A group of Lutherans announced Wednesday that they will begin work on a proposal for an alternate church body that would accommodate those who want to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"Many ELCA members and congregations have said that they want to sever ties with the ELCA because of the ELCA's continued movement away from traditional Christian teachings," said the Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pa., chair of Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal).
The renewal group's steering committee made the announcement during its Nov. 17-18 meeting in Minnesota.
It comes after the ELCA's chief legislative body voted in August to approve a resolution allowing noncelibate gays and lesbians to be ordained. Though ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson has urged the 4.7 million-member denomination to refrain from divisive actions and to engage in continual conversation, several congregations have cut funding to the ELCA and are weighing the decision to leave.
"The vote on sexuality opened the eyes of many to how far the ELCA has moved from Biblical teaching," Spring noted.
CORE and other Lutheran bodies in North America will aid in the formation of a new Lutheran church body, Spring explained.
According to the renewal group, "The proposed church body is intended to provide a place for congregations that desire a more a traditional denominational structure."
"We grieve that it has become necessary for so many to leave the ELCA and for so many others to alter their relationship with the ELCA, but we are heartened by the clear sense of mission and ministry that is motivating these changes," the steering committee said in a letter to members of Lutheran CORE.
A draft proposal is expected to be unveiled in February. Final plans for the new church body may be approved in August.
Meanwhile, Lutheran CORE will continue to exist as a free-standing synod for ELCA members and those in other Lutheran bodies who "affirm the authority of Scripture."
Conversations on whether to form a separate Lutheran denomination began in September when Lutheran CORE voted to distance itself from the ELCA. CORE leaders adopted a constitution that established the group as a "free-standing synod" and initiated a process that they believe will lead to a "reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism."