Friday, April 5, 2013

It Seems to Me: Many have left ELCA

It Seems to Me: Many have left ELCA by Kenneth and Carolyne Kuziej

Recent Leader-Telegram articles about sufferings of the Grace Lutheran Church congregation have only told one side of the story.

Grace congregation's attempt to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is by no means unusual. The ELCA itself reports that as of Jan. 1 of this year, 947 of its congregations have taken their first votes to terminate their relationship with that church body. All of those votes were held after the ELCA's 2009 Churchwide Assembly. Of that total, some 643 congregations have successfully withdrawn from the ELCA.

But that's not all. Thousands of individuals and families have decided on their own to leave their ELCA congregation.

When the ELCA was formed by a merger in 1988, it claimed nearly 5.3 million members. Today there are just more than 4 million members. The National Council of Churches Yearbook says that the ELCA had "the sharpest rate of membership decline" of mainline Protestant churches for 2012.

In Eau Claire, Faith Lutheran Mission congregation was organized by local individuals and families who could no longer in good conscience remain in the ELCA. And in February, the Ethiopian Lutheran church, one of the largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, severed all ties with the ELCA.

The reason, of course, has been the ELCA's drift away from biblical and Christian teachings and morals. The media has been fascinated by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly's decision to approve the ordination and installation of homosexuals in committed same-sex relationships as pastors of congregations. But that was only the "tip of the iceberg."

For years the doctrines that have been taught in the colleges and seminaries of the ELCA have departed more and more from the traditional and biblical teachings of the Lutheran Church and from Christianity. The approval of abortion on demand by the ELCA's health care plan offended thousands of its members already decades ago. Then, ELCA studies questioning traditional sexual ethics shocked many ELCA members. Such departures from the traditional faith and morals of the Christian Church drove many committed and faithful Lutherans out of the ELCA.

Now the revocation of Grace Lutheran congregation's pastors' ordinations and calls to serve by the local ELCA bishop have severely hurt them and their parishioners. That and the lawsuit forcing the congregation to end its relationship with Lutheran Churches in Mission in Christ has been a serious setback.

And yet, for more than a hundred years, Grace Lutheran Church has been a blessing to Eau Claire and to the world. Countless good works have been done by Grace Lutheran while it has faithfully witnessed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For that reason, if none other, it is to be hoped that future articles in the Leader-Telegram about Grace Lutheran congregation will be more sympathetic.

Kenneth and Carolyne Kuziej live in Eau Claire.

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