Editor’s Note: The LCMS via the California-Nevada-Hawaii district has sued a church in California for the church property worth millions. We introduced this story a few weeks ago but then dropped it because it was hard to tell who was in the right. The following story contains quotes from the depositions. We recommend you be careful about drawing conclusions about this but it appears to be significant enough that our readers should be aware what is going on. This is from a bulk e-mailing by “Reclaim News.” Comments of clarificaton from our readers with legal knowledge would be greatly appreciated. We extracted the legal filings at the time by clicking here.
November 16, 2009
Depositions Show LCMS Mission Funds Paying for Suit against “Oakland Four”
He may not be the God of the Council of District Presidents but He is still the God of orphans and widows.
Transcripts of depositions of California-Hawaii-Nevada District LC-MS verses Sharon Bowles, Mary-Ann Hill, Portia Ridgeway, and Celia Moyer of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Oakland CA reveal that LCMS mission funds are being used to pay for District legal fees. Under cross examination plaintiff Ron Lee admitted that the District was paying his legal fees as well as the legal fees of the other defendants.
District Executive David Sauer admitted that he intervened and took sides in an internal church dispute that had nothing to do with the female pastor issue. In fact, both Sauer and Dr. Newton agreed that they told the congregation in February of 2006 that they could keep using the services of visiting Episcopal Priest, Rev. Dr. Katherine Ward, “for the time being.”
The 222 page deposition from District President Newton records that Synodical Attorney Sherri Strand had to remind Newton to give a verbal response when asked by Attorney Paul Nelson about the district’s desire to remove Rev. Katherine Ward from Our Redeemer.
Nelson: “. . . not forcing congregation to make quick decision.”
Nelson: “Is that consistent with what you remember saying?”
Newton: (nods head up and down.)
Ms. Strand: “You have to verbalize.”
Newton: “Yes, I’m sorry, it’s correct.”
Exchanges like these show why Nelson is eager to take this case to trial in March of 2010.
This is an amazing exchange in view of the fact that the Synod sued Our Redeemer for its property because Ward had been hired (not called) by the congregation. The suit was filed after Ward had already been gone for nearly a year. Newton acknowledged they didn’t pressure the congregation to get rid of Ward.
During Sauer’s and Newton’s visit to the congregation, Portia Ridgeway reports that both Sauer and Newton took Communion from Dr. Ward.
Sauer admitted that he quietly formed a “committee” comprising the plaintiffs and another woman, of whom only Ron Lee had any official role in the church, to pursue an unsuccessful recall petition to remove one of the key trustees for the church (Sharon Bowles) for entirely trumped-up reasons that had nothing to do with church doctrine. Ron Lee acknowledged that the real reason was because Bowles was pressing for an accounting for the unexplained depletion of church funds (an estimated $100,000).
This same “committee” then secretly went around the entire Church Council trying to convince the congregation to remain a member of the LCMS even though the District had no intention of ever providing a candidate to be a permanent replacement to their former minister.
According to CCM ruling 267 (May 2004), a district president can gather any number of members and call them the real church in order to maintain control of the church property.
Newton and Sauer both acknowledged that no actual candidate for a permanent pastor was ever presented, or has been offered to Our Redeemer since 2003â€”seven years after their former pastor left.
What actually took place is that Ron Lee encouraged the congregation to hire a woman Episcopal Priest so the District could claim a doctrinal reason for suing the congregation, and gain control of its property.
Sauer admitted that there was never any intension to supply the congregation with an LCMS pastor, which was the real reason Our Redeemer left the Synod.
Currently, Our Redeemer is being served by two layman of the congregation who take turns reading a sermon on Sunday Morning. No local LCMS pastors will cross the district’s ban on our Redeemer and serve as a guest preacher.
After listening to District President Newton’s deposition, defendant Portia Ridgeway reported she had never seen a minister tell so many lies. I told her that is because she hasn’t met the other LCMS District Presidents. District Presidents don’t consider anything that must to say for good of the “greater church” a lie. “The greater church,” is their own term for themselves.
At first Newton insisted that he had seven candidates lined up to serve at Our Redeemer but then he admitted that he never showed Our Redeemer a list of candidatesâ€”spoken like a true LCMS District President. Newton claimed that he has no recollection of Our Redeemer ever asking for a pastor. In fact, the depositions show the Newton suffers from a profound and persistent memory loss.
As the depositions came to a close, Attorney for the LCMS, Sherri Strand reported that it had all been a miscommunication. From our view that’s about a $400,000 miscommunication for the Synod and $280,000 worth of miscommunication for the defendants. The tab is still running.
The up-coming trial in March of 2010 will send this case into seven figures. The Synod can’t afford to quit and they have endless mission funds to continue the suit.
The defendants are trying to raise $10,000 to depose Kieschnick before the trial date. It sounds like a bargain. For $10,000 there will be an opportunity to ask possible questions such as:
“President Kieschnick, why did you write: ‘Further, the LCMS has not paid any legal fees in connection with this lawsuit, which was filed neither at my direction nor with my awareness’?”
“President Kieschnick, isn’t Sherri Strand the chief legal counsel for the LCMS who reports all legal activity in the LCMS to the Board of Directors?”
“President Kieschnick, if the Synod is not involved in the suit why do the letters “LCMS” appear in the list of plaintiffs?”
“President Kieschnick, aren’t districts a source of LCMS mission funds?”
The $10,000 needed to depose Kieschnick includes airfare to St. Louis, lodging, and transcription. Tax deductible donations can be sent directly to a new dedicated account. Donations of any amount should 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]
This writer is in position of about 875 pages of deposition transcripts from Ron Lee, District Executive Rev. David Sauer, and District President Dr. Robert Newton.
Nothing is going to convince the LCMS that they are wrong except a judge and we can be certain the Synod has the money to finance endless appeals.
When Newton was questioned about suing these four ladies after the Synod had adopted Resolution 8-02A “To Affirm Christian Resolution of Disputes” he responded that the Synod was free to sue them because they were no longer members of the LCMS. In other word, the 2007 Convention gave the Synod the right to sue anyone who isn’t in communion fellowship with the Synod.
Few LCMS laypeople understand that the Council of District Presidents regards themselves and their office as the “Mission of the Church.” Like Ananias and Sapphira, Resolution 8-02A and CCM-267 give the COP license to deceive people about ownership of church property.
In the 1960’s the LCMS was overrun with liberals who denied that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible, Word of God. Now, 50 years later, they have been replaced by whose who would never be so foolish as to allow religion to separate them from money.
President Kieschnick’s latest plan to sell the Fort Wayne Seminary (which raises its own funds) will follow the recent sale of KFUO FM for $18,000,000.
If you want to meet the “Oakland Four” log onto 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)