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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RESPONSE TO CHARGES

        Rev. Steven Paul Sabin (Pastor Sabin)  submits this response to the
Statement of Charges (Charges) of Rev. Philip L. Hougen (Bishop Hougen).
        Bishop Hougen has charged Pastor Sabin with conduct incompatible
the character of the ministerial office.  Pastor Sabin specifically denies
that he has engaged in any conduct incompatible with the character of the
ministerial office.
        1.      Section 20.21.01., of the CBCR provides that ordained
ministers shall be subject to discipline for, among other things, conduct
incompatible with the character of the ministerial office.  On November 19,
1989, and again in a revised version on December 5, 1993, the Church
Council of the ELCA, under the authority of CBCR 20.71.11., adopted
Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline of Ordained Ministers
(Definitions and Guidelines), a document which defines conduct incompatible
with the character of the ministerial office.
        1.      Regarding Paragraph 1 of the Charges, Pastor Sabin does not
have sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief regarding the
truth or falsity of this paragraph and puts Bishop Hougen to his strict
proof thereof.
        2.      Definitions and Guidelines is a juridical document that
describes the grounds on which ordained ministers may be subject to the
disciplinary process of this church. With regard to sexual matters,
Definitions and Guidelines states as follows:
        The biblical understanding which this church affirms is that the
normative setting for sexual intercourse is marriage. In keeping with this
understanding, chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage are
the norm. Adultery, promiscuity, the sexual abuse of another, or the misuse
of counseling relationships for sexual favors constitute conduct that is
incompatible with the standards for the rostered ministries of this church.
        Practicing homosexual persons are precluded from the rostered
ministries of this church.
        2.      Regarding Paragraph 2 of the Charges, Pastor Sabin does not
have sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief regarding the
truth or falsity of this paragraph and puts Bishop Hougen to his strict
proof thereof.
                3.      On October 22, 1990, the ELCA Church Council
adopted another document entitled Vision and Expectations...Ordained
Ministers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Vision and
Expectations).  Visions and Expectations is a document that states both the
vision for ordained ministry in the life of this church and the high
expectations its members have of those who serve in this ministry. With
regard to sexual conduct, Vision and Expectations states as follows:
        The expectation of this church regarding the sexual conduct of its
ordained ministers are grounded in the understanding that human sexuality
is a gift from God and that ordained ministers are to live in such a way as
to honor this gift. Ordained ministers are expected to reject sexual
promiscuity, the manipulation of others for purposes of sexual
gratification, and all attempts of sexual seduction and sexual harassment,
including taking physical or emotional advantage of others.  Single
ordained ministers are expected to live a chaste life.  Married ordained
ministers are expected to life in fidelity to their spouses, giving
expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is
mutual, chaste, and faithful.  Ordained ministers who are homosexual in
their self-understanding are expected to abstain from homosexual sexual
relationships.
        3.      Regarding Paragraph 3 of the Charges, Pastor Sabin does not
have sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief regarding the
truth or falsity of this paragraph and puts Bishop Hougen to his strict
proof thereof.
        4.      Pastor Sabin was ordained on June 30, 1985, into the
ministry of the Lutheran Church in America, one of the predecessor church
bodies to the ELCA. Pastor Sabin is presently on the clergy roster of the
Southeastern Iowa Synod (Synod) of the ELCA.
        4.      Regarding Paragraph 4 of the Charges, Pastor Sabin admits
the contents therein.
        5.              Pastor Sabin's first and only call was to be pastor
of Lord of Life in Ames, Iowa. He accepted that call and began serving Lord
of Life in June of 1985.  He continues to serve under call to Lord of Life,
which is a congregation on the roster of the Synod and the ELCA.
        5.      Regarding Paragraph 5 of the Charges, Pastor Sabin admits
the contents therein.
        6.      During his service at Lord of Life, Pastor Sabin began
dating a man who lived in San Francisco. That homosexual relationship
continued and in 1995, Pastor Sabin's gay lover began living with the
pastor in Ames, Iowa. Pastor Sabin and his gay partner, Karl von Uhl,
attempted to keep their sexual relationship and their living arrangement a
secret from Lord of Life and from the Synod and the ELCA.
