A few blocks from my home Roland Wells, a courageous and compassionate Lutheran pastor who has served over twenty faithful years in our inner-city neighborhood, announced today that the church he leads, St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, will leave the ELCA because of the recent decision of the Churchwide Asssembly concerning the ordination of those practicing homosexual behaviors.
This is not an easy thing to do. Nor was it done precipitously. I point to it for the sake of prayer, repentance, and hope. Here is the press release that Roland sent out today:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
FIRST TWIN CITY CONGREGATION VOTES TO LEAVE ELCA
A 96 percent majority of the members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis voted on Sunday, September 27, to leave the ELCA. Due to the outcome of the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions regarding the role of Scripture and the ordination of practicing homosexual and lesbian persons, St. Paul's was forced to act.
Back in October of 1990, the congregation's Council set a policy that if the ELCA ever moved to allow such ordinations, the congregation would immediately begin the process to leave. "We feel quite affirmed by the hundreds of congregations who are contemplating the same move." said St. Paul's Senior Pastor, Rev. Roland J. Wells, Jr. "Since the ELCA vote, the reaction across the country has been swift and overwhelming. I have received phone calls from all over the country from pastors and members of congregations who are withholding funds from the national church, and are preparing to move to a newly forming Lutheran denomination, the LCMC. The phone at the LCMC office in Michigan has been ringing off the hook." In a separate action, over 1,200 ELCA leaders met last week in Indiana to begin work on another breakaway synod.
"When the ELCA took actions that even the liberal United Methodist and Presbyterian Church USA have repeatedly rejected, the sign was clear that the stranglehold of the activist fringe have taken control of the leadership of the church. Those of us in the center, representing over 80% of ELCA Lutherans in the pew, can see that it's time to form a new church body. It's time to build a positive, grace-filled, missional church- the ELCA that could have been." According to its process, St. Paul's congregation will now go through a process of consultation with the local ELCA bishop, and then hold a second vote at least 90 days after the first, which must pass by two-thirds.
St. Paul's is a legacy congregation in downtown Minneapolis. Founded by Norwegian immigrants in 1872, it was the fourth Lutheran congregation founded in the city. Today it draws members from a 60-mile circle across the Twin Cities. It is internationally recognized for its college-level programs of cross-cultural ministry education.