EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

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In the Matter of Disciplinary		)
Proceedings Against the Rev.		)	SOUTHEASTERN IOWA SYNOD
Steven Paul Sabin			)	
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OFFER OF PROOF OF REV. STEVEN PAUL SABIN

	Rev. Steven Paul Sabin (Pastor Sabin) submits this offer of 
written proof in connection with the scriptural arguments that were the 
subject of a request for exclusion by Bishop Hougen.

	If permitted to testify, Pastor Sabin would testify as follows:

	The purpose of this proceeding is to pass judgment on the 
assertion of Bishop Hougen that I have engaged in and continue to engage 
in a pattern of conduct incompatible with the character of the 
ministerial office in that I have a relationship with Karl von Uhl.  I, 
of course, deny the charge of incompatible conduct emphatically.

	Before we can establish what constitutes conduct incompatible 
with the ministerial office, something needs to be said about the nature 
of the ministerial office itself.  On June 30, 1985, I began my 
ministerial service.  At that time, questions were asked and promises 
were made that were intended to outline and shape my service to Christ 
and his Church for the rest of my life. Bishop Werger, then Bishop of the 
Iowa Synod of the LCA asked, "Before almighty God, to whom you must give 
account, and in the presence of this congregation, I ask: Will you assume 
this office, believing that the Church's call is God's call to the 
ministry of Word and Sacrament?"

	I responded, "I will, and I ask God to help me."

	Bishop Werger continued, "The Church in which you are to be 
ordained confesses that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and are 
the norm of its faith and life. We accept, teach, and confess the 
Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creeds.  We also acknowledge 
the Lutheran Confessions as true witnesses and faithful expositions of 
the Holy Scriptures.  Will you therefore preach and teach in accordance 
with the Holy Scriptures and these creeds and confessions?"

	I responded, "I will, and I ask God to help me."

	Again, Bishop Werger continued, "Will you be diligent in your 
study of the Holy Scriptures and in your use of the means of grace?  Will 
you pray for God's people, nourish them with the Word and Holy 
Sacraments, and lead them by your own example in faithful service and 
holy living?"

	I responded, "I will, and I ask God to help me."

	Finally, bishop Werger asked, "Will you give faithful witness in 
the world, that God's love may be known in all that you do?"

	I responded, "I will, and I ask God to help me."

	Bishop Werger then said, "Almighty God, who has given you the 
will to do these things, graciously give you the strength and compassion 
to perform them."

	I am happy to say that in the exercise of my office I do not fear 
to render my accounting to almighty God.  Nor, for that matter, do I have 
any hesitation in rendering an accounting to you, the hearing panel in 
this matter.  I shall do so on your request.  But it is important to note 
that Bishop Hougen makes no accusations against the content or tenor of 
my ministry.  Indeed, even after Bishop Hougen asked for my resignation, 
he continued to make use of my expertise as Synodical Ecumenical 
Representative, he assisted at a liturgy when I was the Presiding 
Minister, and has received the Sacrament of Holy Communion from me.

	Bishop Hougen's accusation against me rests solely on his claim 
that I am in violation of the "Definitions and Guidelines" document of 
the ELCA. This is a handy document in its function, as it states, "to 
assist in the processes of consultation, discipline, and appeals."  It is 
not however a statement of "this church," as the phrase is so often used. 
 It is not part of the authoritative documents set out in Chapter 2 of 
the ELCA Constitution; it is not part of the ordination vows.

	Some will argue that any organization needs the freedom to 
establish rules and procedures to safeguard itself.  I would not disagree 
with this suggestion.  But, more importantly, the Church is not like 
other organizations.  It is truly a mixed organization of Law and Gospel, 
but it exists solely for the service of the Gospel.  As Chapter 3 of the 
ELCA Constitution so rightly asserts, "All power in the Church belongs to 
our Lord Jesus Christ, its head.  All actions of this church are to be 
carried out under his rule and authority."  

	The only definitive way to know the rule and authority of our 
Lord is through the words of Holy Scripture and the declarations and 
interpretations of Scripture made by creeds and confessions.  
"Definitions and Guidelines" makes no reference to any of these 
touchstones of the faith.  The document contains not a single reference 
or footnote.  

	In seeking to press his accusation in this disciplinary process, 
Bishop Hougen states, "Evidence with respect to one's theological 
understanding of the correctness of [this] church's position is not only 
without 'questionable relevancy' but is clearly and totally irrelevant to 
the issue before this committee."  This is not consistent with the 
constitutional affirmation, "All power in the Church belongs to our Lord 
Jesus Christ, its head.  All actions of this church are to be carried out 
under his rule and authority."

	On repeated occasions, Bishop Hougen has been asked to explain 
the policy of the ELCA regarding gay and lesbian clergy.  On January 19, 
1997, at the Annual Congregational meeting of Lord of Life Lutheran 
Church in Ames, IA, Bishop Hougen stated that there is reputable biblical 
scholarship on both sides of the issue of whether or not homosexual 
relationships can be God pleasing.  Indeed, this is the case. 

