Our congregation voted last Sunday to leave the ELCA. 85.5% of those who voted wanted to go. It should be noted that another congregation in Waukee, IA also voted to leave on the same day and that the week prior, a church in Fontanelle, IA also voted to leave. We aren’t going alone. And I hear they are more to follow.
I was very proud of our congregation. There was no cheering, no clapping after the results of the vote were announced. We had a prayer and dismissed the meeting. People who wanted to go made an effort to comfort those they knew wanted to stay. The end was full of grace. My attention is now focused on trying to minister to those members who are disheartened by the result of the vote. Some of them will eventually leave our congregation. It’s heartbreaking. Some of them have been here for years and years and invested themselves in our ministry, in friendships and relationships.
Immediately after the vote, I kept fighting back tears. I wanted to get to my office and just ball. But people needed things and they wanted to talk. By the time I did get to my office, about 45 minutes later, I had no tears.
I have a variety of emotions. I’m pleased with the vote because I feel the congregation stood on the word of God. I’m saddened by the rending of people’s lives that will result. Quite frankly, there was no way to avoid this. Because if the vote had been different, it just would have been different people leaving and grieving. And I’m angry. Angry with the institution and establishment that brought this forward when 57% of respondents told them they were strongly opposed to the course of action that led to the current situation in the ELCA. I’m angry at the bishops and lay leaders who let the vote go forward, always keeping their opinions private, and shrugging their shoulders and saying, “We have to proceed. It’s the will of the church.” Rubbish.
We tried to avoid all of this. We played by all the rules.
Our congregation was kept informed of every action at Synod and church wide assemblies.
We did our study group and sent back our info regarding all the various sexuality studies.
We went to local conference meetings and stated our opinions and “engaged in the conversation.”
We sought to elect delegates to Synod and Churchwide Assembly. We were always defeated.
We sent out letters and e-mails to pastors, council presidents and churches, asking them to join us in our opposition.
We brought in speakers and invited local congregations.
We enlisted the help of national organizations.
We kept informing the bishop of our dissent.
But in the end, all our efforts locally and nationally failed.
We are not people filled with hate or anger although that is how we will undoubtedly be characterized. We have been called names and have suffered much from those who disagreed with us.
We are not poor losers. We did what we were supposed to do and we played by the rules. We fought the good fight. We engaged the issues. We are people who are certain that the word of God is clear about marriage and sexuality and who know that you can’t take away the requirement to repent and believe from the gospel of Christ.
We are not being chased out. We are leaving on our own. Heads held high.
We have not left historic Lutheranism. We still hold to the ideals and teachings of the Lutheran Church which has always taught about law and gospel, the centrality of Scripture in everything, and the need for daily repentance and amendment of life.
Finally, I want to congratulate our congregation for making a stand on what is and what isn’t God’s word and for having the courage to leave our denomination because of it. It is my belief that by doing so, you stand with the likes of Jesus, Peter James John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Paul, Eusebius, Justin Martyr, Iraneaus, Augustine, Luther, and your Grandparents and parents. Those who sought to elevate human reason over the word of God in this matter stand with Bishop Spong and the Jesus Seminar.
Who is the Jesus Seminar? Exactly. And if you know or care today who the Jesus Seminar is, know that your kids or grandkids will one day ask: “Huh? Who were they? Never heard of them.” Because everyone who has tried to change the word of God before is dead and forgotten. Jesus is alive. The Bible remains and his word goes out and lives are continually changed and people are healed and transformed. All because they hear the call of Christ, “Repent and believe.”
I know that some of you who read this blog have been doing so because you have found some comfort in the arguments which have been made for leaving the ELCA. I have been overwhelmed by the positive response in e-mails and phone calls. God bless you all. If I can encourage you as you struggle with all the complex issues surrounding these issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
For those of you who have been following because you are angry, please forgive me. I am only living out and speaking what I understand about Scripture. May you find peace with God.
Now it’s time now for us to start talking about the future. And what life looks like in a new world, with a clean slate. Mission is there. And we embrace the opportunity. Thanks for reading. PJ