Minneapolis church votes to leave ELCA over gay clergy

Members of St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Minneapolis decided to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America after a 96 percent vote by members on Sunday.

The decision to leave came after the ELCA Church-wide Assembly vote on Aug. 21 in Minneapolis, that allowed gays and lesbians in committed relationships to serve as clergy.

Before the ECLA's decision, gay clergy were allowed to be ministers only if they were celibate. Some church members object to the new policy, saying it goes against Scripture.

The St. Paul's congregation's council set a policy in October 1990 that stated if the ELCA ever moved to allow such ordinations, the congregation would immediately begin the process to leave.

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"We feel quite affirmed by the hundreds of congregations who are contemplating the same move," St. Paul's Senior Pastor, Rev. Roland J. Wells, Jr. said in a news release.

According to Wells, there are many pastors and members who are withholding funds from the national church, and are working to establish a new denomination called Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.

Bishop Rev. Craig Johnson, from the ELCA's Minneapolis-area synod says the ELCA is working hard to make sure congregations know the recent gay clergy vote does not mandate any change in individual church leadership.

"I am disappointed that they are making this decision," Johnson said. "No one would ever come to them and force a pastoral leader upon them that they do not want."

Under ELCA rules, St. Paul's congregation will now consult with the office of the Minneapolis bishop. To leave the ELCA, the church must hold a second vote at least 90 days after the first, and the proposal must pass by a two-thirds majority.

The congregation will now consult the local ELCA bishop and conduct another vote 90 days from Sunday. This vote must pass by a two-thirds margin.