The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Large membership congregations

Large congregations stand out when they cut back on mission support or oppose churchwide programs. Mark Grorud, ELCA director for relationships with large membership congregations, said those churches often feel they have less need of the synod or churchwide organization to maintain their ministries.

Hiker“They are competent and confident in their own setting and they are afraid of being hurt by some things that go on in the wider church,” he said. Such congregations tend to be conservative, he added, and don’t want their mission support to fund activities they dislike.

Paul T. Ulring, pastor of Upper Arlington Lutheran, said the 5,700 member congregation in Columbus, Ohio, has withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from ELCA mission support, which have been redirected to other ministries such as Lutheran World Relief and the establishment of a new congregation.

Upper Arlington has good relations with its synod, he said, but “historically we are very conservative, and we have a large influx of conservative evangelicals with a non-Lutheran background. And that does not make for a lot of ELCA loyalty or understanding.”

The sense of disconnect goes both ways, he said, for “many [in large congregations] feel the synod or the churchwide agencies don’t want them.” Ulring said he knows the pastor of one large congregation who was never asked to speak at a synod assembly or share the ministry of his church with the synod.


Lee Anne Otto

Lee Anne Otto

Posted at 3:59 pm (U.S. Eastern) 7/8/2008

Do the comments entered here go to a blog?  If not, where are they posted?



Posted at 8:28 am (U.S. Eastern) 7/16/2008

I am member of a large congregation in northwestern Ohio. I am confused by the congregation in Upper Arlington. It would seem to me that by allowing the diversion of funds from synod and churchwide this only goes to widen the disconnect between the congregations relationship to the whole. By virtue of being a member of the ELCA ministry is being carried out myriad of ways in the congregation's name. Voting with purse strings is not something Jesus calls people to do. While I don't agree with everything the ELCA does I certainly have come to understand the vast amount of ministry it does here in the USA and the world. If this congregation feels that it cannot support churchwide why does it want to still be affiliated with the ELCA? Why not become independent or join LCMC?

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