Thursday, June 2, 2011

When more is not better...

Reading some of the stuff related to the ELCA and congregations leaving or not, I picked up on the fact that in many places parishes that are not leaving and may never have even gotten to a vote about it are finding individuals leaving to begin new congregational starts (LCMC or NALC).  While this is understandable, it is not necessarily good.  Multiplying the number of Lutheran congregations instead of voting to leave may accomplish one of two things -- it may weaken the existing congregation(s) from which the members left to start a new  one or it may create a congregation weak from the beginning.  It does not have to be that way but it is often that result.

Unless substantial numbers leave, I think it is a better choice for individuals leaving an ELCA congregation to join another existing Lutheran parish (most likely LCMS).  I am not saying that because I am LCMS but because it is often true that congregations that begin in opposition to something do not transition well into a congregation with a positive identity.  It is also confusing when the number of congregations is multiplied but the number of Lutherans is not -- leaving the congregations smaller and often struggling to afford a Pastor and pay the bills.  Finally, we all know the money pit that buildings are and when we have more congregations we also have more buildings to consume our attention and our dollars.

The best realignment among Lutherans is one that leaves Lutherans in a stronger position.  I am in great sympathy to those ELCA types who have decided to leave but I am not sure leaving to forge a new congregation is necessarily the wisest move.  I am not the person anyone has to please and my opinion is only mine but it would seem to me that if one is truly at odds with the ELCA positions take by and since the CWA nearly two years ago, the most fruitful outcome would be to join an existing Lutheran congregation more closely aligned to their convictions and thereby strengthen the Lutheran witness instead of further diluting it.  I know I am going to take flack for this but I think this is the most fruitful outcome of division -- even division for a good cause.  If a parish is not going to leave, the parishioners who do would be wise to find an existing congregation first and only begin another congregation if an existing one is not really an option.  It goes for both ends of the theological spectrum.  Since this is not happening in great numbers, it only leaves me further confused about what those who wish to leave (individuals) are really leaving for...

This is not just theoretical for me since I know many dissatisfied in the ELCA, have many family members there, and have classmates who left Missouri during the 1970s only to end up in the ELCA... I grieve for them and the struggle they face but I also grieve when the leaving is only by degree and the result is that existing Lutheran options are rejected in favor of new congregations... Oh, well, have at me....


Janis Williams said...

Besides, there are only so many ways you can combine L, C, M, E, N & S.

Lee said...

I don't have a ton of time to write before I'm suppose to be at the local nursing home for worship. I want to say, however, that you article hit on a very real issue for me. Our congregation, Trinity in Durand, is staying in the ELCA as long as I am pastor or as long as the national church does not force us to choose to leave. This decision was made well before 2009 and we have had very little fallout since 2009. The Northern Illinois Synod is doing some great work and it is still possible to function, although dysfunctionally as Christ's church in the ECLA.

There are other congregation that are not nearly so lucky; some, quite frankly, just stuck their heads in the sand and just hoped this would never happen. The result has been, however, that several local congregations are severely divided. Instead of guiding those who wish to remain in the ELCA to other ELCA congregation, "synodically authorized worshiping communities" have cropped up, one less than ten miles down the road from us. This has perplexed me; and, I wish I could write more but the nursing home awaits. Peace and blessings on this Ascension Day.

Anonymous said...

It seems that each family in an ELCA
parish will make a decision to stay
or leave on the basis of their
Biblical understanding of what is
going on. If they understand that
gay clergy are an abomination to the
Lord they will leave the ELCA, and
join a parish ln LCMS or WELS. If
the authority of Scripture is not a
big deal with them they will stay.

Fraser Pearce said...

I thought that was going to be your first blog on UK post-punk outfit 'Joy Division'. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Is this about being pragmatic?

I am confused.

I am not being sarcastic.

Lee said...

"If the authority of Scripture is not a big deal with them they will stay."

Absolutely not a fair assessment "Anonymous".

I am not for the decision, but to say if we stay in the ELCA that Scriptural authority is "no big deal" is just not true - which goes against one of those commandments about not bearing false witness, I believe - and, it is not a standard by which any of us could be judged righteous, including you.

Now that I think about it, why am I responding to this? Like in the parish, all "anonymous" notes should be and are thrown into file 13.