WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 31, 2010, 07:46 PM

Mentor, MN Church Says Goodbye to ELCA

A Northern Valley congregration is the latest to join a long list of about 200 Lutheran churches nationwide, leaving the ELCA.

Parishioners are taking a stance, saying the affiliation is the moving in the wrong direction.

"Music has always been a part of my life."

For church organist, Marilyn Arness, playing the organ is part of tradition. So are her beliefs.

"We have been questioning for sometime what the ELCA is doing to us," said Arness.

The ELCA is the country's largest Lutheran-based affiliation, but after the controversial vote to allow openly gay pastors, churches are saying goodbye.

This year alone, 15 in Minnesota. Faith Lutheran in Mentor, the latest.

" They chose to leave. We did it choice now and each time it was a two-thirds majority," said Gordon Erickson.

"Our clergy has to be the way it has always been. God says don't judge, but this is one area where he says to be judgmental," said Steven Sveningson. Both Erickson and Sveningson are part of Faith Lutheran's congregation.

Many churches in the area are choosing to part ways with the ELCA. Congregation members at Faith Lutheran say, it really was not much of a choice.

"I feel the ELCA forced us to leave them. They actually left us," said Sveningson.

Members, like Marilyn Arness, say the ELCA's stance on social issues is drifting from the bible.

Issues like eliminating male references to God and using gender-free words.

We are, as I said, A bible-based, God-fearing church. It seems the hierarchy of the ELCA has been taking that away."

Parishioners voted to join the North American Lutheran Church, calling it more traditional and less invasive.

Faith Lutheran will officially leave the ELCA January 31.