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Thursday, April 5, 2012

The LCMS Case - Darwin Schauer - Convicted Sex Offender Encouraged To Become Lay Pastor.
Surprise - He Abused Again

Minnesota LCMS officials encouraged Darwin Schauer, a convicted sex offender,
to become a lay pastor, so he abused another victim.
All the "conservative" Lutheran synods and ELCA are guilty of this kind of behavior.
More information and better formatting later.
This is another Steadfast article with comments.

From Steadfast Lutherans - Accounts by Pastor Don Kirchner - In Case They Are Kilcreased Later

It’s time…

I went down to Park Rapids two weeks ago, to the Hubbard County Detention Center, and spoke with Darwin Schauer for about an hour. (I had tried to see him a week earlier but was unable to see him due to an ongoing shift change of jail personnel at the time.) On March 4, 2012, I met with Minnesota North District President Donald Fondow (Fondow), Bemidji Circuit Counselor Allan Wierschke, and the congregational president of Trinity, Lake George to discuss what I had learned as laid out in Schauer’s current criminal charges and to discuss further action on our part. It was determined that Rev. Wierschke would render pastoral care to Schauer since I had a clear conflict of interest. Still, it was necessary for various reasons for me to talk to Schauer about what had transpired. When I met with him, I immediately advised Schauer that I was not there as his pastor or as a lawyer, lest he be given any expectation of confidentiality.

I now know from that conversation that The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), particularly on the district level, was well aware of Darwin Schauer’s 1983 conviction for the sexual abuse of his 13 year old step-daughter and, in spite of it, assisted him in becoming a lay minister and chose to place him as a lay minister in Immanuel Lutheran Church of Cass Lake and Trinity Lutheran Church of Lake George without warning or advising the congregations that a sexual predator was being placed in their midst to render them pastoral care, to teach confirmation classes to 12 to 14 year olds, etc.

Fondow recently told me that when he was convicted in 1983, Schauer was told to resign his Synodically rostered position as a school teacher or he would be removed. He had resigned. I was upfront with Schauer and told him that we now knew about the 1983 conviction. We discussed that. I then asked Schauer how he got into the lay ministry program at Concordia College in Mequon,WI (now Concordia University-Wisconsin.)

He stated that, after his probation on the 1983 conviction was completed, he went to Rev. O. H. Cloeter, who was District President of Minnesota South District of the LCMS 1978–91. Darwin laid out everything about his conviction and asked if there was any way that he could still serve the church. Cloeter stated that being an ordained minister was out of the question, but that there were other ways around that. The answer was the lay ministry program that led to being commissioned as a lay minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I do not know how involved Cloeter was in getting Darwin into the program, but he certainly had no objection to it and encouraged Schauer. Darwin stated that President Cloeter was a very nice, understanding man. No one has been able to explain to me how it is out of the question for a sexual predator to become an ordained minister but perfectly okay to be a lay minister, performing nearly all of the same functions as an ordained minister!

It seems that, given his previous undergraduate degree, Schauer spent only 6 months at Mequon to complete the lay ministry program in 1989 and was commissioned as a lay minister and was assigned to Immanuel, Cass Lake. His supervisor was a Rev. Rudder of Blackduck. Rudder knew all about Darwin’s conviction. Later on, there was some friction between Darwin and a pastor of the LCMS- sponsored Indian Ministry in Cass Lake. Rev. Richard L. Guehna, District President of Minnesota North District of the LCMS 1986-96, came up from Brainerd to personally meet with Darwin about the issue. He also brought with him the newspaper clipping that had been sent to him, the article in Darwin’s District file, and asked Darwin about it. Darwin again laid it all out on the table, explaining everything about what had happened, Darwin stated that President Guehna was a very forgiving man. Guehna took no action and, it seems, told no one in the congregation.

Later, Darwin was allowed to serve Trinity, Lake George with no objection and with no one at the congregation being told that their minister had a 1983 conviction for ongoing sexual abuse of his 13 year old step-daughter. As I now know from emails between Fondow and me in late 2007 – early 2008, and from what he has now confirmed, is that Fondow knew about the 1983 conviction at least as early as 2008, at that time discussing Schauer’s history and situation with MNS DP Seitz, Synodical Secretary Hartwig, and then Synodical 1st VP Diekelman, had possession of the 1983 newspaper article, and continued the District apathy toward the situation. He did nothing.

