The vote taken by the members of St. Martin's Lutheran Church, January 31, 2011 to withdraw from the ELCA lost by only 3 votes, 251-129. Clearly, a strong majority had the desire to sever ties with the ELCA. Now, the congregation is experiencing a world of hurt. While 10% of St. Martin's members recently petitioned the Church Council for a new vote, their pastor, Gerald Miller, who served St. Martin's for 17 years, has resigned effective March 1, 2011. A new congregation, aligned with the North American Lutheran Church and led by Pastor Miller, is being developed--Annapolis Evangelical Lutheran Church. It will hold its first service this coming Sunday. Prior to the vote, St. Martin's had a baptized membership of over 1000.
Similar stories continue to unfold across the ELCA, especially in churches where the measure to leave was lost by only a few votes. If only those voting to remain could see the end from the beginning and understand the consequences should they "win" the right to stay in the ELCA, they might want to change their vote. Many members voting to leave the ELCA are not voting for a preference which they can take or leave. These folks cannot in good conscience remain attached to a church body that denies and tramples the Word of God. It is sad to see these congregations come apart at the seams after a close vote, but praise God that so many are willing to stand for the Word of God regardless of the cost.
Since the ELCA voted to accept practicing homosexuals onto their clergy roster in 2009, approximately 145 new congregations have been started by laity and pastors withdrawing from the ELCA. The congregations that have voted to withdraw from the ELCA since August 2009 represent a net loss to the ELCA of over 266,000 members. Add to this number those who are now attending the 145 new congregations mentioned above, and add also the thousands more who just walked out of the ELCA in absolute disgust over their departures from biblical truth.
Please remember to pray for all the ELCA congregations and members facing the process of voting to leave. And pray too for these new congregations being formed.
We praise God for Pastor Gerald Miller, a true servant of Christ who refuses to compromise the Word of God. May many more such stand-up leaders arise.