One year ago yesterday and today, I submitted my resignation as Pastor of Zion Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Detroit. I stated, in simple terms, that I was resigning without any conditions or requests because Zion expects a Lutheran Pastor and I could no longer believe, teach or confess various parts of the 1580 Book of Concord.
It was necessary for me to submit my resignation on two days so that the pertinent officers could be present. On both days, the English District President was present. While I did not ask for nor expect it, the officers granted me the courtesy of publicly announcing my resignation at a congregational meeting. The officers and District President determined that 29 October 2006 would be that date.
The officers were disappointed but not shocked. Three years previous I had publicly announced to the congregation that I was entering a period of discernment concerning my relationship with the LCMS and the Lutheran Church generally. Later I invited the congregation, as a whole, to enter into its own period of discernment. They did. For three years, the officers and I met to discuss the issues and various options. During the three year period, and even before my announcement of "discernment" in May 2003, I met privately with a few of the officers whose particular counsel, wisdom and advice I valued. As speculation grew, confidences were not betrayed.
There were several catalysts which prompted my decision to enter into a period of discernment. Among these were the decision (never implemented, thank God) by the LCMS Commission on Worship to alter the wording of the Nicene Creed; my own struggles with various aspects of Lutheran teaching; my increasing concern about being in communion with those who deliberately, willfully and persistently opposed the Catholic Faith; and my increasing frustration with the disjunction between official confession vs. public teaching. At the heart of the matter, however, was the understanding of liturgy and its centrality to Christian faith and life. The modification of the liturgical tradition that had been received by Lutherans ended up being the "straw that broke the camels back." In this regard, serving on the Lutheran Hymnal Project became an unforeseen catalyst.
While certain options were never in play, I did not know that the discernment I entered in May 2003 would lead to my resignation in September 2006, or my reception into the Orthodox Church.
What I said in my public announcement still applies one year later: I shall always genuinely appreciate and be eternally grateful for the love and the generosity that the members of Zion showered upon me and my family during my tenure as their Pastor. And I am grateful for every blessing of the Holy Spirit that I received in the Lutheran Church—most especially for the gift of Holy Baptism, for a rigorous catechesis in many basic doctrines, for the Holy Eucharist that has nourished my faith, and for the grace to serve three parishes.