I thank everyone for their prayers and words of support to the congregation and me and especially to the victim and the victim’s family. Through these weeks we have learned that the glorious Gospel is indeed the Word of life. As we enter the Paschal Triduum let us remember that the Lord indeed has made all things new.

Thanks be to God.
Don Kirchner


Rev. Don Kirchner
April 5th, 2012 at 07:33 | #55 Reply | Quote

On March 4, 2012, at a meeting at the Lake George Café with Minnesota North District President Donald Fondow (Fondow), Bemidji Circuit Counselor Allan Wierschke, and the congregational president of Trinity, Lake George, we discussed what had happened and the fact that Darwin Schauer was being arrested even as we met. At one point, the congregational president excused himself to use the restroom. Fondow then advised Allan and me that he had looked through Darwin’s file when he retired (which would have been May or June of 2008, I believe) and that there was a newspaper article in the file about a similar sort of incident. The next day Fondow emailed me a scanned copy of the article which detailed Schauer’s 1983 plea of guilty to sexual abuse of a minor.

This seemed somewhat odd. I recalled a series of emails between us some years ago when Fondow had done some extensive checking of Darwin Schauer’s history. I had previously written to Fondow , inquiring about why the Minnesota South District had blocked Darwin Schauer’s path to ordination, which Schauer had told me happened, though Schauer did not tell me why. Fondow had responded with a non-answer, that Minnesota South had determined that he should not be allowed to complete such a path, confirming what we already knew.

On 10-08-07 I emailed Fondow, advising him that, given our membership at Immanuel, Cass Lake, (Darwin Schauer was serving that congregation and the congregation of Trinity, Lake George), my wife and I “would certainly would like the minister at our congregation to be an ordained pastor so that we can actually receive an indicative-operative absolution, etc. How do we go about getting Darwin Schauer ordained?”
I heard nothing back from Fondow. On 10-22-07 I sent him the exact same email. I heard nothing. On 10-26-07 I sent him the exact same email. On 10-30-07 Fondow responded, advising me that he had been checking on Schauer’s situation. He stated, “I apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mails regarding Darwin. I am doing some more checking into this and will communicate with you as soon as I receive some more information and clarification.”

I waited a month and heard nothing further. On 11-30-07 I decided to get his attention. I emailed: “Having not heard back from you on this matter may I propose an action before Darwin retires? Is it okay if a few of us pastors go ahead and ordain Darwin Schauer, thereby formally establishing what already is in place- i.e., his call as a pastor to Immanuel, Cass Lake and Trinity, Lake George?”

That got a response. Within less than two hours, Fondow responded: “In my last e-mail to you I indicated that I would look into this matter. I have had conversation with President Seitz and Secretary Hartwig and asked them to find out information for me and I will be checking back with them.

In answer to your question and in keeping with the agreed upon protocol of our church-body it would not be in order for an Ordination such as you are proposing. I would ask you to be patient as I seek answers and clarification as to the reasons for past decisions in an effort to see that all things be done ‘decently and in order’.”

I replied, “Thanks for your reply and your response to my proposal. That’s why I asked, although to formalize or ‘ordain’ what already has taken place- Darwin’s placement as a pastor- would seem to be decent and in good order. As we all know a lay minister, in this context, is an oxymoron. but I understand your position. I’ll await to hear from you.”

Nearly three weeks later, having not heard anything, I wrote: “We’re coming up on the end of the year. What have you found out about Pastor Schauer’s situation?”

I heard nothing. A week later, I decided to press the situation again. I wrote, “We are now nearly into the new year, about a half-year from Darwin’s retirement. I still would like my pastor to be a legitimate pastor. A few of us were looking at possibly [of ordaining him.]” Fondow responded, “I understand your intention, however, I strongly advise against this course of action… I will be speaking once again with Secretary Hartwig about this matter as well as President Seitz…The fact that his Ordination was not approved sometime ago is what I am asking to have looked at now. We do need to things decently and in order and that is the way in which I am proceeding.”

