Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County in the case of Bishop Kenneth R. May, on behalf of The Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church In America, a corporation v. D. Douglas Roth, No. GD 84-19518.
Thomas A. Crawford, Jr., for appellant.
Roger C. Wiegand, with him, Kenneth K. Kilbert and Kenneth C. Kettering, Reed, Smith, Shaw & McClay, for appellee.
President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Rogers, Craig, MacPhail, Barry, Colins and Palladino. Opinion by Judge Rogers.
[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 105]
This case is the companion of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Clairton v. Bishop Kenneth May, on behalf of the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church in America, 3797 C.D. 1984, filed this day. Both cases arise out of actions of the pastor and some members of a local church congregation, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Clairton (Trinity Lutheran), taken in what they believed to be the interests of unemployed steel workers in the Monongahela Valley of Western Pennsylvania.
Trinity Lutheran is affiliated with the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), which is a nationwide hierarchical religious denomination incorporated under the laws of Minnesota. The LCA is divided into thirty-three synods, each of which is charged with the "oversight and advancement of the mission of the church within its bounds."*fn1 The membership of each Synod "consist[s] of the congregations and ministers certified to it" by the LCA.*fn2 Trinity Lutheran is a constituent congregation of the Synod of Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia.
[ 98 Pa. Commw. Page 106]
The appellee is the Reverend Kenneth R. May, who is the Bishop of the Synod of the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia (Synod) and the Synod's chief executive officer.
The appellant is the Reverend Mr. D. Douglas Roth who was the pastor of Trinity Lutheran until the events of this case.
The governance of LCA and its synods and the member congregations is provided in the constitution or bylaws of the LCA, the several Synods and the local congregations.
The Constitution of the LCA provides at Article VI, Section 3, that each congregation shall, in its application for admission into the LCA, covenant to abide by the enactments of the LCA and of the Synod of which it is a member, and at Article VII, Section 7, that Synods are vested with the responsibility for disciplining ministers, including the deposition of ministers.
The Bylaws of the LCA provide in Section II that ministers "shall comply with the constitution, bylaws, and enactments of this church and of the synod of which a member"; that ministers will be subject to discipline for willful disregard and violation of the LCA's and the Synod's constitution; and that "if the circumstances are such that, in the opinion of the bishop of the synod, the church would suffer material injury by the accused's continuing to exercise the office of the ministry during the progress of disciplinary procedures, the bishop of the synod may ...