Lutheran Officials Vote to Defrock Defiant Minister

Associated Press

Lutheran church officials ruled Tuesday that a defiant 33-year-old minister The Rev. D. Douglas Roth, who alienated half of his blue-collar congregation in nearby Clairton, served 112 days in jail for defying his corporations into doing more to help unemployed steel workers.

court-backed firing and boycotted his disciplinary hearing Monday, remains suspended as a minister of the Lutheran Church in America.

"It's the committee's firm judgment that the continuance of Pastor Roth in the office of the ordained ministry in the Lutheran Church in America is not possible,"said a report signed by all 15 members of a disciplinary panel chaired by the Rev. Raymond W. Hedberg of Green Valley, Ariz.

"He has our prayers that he will find in the cross of Christ the eternal warrant for repentance," the report said.

Can Appeal Finding

Roth, who received three months' salary when he was suspended last November, can appeal the recommendation to another church panel. His removal from the rolls of ordained Lutheran ministers must be ratified at the regional synod's annual convention in June, Bishop Kenneth May said.

The former pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church can be reinstated any tine he "repents and amends his way," the Rev. Charles Austin, a church spokesman, said.

But Roth has vowed that he will not be deterred in his mission to call attention to the plight of the unemployed in western Pennsylvania's steelmaking valleys.

Roth said he will appeal the decision and "take this fight across the country." At a news conference in front of Mellon Bank's headquarters, he said: "You do not defrock pastors in America who fight for the unemployed. It's sad that the corporations in America have to resort to these kind of tactics to protect themselves."

Reasons for Discipline Told

Roth was not disciplined for his confrontational tactics on behalf of the unemployed but rather for "his inability to conduct the affairs of the congregation," May said.

About half of Roth's 145-member congregation petitioned May to investigate their minister after he began devoting his Sunday sermons to attacking "corporate evil." He was also accused of funneling church funds to the Denominational Ministry Strategy, a group of Pittsburgh-area clergymen allied with militant labor leaders that demonstrates against local corporations and their executives.

Roth's disciplinary hearing Monday was only the third time in the 23-year history of the 3.1 million-member Lutheran Church in America that a panel was formed to discipline a pastor and only the second time that a pastor has been suspended, Austin said.

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