Dr. Jack Kilcrease
I am a layperson in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and an adjunct professor of Theology and Humanities at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. I grew up in Oregon and attended Luther College in Iowa (B.A. History and Religion) and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN (M.A. Doctrine and Theology). I graduated in 2009 from Marquette University with a Ph.D in Systematic Theology. My master's thesis was a comparison of Luther and St. John of Damascus concepts of Christology and atonement. My doctoral dissertation was a critique of the atonement theology of Gerhard O. Forde and my suggestion of a confessional Lutheran alternative. I am also the author of the following articles: "The ELCA, Homosexuality and the Orders of Creation," "Gerhard and Chemnitz on the Salvation of the Unbaptized," "Evangelical and Catholic? The Conservative Reformation's Scriptural Principle and the Catholicity of the Gospel," "Kenosis and Vocation: Christ as the Exemplar and Agent of Christian Freedom," "Gerhard O. Forde on the Law: A Confessional Lutheran Critique" (Forthcoming). I am married to the historian Dr. Bethany M. Tanis (now Kilcrease).
Dr. Jack Kilcrease has left a new comment on your post "Kansas City Bishop Is First To Be Charged Criminal...":
"ELCA paid $40 million for covering up the abusive past of a man they were too happy to ordain."
As a conservative Lutheran, I of course do not believe that we should cast stones at any one. In that you make a good point.
But, seriously, I mean, where do you get this stuff? Do you have any actual evidence of this? I personally don't care much for the ELCA, but this claim about the 40 million dollars doesn't sound very credible to me. I will totally believe it if you can come up with evidence.
Your response: Blah, blah, blah. You miss spelled (sic) a word. Blah, blah, you're secretly a Catholic. Blah, blah, UOJ is universalism. Blah.
No need for a response then.
GJ - The lawsuit was settled for about $40 million, acknowledged in the ELCA news archives. If Jack wants to find it, he can spend some time doing research instead of proving how foolish he is.
Jack should be quite familiar with ELCA, since he went to one of their seminaries.
The story was widely discussed and so scandalous--even for ELCA--that several publications dealt with the details. Here is one by their well known Lutheran Forum editor. Below -
By Rev. Russell E. Saltzman
Copyright 2004 by American Lutheran Publicity Bureau - Kelmed without permission, for scholarly purposes.
This is very serious, very messy and potentially very, very costly to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). We are speaking of the lawsuit against Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH and the ELCA. We have mentioned it before (Forum Letter: 33:1).
The suit was instigated by the families of the teenage boys who fell victim to sexual molestation by Gerald Patrick Thomas. Thomas is the 1997 Trinity graduate who, at the time of his arrest, was serving an ELCA congregation in Marshall, TX. His 2002 conviction on multiple counts of sexual abuse resulted in a prison sentence of 397 years, reputed to be the most severe penalty ever meted out in such a case by any criminal court. The only comparable sentence we have heard about is 270 years given to a Catholic priest. The lawsuit is seeking more than $300 million from the ELCA and will be heard before Judge Bonnie Leggat in her Harrison County, TX district courtroom —— the same judge, incidentally, who presided over Thomas’’ criminal trial.
Were you to visit
Given the materials related to the case that we have in hand, we can understand why.
Depositions and memos
Forum Letter is in possession of the deposition of James M. Childs, one of the defendants named in the suit. At the time Thomas was a seminarian, Childs was Trinity’’s academic dean and is now director of the ELCA’’s sexuality task force. We also have several other depositions given by ELCA officials during discovery, including that of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, made in Chicago at the Lutheran Center last September 22. Additionally, we have copies of numerous internal seminary memos related to Thomas’’ internship and behavior while a student at the seminary, and we have memos from Bp. Kevin Kanouse, bishop of the ELCA Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod related to the arrest of Gerald Thomas. Bp. Kanouse within days of Thomas’’ arrest specifically alerted a seminary official to a possible lawsuit.
