Just how many churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) await the fate of Grace Lutheran Church, North Branch, NY? The membership of the church had been dwindling for several years and finances had been a challenge, but members of Grace Lutheran Church were shocked when they received a letter from their ELCA synod that began “In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" and continued “the Synod will take control of the real and personal property of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church.”
Grace Lutheran members were shocked even more when the ELCA changed the locks on the church doors to keep out the very people whose ancestors had built the church and who until the locks were changed paid for the church’s daily operations.
Such takeovers and closures have not been uncommon in the ELCA, but they will likely increase as more and more members walk out of their churches because of the unbiblical teachings and practices being imposed on local congregations by the national church. Congregations that are voting to leave the ELCA should ponder carefully what will happen if their vote fails and vast numbers of the congregation’s membership departs. It may be only a matter of time until they too will get a letter “In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Synod will take control of the real and personal property of your church."
The closure of Grace Lutheran Church in North Branch followed the closure this past summer of their sister congregation, First Lutheran Church of Jeffersonville, with whom they had been yoked as a parish.
How refreshing that nearly all of the congregations that have voted to leave the ELCA have joined Lutheran fellowships where the property resides totally in the hands of the local congregation and cannot be taken from them, namely the AFLC, AALC, LCMC and NALC.