ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 19, 2002
SYNOD BISHOP GRANTS SECOND ELCA ORDINATION EXCEPTION
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A candidate for ordination in the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was ordained this month by a pastor
other than a bishop -- the second time an ELCA seminary graduate was
granted an exception to rules governing the ELCA's full communion
relationship with the Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Matthew Kuempel's ordination occurred Sept. 14, after
the Rev. Gerald L. Mansholt, bishop of the ELCA Central States Synod,
Kansas City, Mo., granted Kuempel's request that someone other than a
bishop preside at his ordination.
Mansholt's decision to allow Kuempel's request resulted in the
resignation of the Rev. William J. Sappenfield, who quit as one of
Mansholt's three ecumenical representatives in the synod.
Sappenfield is pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Olathe, Kan.
The ELCA's 2001 Churchwide Assembly adopted a bylaw amendment
on ordination in "unusual circumstances," which allows a synod
bishop, under certain circumstances, to authorize another pastor of
the church to preside at an ordination. The full communion agreement
of the ELCA and Episcopal Church directs that "a bishop shall
regularly preside and participate in the laying-on-of-hands at the
ordination of all clergy." The full communion agreement is known as
"Called to Common Mission" (CCM).
Prior to CCM, bishops presided at most Lutheran ordinations,
but it was not required. For some Lutherans, CCM is controversial
because they say the agreement gave bishops more authority and it
threatens Lutheran identity.
Kuempel was ordained by the Rev. Tom E. Kesselring, pastor of
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Pflugerville. Though Kesselring presided,
Mansholt was present and at one point in the ordination rite laid
hands on Kuempel's head.
Kuempel was called to a two-point parish, Good Shepherd
Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran Church, Washington, Kan. He will
start Sept. 29. His wife, the Rev. Kristen Kuempel, was ordained by
Mansholt Sept. 8 at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Richland, Wash.,
under the terms of CCM. She was called to serve a three-point parish
The Rev. Daniel D. Shaw was the first candidate for ordination
under CCM who was ordained by a pastor other than a bishop. Shaw was
ordained July 20. The Rev. Wm. Chris Boerger, bishop of the ELCA
Northwest Washington Synod, Seattle, granted the exception.
The Kuempels graduated from Luther Seminary, an ELCA seminary
in St. Paul, Minn., and were assigned to the Central States Synod in
March. Matthew Kuempel said he asked Mansholt for the exception in
April and it was officially granted in August, after a call had been
extended. Kuempel, 29, entered the seminary in 1998, before CCM was
adopted by the ELCA and the Episcopal Church.
"I decided it would be important for the church and for my
ministry to exercise the freedom provided for in the (bylaw)
amendment," he said. Kuempel said he was aware that CCM was
controversial and that its adoption was upsetting for some Lutherans.
"I think it is helpful for the peace of the church for
exceptional ordinations to take place," he said. "I hope there are
more. My hope is that with each graduating class there will be more
(exceptions) as part of the evangelical freedom that we have."
Despite the exception request, when Mansholt offered to attend
Matthew Kuempel's ordination, "I was excited," Kuempel said.
Mansholt also explained to the congregations which eventually called
Kuempel that the ordination would be done under the exceptions bylaw,
For his part, Mansholt said he consulted with synod deans,
Episcopal Church colleagues, the synod council and the ELCA presiding
bishop before he granted Kuempel's request for an exception.
In a letter to be sent to the synod, Mansholt said he
recognizes his decision has ramifications for the Episcopal Church as
well as the ELCA.
"I have made this decision after much thought and prayer," he
said. "Eventually I came to the conclusion there seems to be more to
be gained by granting the exception, (and) more to be lost by denying
the request at this point in time."
"Matthew sees the requirement for a bishop to preside at an
ordination as adding something extra to the true unity of the
church," Mansholt said in his letter. "I understand the provisions
as a sign, a symbol that one is ordained into the one ministry of
Word and Sacrament, not as something that guarantees the validity of
"At this point in time, as CCM is being implemented, with
significant theological debate and disagreement having been among us,
it seems best for the building up of Christ's Church that this
exception be granted."
Mansholt said he is eager for the Kuempels to begin their
ministry in the synod. "They are two fine pastors with many gifts
for ministry," he added.
ECUMENICAL REPRESENTATIVE RESIGNS
After Mansholt officially granted the exception, he informed
Sappenfield Aug. 20 and met with him and another pastor Aug. 29, both
of whom expressed concerns about the decision. Mansholt
characterized the conversation as "cordial," though he said both
expressed "strong and unbending convictions about the full communion
agreement" of the ELCA and Episcopal Church.
Sappenfield, who served as Mansholt's ecumenical representative
in the Kansas City area, served nearly 15 years as the synod bishop's
representative to the Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network
(LERN), including two terms on the executive board.
Each bishop of the ELCA's 65 synods is considered the synod's
ecumenical officer. Each bishop names one representative to LERN,
which is coordinated through the ELCA Department for Ecumenical
Affairs. Sappenfield's term with LERN ended this year, though he
continued to serve in a similar role for the synod.
In May 2001, LERN said the bylaw represented "a unilateral
change" in CCM and it declared the bylaw "deficient in its intended
purpose to restore peace and unity in the ELCA."
Sappenfield said he met with Mansholt in May 2002 and expressed
concern then about the possibility of exceptions. Sappenfield was
not informed of Kuempel's request for an exception until after it was
granted, he said.
After Shaw's ordination in July, Sappenfield wrote a letter to
Mansholt dated July 20, in which he expressed multiple concerns. In
it, he wrote the bylaw amendment "is in violation of CCM," and
granting Shaw's exception "is not having a pacifying effect on our
Sappenfield said he should have been consulted before Mansholt
reached his decision on Kuempel's request. However, Sappenfield said
even if he had input, he knew if an exception was granted he couldn't
continue as the bishop's ecumenical representative, "because I don't
agree," he said. Sappenfield resigned as a synod ecumenical
representative shortly after he met with Mansholt in late August
about the Kuempel exception.
"Ordination is an act of the whole church," he said. "It's not
an individual matter between the person called and the Holy Spirit.
That's why this (ordination by a bishop) is an appropriate thing to
"The ELCA unilaterally changed a bilateral agreement,"
Sappenfield said of the adoption of the bylaw. "I don't agree with
this. I think it lacks integrity, it's bad for relations with our
existing ecumenical partners and its bad for our ability to maintain
policy within our own denomination."
Sappenfield expressed disappointment that there wasn't better
communication with him about Kuempel's request, and he said granting
the exception amounted to allowing a first-year graduate to determine
"This is damaging for our relationships with the Episcopal
Church," he said.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORGhttp://listserv.elca.org/archives/elcanews.html