When the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted last August to allow practicing homosexual clergy to be placed on its clergy roster, they ignited a firestorm of controversy in thousands of their congregations. Most congregations calling special meetings to vote on leaving the ELCA face bitter division over two opposing views. This is especially true of the congregations that did not achieve the required 2/3s necessary for withdrawal.
Take for example Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Ramsey, Minnesota (3300 baptized members). This congregation voted June 20 to withdraw (310 to 255), but their vote failed to meet the 2/3s requirement. Likewise, when the votes were tallied at their June 23 meeting, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato, Minnesota (974 baptized members) split almost down the middle over leaving. Both congregations are now in turmoil from which neither may recover. This is true also for scores of other ELCA congregations, especially were the required voted failed by slim margins and where members left to start new congregations. In such situations, minority members left to operate their ELCA congregation have found it difficult if not impossible to maintain a viable congregation.
The ELCA itself is to blame for all of its congregations in turmoil. The vote last August to sanction homosexual clergy in the ELCA was 559-451. The ELCA leadership saw to it that the vote on this issue would pass with a simple majority. How interesting that a simple majority was sufficient to set the whole church in turmoil, while each local congregation’s vote tally must have a 2/3s plurality in order to leave the ELCA over the same issue.
The ELCA is to blame for this turmoil, because the decision to sanction practicing homosexual clergy within its ranks was on the agenda of the church’s leadership when the ELCA was being formed. The writings and statements of Bishop Herbert Chilstrom bear witness. That fact, along with a host of other doctrinal departures from truth, is what caused hundreds of congregations and clergy to withdraw membership even as the ELCA was coming into being.