastor would return to the pulpit when his health permitted him to do so.

  9. What the SCOTUS decision regarding the “ministerial exception” means for ordained and commissioned ministers within the LCMS is that they will have to maintain absolute confidentiality (on the level of the seal of the confessional) for all of their medical records, conditions, prescriptions, as well as similar information about their family members.

    As has been shown in the case of the called commissioned teacher, Cheryl Perich, a medical condition, even when successfully treated and a physician certifies the person fit for full-time duty, can be an excuse to depose the affected minister with no contrary evidence needed by the church/school or no trial period to determine if their perceptions about the medical condition were actually correct. SCOTUS has ruled out relief through secular courts, and it is very doubtful if the LCMS Dispute Resolution Process will lift a finger as well.

    An ordained or commissioned minister (or even a family member) requiring medical treatments or having a medical condition that may be perceived by some members to be a potential (safety or financial) problem or danger, could expect pressure from the religious organization to voluntarily resign in exchange for receiving some limited short-term financial and insurance benefits and signing a mutual non-culpability and non-disclosure agreement. If the minister refuses such a “voluntary resignation,” that will also be considered as a justifying reason (“disruptive behavior”) for being deposed.

    I suspect ordained and commissioned ministers, who are not independently wealthy, may start to handle future calls with more up-front negotiations dealing with financial contractual agreements, which could be taken to a secular court if they are violated (“tor­tious conduct”) by either party.

  10. Like many things related to the government of the “Kingdom of the Left”, I feel the ruling is a mixed bag.

    HOWEVER, one aspect of this that tends to have me leaning towards supporting the decision, on balance, is the “friend of the court” brief filed by the Obama Administration where they advocated using this case to totally eliminate “ministerial exceptions”. By a 9-0 vote (including two justices appointed by President Obama) the court totally rejected the idea of eliminating the exception. The ruling specifically says there is a firewall that exists between the secular government and the church, but leaves open the possibility of revisitng the firewall related to things like contract law.

    If you examine this, you can see how the current adminstration is trying to “micromanage” churches who disagree with their policy by eliminatiing things like “ministerial exceptions” and tax exempt statuses. I thank God the Supreme Court is there to say that there is religious freedom in the US to disagee with our government when the government is wrong. You can compare this freedom to places as close to us as Canada, where there is great pressure to force pastors and churches who disagee with Canadian law on issues like homosexuality and the like to not say so from the pulpit by threatening them with such actions. Thank God for the firewall…..

  11. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #56

    Dear Pastor,
    Two things are true here:
    1) It’s good that the supreme court isn’t trying to rum the LC-MS
    2) As per IRS Pub 517, The LC-MS appears to be either on thin doctrinal ice, or defrauding the IRS.

    IRS Pub 517:
    “Ministers defined. Ministers are individuals who are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed by a religious body constituting a church or church denomination. They are given the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions, and administer ordinances or sacraments according to the prescribed tenets and practices of that church or denomination.

    If a church or denomination ordains some ministers and licenses or commissions others, anyone licensed or commissioned must be able to perform substantially all the religious functions of an ordained minister to be treated as a minister for social security purposes.”

    “Teachers or administrators. If you are a minister employed as a teacher or administrator by a church school, college, or university, you are performing ministerial services for purposes of the housing exclusion. However, if you perform services as a teacher or administrator on the faculty of a nonchurch college, you cannot exclude from your income a housing allowance or the value of a home that is provided to you.

    If you live in faculty lodging as an employee of an educational institution or academic health center, all or part of the value of that lodging may be nontaxable under a different rule. In Publication 525, see Faculty lodging in the discussion on meals and lodging under Fringe Benefits.

    If you serve as a minister of music or minister of education, or serve in an administrative or other function of your religious organization, but are not authorized to perform substantially all of the religious duties of an ordained minister in your church (even if you are commissioned as a minister of the gospel), the housing exclusion does not apply to you.”

  12. As far as I know, nobody knows precisely what happened, but based on what I do know, from informed sources directly involved with the case and the congregation, it is clear to me this was not a case of simply “poor mistreated church worker” v. “mean old congregation.”

  13. Rev. Paul T. McCain :
    As far as I know, nobody knows precisely what happened, but based on what I do know, from informed sources directly involved with the case and the congregation, it is clear to me this was not a case of simply “poor mistreated church worker” v. “mean old congregation.”

