Today I want to take a few moments and remember those of you who are suffering in an on going spiritual struggle with the ELCA. Yes, Zion and I have left the ELCA and we're well and happy and fulfilling the Great Commission. We pray the same for you. In the past, this blog served as solace for some of you and I will never forget your kind comments. Lately, more and more disturbing news is reaching me from within the ELCA and so I want to have a "moment" to pass on what I'm hearing and reading. It isn’t really possible to have a moment of silence on a blog, so I’ll make this a “moment of comment.”
I started to notice an up-tick in the number of people from various congregations across the midwest contacting me off line asking for prayers and help in their struggle with the ELCA. The stories they share are incredible. One pastor actually went to the nursing home and brought a van load of folks to the vote in order to insure that the vote to leave the ELCA wouldn't pass. In another, the behavior of the local bishop at a congregational meeting pretty much galvanized the church against him. In another, the bishop brought in all the inactive members who hadn’t even been to church in a year to vote. In many cases, people didn't want to see strife in their congregations and simply wanted to dual affiliate with the ELCA and LCMC. Such a strategy would solve many, many issues within the ELCA and would stop the slow bleed that many congregations who can't make the 2/3rds vote are experiencing. (I’ve heard from a lot of you who have 60% support to leave but lack the last 6.7% - doesn’t the ELCA doesn’t realize how many congregations are deeply divided?) However, the ELCA has decided that any such joint affiliations will not be tolerated. The stories go on and on. All I can say is, "So much for respecting bound consciences." What I see is that the ELCA sees any organized opposition to its policies as infidelity. So much for respecting each other’s bound consciences.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to be part of a panel that was interviewing a pastor wanting to join LCMC from the ELCA. His story was disturbing. His congregation had voted to leave the ELCA. He was a mere 9 months from retirement and had stated his intention to simply serve out his remaining 9 months in that congregation he had served for a decade. His bishop "fired" him. Dropped him from the clergy roster. Kicked him out. So much for respecting each other's bound consciences.
Then there is the case of NE Iowa. Can you imagine that they would like to bar clergy who side with CORE or WordAlone from holding office in their Synod? Check out the article (whose authenticity has been verified) on page 7: http://www.lutherancore.org/pdf/CORE%20March%202010.pdf So much for respecting each other’s bound consciences.
In the same issue, read about the Florida congregation (pg 2) who isn’t being allowed to leave the ELCA after 2 votes by the congregation confirm their decision to leave: http://www.lutherancore.org/pdf/CORE%20March%202010.pdf
So much for respecting each other’s bound consciences.
I just want you to know that those of you still grappling with the ELCA are on our hearts. We love you. We support you. Stand firm in your faith. Stand on the Word of God. The Lord is your deliverance.
To pastors who face divided congregations: stand with the truth. You are living in times which demand of you a great witness on behalf of the Gospel, perhaps even suffering or persecution. The Lord will be your provision.
To pastors who are on the fence and think that things will change: Consider this hypothetical situation. Let's say that I hang out with a bunch of guys who are bullies. Of course, I'm not a bully, they are. I hang out with them because I think that I can convert them from bullying and make them nice people. I don't participate in their bullying, in fact, I chastise them when they come back from their bullying and tell me about it. Every once in a while, one of the them honors me with a nearly spiritual conversation about how he's feeling about eternity. After an episode of sharing "deep thoughts," he goes right back out to bully. Here's my question: How long do you continue to try and bring them around? How long before you become an enabling presence? How long before your attempt at being a good witness actually has the opposite affect?
For all of us: let us continue to remember that our behavior, our words, are a witness. Let us be salt and light and stand for the truth in perfect peace. God bless you all. Thanks for reading. PJ