Following the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to allow sexually active homosexual clergy, an objecting Lutheran group has begun to form a new church body for those Lutherans who want to “remain faithful to the Orthodox Christianity of the last 2,000 years.”
Lutheran CORE leaders on Wednesday said their working group would immediately begin drafting a constitution and taking other steps to form the new denomination. They hope to launch the denomination by next August.
Rev. Paull Spring, a retired Pennsylvania ELCA bishop and chairman of Lutheran CORE said many people in ELCA are “very unhappy” with the direction of the denomination.
At the ELCA annual convention in Minneapolis in August, delegates voted to allow sexually active homosexual pastors to serve if they are in “committed” relationships. The policy will take effect in April, the Associated Press reports.
At Lutheran CORE’s September convention, its members voted to spend a year to consider whether to form a new denomination. On Wednesday its leaders said heavy demand for an alternative for disenfranchised congregations and churchgoers encouraged them to move more quickly.
Lutheran CORE leaders reportedly believe there is deep opposition to the new policy among ordinary churchgoers but some may not be willing to depart the ELCA over it.
“Many of us have spent years now struggling to call the ELCA to remain faithful to the Orthodox Christianity of the last 2,000 years,” said Ryan Schwarz, who is leading the organizing effort. “While this is of course a wrenching decision, there is also a sense of hope in refocusing on our true mission, which is evangelizing the Lutheran faith."
Lutheran CORE leaders said they will continue to try to create a synod within the ELCA for congregations who are opposed to the new policy but do not want to leave the denomination.
John Brooks, spokesman at the ELCA’s Chicago-based headquarters, told the Associated Press that Lutheran CORE’s action was not unexpected. He said he hoped that Lutherans would choose to stay in the denomination which aspires to be “a place for all people despite any differences we might have on any issues."
He said the denomination had not seen significant departures yet but said it is too soon to judge the effects of the convention’s decision.
Brooks reported that five congregations have voted to leave the ELCA. Another 87 have taken a first vote to leave the denomination. Of these churches, 28 did not achieve the two-thirds vote necessary to leave. After a two-thirds vote to leave the ELCA, a congregation must take a second, final vote in 90 days and again achieve a two-thirds vote.
There are 10,300 ELCA churches in the U.S. with about 4.7 million members, the Associated Press says.