ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 27, 2009
Lutheran CORE Attendees Express Variety of Viewpoints
FISHERS, Ind. (ELCA) -- Some 1,200 Lutherans attended the Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE) convocation here Sept. 25-26, united in their concern about the actions of the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) on human sexuality. But individual responses to the assembly actions varied considerably.
The assembly adopted the social statement, "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust," by a two-thirds vote. The statement addresses several topics related to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective. The assembly also adopted a series of proposals to change ministry policies, including a change to make it possible for Lutherans in lifelong, publicly accountable, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
Lutheran CORE opposed some parts of the social statement and the ministry policy changes. The convocation here was meant to bring like-minded Lutherans together to talk about their future in the church and to help organize CORE.
"The church is in a confessional crisis," said the Rev. Marshall E. Hahn, St. Olaf, Iowa, in an interview with the ELCA News Service. "The decisions that we made at the assembly were done contrary to our own confessional faith. I'm working with folks in our synod to see what can be done to address that."
Hahn, who serves two congregations -- Norway Lutheran Church and Marion Lutheran Church -- said the congregations have not yet considered their future in the ELCA. "I've advised them that we just need to take our time, be very deliberative and very careful about what we do in response. Right now we're working in our synod to see how we can work in opposition to what took place in Minneapolis."
Hahn, who is also secretary for the ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod, said he wrote to his congregations to say he's contemplating what the decisions mean for his own ministry.
"I see all of this upheaval as God shaking us out of lethargy and lukewarmness," said Jo Pruett, Rockdale, Texas, a Lutheran for 50 years. She is congregation president at Peace Lutheran Church. She's most concerned about a lack of "spiritual uplifting" in the ELCA.
In conversations with members, Pruett said a couple of members agreed with the assembly's decisions. "The majority of people who have contacted me are very much against what happened at the chuchwide assembly," she said.
Peace Lutheran Church has already started withholding benevolence from the ELCA and is giving the funds to local organizations, she said, although members haven't made any decision about Peace's future in the ELCA.
Edgar Corns, Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Merrillville, Ind., said he's dissatisfied with the assembly's decisions. "If our church (congregation) doesn't turn independent, I'm leaving. That's as simple as it gets," he said.
The Rev. Katherine L. Olson, St. Peter Lutheran Church, Delphos, Ohio, said members of her congregation are asking questions about the assembly's decisions.
"I think the members of my church want to stay and are inclined to stay," she said. "However, all options are on the table now. We're really being watchful, slow and deliberate -- and prayerful -- as we think about these decisions."
Olson said the tone of CORE's convocation was hopeful. "This is an organization that seeks to be a witness to God's Word, and that really gives me hope," Olson said.
The Rev. Thomas E. Jacobson, Gonvick, Minn., serves Samhold Lutheran Church and United Lutheran Church. He characterized many members as "upset" with the assembly decisions. "They feel this is a distraction from important local ministry that could be happening," he said.
"I think that people would be open to a variety of options. I don't think it is their desire to leave the ELCA. Their hope is that things could be worked out within the ELCA structure," he said.
Some ELCA churchwide staff attended the convocation, including the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive, ELCA Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission, Chicago.
"I'm here because this is a part of our church -- a part of our church in pain," Bouman said, noting that many are longtime friends from his 35 years as a Lutheran pastor.
"I'm here to listen. I'm here because some of our mission-developer pastors are here and are in pain over what's happened. I'm here because I want to say to anyone who will listen that we're serious about mission. We don't want to lose contact with each other around the mission," he said.
Information about Lutheran CORE is at http://www.lutherancore.org/ on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org