Some Lutherans Consider Cutting ELCA Ties

The Christian Century, November 3, 2009 | Go to article overview

Some Lutherans Consider Cutting ELCA Ties


A group of Lutherans upset over the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's recent decision to allow qualified noncelibate gays to serve as clergy voted to create a freestanding synod and to study for a year whether to leave the denomination.

"Basically, what we're saying is that a year from now, we're going to have a proposal of some form," said David Baer of Whitewood, South Dakota, a pastor and member of the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE), which hosted the meeting of 1,200 conservatives in an Indianapolis suburb September 25-26.

The group approved a constitution for CORE and asked a steering committee to return in a year with recommendations on whether to leave the ELCA, merge with another Lutheran denomination, or start their own. Ultimately, the group hopes to "reconfigure" Lutheranism in North America to accord with traditional views of scripture and homosexuality.

In August, the ELCA at its churchwide assembly voted to allow Lutherans in "lifelong, publicly accountable, monogamous, same-gender relationships" to serve as clergy or professional church workers. The 4.6-million-member church also voted to allow congregations to "recognize, support and hold publicly accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships."

Regional synods and local congregations are not required to hire gay or lesbian pastors or to recognize same-sex couples--a position intended to acknowledge the deep divisions on homosexuality within the ELCA.

Already, though, one well-known congregation has departed. On September 27, the Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona, which was the ELCA's tenth largest congregation at 6,800 members, voted to leave the denomination and join Lutheran Congregations in Missions for Christ. The Arizona church, whose senior pastor is Walt Kallestad, took its first vote to secede--two votes are required under ELCA guidelines--in June, before the ELCA assembly decision.

As for the freestanding synod that CORE created on September 26, its leaders asked ELCA members to funnel donations away from the denomination's Chicago headquarters.

CORE leaders say their synod will assume the tasks of regular ELCA synods: providing congregational resources, planting new congregations, supporting global missionaries and offering theological education. …

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