    If that is the case, why didn’t the congregation defend itself on the merits of her ADA complaint and avoid the first amendment argument – and all the concerns that have been expressed in this thread that might result from the court’s decision?

  14. @John Rixe #64
    John, that is quite correct. As the story reports, accurately:

    When she got sick, Hosanna-Tabor carried her at full pay and full benefits for seven months. This was a terrible hardship in a church and school with seven teachers, 84 students and deep financial problems.

    In its effort to preserve a job for Perich to return to, the school put three grades in one classroom for a whole semester. It went far beyond the requirements of law in its efforts to accommodate her disability.

    Finally, at the semester break, the school reluctantly decided it had to replace her. When she provoked a confrontation at the school and threatened to sue the church, the congregation rescinded her call, for insubordination and for violating one of the church doctrines she was supposed to teach and model.

    There was a well developed church grievance process that she could have used, run by the denomination, with hearing officers independent of the local church.

  15. @Johan Bergest #66
    Because it was a First Ammendment issue, that’s why. The courts have no place telling the church how it is to conduct its administration of its called workers. This is not an ADA issue.

    It is wrong to assume that a person who gets sick and is unable to fulfill his/her call has the right to expect that call to be continued indefinitely.

    I chalk a lot of what happened up to the Michigan union mentality.

  16. @Andrew #7

    The best experiences of my life involved working with Lutheran school teachers.  They shine like stars in the universe.

    “You and your people, i.e., the LCMS principals and school teachers, are the most important outreach ministry of our synod — bar none! You reach out to and religiously shape the next generation, you are genial examples of Christian living to our young people, and you bring in dozens of whole families into the sphere of the church every year, as their kids enter our schools. And that is not to mention all the volunteer hours our teachers offer, free of charge, to the work of the church!” Pr Martin Noland

  17. I don’t think anyone is bashing teachers on here. I think what most people are saying, as Matthew Mills pointed out, is that the definition we accept for all our called positions on the secular side is totally contradictory to our actual biblical definition we work with. Read the definition Matthew posted. Do we really give teachers, “the authority to conduct religious worship, perform sacerdotal functions, and administer ordinances or sacraments according to the prescribed tenets and practices of that church or denomination.”? Why claim the status then? Plus I have heard many, many LC-MS youth leaders, teachers, DCE’s, etc. (both men and women) refer to themselves as “ministers”. (I’m a youth minister, I’m a music minister, I’m a childhood education minister). Does muddying the waters with a secular definition of minister help promote that even though it’s not correct Scripturally? I argue yes. I don’t think any less of any teacher, DCE, or musician, I think we’re all just saying let’s make sure our terminology and our practice acurately reflect what Scripture teaches and what we believe.

  18. Rather than rely on CNN for details, one should consider the facts of the case presented in Case No. 07-14124, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division. All parties had submitted motions to the U.S. Circuit Court for summary judgment, which meant there was no dispute of the submitted material facts of the case, and the parties requested judgment as a matter of law.

    In August, 2004, Perich agreed with Hosanna-Tabor administrators that it would be best that she go on disability leave for the 2004-2005 school year.
    On December 16, 2004, Perich informed Hoeft via email that her doctor had finally confirmed a diagnosis of narcolepsy and that she would be able to return to work in two to four months once she was stabilized on medication
    On January 10, 2005, Principal Hoeft informed Perich of Hosanna-Tabor’s decision to hire a substitute teacher to work in Perich’s absence.
    On January 19 Hoeft requested that Perich begin considering and discussing with her doctor what she would be able to do upon return. Perich responded the same day that she would be fully functional with the assistance of medication.
    On January 21 Perich reiterated this sentiment with additional explanation.
    On January 21, Hoeft informed Perich of the school board’s intent to amend the employee handbook to request that employees on disability for more than six months resign their calls to allow Hosanna-Tabor to responsibly fill their positions.
    On January 27 Perich informed Hoeft that she would be able to return to work between February 14 and February 28.
    On January 30, at a voter’s meeting for the Hosanna-Tabor Church, school administrators opined that Perich would not be able to return to teaching that school year or the next. Based on this and other considerations, the congregation voted to request that Perich accept a peaceful release agreement wherein Perich would resign her call in exchange for the congregation paying for a portion of her health insurance premiums for the remainder of the calendar year.
    On February 7, the school board selected Scott Salo, chairman of the board, to discuss this proposal with Perich.
    On February 8 Perich’s doctor gave her a written release to return to work without restrictions on February 22.
    On February 9, Perich requested to meet with the entire school board and the meeting was scheduled for February 13.
    On February 13, the school board present Perich with the peaceful release request and Perich presented the board with her doctor’s release note.
    On February 21 the board continue to request Perich voluntarily resign, which Perich declined to do.
    On February 22, Perich showed up for work as required by the school policy on the first day after disability expiration.
    On February 22, Principal Hoeft told Perich, a called commissioned teacher, she would likely be fired. Perich indicated she would assert her legal rights against discrimination.
    On February 22, in a letter the board described Perich’s conduct as “regrettable.”
    On March 19, the board sent Perich another letter stating they would request her call be rescinded at a voter’s meeting. The board also made the same peaceful release offer to Perich they had made on Feb. 13.
    On April 10, 2005, Hosanna-Tabor voters rescinded Perich’s call. Perich was informed the next day by letter.
    On May 17, Perich filed a complaint with the EEOC.

  19. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #67
    There was a well developed church grievance process that she could have used, run by the denomination, with hearing officers independent of the local church.

    I sincerely wish for you, Rev. McCain, that you never have cause to consider using that “well developed church grievance process”! You may find yourself blackballed for suggesting it to your DP (which is where, I think, you’d have to go to start it).

  20. Apparently, Richard Strickert, who is quite famous for his steadfast defense of the congregation’s right of self-government and the supremacy of the voter’s assembly forgot to read a bit further in the documents he cites:

    The Hosanna-Tabor Constitution and By-Laws allow the congregation to depose a “Pastor or duly Called Professional Minister” for, among other reasons, “[w]illful neglect of official duties without cause” or “[e]vident and protracted incapacity to perform the functions of the sacred office.”

    Seems pretty clear to me there was “evident and protracted incapacity to perform” her functions.

    This was a fact submitted with this matter asking the the U.S. Circuit Court for summary judgment, which meant there was no dispute of the submitted material facts of the case, and the parties requested judgment as a matter of law.

  21. @Rev. McCall #70

    The Lutheran school teachers I know conduct religious worship in their classrooms every day.  It seems to me that evangelism is among the most important sacerdotal functions.  “… the LCMS principals and school teachers are the most important outreach ministry of our synod — bar none!”

  22. Publisher McCain: Seems pretty clear to me there was “evident and protracted incapacity to perform” her functions.

    This is just roast-burning gossipy speculation.

    While the H-T constitution and bylaws allow a congregation to depose a called professional minister for the stated reasons, the U.S. Circuit Court document notes (two sentences earlier):

    “The cited reasons for this action [deposing Perich] included Perich’s ‘insubordination and disruptive behavior’ on February 22. The board also felt that Perich had ‘damaged beyond repair’ her working relationship with Hosanna-Tabor by ‘threatening to take legal action.'”

    No evidence of “protracted incapacity to perform the functions of the sacred office” was mentioned in the Court document.

    That “insubordination and disruptive behavior” on February 22 was in Perich’s showing up as required by school policy to carry out her official duties at school, which her doctor had certified she was capable of doing in a fulltime capacity, refusing to accept a “voluntary resignation,” and responding to the principal, who obviously knew Perich was a called worker, telling her she would likely be fired, which would conflict with the church’s constitution and bylaws in that, as a called worker, Perich would have to have her call rescinded.

    There was also no evidence presented by H-T in the Court document that showed Perich’s treated medical condition, contrary her doctor’s release notice, presented an “evident and protracted incapacity to perform” her functions.

  23. @ John Rixe
    There you have it. Scripture means nothing, Office of Ministry means nothing, let’s all be ministers because it makes us feel good or because we think someone deserves the title. I sincerely hope teachers are not conducting worship in the classroom every day, but it seems that you are using CGM terms or definitions here so I guess worship is really however you want to define it as opposed to how Scripture defines it. We have Scripture and doctrine (derived from Scripture) in our church. If we believe it actually means something and that God meant it to be written for a purpose, then lets not try to re-word it or re-define it to make ourselves or our positions something they are not.

  24. @Rev. McCall #77

    Good point.  I’m probably using common English terminology for worship, ministry, and sacerdotal functions reflecting the meaning intended in IRS Pub 517.  In no way are we defrauding the IRS.  I am not using technical theology terms for which I have no training.  I apologize for the confusion in not making this distinction.  I actually do believe scripture means something.