        6.      Regarding Paragraph 6 of the Charges, Pastor Sabin began a
personal relationship with Karl von Uhl (Mr. von Uhl) during Pastor Sabin's
service at Lord of Life.  Mr. von Uhl currently lives with Pastor Sabin in
Ames, Iowa.  Pastor Sabin denies any and all of the contents of Paragraph 6
of the Charges that are inconsistent with this Paragraph 6.   Specifically,
but without limitation, Pastor Sabin denies that he has attempted to keep
his relationship with Mr. von Uhl a secret from either Lord of Life, the
Synod, or the ELCA.
         7.      On January 14, 1997, Bishop Hougen met with Pastor Sabin
to discuss ecumenical issues and so that Pastor Sabin could inform Bishop
Hougen that Pastor Sabin was interested in receiving a new call to another
congregation. In response to Pastor Sabin's indicating that he was open to
receiving another call, Bishop Hougen asked whether the rumor was true that
Pastor Sabin was living in a gay relationship with another man. Pastor
Sabin reluctantly admitted that it was true, at which point Bishop Hougen
asked Pastor Sabin if he would resign from the clergy roster of the ELCA.
Pastor Sabin indicated he needed time to consider the matter.
        7.      Regarding Paragraph 7 of the Charges, on January 14, 1997,
Pastor Sabin and Bishop Hougen met, at Pastor Sabin's request, to discuss
several matters.  Among these matters were ecumenical issues and Pastor
Sabin's situation at Lord of Life.
        After the discussions of ecumenical issues, Bishop Hougen told
Pastor Sabin that Bishop Hougen had heard that Pastor Sabin was gay and in
a relationship with another man, and asked Pastor Sabin if this was true.
Bishop Hougen then said that Pastor Sabin may choose not to answer the
question, but that whatever Pastor Sabin's answer, Bishop Hougen could not
guarantee that it would not work against Pastor Sabin in any official
actions that Bishop Hougen might take.  Pastor Sabin said that the answer
to Bishop Hougen's question was yes.
        Bishop Hougen asked Pastor Sabin to resign.  Bishop Hougen also
asked Pastor Sabin if he was living in conformity with the Vision and
Expectations document.  Pastor Sabin said that he would formulate his
response and send it to Bishop Hougen in writing.  Pastor Sabin denies any
and all of the contents of Paragraph 7 of the Charges that are inconsistent
with this Paragraph 7.
        8.      On January 16, 1997, Pastor Sabin wrote a letter to Bishop
Hougen admitting that Karl von Uhl is his gay partner and asserting that
Uhl is also his "spouse". Pastor Sabin further indicated that his
understanding that ELCA clergy who are homosexual are expected to abstain
from participating in homosexual relationships. He refused to state that he
was willing to live in compliance with that requirement, and he refused to
resign from the clergy roster. A copy of Pastor Sabin's entire letter to
Bishop Hougen is attached hereto as Exhibit A.
        8.      Regarding Paragraph 8 of the Charges, the document, which
is already part of the record in this matter as Exhibit A to the Charges,
speaks for itself.  Pastor Sabin denies any and all of the contents of
Paragraph 8 of the Charges that are inconsistent with the document itself.
        9.      The very next Sunday, January 19, 1997, Pastor Sabin, for
the first time, admitted to his congregation at Lord of Life that he is a
homosexual and is living with his gay partner.  During services at Lord of
Life that morning he introduced Karl von Uhl to the congregation as his
"spouse".
        9.      Regarding Paragraph 9 of the Charges, on or about January
15, 1997, the day after the meeting between Pastor Sabin and Bishop Hougen,
Pastor Sabin met with the Congregation Council of Lord of Life (the
Council) to discuss Bishop Hougen's request for Pastor Sabin's resignation,
and Pastor Sabin's decision to refuse to resign.  Because of the request
for his  resignation, Pastor Sabin believed that he had to tell the Council
the full  circumstances surrounding Bishop Hougen's request for his
resignation.
        At this Council meeting, the Council expressed unanimous support of
Pastor Sabin's decision not to resign and stated their desire that Pastor
Sabin continue to be the Pastor at Lord of Life.  The Council also
consulted with Pastor Sabin regarding his letter to Bishop Hougen (Exhibit
A to the Charge).  The Council and Pastor Sabin agreed that Pastor Sabin
should address the congregation on this issue.
        As a result of this Council meeting, after the regular church
service on January 19, 1997, Pastor Sabin addressed a congregational
meeting to inform the congregation that Bishop Hougen had asked for his
resignation.  At that time, Pastor Sabin stated to the full congregation
that he was gay, and that he was in a relationship with Mr. von Uhl.  To
the best of Pastor Sabin's knowledge, this information came as no surprise
to almost everyone in the congregation.  Pastor Sabin denies any and all of
the contents of Paragraph 9 of the Charges that are inconsistent with this
Paragraph 9.
