Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wang Lutheran disaffiliates from ELCA

By John G. White, Editor Clara City Herald
Advocate Tribune
Posted Jan 06, 2011 @ 08:37 AM
Maynard, Minn.

Wang Lutheran Church remains precisely where its Norwegian founders meant it to be, understated but prairie staunch.

Those Norwegian Lutherans had moved their flock a few miles north of their original church to form a congregation due to a split in philosophy.

“It might have been predestination, or perhaps slavery,” said Robert Lerohl, Wang executive board president. Last summer, as the Wang congregation prepared for its 125th anniversary celebration, Lerohl called that split back in 1885 as “theological warfare,” before adding, “those things are still happening today.”

In fact, this was a “case in point” for the current church, which had been sharing a minister, now The Rev. Brad Larson, with Maynard Lutheran Church. “This has been going on for a couple of years now,” Lerohl added, “but we put it all on hold until after the celebration.”

Several weeks ago a vote was held by the Wang congregation, with 76 percent of its membership voting to disaffiliate with the ELCA. When a second vote was held it passed by 90 percent, along with the agreement to affiliate with another Lutheran group which is yet to be determined.

While this means that a partnership between Wang and Maynard Lutheran will cease to exist, Pastor Larson has agreed and has permission to continue to serve both congregations until Wang finds a different partnership and minister.

“Quite simply,” said Lerohl, “we’re a small church. We can’t afford to hire a minister on our own. Right now we haven’t decided which way we’ll turn, nor with which Lutheran group we’ll join.”

Lerohl added that overall the membership has stayed intact. “I know we’ve lost two of our longstanding family members, which is too bad. So far we’ve withstood a split of our congregation like the old Vestre Sogn.”

That split in the 1800s led to the formation of two separate churches — Hawk Creek Lutheran to the south, and Wang to the north.

One of those families has moved their church membership from Wang to a church in Clara City, and noted it was difficult since he grew up in Wang and was a member there his entire life.

Another member, Janice Holien, said, “Our wish is for people to accurately understand why the decision was made, and not rely on innuendos and assumptions. We are simply trying to maintain our traditions, not lose them. We want people to understand that it is not just a clergy issue. There are greater issues of concern.”
Lerohl said outsiders assume this was based on a “homosexual issue, but it’s much broader than that. It’s not a single issue. People need to realize that.”

A statement released by the church membership read in part:
“There were numerous issues considered during the discussion process. The ELCA social statements, and there are a number of them, were just one part considered in making the decision. Wang desires to be a congregation that teaches God’s Word of both Law and Gospel, not focus its message or ministry on a categorization of sins. We believe “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
“The shifts in doctrine and theology to follow the shifts of our culture included in the social and political statements are at odds with traditional theological views and interpretations of scripture. Members desire to be part of an affiliation that allows decisions made on the grassroots level to be valid, to not be forced to support new policies, procedures or social policies through their offerings, and to have the opportunity to partner with other like-minded congregations and pastors. The decisions that resulted in the acceptance of the historic episcopate in order for a pastor to be part of the affiliation has caused division. Our loyalty is to God, not to lay leadership.”

Lerohl further quoted the statement in saying that the members and congregation “did not ask for this controversy, and did not want it. It has caused division in our congregation and we’ve lost a few members — some of our young members have been concerned about how and what their children would be taught, others for their own reasons.”

As of now the goal is to join the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).

Copyright 2011 Granite Falls Advocate Tribune. Some rights reserved

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