Last week, a conservative Lutheran group announced its plans to establish the North American Lutheran Church, a new denomination that will recruit dissident congregations. Rather than setting up a clear-cut choice, though, even some critics of the ELCA’s new policy say the move could further confuse already splintered Lutherans at a time when Protestantism in general seems to be moving away from a denominational model.
“It just feels like we’re stepping off a sinking ship, and I’m not inclined to get on another boat,” said the Rev. Bill Bohline, lead pastor at Hosanna! in Lakeville, Minn., which had been the state’s second largest ELCA church until its members voted overwhelmingly in January to sever ties with the denomination. “That’s not where the spirit is moving.”
At some Lutheran congregations in southeast Minnesota, the reaction appears to be far more muted, an article today in the Zumbrota News-Record says, mostly because people aren’t talking about it publicly.
The Rev. Paul Thompson, who’s been serving part-time at Union Prairie Lutheran Church for five years and additionally at Henrytown Lutheran Church since October – both ELCA congregations – said, “I’m not sure people may like it too much, but they don’t pay much attention to it. They are focused on the ministry, preaching the gospel, taking care of members and outreach. Political issues just aren’t that important to us as what God gives us to do.”
But the paper says an assembly of the Root River conference was held 10-days ago, and a resolution to rescind the social statement was defeated in a typically close vote — 34 -to-31.
It’s not all about homosexual clergy members, however. MPR’s Jessica Mador reported last fall that many of the churches splitting from ELCA, have long-standing grievances over the direction of the Lutheran church.