BESSEMER CITY — A local congregation has split with the national Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) over the denomination’s stance on LGBT inclusion and clergy, The Gaston Gazette reported on Nov. 5.

Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church says the blessing of same-sex relationships goes against Scripture. The congregation has decided to stop financial contributions to the national church and recently drafted a letter explaining their position.

“We are writing to express our disappointment with the recent Churchwide Assembly’s approval of the resolution to allow gay and lesbian pastors,” the letter states. “We also disapprove of the resolution to find ways for congregations to recognize same-gender relationships.”

This year’s national ELCA convention saw approval of two LGBT-inclusive resolutions. One allows gay clergy to be partnered and the other encourages local congregations “recognize, support and hold publicly accountable life-long, monogamous, same gender relationships.”

Previously, the ELCA had only allowed gay or lesbian clergy if they remained celibate. Grace Lutheran’s pastor thinks that rule should stand.

“It only makes sense to me that if I as a single heterosexual is called to lead a chaste, moral life anyone else is expected to live the same way, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Pastor Elizabeth Toler told the Gaston paper.

About 30 people attend services at Grace Lutheran each week. Twenty-nine signed the letter of disapproval to the national church.

Grace’s move comes less than a month after Lutherans from across the state met in Salisbury to vote on forming a breakaway Lutheran reform group. At the Oct. 12 meeting, the 450 North Carolina clergy and laypeople voted unanimously to form a Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE) group in the state. Lutheran CORE is a national network of clergy and laypeople who believe the church has fallen into heresy as it becomes more inclusive of LGBT worshipers.

The meeting was organized by Lasting Word (Lutherans Affirming Scriptural Truth as God’s Word). Formed in 2003, the local reform group joined Lutheran CORE in December 2007.

Related Stories:
N.C. Lutherans debate gay clergy, Oct. 12

Matt Comer

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.

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