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Neb. congregation leaves ELCA over CCM, social issues

Lutheran Church of the Master, Omaha, Neb., is one of at least five congregations to leave the ELCA in 2001-02 over Called to Common Mission, the full communion agreement between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. Kip Tyler, pastor, said the 2,374-member congregation also disagreed with the ELCA Board of Pensions' policy on abortion and with a sexuality study requested by the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Parishioners voted 512-64 on Jan. 13 to leave the ELCA, more than the two-thirds majority needed. The vote was the second of two required for the withdrawal. An Oct. 14 vote passed by 81 percent.

"I understand that our relationships with the ELCA will change, but we're still in this together, as Christians and as Lutherans," Tyler said, adding that members were not trying to "get other congregations to follow our path." Tyler said the congregation will continue support for some ELCA ministries, including Bethphage, Martin Luther Homes, and two ELCA colleges in Nebraska — Midland and Dana.

"This has been a direction in which this congregation has been moving for some time," said Nebraska Synod Bishop David deFreese. "We've tried to be the church together. This genuinely saddens us." DeFreese met with 85 members of the congregation Dec. 19.

Lutheran Church of the Master is one of 52 members of Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, an association formed last March by the WordAlone Network. One of Master's members, John Chatelain, is co-founder of WordAlone and the LCMC treasurer. WordAlone is a national movement that protested CCM's historic episcopate requirement, where new pastors and bishops receive a laying on of hands by bishops within the historic episcopate. The 2001 Churchwide Assembly ruled that exceptions can be granted to that policy.

Six congregations have left the ELCA in the last year, said David Alderfer, ELCA director for rosters and statistics. Four--Master; Community of Hope, Tucson, Ariz.; St. Andrew, Farmersville, Ohio; and Charity, Bismarck, N.D.--are LCMC members.


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