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Freed Pastor Raps Bishop at Outdoor Rites

March 11, 1985|Associated Press

CLAIRTON, Pa. — Free after serving 112 days in jail for contempt of court for refusing to leave his pulpit, Lutheran pastor D. Douglas Roth led an outdoor service at the steps of his church in this steel mill town Sunday as deputies watched nearby.

About 75 members of the Trinity Lutheran Church, backed by the labor activist's union supporters, sang hymns, received communion and heard Roth condemn his bishop and Pittsburgh-based corporations during a 46-minute service on the church's lawn.

"It's good to be back. Let us worship then," Roth said, wearing purple and white vestments and carrying a Bible as he prepared a card table as an outdoor altar.

Deputies Occupy Church

Behind Roth, four uniformed Allegheny County sheriff's deputies occupied his small, stone church within sight of Monongahela River steel mills. A sign on the church doors read: "No Trespassing by Order of Court."

Roth, in a three-page sermon, attacked Mellon Bank, U.S. Steel Corp., Dravo Corp. and Lutheran Bishop Kenneth May for actions he contended led to the economic decline of the area's steel industry.

Roth, 33, was released from the Armstrong County Jail last Monday. He was jailed for contempt after defying May, and later Common Pleas Judge Emil Narick, who ordered Roth to give up his pulpit. The bishop acted after most of Roth's 145-member congregation objected to his support of the Pittsburgh-based Denominational Ministry Strategy.

Roth faces a closed hearing today that could lead to his defrocking. He is charged with violating the Lutheran Church in America's constitution by defying the bishop and the court's orders to stop preaching at the church.

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