Skip to comments.Grace, ELCA vote turning ugly
Posted on 03/27/2011 1:18:00 PM PDT by rhema
One of the pastors at Grace Lutheran Church believes other area clergy are trying to influence members of his Eau Claire congregation in an attempt to keep them from leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"ELCA churches are leaving, and as leaders watch, they are trying to develop strategies to throw up roadblocks," said the Rev. Rolf Nestingen, who charges neighboring ELCA pastors of doing just that and says their interference is in violation of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin constitution.
The Rev. Kurt Jacobson of Trinity Lutheran Church in Eau Claire and other area ELCA pastors don't deny they have had contact with members of Grace Lutheran Church, but said those parishioners sought them out, looking for support, information and guidance.
"When a church's pastors attend well to the entire body of people they have been entrusted to serve, and do so with love, integrity and honest attention and care, ministry prospers," Jacobson said via e-mail. "When that isn't the case, it is a natural action for people who are hurting, confused or disenfranchised by said pastors to seek such care in other places. For ELCA pastors in the area to respond with compassion to those people is a Christ-like response."
Jacobson sent an email to Nestingen and the Rev. David Irgens, also a pastor at Grace, on Feb. 17, informing them that area ELCA pastors and Bishop Duane Pederson of the Northwest Synod of Wisconsin met and agreed to address Grace members as they came to them.
"It doesn't matter how you cast it," Nestingen said of the pastors' involvement. "It's against the rules, and it's just plain wrong." Members of Grace Lutheran Church will take the first of two possible votes to leave the ELCA on Sunday, April 3. That vote is occurring six weeks earlier than the May 15 date supported by a majority of parishioners who attended the church's Feb. 6 annual meeting. Because the issue has been contentious, the church council opted to move up the date of the vote, so "we could get it behind us and move on," Nestingen said.
Neither the longtime pastor, who has been at Grace for almost 14 years, nor Pederson know how the vote will go.
"It would be my hope that the members of Grace might utilize accurate information, be in thoughtful conversation and pray about the future of their congregation," Pederson said via email. "I trust that regardless of the outcome of the April 3 vote, the Lord will guide and direct those who seek to be faithful living out the Gospel of Jesus in witness and service."
At least two-thirds of voters April 3 must agree to leave the ELCA. If they agree to that, the bishop must consult with the congregation during a period of at least 90 days. If the congregation still desires to terminate its relationship, a second vote, also requiring approval from a minimum of two-thirds of voting members present, is needed to confirm the split. Prompting the vote is a petition submitted by Willard Davidson, which seeks to disaffiliate with the ELCA and join the more conservative Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.
"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been drifting theologically from its beginning, affecting areas as diverse as worship, inter-church relations, mission and evangelism, who is Christ, how one is saved, ordination and the office of ministry and the proper role of bishops. ... " according to the petition.
It goes on to say that the ELCA, at its 2009 Churchwide Assembly, approved a social statement on human sexuality and "revised ministry policies that contradict the clear and unanimous witness of the Bible. ... " Four congregations in the Chetek-based Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, one of 65 synods in the Chicago-based ELCA, have left the organization since members attending the ELCA's 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted to allow gay and lesbian clergy to serve while they are in committed same-gender relationships. Three, including Grace Lutheran, are in the process of disaffiliation.
"We have repeatedly told people this has very little to do with being gay," Nestingen said in February. "The great majority of it is about people's concern for the integrity of the Scripture."
Michelle Volz, a lifelong member of Grace Lutheran Church, plans to vote to disaffiliate with the ELCA, which she believes "has had a consistent drift away from Scripture for some time."
"There are many families with grandparents, parents and young children" at Grace, she said via email. "These families would like to ensure their children have a traditional upbringing in the Lutheran church - the church they have belonged to for many decades."
While Volz is predicting the majority of her fellow parishioners will vote to disaffiliate, she believes it will be detrimental to the church if she is wrong.
"If the vote is not successful and Grace remains in the ELCA and a large group leaves, it would be my fear that financially the church will not be able to survive," said Volz, whose family will leave Grace if the vote fails. "What happens to the church after that?"
