A megachurch in Glendale, Ariz., unanimously voted Sunday to cut ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and will be joining the smaller Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.
At a congregational meeting following worship, Community Church of Joy voted 129-0 to terminate its affiliation with ELCA as the church's vision, values and mission are no longer aligned with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination, according to the Rev. Walter P. Kallestad, senior pastor of the congregation.
"There is such a different direction that the ELCA has chosen, a path they're traveling on, and we really believe that it just was not consistent to where God has called us," said Kallestad, whose congregation was the 10th largest in ELCA with 6,800 baptized members.
"And so we're parting," he told the ELCA News Service.
On its website, Community Church of Joy cited three documents to help make clear the reasons for the congregation's actions. One document is on ELCA's policy toward Israel, which the church says is not supportive of the nation.
Another is about Holy Scripture, which ELCA claims in its social statement on homosexuality "cannot be used in isolation as the norm for Christian life and the source of knowledge for the exercise of moral judgment."
Community Church of Joy noted how ELCA's website states that the writers of the Bible "sometimes provide differing and even contradictory views of God's word, ways and will."
They also pointed to a number of argumentative comments in the Lutheran Study Bible, including misleading translations and its silence on Apostle Paul's comment on homosexuality as sin.
Lastly, the third document noted activities taken by ELCA promoting homosexual clergy.
Last month, during the triennial gathering of ELCA's chief legislative body, delegates voted 559-451 to approve a resolution allowing gays and lesbians in "life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships" to be ordained.
Delegates also adopted a new social statement on human sexuality with exactly the number of votes (676 or two-thirds) needed to pass it. The statement, which emphasizes two principles – trust and bound conscience – addresses a spectrum of topics relevant to human sexuality, including social structures, cohabitation, sexual exploitation, abuse, and homosexuality.
"I was praying that [Sunday's vote] would be a clear direction from the congregation," said Kallestad, who will be resigning from ELCA's clergy roster to be consistent with the congregation's decision.
Sunday's vote follows an earlier one that took place in June 28, when 185 members voted 174-11 in favor of disassociating from ELCA. In a separate vote that same day, members decided by a 98 percent margin to align the church with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), an association of 179 congregations in the United States "rooted in the Lutheran Confessions."
Started by the WordAlone Network as an alternative for local churches who no longer felt that they could remain in ELCA, LCMC currently has congregations in 37 states and 8 countries.
According to LCMC's website, 10 churches have voted to join LCMC in the past six months.