Lutheran church opts to switch sects
St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church of Trauger has ended its relationship with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination in favor of the North American Lutheran Church in part over issues of same-sex marriage and relationships, including those that involve pastors.
St. Paul's pastor, the Rev. Mark Werner, said the break, which also involved broader questions of theology, came after two years of study and prayer. "We are moving on with our ministry," he said.
The 200 active members of the congregation voted on Sunday for the second time to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). For a breakup, two separate ballots are required under the ELCA constitution.
A North American Lutheran Church (NALC) official said 22 Pennsylvania churches have voted to sever their ties to the ELCA, including Lutheran churches in Berlin, Friedens and Hooversville, all in Somerset County, and Pittsburgh's Brighton Heights neighborhood.
The Rev. Gregory Held, pastor of the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Export, said his congregation will vote in September on whether to leave the ELCA. He said the "option" of joining the NALC was still being debated.
In August 2009, the ELCA adopted what it called "a distinctly Lutheran approach" to sexuality which included the provision that homosexual pastors in committed, monogamous relationships might continue to minister to their flocks. The statement ignited a storm of protest in some congregations.
The Rev. John Bradosky, NALC's general secretary, said congregations have also expressed alarm that the ELCA was on the brink of sanctioning same-sex marriage. He said the denomination was under pressure from churches in the Northeast to do so.
Speaking for the ELCA, Bishop Kurt Kusserow of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Lutheran Synod said the division over sexuality was unfortunate, because the August 2009 national ELCA conference left the decision to accept or reject "same-gender relationships" for pastors to individual churches.
"By allowing congregations that wish to do so," Kusserow said, the ELCA was reaffirming a conviction that parishioners and churches holding different points of views on the matter could "live together" within the confines of the denomination. The live-and-let-live clause was adopted at the conference, he noted.
The conference, attended by 1,000 voting church members, passed a measure "recognizing and supporting people in same-gender relationships," Kusserow said. It did not, however, "bless" those relationships, according to the bishop.
Kusserow was a former pastor of the church in Trauger. He attended several meetings at which severing the church's ties to the ELCA was discussed. He said the break with the ELCA was "profoundly sad."
The NALC, based in Columbus, Ohio, has 250 individual churches, Bradosky said. The year-old denomination contains about 100,000 parishioners.
The ELCA's flock totals about 4.5 million, Kusserow said.
Shawn D. Lazeski, president of the St. Paul church council, said a two-thirds vote of the congregation was required to leave the ELCA. He said the second and final vote in the two-step process passed with the backing of 72 percent of the congregation.
Lazeski cited disagreements with the ELCA going back 15 years over abortion and such scriptural concerns as "universal salvation."
"It comes down to how the Bible is understood," Lazeski said.
A "healing" service is slated to take place at the church at 6 p.m. Aug. 21, Werner said, designed in part to repair some of the bitter divisions the split engendered.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Year’s worth of rain floods Qatar
- Online sales, promotions give Pittsburgh-area stores global reach
- Steelers veteran linebacker Harrison focused on stretch run
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin ends practice with third-down work
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Crosby scores twice, Malkin delivers OT goal as Penguins beat Blues
- Steelers notebook: Tomlin not grooming successor to RB Williams
- Puppies’ eyes glued shut, South Huntingdon animal shelter says
- Friends, family, history lure natives back to Western Pennsylvania
- Starkey: Artie Rowell’s incredible odyssey
- Emotional send-off awaits Pitt seniors