Sunday, August 29, 2010


Today my church took their first vote to leave the ELCA - 66 to 12.   My heart is breaking for this congregation.  I firmly believe little of this had to do with the sexuality vote although that was the presenting issue.  I think many of them are persuaded that the ELCA has been standing in the way of them going back to the good old days, when the Sunday School classrooms were full, the youth came to Luther League meetings whether they wanted to or not, and nobody had anything better to do on Sunday morning than to come to church.  I'm used to being in dying congregations who avoid the real work of reaching out to others by convincing themselves all they need is another, better pastor.  This congregation believes they need another denomination.

My heart is breaking for the dozen people who were there and the unknown number who were NOT there, who have not been there since leaving the ELCA became a rallying cry---who know and love gay people, who are not comfortable with the tone of arguments to leave the ELCA, who don't want a  gay pastors but  know that leaving the ELCA is not the answer but who don't want to fight, don't want to stand up against the majority, who felt it wouldn't make a difference if they said anything anyway, or who did try to present a different viewpoint and felt shut down and  now feel their church has left them and don't know where they are going to go.

And there's me.  I don't know what is going to happen to me.  I don't know if I will, but I doubt that I find a call before a) they officially leave the ELCA  b) they realize 66 people cannot sustain a full-time pastor (especially one who did not support their decision).  I have no parents to go home to.  I have no spouse to support me.  I have a lot of debt.  I have children still dependent upon me.  But people called by God have faced far worse hardships than I have.

  "Have no fear, little flock.  For the Father's pleasure is to give you the kingdom"  I believe that.  I have faith.  Now I am called upon to live as though I had faith.  One thing I do know is that I have preached the Gospel faithfully and truly and that is what I will continue to do.

In the big picture, I'm not all that important.

And now I'm going to do something I've never done on this blog.  I'm only allowing certain comments.  I don't want to hear about how painful the Assembly vote was for you because you disagree with it.  You have lots of avenues to discuss your pain.  This is MY blog.  This for people who have not felt listened to by people wanting to leave the ELCA.   This is for those whose congregations have left when they did not want to leave.  This is for people tired of being told they are not "for the bible" because they have a different interpretation or are just willing to live with others who interpret the bible differently.  I've had enough fighting and harping.  I won't have it on my blog.  Not today.


  1. with prayers.

    So true about longing for the good old days, and we can blame the big bad ELCA for our declining membership rather than examine why our own adult children want nothing to do with the church of their childhood, or why we refuse to invite our friends or neighbors to hear gospel proclaimed (or even proclaim it ourselves!)

  2. Joelle, I am so sorry for you in this time. I am keeping you in my prayers, and I will especially pray that God will make a way for you clearly and with all good haste.

    (Also, I return to the States in 2 weeks and would be happy to connect with you over the phone or in person if you need some support!)

    Your UCC colleague

  3. Oof. I'm so sorry. For you, and for all the other pastors stuck in this sort of awful situation. I'm sad, and I'm frightened for you and your family.

    I'm sorry for the congregation, of course, because (as we both know) they're making a mistake, and making it out of fear and confusion. They've probably been lied to somewhere along the line, by the separatist publicity machine. But in the end, they had an alternative: suck it up, face the real issues, sort out the truth based on evidence. That was the wise choice, and they made the foolish one instead. And you know how much patience I have with foolishness in church.

    You're in my prayers.

  4. I've heard people grouse about attendance, but it will improve "when the new pastor comes" and these people seldom bring their family or themselves....
    And yes, when do we, the pew sitters, invite others?

    This afternoon we attended a short community event. My husband, who never gets around to reading the local paper, so he knew nothing about it, was invited, personally, twice yesterday. How often do we do that for our churches?

    I pray that you will have discernment and peace.

  5. Joelle -- we sang "All Are Welcome" today too -- I yearn for the day when it will be true, and when people will really realize that "all are welcome" is good news for THEM.

    Though of course you can find people who are theologically "out there" in the ELCA, what is striking about the vote last year is that I think there were people who were solid theologically who were lined up on either side of it.

    And the church tried to find a solution that would honor both sides, and be gracious.

    Once in awhile I catch a glimpse of that grace in the church, but most of the time, I hear the people who say we have "abandoned the Bible."

    I have not abandoned the Bible, and neither have you.

  6. This is extremely challenging for those with a pastor's heart, as I believe you have. Win/lose is how this gets played out. I agree with you that much of what we see in this kind of response is not directly related to the decisions of the ELCA but often other matters that get rolled into conflict.

    This morning we saw at least 4 households of people who want to stay in the ELCA coming from a congregation where their voice is drowned out and they are disenfranchised by those who are "right". To simply affirm that all are invited to the Lord's table is scandalous.

    Peace to you in these days of uncertainty.


  7. Kudos to you for taking a brave and necessary stand on your blog. Raised to be a 1st Amendment absolutist, I've come to the sorry point where I simply cannot and will not tolerate inanity mixed with vitriol -- neither serves the Body and are deadly in combination.

    Please be assured of my prayers which, at times, I despair of ever being enough. It's tough to walk by faith and not by fright, but I can easily imagine you doing it one day at a time -- even in figure skates or impossibly high heels.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you...

  8. Wow. What a terrible situation for you, personally and vocationally (if the two can really be separated). You're the first person I've heard of that the congregation votes to leave and the pastor doesn't support the decision. Have you contacted your bishop about what you'll do if/when your parish has their final vote and severs ties with the ELCA?

    Boy, you are certainly in my prayers!