01
Jul
10

With a profound sense of sadness

Pr. Marshall Hahn had served as secretary of the NE Iowa Synod for seven years prior to the 2010 NE Iowa Synod Assembly.    The Assembly’s actions in support of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly’s actions has led Pr. Hahn to resign as Synod Secretary.  His letter to Bishop Steven Ullestad is printed below:

June 24, 2010

Rev. Dr. Steven L. Ullestad

Bishop, Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA

201 20th Street SW, PO Box 804

Waverly, Iowa 50677-0804

Bishop Ullestad,

It is with a profound sense of sadness that I offer my resignation as Secretary of the Northeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA.

In our conversation last fall we discussed the difficult position in which I found myself following the decisions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  As I explained, not only was I convinced that there was no Scriptural warrant for changing our teaching on human sexuality and our ministry standards with respect to homosexual behavior, I also could not reconcile myself with the fact that an argument from Scripture was not even offered within the documents approved by the assembly which authorized these changes.

I came to see the overriding issue to be more than a disagreement over how to treat homosexual relations in the church.  Instead, I came to understand the issue as a confessional one, which I attempted to outline in my statement, “The Confessional Crisis Created by the Decisions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.”  The primary issue I raised in that statement can be summarized as follows:

The decisions made at the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly with respect to homosexual  relations and the rostering of those engaged in such relations were made without reference to a compelling argument from Scripture for doing so.  Instead, the lack of a consensus in the church on this issue was deemed to be sufficient for making these changes.  Deciding these issues which concern the ordering of our lives as sexual beings and the ordering of the public ministry of the church in a manner which is not based on a compelling argument from Scripture is contrary to our commitment as a confessional Lutheran body to the authority of Holy Scripture, and is in violation of our ELCA Constitution which binds us to that commitment to “the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.”  (ELCA Constitution, 2.03)

As a pastor of the church, I have taken a vow to uphold the authority of Scripture in my preaching and teaching, and to abide by the Constitution of the ELCA, with particular attention to the Confession of Faith upon which it is based.  As such, I have considered it my duty to oppose the actions taken at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  In our conversation last fall, I told you that as long as I served in a position of leadership in the synod, I would be seeking to overturn those actions.

The resolutions I brought to the November Synod Council meeting were my attempts to act on that opposition.  I deliberately called upon the synod council to “repudiate” the actions of the Churchwide Assembly.  This was not a denial of the authority of the Churchwide Assembly, but rather, an appeal to a higher authority we are to uphold, namely, the Confession of Faith as contained within the Constitution of the ELCA.  The intention was to bring this debate to the whole church, and force the church to address the confessional issues involved.  I did not expect this to be a simple nor quick undertaking, nor did I realistically consider there to be much of a possibility for it to succeed.  But I was determined to try.  Meanwhile, I sought to use the language and concepts adopted by the Churchwide Assembly of “bound conscience” and “structured flexibility” to create a space within our synod in which the existing ministry standards could be maintained.

When those resolutions were rescinded at the January Synod Council meeting, and particularly when the ELCA Churchwide Council adopted the revisions to ministry policies without any mention of the concerns I had raised, it became clear that these efforts would prove futile.  Nevertheless, I was determined to continue to argue for them through the synod assembly.  But that was not to be, either.

My greatest disappointment is not that my efforts have been rebuffed, but that the concerns I have raised have not been addressed.  I still stand by what I wrote in my statement last fall.  And nowhere have I received an answer to the issues I have raised.  Neither ELCA Secretary Swartling’s rulings nor the decisions of the ELCA Churchwide Council dealt with the confessional, constitutional issues raised by the failure of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to present – or even refer to – a compelling case from Scripture for the changes that have been adopted.  At the 2010 Northeastern Iowa Synod Assembly, not one of the speakers who spoke in opposition to the resolutions I authored touched upon the primary issue that was at the heart of those proposals.

With the defeat of those resolutions at the synod assembly, I can see no further avenue to oppose the actions of the Churchwide Assembly within the Synod Council.  And I cannot, in good conscience, carry out policies which I believe to be in violation of the Confession of Faith I promised at my ordination to uphold.  It is for that reason that I am offering my resignation as Secretary of the Northeastern Iowa Synod.  I will fulfill my duties related to the 2010 Synod Assembly, and will be available to meet with whomever is appointed to replace me for the final year of my term if such would be helpful in any way.

