UPDATE: Applause for a Tough Stand in Fargo

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UPDATE (January 30, 2010): Hope Lutheran Allots Funds to ELCA

With the months having passed by since the ELCA voted to ordain homosexuals the turbulence in ELCA congregations continues, with Hope, the largest ELCA church in Fargo, reversing the strong stand its pastor had made shortly after the summer decision.

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I am not a Lutheran but have watched with great interest the manner in which many of the Lutheran churches in the Fargo/Moorhead community are responding to the August Evangelical Lutheran Church of America vote to accept practicing homosexuals as clergy. In the past few days two very important ELCA churches here in our area—Hope Lutheran and First Lutheran of Fargo—have formally chosen to stop providing financial assistance to the ELCA. I wanted to take a moment and applaud their effort, and not because they need me to do that as if I could possibly patronize them. It is simply that I admire their stand at a time when it is generally not popular or comfortable. And I am grateful for them; not only for their work in this region, but for the friendships and partnerships that we at Bethel Church share with them for the cause of Jesus in our region. The senior pastor of Hope Lutheran, Pastor Chuck Olmstead, has put forward an excellent statement about the position that Hope Lutheran has taken:

The church wide assembly does not have the power to change who we are or what we preach and teach here at Hope Lutheran. As Lutherans we are not structured in a hierarchical way. Neither a bishop nor even a national convention has the authority to create policy changes for us as a congregation. Therefore, Hope Lutheran has no plans, nor are we in any way obligated, to change anything that we teach or practice regarding marriage or the ordination of pastors. Hope Lutheran will continue to do what we’ve always done on this matter:

  • We will continue to proclaim the biblically founded truth that Jesus calls his followers to love all people, including those who are gay. The Bible tells us, “God is Love”. We will continue to speak the language of love at Hope.
  • We will teach that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace and forgiveness – and His grace is the only hope we have in our relationship with Him.
  • We will honestly point out God’s design for us – that He intended sex as a gift to be shared only within the safe boundaries of a publicly committed marriage between one man and one woman.

Here now is a further response from the church council and pastors of Hope Lutheran:

The power of a congregation is in its people focused on the mission of Jesus. What matters far more than the ELCA National Assembly vote is the mission of Jesus and who you work with to accomplish that mission. Hope Lutheran has always been a mission-oriented congregation choosing what partners we will work with for the sake of the gospel of Christ. We have many partners in mission, both Lutherans and non-Lutherans. Just a few examples of Lutheran connections include Oak Grove Lutheran High school, Concordia College, Lutheran Bible Camps, Lutheran Partners in Global Mission, (Central African Republic), and rural parishes in North Dakota, and many more. Non-Lutheran connections include Compassion International, Life Way International, and Wellspring for the World as well as associations with Willow Creek Church, Saddleback Church, and many more.

What the ELCA vote has accomplished is to make each congregation even more autonomous. That independence frees us to choose who we work with in mission and who we support financially. To that end Hope Lutheran’s leadership has suspended all financial support to the ELCA and will develop a process to define who our mission partners will be. We will support these partnerships with direct financial support. Finally, we will continue to be a generous congregation reaching out with our financial support towards those partnerships we choose for the good of Gods’ kingdom.

All I can say is “may their tribe increase.”

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