Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who Gets the Property?

I recall somewhere that a church constitution listed the rights of property to remain with those whose confession did not change... So, for example, if a congregation split, then the property rights would remain with that portion of the congregation whose confession remained the same and did not change.  I only bring this up because so many of the folks in the ELCA are wrestling with the decisions made by the CWA last year and how to respond.  According to the ELCA model constitution, leaving with property is not an easy task.  It requires two votes, separated by 90 days, by 2/3 majority of those present (not just those voting), and following consultation with the Synod and the Bishop.  Add to it that congregations who received mission funds are being guilted into staying or at least paying back the cost of the mission monies use to establish them.

It strikes me funny only because in this case those who want to leave are the ones who are maintaining what was the status quo and those who are staying are the ones embracing change.  Everyone acknowledges this.  Most of the ELCA folks do NOT want to join Missouri -- all they want is an ELCA without the gay and lesbian stuff, without all the political advocacy, but with women's ordination and a decidedly more liberal Biblical theology than Missouri.  What most of them want is an ELCA, say 1990 vintage, and not 2009 vintage.  Which means that those who want to leave are the ones whose theological position has not changed and those who want them to stay are the ones embracing a radical departure from the past... go figure... It seems that nothing is the same... Logic be lost on this one...

1 comment:

Lutheran Desert Rat said...

The whole human sexuality issue has been the catalyst for the sharp increase in congregations seeking to leave the ELCA, many of them have not been happy for a while and this was just the perfect opportunity to go without truly stating why they are going, which is, they simply are not Lutheran anymore.

Of course there are congregations from all over the theological spectrum on this, which is why CORE and LCMC are not just combining together, but I think there are more than just a few congregations who now see this as the perfect time to drop the baggage of the "Lutheran" label.

If you look at the congregations joining LCMC there seems to be, at least to me, many congregations with "community" or "life" in their name, but no Lutheran. I suspect that this is often accompanied by a watered down and symbolic understanding of the sacraments, an ignorance of the Lutheran Confessions and low to no liturgy.

Therefore, I think there are some congregations that are leaving because they have changed their confessional understanding and practices but it is cloaked in the ELCA's more public and controversial change.

The process of leaving the ELCA is indeed complicated and not uniform from congregation to congregation. Often, it depends on what predecessor church body a congregation once belonged. Some have to get synodical council approval to leave and some do not.

I fear the passions of some congregations are getting the best of them, rushing to leave before truly thinking out the implications. The worst situation is when a congregation has a majority wanting to leave, but not the 2/3rds required. In almost all cases, the property and the congregation name remain with the minority who wish to stay in the ELCA, but there is not enough support for it to survive.

I think some thought that leaving would be an easy, forgone conclusion and moved to leave as fast as they could without thinking of how it could potentially throw a congregation into a fatal schism.

Many more congregation are just waiting and seeing what happens and what the options are before taking any official action to leave or stay. Before the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, we decided that we would not take any immediate action to leave whatever the ELCA decided unless the decisions forced us to change our ministry standards and practices. We did our homework before the controversy began and I think it has helped us to be patient and not take any rash actions or join any reactionary groups that may or may not turn out of be viable Lutheran church bodies.