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COLUMBUS: Trinity takes first step in leaving ELCA

Trinity takes first step in leaving ELCA
Concordat with ECUSA cited

By JULIE BLUM
Telegram Staff Writer

COLUMBUS - Members of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church took the first step Wednesday toward terminating their relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Members voted 227-27 Wednesday night in favor of a resolution to end their relationship with the ELCA. The church had to have a minimum of two-thirds of the voting members present and casting their vote in favor of terminating the relationship for it to pass.

Trinity pastor, the Rev. Tim White, said this morning that he was happy with the vote.

"I was hoping that it would be a strong vote because you want it to be a united favorable outcome," White said.

The congregation has been discussing leaving the ELCA for about three years because of concerns about the direction the ELCA has taken, including a study it conducted regarding homosexuality. That study examined a proposal of ordaining people who are in homosexual relat ionships and providing blessings for homosexual couples.

Also at issue is an agreement, Called to Common Mission, between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. That agreement, which the ELCA adopted in 1999, allows the churches to share clergy. In the agreement the ELCA accepted the historic episcopate, which is a belief in a succession of bishops which was not held by Lutheran churches.

The ELCA formed in the 1980s through the union of the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America. There are nearly 5 million baptized members and more than 10,000 congregations in America. The Nebraska Synod, which encompasses the state of Nebraska, consists of 260 congregations and seven mission developments.

In an e-mail message from the Nebraska Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Bishop David deFreese reacted to the vote.

"This deeply saddens me. As the Body of Christ, I do not believe we have had the conversations we need to have. I think this vote is premature, especially prior to our August national Assembly. This feels like a divorce where one partner has not been heard. If T rinity is voting to leave because of discussions across our Christian denomination about sexuality, this vote is very premature. Our national Assembly will be discussing this in August. No policies regarding sexuality have changed since the inception of the ELCA in 1988. The Nebraska Synod and the whole ELCA are following a long-established Lutheran Christian tradition of discussion of important issues that face society and the church," deFreese said.

All confirmed members of Trinity were allowed to vote. There are about 1,900 members and confirmation typically occurs in the ninth grade.

The vote is just the first step the church has to take to leave the ELCA. The next step is scheduling a consultation between the bishop and the congregation followed by another vote that has to be taken no sooner than 90 days from now. If the vote again favors the resolution, the congregation will have to attain permission from the Synod Council to end the relationship.

Trinity is also in association with the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ.

END

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