REPORT OF THE DISCIPLINE HEARING COMMITTEE Evangelical Lutheran Church in America In the matter of the Discipline Proceedings Against the Reverend Steven Paul Sabin A Discipline Hearing Committee was convened February 1, 1998, in Des Moines, Iowa, pursuant to Bylaw 20.21.08., Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] to conduct a hearing on the charges brought November 11, 1997, by Bishop Philip L. Hougen of the Southeastern Iowa Synod, ELCA, against the Rev. Steven Paul Sabin, a member of the Clergy Roster of the ELCA. Bishop Hougen has charged "that the Rev. Steven Paul Sabin, while serving as pastor at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ames, Iowa, has engaged in and is continuing to engage in a pattern of conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office in that Pastor Sabin has persisted for more than five years in an active homosexual relationship with a male partner." Nine (9) of the appointed Discipline Hearing Committee members and the appointed non-voting Hearing Officer were present throughout the entire Hearing February 1 and 2, 1998. The Hearing was a closed meeting. However, it was agreed that both the accuser and the accused could have two (2) additional persons as observers during the Hearing. The accused, the accuser, and their representatives were present during the entire proceedings. The Hearing was conducted by the Hearing Officer in accordance with the Rules Governing Disciplinary Proceedings approved by the Church Council of the ELCA pursuant to ELCA Bylaws 20.21.16. and 20.23.04. I. FINDINGS OF FACT A. Pastor Sabin was ordained on June 30, 1985, into the ministry of the Lutheran Church in America and remained on the Clergy Roster of the LCA until January 1, 1988, at which time the LCA merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Pastor Sabin became a member of the Clergy Roster of the ELCA. B. Since July 1, 1985, Pastor Sabin has served as pastor of Lord of Life Lutheran Church, currently a member congregation of the Southeastern Iowa Synod of the ELCA and of the ELCA. C. ELCA Bylaw 20.21.01. states that "Ordained ministers shall be subject to discipline for... b. conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office; ... D. The Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline of Ordained Pastors, approved by the Church Council of the ELCA, pursuant to the authority granted to the Church Council according to ELCA Bylaws 14.21.01., 14.21.09., and 20.71.11., state "These definitions and guidelines describe the grounds for which ordained ministers may be subject to discipline according to the practice of this church. Their purpose is juridical: to assist in the processes of consultation, discipline and appeals." These Definitions state, within item b. 4), "Practicing homosexual persons are precluded from the ordained ministry of this church." E. At a meeting between Pastor Sabin and Bishop Hougen on January 14, 1997, Bishop Hougen asked Pastor Sabin whether he was living in a homosexual relationship with another man. Pastor Sabin indicated that he was. Bishop Hougen asked Pastor Sabin if he would resign from the clergy roster of the ELCA. Pastor Sabin indicated he needed time to provide an answer. F. By letter to Bishop Hougen dated January 16, 1997, Pastor Sabin provided his answer. Pastor Sabin's letter states in part: Karl von Uhl, a man, is my partner and spouse. He shares my house and my life. My relationship with Karl is "biblically informed and consistent with the teachings of this church." "My spouse and children are regarded with love, respect, and commitment." "Within the family, forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and mutual care are expressed." "I live in fidelity with my spouse, giving expression to sexual intimacy within a marriage relationship that is mutual, chaste, and faithful." In his testimony, Pastor Sabin affirmed that the above text, including the quoted portions from Visions and Expectations, is an accurate description of his relationship with Karl von Uhl. G. Pastor Sabin further indicated in his letter of January 16, 1997 that he would not resign from the clergy roster, and is still a member of that roster. H. The testimony given and the documents introduced establish that Pastor Sabin was in a heterosexual marriage when he accepted the call to Lord of Life; that he thereafter became aware that his sexual orientation is homosexual; that his separation from his wife and subsequent divorce were a result of his awareness that he is a homosexual; that he learned of Karl von Uhl, then a resident of San Francisco, and they began dating in 1993; that Mr. von Uhl moved permanently to Ames in 1995 and has, since then, been living in a committed relationship with Pastor Sabin. I. Although at no time has Pastor Sabin stated specifically that he has engaged in genital sexual activity with Karl von Uhl, neither has he denied to Bishop Hougen at any time that he has engaged in genital sexual activity with Karl von Uhl. During the disciplinary hearings on February 1 - 2, 1998, despite repeated opportunities to do so in response to questions posed to him, Pastor Sabin did not deny that he was engaged in sexual activity with Karl von Uhl. J. Members of Lord of Life congregation testified that Pastor Sabin is a well-loved and gifted pastor, and that the awareness of Pastor Sabin' 5 sexual orientation is not a negative or divisive influence on Lord of Life congregation. II. Determination The Discipline Hearing Committee is constrained by the provisions of the Constitution, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline of Ordained Ministers. On the basis of the above facts, the Discipline Hearing Committee unanimously concludes that: 1. Within the plain meaning of the provisions of section b. 4) of the applicable Definitions and Guidelines, Pastor Sabin must be considered a "practicing homosexual." 2. Although this committee acknowledges and admires the gifts for ministry that Pastor Sabin has brought to Lord of Life congregation, this Committee does not find that the applicable Definitions and Guidelines permit Pastor Sabin's gifts of ministry either to outweigh or excuse the violation of section b.4). Based on its Findings of Fact [Section I of this Report], the conclusions above, and the constraints within which it must make a determination, the Discipline Hearing Committee imposes, by majority vote, the following discipline: that the Rev. Steven Paul Sabin be removed from the Clergy Roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, effective April 15, 1998. Signed this 3rd day of February, 1998, for the Discipline Committee. Arnold R. Mickelson, Hearing Officer.