Faith Lutheran Church to stay in ELCA
By: Wayne M. Anderson
GRANTSBURG—By a decisive margin, Faith Lutheran Church of Grantsburg passed a resolution to remain a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) last Sunday.
The tally to leave was: No: 154 to Yes: 119, with 1 vote “unsure” and 1 vote “missing.”
In order for the resolution to pass, a super majority of 66% was needed.
More than 275 “registered” members attended the business meeting after the morning service to cast their vote on the matter.
The resolution read: “Be it resolved that Faith Lutheran Church of Grantsburg, Wisconsin end its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).”
ELCA congregations all across the country are voting in similar fashion on whether to leave or stay in the ELCA, the largest Lutheran denomination in the world.
The bone of contention among the 4.8 million members arises from a controversial vote last summer.
In August, at the ELCA’s national convention in Minneapolis, representatives voted to allow and ordain practicing homosexual ministers who are in a “committed relationship.”
Since then, traditional Lutherans have expressed shock over the controversial decision, with many members withholding financial contributions in protest and many members and churches leaving the ELCA.
For most members at Faith, they voted to stay in the governing body.
“I’m pleased with the vote, and I’m grateful that the church will remain in the ELCA,” said Rev. Victor St. George, pastor at Faith. “My prayers and my best wishes go with those who need to leave for whatever reason. And I just hope that they know that we’re still brothers and sisters. We’re still family.”
In most families there are points of disagreement. And for one member, it’s how a family deals with and resolves those differences.
“I think it’s good that we put issues on the table and let people have their voice,” said Steve Johnson, a church member and coach at Grantsburg High School. “That’s how you advance.”
He said he voted “no” on the resolution and appreciated the respect in how the voting was conducted.
“I think the important thing about this ELCA resolution is, they…respectfully accept other people’s opinions,” Johnson said. “That’s number one.”
The substantial vote margin did not require a recount. But some thought the margin might be closer.
“I’m surprised it was as one-sided as it was. I really am,” said Terry Swenson, a church member who voted to leave. “I thought the vote would be a little more wanting to leave than wanting to stay.”
Swenson is also a leader of a group of disaffected Lutherans from Faith and other area Lutheran churches. He said they are upset over the gay vote and the growing liberal interpretation of the Bible in the ELCA.
The group is holding Sunday church services in Siren at the school gym.
The final vote at Faith solidifies their plan to start a new Lutheran church.
“The group of people we have meeting in Siren are wonderful,” Swenson said. “They all want to start a new congregation, and we’re moving forward with that.”
Before the Sunday vote, members were given an opportunity to express their views on the matter. About a dozen took the microphone to share their thoughts.
Of those advocating a “no” vote, they based their decision on the teaching that they should love their neighbors, as expressed in the Bible.
Those voting “yes” said it was very important to follow what the Scriptures taught about the prohibition of homosexual behavior.
Johnson said long before the vote Bishop Duane Pederson, ELCA Northwest Synod of Wisconsin, came to Faith to talk about what the Bible says about homosexuality.
“I think that when our bishop came and talked to the entire congregation, he talked about the different ways Scriptures can be interpreted,” Johnson said.
Interpreting the gay issue in the Bible is like interpreting the creation story, Johnson said.
“Yes. Whether or not the world was created in seven of our days or seven of God’s days,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of issues.”
But for many traditional Lutherans, the issue of church teaching and practice on homosexuality is basic.
“This is a tectonic shift in the foundational theological principles by which our church operates,” said Rev. Dr. Roy Harrisville III., of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Menomonie, Wis., and a member of Lutheran CORE, an association of traditional Lutherans.
“This (homosexual vote) represents a serious departure from not just what Lutherans are taught, but what the church catholic has taught for 2,000 years,” Harrisville said.