We at the Egg have recently read about the arrest of a colleague, and incidentally a friend. (We won't link to any articles or give any names, although intrepid Googlers will no doubt learn the details quickly enough.) Our friend has been accused of getting drunk at a party, dancing suggestively with a woman who was not his wife -- even when she asked him to stop -- and later of touching her inappropriately.
It isn't exactly rent boys and crystal meth, a la Ted Haggard, but it is a scandal. The congregation is divided between those who see an innocent, if humiliating, mistake, and those who see a serious violation of the man's pastoral duties. The court has not yet decided what exactly it sees. As we understand it, absent a court decision, the synod has limited authority to intervene.
For the record, our friend is a pleasant, thoughtful man of middle years, who has long supplemented his parish work by serving a chaplain in the military reserve. Like many reservists in recent years, this has involved a surprisingly long overseas deployment, which can be draining on both family and parish life. We honor him for his willingness to answer the call.
Now, scandals involving the 250 or so Lutheran pastors in these minor outlying islands are not rare, but neither are they common. Generally speaking, we live pretty respectable lives, marred now and then by the same things that mar everybody else's -- booze, adultery, bizarre lapses in judgment. (Occasionally, we do fall into a second category of misdeed, defined by ludicrous assertions of incompetent theology, but these rarely seem to attract any interest outside our own small number.) Scandals that actually make the newspapers, as our poor drunken friend's did, are quite rare.
The last one we can recall, several years ago now, involved another friend, who in addition to serving a parish was also a school teacher and -- come to think of it -- a chaplain in the military reserve. In fact, the scandal involved submitting false military orders to the school district so that he could get some extra continuing-education time. (Because of our great love and respect for this fellow, we were terribly disappointed at the time, but we do recall thinking "At least it wasn't about sex.")
So. Why are we airing all this dirty laundry? Because we want to make an observation, in support of a pet thesis, a thesis of which our many indulgent friends are no doubt already tired. We apologize for the redundancy.
Observation: Both pastors -- the most recent newspaper-worthy scandals in our synod -- are men of middle age. (Women are rarely the subject -- although often the object -- of an ecclesiastical scandal). Both are military chaplains. (Our late grandfather once observed that the skills required by the military don't match well with those required by parish ministry, and we believe this to be the case). And -- here's our main point -- both were raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, educated at Seminex, and ordained in the AELC. It was by far the smallest of the ELCA's predecessor bodies, but, as James Nestingen has observed, seems to account for a disproportionate number of its misconduct cases
Thesis: There was something in the Missouri water, in the 1960s and 1970s. Something dangerous, of which the rest of us might do well to beware. Not that we don't love our ex-AELC colleagues. But we're just saying.