the crown of life" (Rev. 2:10).
The first departure wave from the ELCA took place immediately prior to the ELCA’s organization in 1988 and lasted through July 2009. According to the ELCA’s own statistics, 737 congregations were lost to the ELCA between 1988 and 2008. The loss of membership during that same period was 654,161.
The second departure wave from the ELCA began in August 2009, following the Churchwide Assembly’s vote to permit practicing homosexuals to be placed on its clergy roster. Since that fateful decision in August 2009, an estimated 400 congregations have successfully taken their first and/or second votes to leave. These congregations that have left or are in the process of leaving represent a net loss of over 240,000 members. This figure does not include the thousands of ELCA members who have left to start new Lutheran mission congregations, nor does it include the thousands who withdrew on their own as a direct result of the 2009 decision. The full extent of ELCA’s loss may not be known for years, but it is significant.
There are established ELCA congregations that may not survive because so many members have chosen to leave the denomination. Even now, congregations are being disbanded and their property sold. Some congregations where the vote to leave failed, often by the slimmest margin, have reported a 25-35 percent drop in both attendance and giving.
ELCA members and congregations need to know the Lutheran Church is alive and well outside the ELCA, where the Word of God is both believed and honored. Those choosing to leave the ELCA have many choices.
Congregations and members who are waiting for the ELCA to change its policy of accepting practicing homosexual clergy should realize it is not going to happen. ELCA members may either remain and give financial and tacit approval of their church’s unbiblical theology and practices, or they can follow the instructions of Scripture and unite with a church body that rightly teaches and upholds the Word of God. The choice has never been as clear! “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14).