Area Lutheran Churches consider leaving ELCA

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DRIFTING ABOUT  — One of the by-products of the horrid winds and snow are drifts that pile up like this on Front Street. Drifts bunched up in front of businesses and homes as well making it difficult to get from here to there on Saturday.  Although the photo has no relationship to the article, it was too nice a picture to not publish, we hope you enjoy it!  I-O Photo by Buck Traxler

 

By Adam Jerome, I-O Reporter

In mid-August the 4.7 million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) voted to lift the ban that prohibited sexually active gays and lesbians from serving as ministers.

Under the new policy each ELCA congregation will be allowed to hire homosexuals in committed relationships as clergy.

The change passed with 68 percent of about 1,000 delegates.  The change makes the 4.7 million member group one of the largest U.S. Christian denominations to take the gay-friendly stance.

With the change there has been some worry that many Lutheran congregations around the country would consider leaving the organization for a more conservative alternative.

Since the decision in August, over 80 Lutheran Churches nationwide have taken an initial vote to leave the ELCA.  Of the 80, around 20 churches have voted against the intitial proposal to leave the organization, leaving 60 to take another vote in the near future.

Included in that number are the two Lutheran churches in the Conrad area, Pondera Valley Lutheran Church and the Golden West Lutheran Church.

At the Pondera Valley the vote was 94 to 18 for continuing the process.  At Golden West the vote was 32-10 for the same decision.

If the congregations decide to leave the ELCA there will be a few decisions left to make.  For example, if they leave they will have to align with another Lutheran Church organization or they may lose their tax-exempt status.

Two possible alternative organizations include the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC).

The LCMC has been around for 10 years and the AALC was formed in 1987, the same year as the ELCA.

Pastor Michael Sculley, of both churches said, “One impact of leaving the ELCA would be that the decision would take us out of our comfort zone and force us to become more self-reliant.”

He went on to say, “The decision to leave the ELCA is not about gays and lesbians.  To us it is a matter of scriptural authority.”

Another impact may be regarding the Flathead Bible Camp which is part of the ELCA.  Although area children would still be allowed to attend the camp, area parents may lose their say on the board of directors which is something that will have to be worked out when the time comes.

The final vote to ratify the decision for both congregations will take place on Jan. 31, 2010.

In the meantime the area Bishop will be in Conrad for a question and answer session regarding the issue on Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Pondera Valley Lutheran Church in Conrad.

Editor’s Note: More information will be forthcoming after the Bishop’s Q and A session