  25. @John Rixe #81

    I may be missing something, as I am not a tax laywer, but aren’t we as a Synod saying that our parochial school teachers “perform substantially all the religious functions of an ordained minister?” And if they don’t (I hope they don’t!) aren’t we defrauding the IRS?

    “If a church or denomination ordains some ministers and licenses or commissions others, anyone licensed or commissioned must be able to perform substantially all the religious functions of an ordained minister to be treated as a minister for social security purposes.”

  26. Boiling this back down a bit:
    Perich was *not* “fired” for being sick. She was fired for conduct unbecoming the office. She was *asked* to resign, for the time being, due to the illness. When she threatened (and began?) litigation, she was then removed from office–on *theological/ecclesiastical* grounds (whether you and I think those were proper theological grounds or not). *This* is why the Court decided as it did–the Court sees that it has no business deciding a theological question. Perich and the EEOC tried to get around the theological issue (instead of taking the thing precisely on the basis of the theological issue to the internal dispute process–and one certainly can sympathize with the desire to avoid that labrynth!) by the argument that she wasn’t a “minister”, despite the fact that she had accepted that designation already. *This* was the foundation for the Court of Appeals reinstating the suit–in other words, the Appellates *were* willing to have a secular court make a judgment regarding her ecclesiastical/theological status (remember that whole argument about the small percentage of her day spent doing “religious” things). The SCOTUS unanimously said, “No, we have no business telling a church body who their “ministers” are or how to define them.”

    This was the precise issue they were dealing with, and the Court got it right. *We* have the problem with *our* definition and usage of the term “minister”, and the SCOTUS sure ain’t gonna solve it for us–thank God!

    Whether Hosanna-Tabor treated Perich properly or not was not even on the table for the SCOTUS. And you have seen arguments on both sides in this forum. That’s fine, though we ought to hold our own opinions on this with proper humility. For myself, I truly have no opinion–having said this already, a while back, I’ll repeat it: *my* vocation does *not* include rendering judgment on whether Perich or H-T (or both) sinned/were wrong in what they did, how they handled it.

    The saddest thing in all this is the damage done to the faith of many many involved, and, so far as I’ve ever heard, no reconciliation between Perich and those who are confessed to be her brothers and sisters in Christ. “Because by this deed you have given great occasion for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme….”

  27. @Rev. McCall #77
    You sincerely hope teachers are *not* conducting worship in their classrooms? Seriously?
    Worship, in the true Lutheran sense, narrower and broader usages–I sure hope they are! A teacher leading the kids through Suffrages each morning, using a good daily lectionary–you’re suggesting that this violates AC XIV or something?

  28. The more and longer I think about all this, the more I’m satisfied with the way we’ve worked it out wrt “commissioned” people–no vote as laymen, because they are in non-constitutive offices established by the churches for work within the specific context of the churches, but no vote alongside pastors either, because those “auxiliary” offices are *not* the pastoral office/the one divinely instituted and mandated one, without which there would be no Church. If we decided that, for voting purposes within the synod, we could count them as laymen, however, I wouldn’t have a problem with it–because, in the deepest theological sense, that’s what they are. (What *I* was for 8 years.)

  29. @Matthew Mills #82

    At the time we received the exemption both synod lawyers and IRS lawyers carefully concluded that for the purposes of the tax code, teachers met this requirement.  There was and is no intention to defraud anyone.  “Perform substantially” in this case is a legal tax judgment based on work week hours breakdown (not authority). As I recall there is some material on this in the Treasurer’s Manual if you are interested. Your local congregation treasurer probably has a copy.

  30. @Rev. David Mueller #83

    Perich was *not* “fired” for being sick.

    No one here has claimed Perich *was* fired for being sick.

    She was fired for conduct unbecoming the office.

    Perich wasn’t *fired.* Her call was rescinded. There is a difference. And Perich was not deposed for “conduct unbecoming the office” (she was not a military officer under UCMJ!).

    She was *asked* to resign, for the time being, due to the illness.

    Resign, for the time being“?!? Gobbledygook!! That’s like jumping off a building and flying, for the time being.

    After Principal Hoeft asked Perich when she would be returning to work, Perich informed her on January 27 that she would return to work within 2 to 4 weeks. Yet three days later, school administrators “opined” at a voter’s meeting that Perich would not be able to return to teaching that school year or the next. The congregation then voted to ask Perich to accept a “peaceful release agreement.”

    Even after Perich gave the school board her doctor’s release note stating she was fit for fulltime work, and after she showed up for work at school as required by school policy, the board still pressured her to accept the “peaceful release agreement.”

