Clear Lake church to leave ELCA

Published 9:20 am Monday, December 14, 2009

Members of Zion Lutheran Church voted to withdraw from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on Sunday, a reaction to the issue of practicing gay pastors.

The vote was 238 to 119, exactly the two-thirds majority vote needed for it to pass.

“I’m happy that they decided to go this direction because I think it sets the possibility for a new and stronger future for the congregation,” said Rev. Dean Hess, senior pastor at the Clear Lake church.

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Carole Roth, church council president, said she was pleased with the results, too.

“Certainly God has spoken today,” she said.

The vote came in reaction to a resolution adopted by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August that would allow gay pastors in a committed relationship to serve congregations.

Prior to that, gay pastors had to commit to being celibate in order to serve.

Since the August resolution, Zion has withheld its benevolence giving to the ELCA. Several churchwide forums have been held on the issue.

Hess said the church felt that the ELCA’s action moved it away from the Lutheran Confessions, authority of the Scriptures and Lutheran traditions and roots.

“I feel that the congregation confirmed that, yes, this is the identity we have and the identity we want to remain,” he said. “We want to be faithful to the Scripture and faithful to the Lutheran roots and traditions and faithful to the Lutheran Confessions.”

Hess added that the vote should not be taken as a rejection of anyone.

“That’s really not what motivated us at all,” he said. “Zion has always extended the love and welcome of God to everyone without exception and we continue to do that.”

The next step for the church is to discuss what type of Lutheran affiliation it wants to move toward. Hess said the church has several options.

In the spring a second vote will be held to confirm the first vote and to decide on the affiliation the church wants to join.