From these items we now know that at least some Trinity officials were well aware of Thomas’’ problematic behavior with adolescent boys, and they were aware of it prior to his certification for call. They knew that while on his internship Thomas provided alcohol to adolescent boys in his apartment and allowed them to watch a same-sex male pornographic video. There was police involvement at the time, but no charges were filed.
Question in dispute
This incident did not end his internship, which concluded in the normal fashion. He returned to Trinity Seminary for his final year. The incident did merit an ""incident report"" by his internship supervisor, Pr. Melvin Swoyer, which is also in our possession. Seminary officials never shared the report with Thomas’’ synodical candidacy committee, though at least one memo speculates about the impact such a report might have upon a candidacy committee.
Further, seminary officials knew that a pastor in charge of an after-school youth program in Columbus, OH, where Thomas worked during his senior year, had also raised concerns about Thomas over the manner of his involvement with male youth in the program.
To be clear, the seminary faculty did not specifically vote to approve Thomas’’ candidacy. Instead, of three recommendations available to the seminary —— approve, deny, postpone —— the faculty took no action. None of the appropriate blanks were checked. In effect, the faculty rendered a ""no comment"" on the fitness of his candidacy for certification. We do not know what questions, if any, the candidacy committee may have raised given Trinity’’s lack of recommendation.
The issues around Thomas’’ behavior on internship and with the after-school program were addressed with Thomas.
How thoroughly and how seriously the seminary addressed those questions is the subject in litigation.
He was urged to seek therapy because of his unstable ""boundaries"" with teenage male youth. He never did, nor did anyone at the seminary insist. Moreover, they claim they could not. In the depositions we have seen, all plead a lack of authority to compel or require any student to seek therapy. That is probably so, absent a threat of dismissal. But there was not, in the seminary’’s opinion, reason to make therapy an absolute requirement before certification. Thomas’’ inaction in seeking therapy did raise concern with at least one seminary official, but by that time Thomas was certified with a call in hand to Marshall, TX.
Casting a wide net
Among those named as ELCA defendants from Trinity Seminary are: Brad Binau (who conducted several sessions with Thomas post-internship), Allan Sager (internship director), Dennis A. Anderson (seminary president at the time), Leland Elhard (then on faculty, now retired), Don Luck (faculty), Mark Ramseth (current president). Defendants from the Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana ELCA Synod include: Mark Herbener (synod bishop when Thomas was called to Marshall, TX), Kevin Kanouse (Herbener’’s successor and bishop at the time of Thomas’’ arrest), Earl Eliason (an assistant to Herbener, of whom more in a moment). Named as ELCA defendants are: H. George Anderson (presiding bishop during that period) and Mark S. Hanson (the present presiding bishop).
The plaintiffs, of course, cast as wide a net as possible hoping to haul in a big catch. Our opinion, the only names of merit in the lawsuit are the synodical and seminary officials.
Nonetheless, the deposition of Bp. Hanson reveals the plaintiff’’s interest, keen interest, in ascertaining just exactly how rigorously ELCA disciplinary policies on sexual misconduct are actually enforced. Any pattern of non-enforcement common throughout the ELCA arguably strengthens the plaintiff’’s case for negligence regarding Thomas.
In this respect, Hanson is asked about his period of service as a synod bishop. He is questioned, ""When you were synod bishop, did you have a lesbian minister in your synod?"" Hanson: ""I literally would have to take time to think through who was in the synod."" Next, ""Did you have a lesbian minister in the synod while you were bishop that was engaged in a committed sexual relationship with another lesbian and would not take a vow of celibacy?"" Hanson: ""I was never given allegations of that kind of behavior about one of the rostered persons in my synod by anyone.""
This may seem more than a little disingenuous. It is not, as some might suspect, a reference to the illicitly ordained Anita Hill who was never on the synod roster. Instead it refers to another pastor presently on the clergy roster of the St. Paul MN Area Synod.
