Lutheran church split widens over ordination of gays
The split continues to widen in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over the ordination of gays who are in committed relationships.
According to The Gazette, the ELCA still remains strong, in that out of 10,000 churches in the U.S., only 291 have left as of 2009 to join other, more conservative Lutheran denominations.
However, while the number of those who have left ELCA remain small overall, what is significant is the speed at which groups which leave, manage to reorganize–and their tremendous rate of growth outside of ELCA, according to The Gazette.
Last August, defectors from ELCA formed the North American Lutheran Church, just one year after ELCA decided in a General Assembly to permit homosexuals in committed relationships to become ordained clergy, The Gazette said.
What’s more, the speed of growth of NALC is unprecedented. When it was launched it had 18 churches in its group, including St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. Within four months, the number has more than tripled with a total of 70 churches, and 17 more undergoing the process to join, The Gazette reported.
This is incredibly quick, considering that it took six years for former Episcopalians to create the Anglican Church in North America after a gay Episcopal bishop was elected in 2003, according to The Gazette.
Paull Spring, former bishop of ELCA’s Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod and current head of NALC said the speed of their reorganization was the result of a consultation he had with Episcopal Church dissenters, The Pulpit reported.
Spring told The Pulpit, “They felt they didn’t move as fast and lost lay supporters. So we wanted to move fast.” He added that NALC and ELCA do not communicate saying, “They don’t respond, don’t talk.”
Other churches that have undergone great internal friction over the issue of the ordination of gays are The Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church and the American Baptist Church USA, The Gazette said.
Beyond the issue of sexual orientation
David Wendel, pastor of St. Luke’s Lutheran and one of 17 regional deans of NALC (charged with Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah) said that the issue is beyond that of sexual orientation.
Wendel told The Pulpit, “The sexuality issue is not really the issue. We did not discuss that. The issue is the change in biblical understanding in the ELCA. There are some pastors who don’t believe in the resurrection.”
Wendel said that with NALC, gays can be ordained, however, “A homosexual person who is single could be ordained and is expected to be celibate,” The Pulpit reported.
NALC and other ELCA defectors will be able to keep their property, so long as they remain aligned with a Lutheran denomination. Wendel told The Gazette, “We don’t call this a schism. Lutheranism has a flexibility that allows for this realignment.”
As of now, NALC has no U.S. central location, as it is only four months old and NALC positions will only hold until next August. Spring said he will not likely run for reelection, The Gazette reported.
Spring told The Gazette, “It’s been a very stressful time, personally. There is sorrow over a lost relationship. But what are you supposed to do when the parent body goes against Holy Scripture?”