Friday, September 18, 2015

Court Says Lutheran Synod Dispute Panel's Decision Was Only Advisory

In Hillenbrand v. Christ Lutheran Church of Birch Run, (MI App., Sept. 15, 2015), a Lutheran pastor who was fired by his congregation filed suit after the Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod (LCMS) Dispute Resolution Panel concluded that the decision to terminate the pastor should be revised, and he should be paid his salary and benefits until he takes another position. The court held that LCMS is congregational and not hierarchical, and that the Dispute Resolution Panel's decision was merely advisory, even if the congregation wrongfully attempted to withdraw from the Synod in order to avoid the dispute resolution process.  The court added:
plaintiff is asking this Court to do exactly what the United States Supreme Court [in Hosanna-Tabor] said courts should not, i.e., impose an unwanted minister on a church.