What is evident is that some synod bishops construe an absence of formal allegations —— never mind how well-known the problem may be —— to mean it does not exist and therefore does not merit intervention by a church authority. The crisis of the Roman Catholic scandal, we point out, isn’’t just that some pastors acted badly, but that so many bishops failed in their responsibilities to enforce policies in existence. The similar factor here – which admittedly is an oversimplification – is the "old church" culture that would not directly confront rumored heterosexual misconduct, in the hope it could be dealt with "pastorally" among "old boys" in a "friendly" and "paternal" way. That often amounted to nothing more than allowing the pastor to receive another call. The egregious problem of pastors with multiple incidents of "zipper trouble" is one the ELCA has been forced to face. Meanwhile, though, since the ELCA does not know what to teach about homosexuality, the "paternal," "pastoral" approach, disgraced as a way of dealing with heterosexual predator offenses, seems to be alive and well when the context is homosexuality. In short, the once "tolerated" list of ""acceptable" kinds of sexual misconduct has been replaced by another one.
Questions surrounding disciplinary enforcement grew much sharper as the plaintiff’’s attorney raised in one deposition the instance of former Bp. Mark Herbener’’s assistant, Earl Eliason. Eliason installed Thomas at Marshall, TX in June 1997. Just four months earlier, Eliason had pled guilty to misdemeanor charges of lewd behavior with several men in a public restroom. No public action was taken by the synod bishop; what private action may have been taken is unknown. Eliason remained on Herbener’’s staff until Herbener’’s term expired. He took retirement shortly afterward and then resigned from the ELCA clergy roster in early June 2002, four months after the Marshall, TX lawsuit was filed.
It must be said the plaintiff’’s attorney makes little distinction between gay men attracted to teenage boys and gay men content with more age-appropriate partners. Yet the suggestion here is that in cases involving homosexual men and women, ELCA discipline amounts to a wink and a nod whatever risks exist, even when the risk is posed to adolescents and children.
When standards for pastors said to be devised in part to limit potential liability arising from misconduct are not enforced, a liability insurer conceivably is let off the hook. The insurance against liability is good only so long as the disciplinary policy, upon which the guarantee is based, is in fact put into effect.
This is what Trinity Seminary officials are accused of doing —— winking, nodding, going along, failing to enforce church policy.
Is that what happened?
As we said earlier, and we wish to stress it again, the issues around Thomas’’ behavior as an intern and as a student were addressed. At litigation is, were they adequately addressed? Testimony from the seminary officials involved asserts that the answer is clearly yes. As best they could view things at the time, there was not enough evidence to warrant Thomas’’ dismissal.
But this isn’t to say a Texas civil court jury will not view matters differently.
Evidently, Jack was studying German in Dresden, Germany, when the lawsuit occurred in 2004, and he didn't hear about it. However, only two years after this mega-lawsuit involving the ELCA and homosexuality (mentioned several times in the press release about the case), Jack Kilcrease wrote an article on the ELCA and homosexuality, and yet he didn't know about this case. Of course, that's the norm for studies of homosexuality in the church--discussing deviant sexual behavior without any reference to crime statistics and criminology studies, and the actual experience of the church in these matters:
Homosexuality mentioned several times in press release about court case:
Kilcrease's ELCA and homosexuality article:
Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Vol. XV, No. 4 (Reformation 2006)
“The ELCA, Homosexuality, and the Orders of Creation”, by Jack D. Kilcrease III.
Kilcrease maybe in Germany in 2004 went the suit occurred:
Jack Kilcrease grew up in Salem and Portland, Oregon. He attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where he graduated with a B.A. in History and Religion in 2001. He later attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN, where he received an M.A. in Systematic Theology in 2003. He briefly lived in Dresden, Germany where he studied German at the Goethe Institute. In 2009, he received his Ph.D in Systematic Theology from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.