In the largest Lutheran church in the USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the fronts have hardened in the conflict over sexual ethics, homosexuality and biblical interpretation: Some Lutheran congregations this week founded a new church, the North American Lutheran Church.
The trigger for this split is a decision by U.S. Lutherans last August to open the way for openly lesbian and gay theologians to enter the pastorate. That made the move to a new church inevitable, said Pastor Mark Chavez, one of the coordinators of the founding assembly Thursday and Friday in Grove City, Ohio. The engine behind the new church is the Coalition for Renewal, an association of conservative Lutheran clergy and congregations. More than 1.000 worshippers expected at church plant. The North American Lutheran Church sees itself as a counterweight to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which is said to be too liberal and distant from the Bible, and which emerged from the merger of three churches in 1988.
Small portion of congregations want to follow The new church embodies the "center of Lutheranism in America" and holds fast to the authority of Scripture as the "sole source and norm for faith and life," Chavez explains. Of course, the new church starts small numerically, he concedes. Even before the founding of the church, a good dozen congregations had already declared their membership. He was impressed, Chavez says, that hundreds of the 10.300 Lutheran congregations to consider leaving the "mother church". John Brooks of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said the church regrets resignations. So far, however, they have been limited. About 200 of the more than 10.000 congregations have left their home church and joined Mission for Christ Lutheran Fellowship because of the decision to open the pastorate to clergy living in same-sex partnerships, he said. Anglicans in the U.S. have also had heated controversies over their treatment of homosexual clergy.