A Little Falls, Minn., pastor recently spoke out about his decision to resign after his congregation rejected a motion to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The Rev. Nate Bjorge told the Brainerd Dispatch that First Lutheran Church's vote last month to stay in the ELCA called into question his effectiveness as a pastor.
"I was extremely disheartened," Bjorge told the local newspaper as he recalled the Oct. 11 vote. "I haven't been angry by this whole process. Sad might be a better word."
The congregational vote was prompted by a controversial decision by the ELCA's chief legislative body in August to allow noncelibate gays and lesbians to be ordained. Since then more than a dozen congregations in Minnesota have vowed or already voted to sever ties with the denomination.
First Lutheran wasn't one of them.
The Little Falls church defeated a motion to withdraw from the ELCA by a vote of 160-96. It also voted 95-73 not to affiliate with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, which allows gay clergy as long as they are celibate.
Bjorge told the local Dispatch that he has friends who are homosexual and his congregation has always been welcoming to homosexuals. But he said he can't condone homosexual behavior, calling it a destructive lifestyle.
"For me, there was no question," he said. "This issue directly violates the word of God."
With such strongly held beliefs, Bjorge felt he could no longer lead a church that was going to continue as an ELCA congregation.
"It's important for them to move on and become a healthy congregation again," he told the Brainerd Dispatch. "My presence wasn't going to help that."
Bjorge is currently leading a group of people who left First Lutheran to start their own church, Faith Lutheran. He was called by the group to serve as their pastor.
Meanwhile, disaffected Lutherans are working on a new church body to accommodate those who want to leave the ELCA. Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) announced last week that a proposal for the separate denomination will likely be released in February.