Another Dissident Lutheran Pastor Defrocked
Jun. 06, 1986
GREENVILLE, Pa. (AP) _ Another dissident Lutheran pastor was defrocked Thursday for defying superiors by staging controversial protests for the unemployed that targeted many of Pittsburgh's major corporations.
The Rev. Daniel Solberg, a leader of the Denominational Ministry Strategy, was defrocked at the convention of the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church in America, which held its annual meeting at Thiel College.
More than 400 of the 527 delegates voted to defrock him. He was the second pastor defrocked in as many years by the synod. The synod delegates prayed immediately after the vote was announced.
The defrocking came after a Pittsburgh congregation, also led by a dissident pastor, installed Solberg on Wednesday as associate pastor. Lutheran leaders said the installation ceremony, conducted by Solberg's father, the Rev. Richard Solberg, was in defiance of Bishop Kenneth May, leader of the synod, and invalid.
Solberg had tears in his eyes as he left the meeting with about 40 DMS supporters, including ministers, and his brother, television actor David Soul.
''After the execution, they pray for their own souls,'' Solberg said. ''I hope the bishop is praying for his own church because that is where the death has come today.''
May announced that Solberg ''has been removed from the clergy roll and is no longer a delegate to this convention.'' He said he believes that those who voted to retain Solberg were not endorsing him or DMS activities.
''Some of the delegates ... believe very strongly that part of the Christian religion is forgiveness and love,'' May said. ''But ... the person who is to be forgiven needs to announce repentance.''
A Lutheran committee ruled in January that Solberg should be stripped of his religious title because of conduct incompatible with his religious office and willful disregard of the church constitution.
A Lutheran appeals panel upheld the ruling last month and the issue was referred to the regional synod for a final vote.
It was only the third time that a minister was suspended and defrocked, officials of the 3 million-member synod said.
Solberg, 35, was fired last year as pastor of Nativity Lutheran Church in the Pittsburgh suburb of Allison Park because his activities with the DMS caused dissension within his largely white-collar congregation.
His brother, Soul, best known for his role in ''Starsky and Hutch,'' also protested in Pittsburgh in support of Solberg and the DMS and was arrested during an Easter 1985 demonstration outside a church.
The DMS claims that Pittsburgh-based corporations led by U.S. Steel Corp. and Mellon Bank contributed to the area's high blue-collar unemployment by investing overseas instead of in local industry.
The group has used confrontational tactics, such as protests in churches and the spraying of synthetic skunk oil in banks, to draw attention to the plight of the unemployed.
Solberg protested his dismissal by barricading himself inside his church for eight days. Police broke into the church to arrest him on May 22, 1985, and he served four months in jail on trespass charges.
''The ideals which they promote - who could argue with?'' said May. ''But when you are going to achieve your ideals by force and intimidation and fear and harassment, that's where you draw the line. A Christian Church simply will not operate that way.''
Last June, D. Douglas Roth, 35, also a DMS leader, was defrocked during the synod's 1985 convention after being dismissed as pastor of a Clairton church. He also had been jailed after refusing to vacate his church.