Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Taking the Good With the Bad

Many ELCA leaders continue to be mindful of the fallout from the votes on human sexuality at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.  At the time, some feared that this would be a major schism across the church.  Certainly there are many households, congregations, and synods that are still struggling with the reality that openly gay pastors in a publicly-accountable relationship can be available for a call to ministry.    

In the 17 months since the "big gay votes," about 3.4% of congregations have officially severed ties with the ELCA.  An undisclosed number of additional congregations have remained affiliated with the denomination but are withholding financial support to ELCA ministries.  These decisions have, in some cases, crippled the ability of the larger church to function in its pre-2009 form.  

Even within these congregations, some interesting stories have emerged.  One tale, in particular, caught my attention this past week.

In August 2009 pastor of a large congregation made several public statements of disagreement with the assembly votes.  Soon thereafter this congregation chose to withhold half of its benevolence to the larger church in protest of the decisions (an amount that represented less than 1% of the congregation's total budget).  A member of the congregation, dismayed with this decision, wrote the synod bishop a letter of apology.  Enclosed with the letter was a check that made up the difference for the next few years, along with a pledge to repeat this act if the congregation hadn't restored its full benevolence within five years. 

I know of other congregations that have made an intentional increase in their 2011 benevolence to support the ministries of the larger church in direct response to neighboring churches that have made cuts.  Some congregations that remained affiliated with the ELCA have seen growth in giving and attendance because people left a nearby church that became inundated with anti-ELCA rhetoric.

I'm not sure there are any larger thematic statements to be made from these stories...but I'm encouraged to hear that God continues to do creative and redeeming things in ELCA congregations.  The news isn't all doom-and-gloom for Lutherans.  Thanks be to God!

1 comment:

Thank you for taking the time to be a part of "koinonia"