I couldn’t understand the delay. On 12-31-07, I wrote, “I simply can’t understand why you are putting this off. The appearance, even though I’m not saying that it is the case, is that you simply are waiting for Darwin to retire so that the issue is moot. Meanwhile, my wife and I, along with the other members, cannot even receive an indicative-operative absolution from our pastor who is somewhat placed in the office but is not allowed the rite of the Office.”

On 01-02-08 (it was now nearly three months since my initial inquiry), Fondow responded: “I’m sorry if it seems that I am putting this off, it is not my intention to do so…I have spoken today with President Seitz and he is calling me back tomorrow. Also, tomorrow I will be in communication with Secretary Hartwig.”

I waited a week and on 01-09-08, having heard nothing further, I asked for an update. Fondow replied later that day: “I have spoken to both President Seitz and Secretary Hartwig. At the present time I am waiting to hear back from First Vice-President Bill Diekelman. So, I am following through as previously indicated and I will be in contact with you.”

I waited a week and, having heard nothing back, again inquired. Later that day, Fondow replied: “This morning I spoke once again to President Seitz and this afternoon First Vice-President Diekelman called me back. They have shared with me information pertaining to Darwin and his situation (past and present). To the end that, according to the Handbook of Synod, Darwin may apply for admission to the Pastoral Ministry (Ordained) Roster of the Synod…I would ask that if he is seeking to pursue this that he would contact me to schedule a meeting to discuss this and to request the necessary application forms and to schedule a meeting with the District Interview Committee (cf. 2007 LCMS Handbook)

Once again, I apologize for the delay in answering your initial straight forward question. Due to the fact that there was some previous history involved and with a desire to learn of the background and information pertaining to this matter and wanting everything to be done according to our agreed upon procedures, it has taken me longer than it should have.”

I was frustrated. I replied, “We’ve spent months and months, and you’ve needed to make numerous calls to a district president, a Synodical Secretary, and a Synodical VP so that you could tell me that Darwin is eligible to do what we already knew he could do- apply for admission to the Pastoral Ministry (Ordained) Roster of the Synod by colloquy according to Bylaw, (a) or (b)?”

I wrote to a friend that day, “There’s something going on here. At any time Fondow could have picked up the phone and said, “Sorry. Darwin would have to go through the regular colloquy process to be ordained. Nothing else can be done.’ But everything has been done quite formally, including Fondow’s stiff, formal, non-conversational tone which is quite unlike him, except in cases where he’s being wary and treading lightly.

So, the reason that Darwin was blocked from being allowed to do this back in the ’70s was…?
Something stinks…”

The next day, 01-17-08, Fondow snapped back, “Since you inquired, I felt that it would be well to check on the past history of his situation to see if there was anything that would prevent him from applying! If you already knew what he could do, then why did you ask me?”

Later that day, I replied, “I’m not sure why you are being this way, President Fondow. As I previously stated, normally you would pick up the phone and call me. Instead, you’ve been quite formal, cool, and careful with your statements. There was no phone call stating, ‘I checked it out, Don, and it looks like Darwin is going to have to go the regular route under the Synodical Bylaws. I realize that the chances of anything being done before his retirement are virtually nil, but it appears that there is no other way.’
No, it was a formal statement that Darwin ‘may’ pursue this under such and such rule, something that you and I both know he always could have done. Please go back and look below at your statement, President Fondow. It is a caricature of lawyerspeak.

And now you respond with a testy attempt to play word games. Of course I knew the Bylaw. You know quite well why I asked. I asked if there was a way that we could get him ordained given the time constraints. And by the way, after waiting months you now suggest that he take action similar to what he did years ago and which was denied him at that time. What has changed that you suggest that he should try again? Can you give any assurance that he would not simply be going through the motions (as if this could be done in 4 months) in order to again receive a denial? Bottom line- why not simply state, ‘Sorry, it looks like Synodical approval to ordain Darwin is not going to happen, given his probable retirement in May’?”
Schauer retired a few months later.