Like Volz, Mitchell Piper and Dale Reid, also longtime members of Grace Lutheran Church, care about the future of their church and its congregation. Both men support the church continuing to be affiliated with the ELCA. However, they believe it isn't getting a fair shake. "The ELCA, as it exists, truly stands for and matches my feelings about openness and the love that Grace has had and should continue to have for the community," Reid said.
"In order to make a case to leave the ELCA, some misinformation and incomplete facts have been given to Grace members over the last few months," he said. "I would feel terrible if Grace's members would decide to leave the ELCA based on false information."
Hoping to provide the congregation with more information, Grace Lutheran is hosting a forum at 2 p.m. today featuring representatives of the ELCA, Nestingen said.
Since the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly vote, Grace Lutheran has held several question-and-answer sessions, he said.
In addition, a committee was appointed to evaluate the assembly's decision regarding same-sex unions in relation to clergy and come back with recommendations, the pastor said. Earlier this year, the committee reported its findings, but made no recommendation on staying in the ELCA or leaving.
"It has been a very difficult and stressful time for our church and has greatly affected many members," Volz said. "I feel that is has been hardest on our pastors."
For better than a year, Piper has woken up, thinking about the possible disaffiliation with the ELCA, which is dividing his church.
"The ELCA, the largest Lutheran body in the United States, ... is a community of disciples holding many views on theological and social issues," he said in a letter he co-wrote with another Grace parishioner, which is featured on the Grace for All website.
(Grace for All is made up of church members who say they are concerned about how the disaffiliation issue was being presented to the congregation. Nestingen called the group a faction focusing on the termination of the church council and Grace's pastors.)
"Yet we work together to proclaim the lordship of Jesus Christ and his saving promise for the world," Piper's letter reads.
"Because of the many voices within the ELCA, controversy will arise and will likely continue to do so in the future. This sometimes happens when all members of a community are given the opportunity to discuss difficult issues; you will hear occasionally some things you would rather not hear or take some exception to."
Piper believes "that the ELCA continues to offer the best hope for many voices with differing opinions to gather together in proclaiming Christ."
The conscripts are yearning to breathe free. The Empire is not amused.
And what 'false information' would that be? That homosexuality is not condemned by Scripture? Seems to me that some people in that church have a problem with basic reading and comprehension.
It's not too tough to give a forthright presentation, is it? "The ELCA is apostate, setting aside Scripture to conform to the doctrines and dictates of the world. Do you want to stay or go?"
The only thing that amazes me is that ECLA has any congregations left.
(Rom 1:26) For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;
(Rom 1:27) and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
(Rom 1:28) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.
(Rom 1:29) They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
(Rom 1:30) slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
(Rom 1:31) foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
(Rom 1:32) Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
As with all leftists when under pressure, the corporate bosses in Chicago and their deployed underlings (synod bishops) are beginning to drop the "nice guy" facade and show their steel teeth.
The ELCA has lost millions of dollars in contributions and the bishops do not relish seeing their fat salary and benefits packages and assorted perks going down hill. These people are careerists after all, not different in that respect from union bosses and politicians who feed off the largesse of the working people.
Expect more ugliness as the exodus continues.
* as of August 19, AD 2009, a liberal protestant SECT, not part of the holy, catholic and apostolic CHURCH.
Keep a Good Lent!
Many clergy are closet narcicists, meaning that they “need to be needed”.
Consequently when people come seeking their advice and counsel they are all to eager to do so, irrespective of boundaries or ecclesial propriety.
Some of the worst offenders are retired clergy who face little chance of being held accountable for their actions.
I have a dog in this fight and would be willing to share more by Freepmail.
Wonder if these two guys are homosexuals?
Wonder if these two guys are homosexuals?
Could be.... Both names could be taken for other meanings... A piper is a person who plays a pipe, a long hollow instrument to which one puts their lips on an blows... Reid which sounds like Reed, a tall, slender-leaved plant of the grass that bends in the wind...