The following is a transcript of a speech made by the Rev. Steve Sabin at
a press conference held on 4 FEB 98:
I wanted to say that I am saddened and disappointed, but not really
surprised, by the decision of the hearing committee that i received
I am saddened because the Lutheran Church has been my familiy
since I was born, but like so many gay and lesbian people I am now going
to have to experience the rejection of that family. I am disappointed
because the ELCA has demonstrated its intention to continue the unjust
and scripturally indefensible treatment of gay and lesbian clergy
represented by its current policy of mandatory celibacy. I was not
surprised because the ELCA's fear of gay and lesbian clergy as a threat
to ecclesiastical tidiness allows for no mercy in the process.
I sympathize with the members of the hearing panel in the
difficult task that wsa entrusted to them. I have no doubt that they
undertook their judicial functions with the greatest seriousness,
fairness and personal integrity.
I regret that the disciplinary procedures of the ELCA do not rise
to the same high standards. The procedure, not the judges, is totally
flawed and biased. Last night I was on the phone with Dr. Krister
Stendahl, the retired bishop of Stockholm, Sweden, and the Dean-emeritus
of Harvard Divinity School, who has been kind enough to take an interest
and to offer me some words of wisdom and advice. and he told me that the
church is at its worst when it attempts to be a court. And I am afraid
that I'll have to agree with that.
I found some comfort in the words of the ruling and the vote. The
panel concluded that I am well-loved by my congregation and that my
sexual orientation is not a negative or divisive influence on Lord of
Life. That's important to me. The lack of a unanimous vote to remove me
from the roster, combined with some indication in the wording of the
ruling itself that members of the panel felt that they were constrained
by the system and the procedures to find the way they did, leaves me with
some hope that at some point the procedures might be changed and a more
just system might be instituted.
Since I know for sure that Karl and I will continue to love and
support each other as fiercely as we have throughout this ordeal, since I
don't have to worry about that, that means that the two things I am most
concerned about are my congregation, Lord of Life, and the ELCA. Lord of
Life and I together will have a number of very important decisions to
make in the next few weeks and months and that will require a lot of
faithful consideration, a lot of prayerful discussion, and perhaps even
debate. But I am humbled by the love and support that the members of the
congregation have shown to Karl and me and to my daughters throughout
this process. I was deeply touched by the testimony that members of the
congregation offered in the hearing. And I have nothing but thanks to
them for that concern.
On the other hand, I remain convinced that the ELCA is in error
and has deficient understanding of the gospel. The policy toward gay and
lesbian clergy and their actions in this hearing process with me are one
symptom of a deeper spiritual sickness. Throughout the past year I have
prayed fervently for Lord of Life parish, for my bishop, and for the ELCA
and as a minister of word and sacrament I will continue to do that for
all of the time to come. I continue those prayers with great diligence
and great love, but I fear that the night might have come upon the ELCA.
My hope is that by going all the way through this very painful
and difficult process, and by making my case in as public a forum as I
have been permitted, that I will be able to encourage other gay and
lesbian clergy, faithfully ministering in parishes throughout the
country, to trust in the love and support of the members of their
congregations. To trust that people care for them because of the
faithfulness of their service. And I hope that others who might find
themselves in the unfortunate circumstance of being brought before a
hearing panel as I have been, in the future might not resign, but instead
take a stance for themselves and for God.
There are a couple of additional things I need to say, and that
is that although I am of course saddened and a little bit hardened by the
process and by the ruling, that I have no personal animosity or anger to
Bishop Hougen or to any of the officers of the ELCA.
Throughout this whole process, Bishop Hougen and I have both been
doing what we consider to be our duty to our calls. As I mentioned at one
point within the hearing process at the trial, I felt that there were
many times in the event where Bishop Hougen was the person in the room I
most identified with because in a sense we were both there on account of
our office. We have tried to make sure that his relationship with me and
my relationship with him is not clouded by personalities or anger. And I
haven't been angry at all. As I said in my statement last night I was
saddened that the news got out before I had an opportunity to talk with
my congregation, but that was sadness only and not anger.
I am committed to continue in this process, to continue my
ministry at Lord of Life but also to continue to work for change within
the ELCA. Because I am not the least bit dissuaded from the conviction
that the ELCA desperately needs change.
And I suppose the question that would be asked immediately,
"Pastor Sabin, has it been worth it?" And I would say, "Yeah, I would do
it again in a heartbeat." It's been painful for everybody. But it's been
the right thing to do.