Now, before we see the usual “circle the wagons” mode with suggestions such as that putting forth Schauer’s conversations with District personnel is hearsay (it is not), information is from a secular reporter and we know what they’re like (a classic argumentum ad hominem), and other such fallacies and irrelevancies, let me state the main reason why I make these things public and why I am not doing so.
With the events of the past month I have become beyond cynical with District interaction. I have virtually no trust left. The continued verbal dancing and passing of the buck continues. Our DP met with the congregation on March 7th and claimed little or no knowledge about the newspaper clipping of the 1983 incident, claiming that all knowledge rested with a man who is now in heaven (former DP Guehna).
On March 13th, our DP emailed me, now even suggesting that he showed me the newspaper clipping on February 7, 2008. He did not. But it is a classic red herring, intended to divert. For the sake of argument, even if he had shown me the article, I was covering a vacancy in Duluth at the time. Our DP was the ecclesiastical supervisor and it was he who bore responsibility to Trinity Lutheran Church of Lake George, a congregation with which I had no relationship at the time. Most importantly, our DP’s suggestion that he showed me the article confirms that HE had knowledge of it at least in early February of 2008, while Darwin Schauer was still serving Trinity of Lake George and Immanuel of Cass Lake.

Keep in mind that Schauer also continued on the Synodical roster after his retirement, filled in for me at Trinity the last several years when I was out-of-town, filled in for at least one other Circuit pastor/congregation, attended winkels, etc. until March 4th when the horror began for the congregation. Thankfully, and that is what we look to, that is the day that the horror for the young victim ended. Somewhat, for the victim will never be the same. What was taken can never be replaced. Only the Gospel can give that peace that passes all understanding, the victim knowing that he or she is a lamb safe in the Good Shepherd’s arms.

It goes on. Our DP attended Schauer’s arraignment on March 19th. One of our congregational elders is a court bailiff for Hubbard County and also was at the hearing. Afterwards, our DP approached the elder and told him that he had been trying to contact “Pastor Kirchner” and that he wanted to meet with me and congregational leadership. My response to the elder was that this simply was baloney! Our DP has my email address. He has my cell phone number. He had used both to communicate with me until recently when, suddenly, there is silence. He hasn’t been trying to contact me!

I expect that the silence is due to my announcement to our DP, on March 15, 2012, that our congregational delegate and I will not be attending the District Convention later this month. We simply see it as a waste of time for us. Our view is not only that there is nothing beneficial in doing so but that we trusted District and District leadership allowed a child predator in our midst without telling the congregation. The congregation asks me why, and I have no answer for them. I do not know why church leadership does this– past, present, and regrettably probably into the future.

I also have no expectation that anything will be done at the District level to hold anyone accountable. The time when the integrity of leadership– The buck stops here, this happened on my watch and, therefore, I must step down– is long past the present day. Leaders don’t do that anymore. Thankfully, the secular entities that some disdain will hold Schauer accountable. Our DP will be re-elected, probably on a unanimous ballot, and Synodical life on the District level will go on. The only change I foresee is that I will become an outcast in District circles, maybe even disciplined.

Brothers and sisters, I hope that I am wrong about much of this. Perhaps I will be surprised. I realize my cynicism is great, spiritually unhealthy, and sinful. Tomorrow, at a Circuit Treore service, I will preach on the words of our Lord, “Father forgive them.” Do we forgive those who have wronged us? Of course! For this Christ died! Because of the forgiveness won for us on the cross we get to forgive others. That is the joy this Holy Week.
Trust? That takes time.


GJ - There is some discussion about what rules would keep these things from happening.

I can list exact parallels with the Episcopal Church (Bishop Bennison) or WELS (Tabor, Just, Stolzenburg, Werner, Adrian, Zerbe).

Or the Roman Catholic Church, which the Protestants deride but emulate to perfection.

The problem is not with the rules but with the men involved. Denominational leaders are spineless, ruthless, unethical, and shameless. They shift from one deception to another, whenever caught in a lie. They have no concern about the victims or the congregations, only about their careers, perks, and reputations.

Two stories on Schauer -