        10.     After announcing to his congregation that he is a
practicing homosexual, Pastor Sabin again met with Bishop Hougen and
reasserted his refusal to resign from the clergy roster of the ELCA.
Bishop Hougen attended a meeting of the Lord of Life congregation on
January 26, 1997, at which time Pastor Sabin again reasserted his refusal
to resign despite being in violation of the policies and procedures of the
ELCA.  On August 25, 1997, Bishop Hougen attended a conference meeting of
the area clergy, which includes Pastor Sabin's congregation. Pastor Sabin
was also in attendance at that meeting and publicly discussed his
homosexuality and his same-sex relationship with his gay partner.
        10.     Regarding Paragraph 10 of the Charges, the day before this
congregational meeting, on or about January 18, 1997, Pastor Sabin and
Bishop Hougen had a telephone conversation in which Bishop Hougen offered
to come to speak to the Lord of Life congregation.  Pastor Sabin said that
the Bishop was always welcome in the Parish.  They discussed the logistics
of this, and they agreed that the Bishop would come on January 26, 1997.
        At the Lord of Life congregational meeting after church on January
26, 1997, Pastor Sabin did not speak at all.
        On or about August 25, 1997, Bishop Hougen convened a conference
meeting of the area clergy, which includes Pastor Sabin's congregation, for
the purpose of discussing Pastor Sabin's refusal to resign from the church.
Pastor Sabin participated in this meeting at the request of Bishop Hougen.
        Pastor Sabin denies any and all of the contents of Paragraph 10 of
the Charges that are inconsistent with this Paragraph 10.  Specifically,
but without limitation, Pastor Sabin denies that he ever "announc[ed] to
his congregation that he is a practicing homosexual," and denies that he
has stated that he is in violation of the policies and procedures of the
ELCA.
        11.     Pastor Sabin has participated in a publicity campaign
proclaiming his status as a practicing homosexual and his disagreement with
the policies and practices of the ELCA concerning homosexual clergy.
Photographs of Pastor Sabin with his gay lover, accompanied by lengthy
articles, have appeared in gay and lesbian publications and in general
circulation newspapers, such as the Ames, Iowa, Daily Tribune.
        11.     Regarding Pagagraph 11 of the Charges, since Bishop Hougen
asked for his resignation, Pastor Sabin has received several requests from
people, including members of the press, for information regarding this
matter.  Pastor Sabin has responded to those requests.  It is Pastor
Sabin's understanding that, since Bishop Hougen asked for Pastor Sabin's
resignation, Bishop Hougen has received several requests from people,
including members of the media, for information regarding this matter.  It
is Pastor Sabin's understanding that Bishop Hougen has responded to those
requests.  Pastor Sabin denies any and all of the contents of Paragraph 11
of the Charges that are inconsistent with this Paragraph 11.
        12.     In light of the requirements in both Definitions and
Guidelines and in Vision and Expectations, Bishop Hougen again contacted
Pastor Sabin on November 1, 1997, and advised him that he must either
abstain from engaging in homosexual relationships or submit his resignation
from the clergy roster of the ELCA.  Pastor Sabin, once again, replied that
he would do neither.
        12.     Regarding Pagagraph 12 of the Charges, on or about November
1, 1997, Bishop Hougen asked Pastor Sabin if Pastor Sabin had reconsidered
his position not to resign.  Pastor Sabin informed Bishop Hougen that he
would not resign.  Pastor Sabin denies any and all of the contents of
Paragraph 12 of the Charges that are inconsistent with this Paragraph 12.
Specifically, but without limitation, Pastor Sabin denies that Bishop
Hougen advised Pastor Sabin that "he must either abstain from engaging in
homosexual relationships or submit his resignation from the clergy roster
of the ELCA."
        WHEREFORE, the Rev. Steven Paul Sabin requests that the discipline
hearing committee deny the charges of Rev. Philip L. Hougen, and allow
Pastor Sabin to minister to Lord of Life, as desired by Lord of Life and
Pastor Sabin.


Dated this 19th of December, 1997


        _________________________
        Jonathan C. Lewis, Attorney for Rev. Steven Paul Sabin
        325 Cedar Street, #300
        St. Paul, MN 55101
        (612) 221-4008
        Minnesota A.R.N.: 172017