The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Why do they leave?

Church defections a puzzle

When The Lutheran arrives in the mail, invariably I read the obits first (I am a retired pastor). Recently, however, another page has been of great interest — the list of congregations that voted to leave the ELCA. Many of the congregations are well known to me. Many of the pastors who lead these congregations are well known also. So I've been asking "Why?" Why do they leave? There is no real cause for departure — just a desire, it seems, to "take a stand." 

The ELCA requires nothing of congregations. A congregation will not be removed from the roster for lack of giving, lack of diversity in membership, lack of a youth ministry, lack of mission activity, lack of social work in its community, lack of Bible studies, wrong vestments or secular music on Sundays.

It is possible to be removed if a congregation votes to disavow the constitution of the ELCA and the congregation's own documents of affiliation with the ELCA. But then it has removed itself from the family. 

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February issue


Embracing diversity