Here is a mystery: Our God is One God who has been divinely revealed to us in three persons, each distinct with its own role and unique identity. There is no conflict. Here is not a mystery: Our denomination is one church that has been organized by imperfect humans into three distinct aspects, each with an agenda. There is conflict.
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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.
“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.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers