“Leaving the ELCA” series

Frequently asked questions about leaving the ELCA

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Questions? What questions....?

The leadership of the ELCA has intentionally introduced its member congregations to a hideous church dividing conflict. The leadership has led the denomination into a logically impossible situation of saying that two opposite practices are equally true and valid. With full knowledge that nearly half and perhaps more than half of ELCA members opposed changes in ministry practice to allow practicing homosexual pastors in committed relationships, the leadership of this denomination introduced these changes in a way that proposed that each congregation determine for itself what its local practice would be. ELCA has leaders that fail to take a firm and consistent stand on their own beliefs. They try to cover up the ensuing conflict in their organization by encouraging people to just accept the double mindedness and practice hypocrisy for the sake of the unity and mission of the church. Don’t you think that if they were really interested in the unity and mission of the church they would have come at this in a different way? We strongly recommend that individuals, family groups, and congregations leave the ELCA to find a denomination that has more competent leadership. They need to seek leadership that does not introduce such destructive conflict into the lives of its member congregations.

What advantage can there be in remaining in a double minded denomination?

The leadership of the ELCA has intentionally introduced its member congregations to a church-dividing conflict by saying that two opposite practices are equally true and valid. While knowing that the denomination was equally divided over the policy of allowing practicing homosexual pastors, the ELCA introduced these changes anyway. Failing to take a clear stand themselves, ELCA leadership brought about change in a way that pushed the decision onto each individual congregation to determine its local practice. This introduced conflict and pain into nearly every congregation throughout the church. To exacerbate this falseness, ELCA leaders are encouraging people to accept the double-mindedness in order to practice hypocrisy for the sake of the unity and mission of the church. Don’t you think that if ELCA leaders were really interested in the unity and mission of the church they would have come at this in a different way? We strongly recommend that individuals, groups, and congregations leave the ELCA to find a denomination that has more competent leadership. Shouldn’t you be looking for a denomination whose leaders don’t intentionally introduce such destructive conflict, double-mindedness, and hypocrisy into the life of your church?

If we leave the ELCA how will we find pastors?

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Where's the pastors??

This will be one of the first fears ELCA bishops attempt to introduce when they visit congregations considering leaving the ELCA. The truth is that the ELCA is having great difficulty providing enough pastors for its own congregations, especially rural and smaller congregations. Reports we have received indicate that many congregations actually have an easier time finding pastors after they leave the ELCA. For instance, a new start-up congregation in central Minnesota actually had over forty inquiries from their posting on WordAlone’s Clergy Connect and had to take down the notice earlier than they had anticipated.

If our pastor leaves the ELCA with us what happens to his/her health insurance and pension?

Only people who at one time worked in ELCA congregations and institutions may make use of the ELCA health insurance and may continue to contribute to the ELCA pension fund. All pension contributions made to date belong to the pastor and go with her/him. For instance, pastors in Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) speak very highly of the fine service they have received from the ELCA pension department. Some have continued to maintain the ELCA portion of their pension there. Others have rolled the whole amount over into the fine LCMC pension program. A congregation leaving the ELCA will need to make arrangements for health insurance and pension. The new denominations we are recommending have made provision for their congregations to maintain group health insurance and pension plans for their pastors.

What do we do about missions if we leave the ELCA?

The ELCA practice of sending a unified benevolence directly to the denomination actually inhibits participation in the work of mission. Congregations, groups and individuals leaving the ELCA are discovering the joy of direct involvement in the work of missions. Frequently a committee is formed to help the congregation research and decide what mission organizations and outreach activities it is going to support. Often local initiatives in the community are included alongside worldwide mission organizations like Lutheran World Relief and World Mission Prayer League. Funds are often used to encourage members of the congregation to become directly involved in the work of evangelism and mission.

Is the issue about the authority of Scripture significant enough to cause us to leave the ELCA?

At WordAlone we believe this is the single most important reason for congregations and groups to leave the ELCA. In order to justify its position about ordaining practicing homosexuals the ELCA has chosen to weaken the authority of Scripture as the guide for faith and life. This has been done in a number of ways.

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  1. ELCA leaders suggest that the passages dealing with homosexuality in Scripture don’t actually mean what they have been understood to mean for two thousand years. This can be plainly seen to be wrong by simply reading the passages in a good translation. It is also false because God’s intention for human sexuality to be confined to a married relationship between a man and a woman is clearly mandated by the majority of Scripture and has been received as an orthodox interpretation of Scripture by the Christian church for two thousand years.
  2. The ELCA proponents of these new interpretations suggest that average people cannot read their Bibles with understanding. They argue that only biblical scholars can truly interpret what the Bible is saying. This is false teaching that is directly against the fundamental tenets of Martin Luther. Luther himself started the tradition of translating the Bible into common language so everyone could read and understand it. Today, a great deal of fine scholarship goes into high quality translations which make it possible for a Christian to confidently read, study, and understand the Bible.
  3. ELCA advocates suggest that new attitudes in our scientific and technological age should have precedence over Scriptural prescriptions. At WordAlone we rejoice that our culture is developing more open and gentle attitudes toward about our homosexual brothers and sisters. However, we are all sinners before God and we should look to Holy Scripture to determine boundaries for our lives, not set it aside when it seems inconvenient.
  4. We believe the very act of putting this matter, which is so clearly set out in Scripture, up for a vote is clear evidence that the ELCA has indeed departed from God’s Word and the orthodox tradition of the Christian church. We therefore strongly urge congregations, groups and individuals to make haste to depart from the ELCA.
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"Good grief!"

If we leave the ELCA will we be breaking the unity of the church?

One of the common arguments against leaving the ELCA is that it will break the unity of the Church. In truth, the recent measures to ordain practicing homosexuals mark a sharp break with the larger Christian Church throughout the world. Other Christian church bodies all over the world have rebuked the ELCA for these actions. The ELCA has touted its work in ecumenism and Church unity as some of its most important work. However, the policies passed at the churchwide assembly in August 2009 actually mark a deliberate separation with the larger worldwide church which has strained—and in some cases shattered—the true unity of the church. Congregations, groups and individual that want to preserve the unity of the church should leave the ELCA and join with Christian church bodies that stand with the orthodox beliefs of more than 2000 years of Christian history.

Can’t a congregation just stay in the ELCA but effectively withdraw from ELCA activities?

There may be reasons that congregations, groups and individuals may need to stay in the ELCA. However, for those who are aware of the spiritual problems arising from the current direction of the ELCA, this choice should not be made casually. We grant that there are some who will have the call from God to remain in the ELCA as a witness to the truth of Scripture, but most of those who stay will risk reduced mission and ministry as well as confusion for those who don’t understand the issues. Here are some dangers we see for those who choose to remain in the ELCA even though they disagree with the direction ELCA policy has taken.

  1. Even though a congregation can choose to prohibit the calling of a practicing homosexual pastor on the local level, they mix their message hypocritically by remaining part of a denomination that not only permits practicing homosexuals on the clergy roster but actually encourages it. The problems will come when the youth and newcomers begin to ask questions about why their congregation does not practice the beliefs of their church body.
  2. The congregation who dissents from the direction of the ELCA and yet remains part of it must be constantly on the alert about teachings that come through to their members from literature, curriculum, and instructional material produced by the denomination. The problem of discovering and arresting false teaching will be ongoing for congregational leaders no matter how strong the church is. Youth and new members will need to be carefully instructed as to why the local congregation holds values and beliefs that are different from other ELCA congregations and the basic teachings of the denomination.
  3. Interactions with the larger church such as synod assemblies, youth gatherings, women’s conferences, etc., will constantly have the shadow of exposing members to false teaching and confusion. If the congregation chooses to isolate itself from such gatherings, it risks false teaching itself about the power and purpose of the larger church.
  4. Potential members who know about the issues will be confused by the congregation’s affiliation with the ELCA. Those looking for a church that blesses homosexual practice will be disappointed and angered by the congregation’s orthodoxy. Orthodox Lutherans looking for a new church home may shy away from congregations affiliated with the ELCA. As the ELCA becomes increasingly identified with unorthodox practice, congregations need to be careful about the message they send to their community by their denominational affiliation.

Certain orthodox individuals, groups, and congregations may have to remain in the ELCA for an extended time. However, they should do so with full awareness of the crippling effects such a choice may have on their future.

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If we leave the ELCA where should we go?

There are excellent affiliation options available for congregations and individuals leaving the ELCA. Here are the options that WordAlone recommends most highly.

  1. Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ: LCMC has served as a dynamic and exciting option for congregations leaving the ELCA for nearly ten years. As the fastest growing Lutheran denomination in North America, LCMC places its emphasis on freedom in Christ. Organized as an association of congregations, LCMC puts its trust in congregation-to-congregation cooperation, accountability and teamwork. The organizational structure of LCMC is very light in order to better enable congregations to channel their resources directly into mission and outreach. To learn more about LCMC go to http://www.lcmc.net.
  2. North Americal Lutheran Church: The NALC will be constituted as the newest Lutheran church body in August of 2010. Launched by Lutheran CORE, the NALC will be organized as a traditional denomination with careful emphasis on keeping its Christ-centered mission focused through its member congregations. The NALC will be led by a Bishop who, together with regional deans, will provide a ministry of oversight for the denomination. Planners emphasize a commitment to keep denominational structure to a minimum by making best use of existing agencies and para-church organization to provide the services and resources needed by member congregations. The Vision and Plan for NALC can be found at http://www.lutherancore.org/papers/new_vision.html.
  3. Canadian Association of Lutheran Congregations: CALC is an association that seeks a return to Lutheran roots with its emphasis on Scripture, missions and Lutheran theology. CALC’s organization is as an association of congregations led by a president, council, board of elders and a board of trustees. For congregations leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), joining CALC is an obvious choice. In June of 1994, CALC was granted its federal incorporation by the House of Commons. Joining CALC not only provides fellowship with other Canadians it resolves significant issues for charitable giving in Canada. Even if a congregation is joining LCMC and/or NALC, becoming affiliated with CALC brings tremendous benefits for Canadians. Learn more about CALC at http://www.calc.ca.
  4. Lutheran CORE: If your departure from the ELCA will be delayed it may be a very good idea to take a stand with regard to the issues at hand by joining Lutheran CORE. Lutheran CORE provides an affiliation option that enables orthodox Lutheran congregations to identify themselves and recognize each other. Lutheran CORE is dedicated to helping orthodox Lutheran congregations to stay connected whether they remain inside the ELCA or are leaving for new denominations. Both individuals and congregations can join Lutheran CORE. Joining Lutheran CORE only involves affirming the Common Confession. More information about Lutheran CORE can be found at http://www.lutherancore.org.