I want to thank you for your partnership in this ministry.  Even though we have disagreed at times, and in some important ways, I have never doubted your integrity nor your honesty.  I also wish you to extend my thanks to the entire synod council, to Vice-President Susan Armstrong, Treasurer Larry Gregory, Assistant to the Bishop Linda Hudgins, and your entire staff for their helpfulness and support and for putting up with my often last-minute submissions.  It has been a privilege to serve the synod in this way for these last seven years.  Please know that I continue to keep you and your staff and the whole synod in my prayers, as I ask that you would keep me in your prayers as I continue to discern my relationship with the ELCA.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Marshall E. Hahn

Secretary, NE Iowa Synod, ELCA

cc:         David Swartling, Secretary, ELCA

Susan Armstrong, Vice-President, NE Iowa Synod

Larry Gregory, Treasurer, NE Iowa Synod

Linda Hudgins, Assistant to the Bishop, NE Iowa Synod

Mary Jo Rathe, Vice-President Elect, NE Iowa Synod

I would add to Pr. Hahn’s resignation that I have  resigned as Chair of the NE Iowa Synod Candidacy Committee.  My rational for resigning is echoed in Pr. Hahn’s letter.

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8 Responses to “With a profound sense of sadness”


  1. 2 Jon-Scott Johnson
    July 28, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Pastor: I assume you will also be requesting a withdrawal from the clergy roster of ELCA.

    • 3 Chrysostom
      July 28, 2010 at 6:35 pm

      What Pr. Hahn, or anyone who does not agree with the actions of the ELCA, does in regard to their roster status is their decision to make. If ‘bound conscience’ has any meaning at all, one ought to be able to register their protest as Pr. Hahn and I have done without being pressured to resign from the ELCA. Of course, what we are discovering is dissent against the new reality is not going to be tolerated and dissenters will be asked, then forced to leave. The advocates of change were all for inclusiveness until they won the vote.

      • August 4, 2010 at 4:37 pm

        Our thanks to Tim Wengert for bound conscience.Everything you say or write will be used against you. Why belong to a faith community that gives you no personal value. It’s nice to be able to stand in the pulpit and declare that we are unfaithful to the word. I say to get out of the pulpit, leave the church property and go across the street and yell all that you want.
        We had a vote, no one won. Get over it or leave.
        An old Lutheran I can vividly remember the vote on the ordination of women. I wonder what that would have sounded like if we had the benefit of the internet. How many churches left?
        “Sometimes I wonder, even worry, that we have more comfortable debating who is not following God’s word in this church. rather than together having a sence of urgency about sharing God’s word with those who have not heard it or who have forgotten it”.
        (Mark S. Hanson-THe Lutheran-August 2010)

      • 5 Chrysostom
        August 4, 2010 at 4:53 pm

        I rest my case. As far as you are concerned, dissent is not allowable and those who do dissent should pack up and leave. ELCA, Love It or Leave It.

  2. August 16, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    False prophets

    See, therefore, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who steal my words from one another. See, I am against the prophets, says the Lord, who use their own tongues and say, “Says the Lord.” See, I am against those who prophesy lying dreams, says the Lord, and who tell them, and who lead my people astray by their lies and their recklessness, when I did not send them or appoint them; so they do not profit this people at all, says the Lord.

    When this people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, “What is the burden of the Lord?” you shall say to them, “You are the burden, and I will cast you off, says the Lord.” And as for the prophet, priest, or the people who say, “The burden of the Lord,” I will punish them and their households. Thus shall you say to one another, among yourselves, “What has the Lord answered?” or “What has the Lord spoken?” But “the burden of the Lord” you shall mention no more, for the burden is everyone’s own word, and so you pervert the words of the living God, the Lord of hosts, our God. Thus you shall ask the prophet, “What has the Lord answered you?” or “What has the Lord spoken?” But if you say, “the burden of the Lord,” thus says the Lord: Because you have said these words, “the burden of the Lord,” when I sent to you, saying, You shall not say, “the burden of the Lord,” therefore, I will surely lift you up and cast you away from my presence, you and the city that I gave to you and your ancestors. And I will bring upon you everlasting disgrace and perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten.

    As a person who is trained in the law I would not make a request for a summary judgement.

  3. August 23, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    What, no reply from the opponents?? Not very Paulinian.

  4. 8 Marshall Hahn
    August 31, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Jon-Scott Johnson,

    My reply was given in the statement I gave to my bishop when I resigned. Since you have had nothing whatsoever to say about the statement, I do not have anything with which to reply. Pastor Hatcher replied quite adequately to your demand that I should resign from the clergy roster. My bishop made no such request of me. If you believe I have done or said anything which warrants a resignation, I suggest you take it up with him – his name and address are at the top of my letter. Of course, were you to contact him, he would no doubt ask you to provide something more than the inane comments you have been making here. So, out of consideration for you, I would suggest that you not embarrass yourself any further.

    Marshall Hahn


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