Appendix to Pastor Rolf Preus’ Appeal of his
Suspension from the ELS by President John Moldstad
July 24, 2006
I wrote my appeal on March 31 and
sent it to the president of the synod as required by synodical bylaws.
Subsequent events make this appendix necessary.
Synodical bylaws give the Board of
Trustees the responsibility of nominating a slate of candidates for a
Commission on Appeals. The
synod in convention is given the responsibility of electing candidates
from the list of nominees chosen by the Board of Trustees.
The convention may, if it chooses, reject a slate of nominees, in
which case the Board of Trustees is required to prepare another list for
consideration by the convention. The
matter of choosing or rejecting a slate is a debatable matter.
The president did not treat this as debatable, however, when it
came to the floor at the convention.
He ruled out of order every attempt on the part of voting pastors
and delegates to address it. When the president’s parliamentarian was asked for his
opinion on whether the motion to accept the slate of nominees offered by
the Board of Trustees was debatable, he ruled that it was but that it was
too late to do so because the voting had already begun.
Whether the president’s refusal to permit discussion on this
matter was a deliberate effort to deny me due process or was rather a
simple matter of parliamentary incompetence, the fact remains that the
rules were broken in such a way as to compromise the integrity of the
judicial process of the ELS.
Two of the clergymen nominated by
the Board of Trustees to serve on the Commission to hear my appeal were
already publicly on record in saying that anyone who disagreed with the
synodically adopted doctrinal statement on the ministry should leave the
ELS. I speak of the Rev.
Kincaid Smith and Professor William Kessel.
Rev. Smith expressed this opinion on the floor of the 2005
convention after the “Public Ministry of the Word” was adopted.
Professor Kessel expressed the same opinion publicly at the 2005
General Pastoral Conference a few months later.
Both of these men are well known members of the ELS.
For this reason both would be expected to stand a good chance of
being elected. Both were
elected. Both were elected to hear my appeal after both expressed
publicly their opinion that a man of my views should leave the ELS.
Kincaid Smith has publicly shown
personal bias against me in the past.
During the 2001 ELS convention the DC Theses were debated on the
convention floor. I spoke
against adopting them. A
motion to adopt them was tabled by a narrow margin.
Shortly after the convention, Kincaid Smith called me on the phone.
He accused me of acting in a political manner at the convention and
I repeatedly assured him that I was concerned with theology, not politics.
During the conversation he said to me, “I rue the day you joined
our synod.” When I asked
him what I should do, he said I should leave.
Shortly after that telephone
conversation he sent out a letter to the ministerium of the ELS in which
he quoted me as saying to a number of people at the convention:
“You’re with us aren’t you? We’ve
got to defeat these theses.” I
said no such thing. He put
into my mouth words that depicted me in a way that I had explicitly and
repeatedly disavowed during our telephone conversation.
When I corrected him he stood behind his false allegation.
Later, he acknowledged to me privately that he should not have sent
out the letter, but he did not say so publicly and he did not retract the
false witness that he bore against me.
After Rev. Smith was elected to
serve on the Commission to hear my appeal during the convention in June of
this year, I went to him and reminded him of what he said to me in 2001,
“I rue the day that you joined our synod.”
I asked him to recuse himself.
He walked away from me as I was speaking to him.
The same Board of Trustees that
nominated the slate that included Prof. Kessel and Rev. Smith went on
public record at the convention in support of my suspension.
There is disagreement within the
synod on the nature of the authority of synodically adopted doctrinal
statements. As I point out in
my written Appeal, President Moldstad claims that synodically adopted
doctrinal statements require unconditional acceptance on the part of
pastors of the synod. I
disagree with him. Both Revs.
Smith and Kessel, on the other hand, have publicly expressed their views
that a man who does not agree with the PCM document should leave the ELS.
I do not see how men can hold to this opinion and give a fair
consideration to my case. Critical
to my defense is my right to dissent from a synodically adopted doctrinal
statement. I have done so,
making my arguments on the basis of God’s word.
During the recent convention,
President Moldstad ruled out of order every attempt to address my case on
the floor. Congregational
memorials were rejected out of hand as President Moldstad’s
parliamentarian ruled that the convention did not have the authority to
act on my case. The president
of the synod claimed that he had the authority to lift my suspension while
denying that the synod in convention had the authority to do so.
His adamant refusal to permit any discussion of my case on the
floor of the convention has put my appeal entirely in the hands of a
commission of five men, two of whom have already publicly stated where
they stand on my right to dissent from synodically adopted doctrinal
Moldstad expelled me from the synod for exercising this right.
Revs. Smith and Kessel have already taken the position that a man
who believes as I do should leave the synod.
The Commission elected to hear my
appeal should lift my suspension and restore me as a pastor of the ELS. They should do so because I have done nothing wrong.
The paper that the president demanded I retract was the truth.
Surely if I have written anything untrue or contrary to God’s
word the synodical president would have been able to discover it by now.
The fact that he has not even attempted to show me where I have
spoken falsely proves that he cannot do so.
He has relied on raw political power, not on the word of God.
This cannot be tolerated in a confessional Lutheran synod.
The Commission on Appeals should
lift my suspension because this may lead to the repentance and restoration
of brothers in Christ who have fallen into sin.
President Moldstad led members of my former congregation into sin
by requiring that they remove me as their pastor or be thrown out of the
synod. They had no biblical
grounds to remove me. President Moldstad placed himself above the Holy Scriptures,
requiring that they obey him instead of God’s word or be excluded from
the fellowship of their synod. Jesus
issues stern warning against those who offend one of “these little
ones” who believe in Him. By
ruling against President Moldstad’s sinful and unscriptural suspension
of me, these brothers who have been led into sin might, by God’s grace,
be restored. Should the
Commission on Appeals fail to overturn Moldstad’s suspension, I fear
that the men of River Heights Lutheran Church who have committed the
public sin of temple robbery by their unbiblical removal of their faithful
pastor will be confirmed in their sin.
The Commission on Appeals should restore me to membership in good standing in the ELS because any other decision will be suspect on the basis of the facts I present above. Neither Rev. Smith nor Professor Kessel should have been nominated. The clergy members of that Board knew or should have known that these men had already taken a public stance against me. In the case of Rev. Smith it was specifically and personally against me. In the case of Prof. Kessel it was against anyone who cannot accept the PCM document. In either case, the Board of Trustees has failed to act in an impartial manner. Any pretence of impartiality was lost when it was announced at the convention that the Board of Trustees supported my suspension. The Board of Trustees should have remained neutral. President Moldstad should have permitted debate on the proposal to approve the slate of nominees. Rev. Smith should have recused himself. These are not minor technical violations. The process itself has been fatally compromised. The only honorable course of action for the Commission on Appeals is to reject my expulsion from the ELS by executive fiat and to require President Moldstad to show me where I have written anything that is false or contrary to God’s word.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus