Lutheran church officials have begun disciplinary proceedings that could eject a dissident pastor from the ministry for defying church and court orders to step down as leader of a steel-mill town congregation, a spokesman said yesterday.
The Western Pennsylvania-West Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church in America has set a hearing for Nov. 26 for the Rev. D. Douglas Roth, who has ignored orders not to preach at his church for the last three Sundays, the spokesman said.
Roth, an outspoken supporter of militant anti-corporate steelworker groups, remained inside Trinity Lutheran Church in Clairton, where he barricaded himself inside the building Friday to prevent his arrest for contempt of court.
The Lutheran Synod suspended and then ordered Roth out of the church in October, after 71 of his congregation's 190 members complained about the pastor's support for labor activists. When Roth continued to preach, the synod first won a preliminary injunction barring him from his pulpit and then a contempt of court citation.
He was sentenced in absentia to 90 days in jail but Sheriff Eugene Coon was turned away from the church by steelworkers who support Roth.
Roth is a leader of the Denominational Ministry Strategy, local Lutheran and Episcopalian ministers who are allied with militant steelworkers. The group contends that Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. has abandoned the steel towns of the Monongahela and Ohio river valley and worsened the problems of the area's unemployed.