Sunday, January 30, 2011

ELCA proposes stricter rules for departing churches

According to the Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) leaders are proposing new rules that will make it harder for congregations to leave the denomination.

At its Nov. 12-14 meeting, the ELCA Church Council proposed amendments to the denomination’s constitution for consideration at the 2011 Churchwide Assembly.

The changes are proposed as nearly 300 congregations have completed current departure requirements, and another 140 congregations have begun the process. These congregations represent a loss of 200,000 ELCA members, according to the newsletter. As has been the case in the PCUSA, many congregations are departing due to the denomination’s theological drift away from the Bible – including new policies on same-sex marriage, gay ordination and teachings that contradict Scripture.

“How ironic that ELCA leadership is so committed to disregarding the Law of God on sexual ethics but so determined to use the law of humans to coerce congregations to remain in the ELCA,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez, director of Lutheran CORE.

The ELCA’s proposed departure language, according to Lutheran CORE, includes the following:

  • A congregation must hold a 30-day consultation period with its bishop before taking a first vote to leave the ELCA, in addition to the current 90-day consultation after a congregation’s first vote.
  • The synod bishop is given authority to determine how the consultation will be conducted “in consultation with” the congregation’s council.
  • The bishop will be able to appoint “designees” with whom the congregation will be required to consult.
  • The bishop or his/her designee must be granted the opportunity to speak at special congregational meetings regarding ending ELCA affiliation.
  • A congregation will be required to vote by a two-thirds majority to join a new Lutheran church body, or else it will be “conclusively presumed” to have become an independent Lutheran congregation, potentially forfeiting its property.
  • Congregations will be required to meet any financial obligations to the ELCA before leaving.
  • Congregations must wait at least six months before taking another first vote if the original first vote does not achieve the required two-thirds majority.
  • Congregations must wait at least six months and restart the process if their second vote does not achieve the required two-thirds majority.
  • Congregations which fail to follow the specified process must obtain synod council approval in order to leave the ELCA.

1 comment:

  1. I expect that the "financial obligations" they are referring to will be to "return" any financial support the congregation received if and when it was on subsidy. PrJ