Religion: Defrocking a Contentious Pastor

In troubled Pennsylvania steel country, a rare church trial

The scene was a basement lounge in St. John's Lutheran Church in McCandless, Pa. Ten clergy and five laity met last week around tables arranged in the shape of a horseshoe for the second ecclesiastical trial in the history of the 23-year-old, 3 million-member Lutheran Church in America. Their verdict: the Rev. D. Douglas Roth, 33, ex-pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Clairton, Pa., was to be defrocked.

Officially, Roth's crime was "willful disregard and violation" of the church's constitution in disobeying a command from his superior, Kenneth May, bishop for the Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod. More broadly, however, the Roth...

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