Okla. Church Votes to Cut Ties with ELCA

An Edmond, Okla., church voted overwhelmingly on Sunday to cut ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America over the denomination's liberal direction.

In a 110-5 vote, Peace Lutheran Church agreed to leave the ELCA – the largest Lutheran denomination in the country with around 4.5 million members. This was the second and final approval needed to leave. The congregation also determined in a separate vote to affiliate with the newly formed conservative body, the North American Lutheran Church.

Peace Lutheran joins hundreds of other congregations in withdrawing from the ELCA following the body's vote in 2009 to let non-celibate gays and lesbians serve as clergy.

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Peace Lutheran Church Council member Jim Smith told the Edmond Sun, "Our reaction was we felt we needed to get back to basic biblical teachings."

The NALC was formed last year in response to the pro-gay action to provide discontent Lutherans a new home. While homosexuality was a major issue prompting many Lutherans to reconsider their ties with the ELCA, they maintain that the large denomination was also moving away from the authority of Scripture.

Mary Hendrickson of Peace Lutheran stated on Facebook, "It was also the departure of the authority of scriptures and basic Lutheran and Christian truths and values that brought Peace to the decision to vote to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church synod."

If accepted by the NALC, Peace Lutheran will officially become a member of the conservative denomination on July 1.

This year, the NALC is preparing to elect a new bishop during its August convocation to serve a four-year term. Currently, Bishop Paull Spring, 72, is leading the body but said he will not be available for reelection.

Lutherans are not the only mainline Protestants experiencing divisions.

Presbyterian congregations are mulling a decision to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) following an approval this month to open ordination to partnered homosexuals. A majority of the 173 presbyteries (district governing bodies) approved a change to the PC(USA)'s constitution that would delete the requirement that clergy live "in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness.”

The approval has been viewed by conservatives as a departure from the beliefs and practice of the historic and global church.

First Presbyterian Church of Orlando told the Orlando Sentinel that it may be cutting ties with the PC(USA).

Members of Presbyterians for Renewal which have pushed for reform from within the PC(USA) are also considering a fellowship "beyond the PC(USA)."

"We have prayed that our denomination would uphold this biblical standard, and we have worked to maintain it. But now a line has been crossed," the conservative group said.

While mulling its future, Presbyterians for Renewal is also advising against ill-considered actions and reminding conservative members that they can amend the church constitution again. "We who oppose this decay in ordination standards are still free to work to restore the clarity that has been lost and even to raise the level of accountability."

"We who are committed to holding fast the clear teaching of scripture must pray and work all the more to discern how to move forward with biblical faithfulness in and for a denomination that has lost its way."

Notably, the exodus from the PC(USA) began long before this month's final approval for gay ordination, with conservative congregations unhappy with the denomination's continual liberal direction on homosexuality and continual departure from biblical truths such as the "singular" saving Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Both the PC(USA) and the ELCA have experienced membership decline over the last two decades. The ELCA reported its largest ever drop of 90,000 members in 2009.

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