A Crosby, Minn., congregation voted Sunday to cut ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Immanuel Lutheran Church voted 213 to 69 to end its affiliation with the ELCA. It was church's first of two votes needed to leave the denomination.
"[W]e feel so happy that the word of God was upheld," Bob Sandin told the Brainerd Daily Dispatch.
Hundreds of congregations have taken steps to sever ties with the 4.6 million-member denomination over the past year. The ELCA's chief legislative body approved a resolution in August to allow partnered homosexuals on the ELCA clergy roster. Revisions to ministry policies were adopted in April to allow those who are in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships" to serve as clergy.
According to the ELCA News Service, less than 2 percent of the body's 10,396 congregations have officially left as a result of the pro-gay actions.
Several congregations have split over the decision to leave.
While most members at Central Lutheran Church in Elk River, Minn., voted out of the denomination, others who opposed the disaffiliation started their own congregation. They are calling themselves Elk River Lutheran.
"We are very brand-loyal," Richard Spyhalski, president of Elk River Lutheran's steering committee, told the ELCA News Service.
Opinions are also split at Immanuel, a nearly 100-year-old church.
Though a majority at Immanuel voted in favor of finding another denominational home, nearly half said in a survey that they still want to remain in the ELCA.
Seventy-one percent of Immanuel members disagreed with the ELCA's decision last year but only 41 percent said they want to leave the denomination, as reported by the Brainerd Daily Dispatch. However, if they were given the opportunity to leave, more than half (57 percent) said they would encourage the church to find other Lutheran associations that aligned more closely with their values and beliefs.
The Crosby congregation will continue to discuss and consult one another over the next few months before its second vote. Whatever the outcome, Immanuel Pastor Paul Mattson said the church's life and mission will remain defined and rooted on its Lutheran heritage and foundations of "Word alone, Faith alone, Grace alone and Christ alone."