Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lutheran Congregations Split in Centerville OH


New church outgrows temporary home; Epiphany has new leader.

By Jill Kelley, Staff Writer 8:52 PM Saturday, March 5, 2011

CENTERVILLE — In January, the Rev. Todd Kornahrens left Epiphany Lutheran Church to form Living Water Lutheran Church.

Two months later, he is leading a mission church that has 450 members.

“We are literally off the charts for mission development in a mainstream church,” Kornahrens said. “It is going better than any of us imagined.”

Breaking away

Kornahrens and the Rev. John Bradosky left Epiphany after a year and a half of strife, which was spurred by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s social statement and policy changes in August 2009.

The ELCA’s decision to accept noncelibate gay ministers proved controversial for many Lutherans, who saw it as indicative of the difference of opinion within the ELCA about how Scripture should be interpreted.

Like many other Lutheran churches, this led to a schism within the Epiphany congregation and church leadership.

Both Bradosky and Kornahrens broke with the ELCA to join the North American Lutheran Church, a more traditionally focused Lutheran denomination.

“If the only issue confronting the ELCA was that social statement, I wouldn’t have left,” Kornahrens said. “I would have still disagreed with it. But it was all the decisions that followed. Then it becomes systemic.”

While Bradosky became the general secretary of the NALC, Kornahrens formed Living Water.

“I think, for me, it was an opportunity to start something fresh,” Kornahrens said. “We (Living Water) want to be about outreach and be welcoming to everyone, without compromising our principles.”

Living Water

Living Water had been holding services at Weller Elementary School in Centerville while waiting for a permanent site on East Franklin Street to be ready.

But the church has since outgrown the East Franklin site, and has signed an interim lease to hold services at Jonathan Wright Elementary School, 40 Florence Drive, Springboro.

Living Water’s last services at Weller are Sunday, and it will hold its first services at Jonathan Wright at 7 p.m. March 9, for Ash Wednesday.

Kornahrens said his church would like to find a permanent home, but stressed that the mission is more important than a building.

“We want to go out and be the church,” he said, referring to the congregation’s outreach efforts. “There’s a hunger to do something. It’s about being bigger than just us.”

Kornahrens said Living Water is still forming its identity, but mission and evangelism are key.

“The goal is to connect people with Christ,” he said. “We’re not going to be the anti-anything church. We’re going to be pro — pro-God, pro-family, pro-working for community.”

Kornahrens said there is no animosity toward those who remain at his former church home.

“No matter what happened, there are still some great people at Epiphany who I love and respect,” he said. “It was a matter of my core beliefs not matching the direction of the church.”

Epiphany update

The congregation is moving forward at Epiphany Lutheran Church, as well. In February, the congregation welcomed an interim senior pastor, the Rev. Peter Rudowski.

Rudowski grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and served as a parish pastor for 33 years — 28 of those at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cincinnati.

Rudowski, who was hired for one year, joins the Rev. Sara Cutter, who grew up with Epiphany and has been on the staff for 2½ years.

Cutter said Epiphany is doing very well in the wake of the changes.

“We are very blessed,” she said. “We were spending so much energy debating things between one another. Now we have more time and energy freed up to devote to the church.”

Cutter said the Epiphany congregation is down from 3,000 to 2,600-to-2,700 members.

“We certainly have lost a number of wonderful people,” she said. “And numbers-wise it might be shocking, but percentage-wise it’s not.”

The church has kept its services at the Far Hills campus the same, but reduced the number of services at its Austin Campus.

“We plan to bring in a pastor to take the lead down there in the next few weeks,” Cutter said.

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