	The first draft of the ELCA's statement on sexuality, "The Church 
and Human Sexuality: A Lutheran Perspective," offered three possible 
ethical positions based upon one's understanding of Scripture.  
Subsequent to the first draft, the Division for Church and Society 
published the 375 page "Collection of Responses from ELCA Academicians 
and Synodical Bishops to The Church and Human Sexuality: A Lutheran 
Perspective."  This publication presented a small slice of the discussion 
and disagreement then rife within the ELCA.  It demonstrates clearly the 
lack of consensus within the ELCA on the issue of homosexuality.  The 
discussion of Scriptural texts is ongoing.  As an appendix to this 
submission I have appended the Scriptural study adopted without dissent 
by Lord of Life Lutheran Church at its 25th Annual Congregational Meeting 
(January 25, 1998).  In addition, I submit the book, What the Bible 
Really Says About Homosexuality by the Rev. Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. as 
one example of the large body of competent biblical scholarship that 
contests the commonly held assumptions about homosexuality as addressed 
in Scripture.

	In the five years since the release of the first draft of the 
statement on homosexuality, this church has not adopted any general 
statement on human sexuality.  In 1991 the Churchwide Assembly did pass a 
resolution declaring, "gay and lesbian people, as individuals created by 
God, are welcome to participate fully in the life of the congregations of 
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America."  However, at no time has the 
Churchwide Assembly approved the policy that the bishop wants this panel 
to use to remove me from the roster.

	At no point, either privately, before Lord of Life, or in 
meetings I have attend when the bishop has been present, has he offered 
any explanation of the ELCA's policy.  At no point has Bishop Hougen or 
any representative of the ELCA admonished me that I am not in compliance 
with this policy, explained any alleged noncompliance, or encouraged 
repentance and correction for such alleged noncompliance.  All this is 
clearly contrary to Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession, "Our teachers 
assert that according to the Gospel the power of keys or the power of 
bishops is a power and command of God to preach the Gospel, to forgive 
and retain sins, and to administer and distribute the sacraments."  The 
same article goes on to say that, "This power of keys or of bishops is 
used and exercised only by teaching and preaching the Word of God and by 
administering the sacraments (to many persons or to individuals, 
depending on one's calling)."  No simple declaration that "the rules are 
the rules" fulfills the command to preach and teach the Gospel.  Even if 
we were to hold, for the sake of argument, that "Definitions and 
Guidelines" is consistent with Holy Scripture and the historic Lutheran 
Confessions, Bishop Hougen and the agents of the ELCA have failed to 
apply the policy in a manner consistent with the ELCA Constitution in 
that their application of the policy in my case fails to meet the 
teachings of the Augsburg Confession. 

	Further, both "Definitions and Guidelines" and "Visions and 
Expectations" appear to require of gay and lesbian persons perpetual 
celibacy as a precondition for ordination and condition for continuance 
on the various rosters of this church.  Completely and without exception, 
this requirement is contrary to the teachings of Article 23 of the 
Augsburg Confession.  Some would say that ELCA policy does not require 
celibacy because gay and lesbian persons are not able to contract legal 
or valid marriages with persons of the same sex.  Such was also the case 
in the time of Martin Luther.  A priest or nun could not contract a licit 
nor valid marriage. Clearly, the ELCA imposes the burden of celibacy on 
gay and lesbian clergy, without offering Scriptural justification, in 
opposition to Articles 23 and again 28 of the Augsburg Confession.

	Regardless of the differences of opinion about what specific 
verses of Scripture might or might not say about gay and lesbian 
relationships as they are experienced today, Scripture is perfectly clear 
about what needs to be done in situations of uncertainty within the life 
of the Church.  In 1 John 4:1-2 we read, "Beloved, do not believe every 
spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many 
false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit 
of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the 
flesh is from God."  In 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, St. Paul reminds us, 
"Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for 
they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them 
because they are spiritually discerned.  Those who are spiritual discern 
all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny."

	Our Lord himself in Matthew 7:16-20 establishes the pragmatic 
test for judging authenticity of ministry, "You will know them by their 
fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  In the 
same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad 
fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good 
fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown 
into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits."  Again, in John 
15:4-5 our Lord assures us that he is present in all faithfulness and is 
the giver of all good fruits, "Abide in me as I abide in you.  Just as 
the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, 
neither can you unless you abide in me.  I am the vine, you are the 
branches.  Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because 
apart from me you can do nothing."

	St. Paul is in no way unclear about the exact nature of good 
fruit as is evident in Galatians 5:22-23, "...The fruit of the Spirit is 
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 
gentleness, and self-control.  There is no law against such things."  In 
the matter before this hearing panel, Bishop Hougen and the ELCA assert 
that my conduct is incompatible with the ministerial office, yet Bishop 
Hougen has conducted no inquiry into my conduct.  In point of fact, the 
Bishop and the ELCA assert that my being gay and having a relationship of 
any kind with Karl von Uhl puts me outside the pall, without any further 
examination of any specific conduct on my part.  I, on the other hand, 
have stated repeatedly that my relationship with Karl and my life in 
general is in full compliance with the hallmarks of God pleasing 
relationships and faithful ministry as outlined in Holy Scripture and in 
the ELCA's "Visions and Expectations" document.

	Scriptural passages regarding gay and lesbian behavior may be in 
dispute.  The foundation of the ELCA's policy is left unenunciated.  
Bishop Hougen asks you for a verdict by virtue of definition.  Scripture 
is absolutely clear about how the Church discerns good from bad.  By 
their failure to incorporate the Scriptural precepts of discernment, by 
their complete unwillingness to make any inquiry whatsoever into the 
fruits of either my ministerial or personal life, Bishop Hougen and the 
ELCA again are in violation of Chapters 2 and 3 of the ELCA Constitution 
and in Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession.

	As St. Paul write in Philippians 1:9-11, "And this is my prayer, 
that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 
to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may 
be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that 
comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God."