Women barred from speaking, voting at WI church meeting

Via Madison.com:

Women were not allowed to speak or vote Sunday as men from a Baraboo church voted to fire the principal of the church’s elementary and middle school. John Hartwig, principal of St. John’s Lutheran School, was fired during a six-hour meeting attended by about 300 people. His suspension earlier this month sparked a public outcry from a group of parents that said he was being unfairly targeted. Supporters of Hartwig said they were shocked to learn that women church members would not be permitted to speak during a meeting to decide Hartwig’s fate.

“That was terrible,” said Pete Klaetsch, who voted in support of Hartwig and says the controversy may divide the church. Females do not have voting privileges, but are generally allowed to speak at meetings, according to Klaetsch. Sunday’s meeting was the first time in recent history that St. John’s Council President Don Finseth exercised his authority to prevent females from speaking, church members say. Details of the principal’s alleged wrongdoings are murky, and church leaders have been unwilling to be interviewed. In a letter to school parents announcing his suspension, church pastors said Hartwig had promoted materials that questioned the church’s teachings and had engaged in conduct “unbecoming a called worker.”

Hartwig’s father, a former pastor, authored a document years ago questioning Lutheran doctrine that says women shall not have authority over men. Church members say Hartwig, who has been principal since the summer of 2003, was accused of distributing that document to some members of the congregation. The Rev. Tom Fricke said in a written statement that Hartwig was “regretfully terminated” on doctrinal grounds after more than two years of discussions with church leaders in an effort to resolve the issues.

“While congregational leaders acknowledge Mr. Hartwig’s fine administrative skills and recognize the personal admiration many parents have for him, our overriding concern is for maintaining sound biblical doctrine and practice,” Fricke’s said in a written statement. Women who wanted to ask questions at the meeting were told to write them on a piece of paper and have a man read them aloud. But some, including Hartwig’s own daughter, said their questions were never read.

“I actually passed three or four questions to a church council member and none of them were read,” said Emily Rae Hartwig. “I guess the way I felt about it, and the way many others felt, was that they were afraid of us (women). A lot of my dad’s supporters are women.”

The story was also covered by Chanel 3000.

For the sake of understanding, it is probably worthwhile to quote 1 Timothy 2:12 :

I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

I was taken aback when I saw that the church was an “Evangelical Lutheran” one because I assumed that put it under the umbrella of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is one of the most forward-thinking  mainline Protestant denominations .(Last year, they voted to approve the ordination of partnered LGBT clergy.) However, two minutes of Googling alerted me to the fact that there are several different Evangelical Lutheran denominations. St. John’s belongs to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, an entity separate and distinct from the ELCA. (Once again proving Protestant nomenclature to be an inexhaustible source of amusement.)

3 Responses

  1. no one is forced to be an evangelical lutheran. these are the rules of that religion. i don’t agree with them, but i am not a member and it is not my place to dicatate to them. respect their religious freedom please.

    • i.) Young children raised by Evangelical Lutheran parents are forced to be Evangelical Lutherans.
      ii.) They have the right to dictate the rules of their organization, I have the right to call those rules repressive and backwards. Exercising free speech violates no one’s “religious freedom.”

  2. got to love backwards people practicing a backwards religion

    and no i don’t feel bad for mocking them

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