Today the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in the case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. EEOC. The Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece here.
Essentially, a teacher at the school became “rostered” and was then called as a Commissioned Minister, a Called Teacher, no longer under contract. Good for her. But then she fell ill, went on partial disability for a while and after several months informed the school that her doctor believed she would be able to go back to full time in several more months.
Then the Church and School royally screwed up. They changed their health care plans, cutting her benefits, hired another teacher and asked her to resign her call. She threatened to sue under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and she was fired. So she sued. Now the Supreme Court will be weighing in as to what civil rights ministers may have.
What strikes me though is how all this could have been avoided if the church and school would have responded and acted as Christians instead of self-interested jerks. Where was the care and concern for this teacher on disability? Especially after she was recovering? Where was the District in this? Why didn’t they counsel the congregation to do the right thing? Of course, the teacher should have allowed the dispute resolution process some time to work as well.
This is right where the current LCMS Inc fails. We have full-time District Presidents (“Ecclesiastical Supervisors”) who neither act ecclesial nor supervisory. They do nothing to protect rostered men and women, nor congregations. They allow congregations to do whatever they please, and pastors and teachers too, as long as the money and numbers are up. They do nothing to “rock the boat” or discipline on the congregational level.
District Presidents–do your job. Discipline in the Gospel. Counsel your charges to do the right thing. When they don’t, discipline them. Remove erring pastors AND congregations when necessary. Remember you are servants of the Gospel. Act accordingly.
Congregations–remember you are Christians, and not a club or a business. Do things according to the Law of Love. Forget the bottom line. You’re non-profit, after all. Care for your ministers. Hold them accountable to the Word of God and their vows, and help them keep them.
Pastors and Teachers–do your job. Turn the other cheek, love your congregations, and do not be afraid to speak the truth in love. Forgive them seven times seventy times. Don’t go it alone. Involve your Circuit Counselor, your District President. Keep them informed and pray for all.
Supreme Court–I hate to say this, but if the Church won’t act like the Church, then you had better. Protect the civil rights of workers and, if necessary, force churches to act churchly by not firing disabled workers.