    When she threatened (and began?) litigation, she was then removed from office–on *theological/ecclesiastical* grounds (whether you and I think those were proper theological grounds or not).

    Late on February 22, Principal Hoeft told Perich over the phone that she would likely be fired (because of Perich’s call, that threat was contrary to church policy); Perich responded to that threat by claiming she would “assert her legal rights against discrimination.” Within hours that evening the school board described Perich’s conduct as “regrettable” and said they would review the process for rescinding her call.

    Just like that. No mention of Mt. 18 on the part of the Principal, or the board, or the pastor to discuss what she said on the phone and point out a need for repentance! No Mt. 18 on the principal for threatening an action against Perich that was contrary to church policy and Christian behavior.

    Just, bang! The unforgiveable sin!! Rescind the call!!! No wonder the word “pretext” was brought up repeatedly by the justices in the SCOTUS oral arguments.

    Oh, regarding the parenthetical “and began?,” no. Perich waited five week after she was unjustly deposed before she filed a complaint with the EEOC and it was three years before she actually became a party to the litigation.

  31. What definition are we using here?! I’m not sure what you consider “true Lutheran” worship. How about: God coming to man to deliver his grace and forgiveness through Word and Sacrament. We receive it with grateful hearts and return thanks. It is facilitated/led by a pastor, who stands in the stead of Christ, as he has been called to the Office of Ministry to specifically administer such. (usually takes place on Sunday morning when and where the body of Christ gathers together). Now I suppose if we want to define worship any way we want, we can include Tim Tebow praying during a football game, singing praise songs in the car, reading the Bible, etc. Just like we can call anyone a minister if we’d like I guess. When we water down and broaden the definitions to include everything and anything, then in the end everyone is a minister and everyone leads worship. Why have church or a pastor when everyone can do it? I had an prof. at Concordia Mequon who used to say, “When everything becomes missions, then nothing is missions.” Go ahead and replace the word “missions” with “worship” or “minister” and you get the idea.
    @John Rixe: I guess my question then is why are we playing with two definitions of minister? We accept it to mean one thing in the secular eyes of the IRS and the gov’t yet say it means something totally different theologically in the eyes of the church. Sounds like the old Pres. Clinton argument in the end: “depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.”

  32. @Rev. McCall #88

    I’m not sure I understand the question.  There are countless words that have a special meaning in a legal context based on years of interpretation and court decisions.  Just  try to read any legislation.

  33. You’re still playing with two definitions though. How confusing is it to anyone to make the statement, “A female minister may lead worship.” Then if it is the gov’t we say, “Yeah, that’s OK.” and if it’s the church we say, “No, that’s not OK.” How about just saying that no matter how the gov’t or the world wants to use the words, we’re going to use them how Scripture uses them no matter who we’re talking to? So no matter the context the sentence means the same thing. Sort of like letting our no be no and our yes be yes. Then we don’t have to run around making sure we explain ourselves or quantify our answers with special meanings.

  34. #86: “At the time we received the exemption both synod lawyers and IRS lawyers carefully concluded that for the purposes of the tax code, teachers met this requirement. There was and is no intention to defraud anyone.”

    So… Why did the name change from Lutheran schoolteacher to commissioned minister?

  35. You folks should probably avoid coming to Northern California.  Around here we call everyone a minister including comfort dogs.  Somehow, however, we have no trouble identifying pastors and respecting their unique roles.

  36. In Northern California or otherwise that really doesn’t hold much water. It’s like calling every woman I know “honey” but then trying to say, “Oh but it means something special and different when I call my wife that.” I highly doubt many people observing from the outside would see much of a difference. Just imagine how special and unique and clear it would be if I actually only used that term for the person it was really intended for.

  37. @Rev. McCall #93

    Agreed – it would be very hard to change the usage, however.  I’m guessing 95% LCMS laymen use the term “minister” pretty inclusively but carefully distinguish the term “pastor”.  Anyhow, it’s time to get ready for some football – Go Niners.  Have a great weekend, Rev McCall.

  38. Thanks, John Rixe!
    Assigned to the minority again! My solution is not to use “minister” as a noun and very seldom as a verb (unless I’m quoting Scripture or the Confessions).

    [But thanks for reminding me the game was on!]

  39. helen :Robert Preus [involutarily retired President of CTS] was the last person to have gotten as much as “half a loaf” out of a civil suit

    Helen, I was about to bring up Dr. Preus but you beat me to it.

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