It’s been reported that Dr. George Tiller, the country’s best-known provider of late-term abortions who was murdered May 31, was once excommunicated from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a fairly conservative branch of Lutheranism which is why he sought refuge at an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America - which is more liberal - congregation across town.
Turns out that he was not excommunicated from Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Wichita, I finally learned late this week after calling the LCMS denominational headquarters. Vicki Biggs, the LCMS spokeswoman at first told me it was probable that he was kicked out, which is what I said here. But a day later, she got back to me to say that he left Holy Cross of his own accord and ended up at Reformation Lutheran Church, the ELCA congregation where he was shot while ushering.
Here’s the story she got after some sleuthing: There had been some discussion and admonitions from the folks at Holy Cross way back in the 1980s when they realized the kind of grisly work he was doing (late second-trimester and third-trimester abortions). “Admonitions” is Lutheran-speak for the first stage in a church discipline process whereby a member is told to repent and cease commiting whatever sin they are doing. This is done privately, giving the person a chance to reform their ways. If they do not cease whatever they are doing, harsher measures are brought to bear. In Dr. Tiller’s case, he saw what was coming down the pike and switched churches.
When I asked Ms. Biggs why it has taken two weeks to get to the bottom of this, she said no one currently at Holy Cross was on staff some 20 years ago when all this took place. Plus, it would have still been in the private stages between him and the congregation, not posted anywhere publicly.
-Julia Duin, religion editor