There seems to be no shortage of folks from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America who are upset about several votes last month at the denomination’s convention in Minneapolis. For those of you who weren’t reading about how — despite a tornado that showed up on a key day of the conference — the denomination voted to approve gay clergy and, by implication, same-sex blessings — a huge switch that placed the ELCA as America’s largest mainline Protestant denomination to accept homosxual ministers.
Lutheran CORE, the chief opposition group, had slated a convention to start this Friday in Indianapolis, and they recently sent out a bulletin saying their registrations were swamped. Not only did organizers have to move the venue to a larger church — a Roman Catholic one, in fact — but as of Sept. 14, they had reached their limit of 1,200 attendees. Some of you who are older than 50 may remember an era in which Lutherans and Catholics never spoke to one another, much less shared worship spaces.
And so I love the quote on CORE’s press release: “It is wonderfully ironic that Lutherans who started 500 years ago as a movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church would now return to a Catholic Church to re-form themselves,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez of Landisville, Pa., director of Lutheran CORE.
Anyway, the Lutherans say they will be looking into creating some kind of alternative to the ELCA. Two retired ELCA bishops are involved, so this could get really interesting should these folks decide to fly the ELCA coop. Judging by their press release, they’ve already decided to go; they just have not decided on the specifics. However, there’s a proposed constitution on their Web site, so the exit strategy is pretty public. Sounds as if they learned something from the Episcopalians who took the same step in 2003 (when the denomination approved Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop); that is, when your denomination veers left, don’t stick around to try to change things. Read their press release here.
And the ELCA itself must be a bit nervous about this gathering. ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson just sent out a pastoral letter saying he is “disappointed” some people are encouraging congregations and members to take actions that “will diminish our capacity for ministry,” which could affect planting and renewing congregations, educating leaders, sending missionaries, responding to domestic and international hunger concerns, and rebuilding communities after disasters. You can read his letter here.
What is really interesting is that the number of people attending the CORE gathering may outnumber those who gathered in Minneapolis last month.
— Julia Duin, religion editor