Bethel Lutheran Church is a rural congregation a few miles west of Scarville, Iowa. It is in an area of North Iowa that the locals know as Vinje. A place that is too small to be considered a town but everyone treats it like one anyway. Vinje is a quaint little place (see here) comprised of Bethel Lutheran Church, a cemetery, a few houses and well-frequented restaurant/bar where people gather to shoot the breeze and play summer league volleyball.
On September 29, 2015, Bethel Lutheran Church made this announcement of Facebook:
“The vote on Sunday passed unanimously (as it did the first time in January too) to sever Bethel Lutheran Church's association with the ELCA. This decision is based on multiple reasons including financial and scriptural just to name a few. Bethel also voted on Sunday to affiliate with the LCMC which is Lutheran Congregations In Mission For Christ. We will continue to seek another parish to work with on funding a full-time minister position, and keep moving forward! Onward and upward with the support of the congregation members, their friends and family, and the community! Blessings to all!
Oh - and don't forget - church on Sunday at 10 am. Certainly Pastor will have an inspiring sermon. He always does :)” (see here)
Bethel Lutheran Church joins the growing list of 57+ LCMC churches in Iowa. I praise God for the faithful and God-honoring decision the people of Bethel made. Please join me in prayer for the congregation as they seek to proclaim Christ in Vinje and beyond.
On Friday, February 14th Bethel Evangelical Lutheran Church (LCMC) learned that the plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed against Bethel's Council members, named as defendants, had filed a Notice of Appeal with the Phelps County District Court, appealing the decision of Judge Harder to grant the defendants' Motion to Dismiss. In January 2014, Judge Harder dismissed the lawsuit filed by a small minority of Bethel's members which sought to nullify the current Constitution and Bylaws of Bethel, invalidate Bethel's affiliation with the LCMC, declare Bethel affiliated with another Lutheran denomination, have Pastor Jamie Strickler declared ineligible to serve as Bethel's pastor, and other related actions. Judge Harder determined that she did not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case given the 1st Amendment issues involved on the face of the plaintiffs' complaint.
This matter will now go to appeal before the Nebraska Court of Appeals with a future date for oral arguments to be determined. The appeal is Aldrich v. Nelson, Court of Appeals No: A-14-000143. As developments occur, we will keep Bethel's members, supporters and friends informed.
Please pray for Bethel as we continue to be the church and to do its work in Holdrege. We will not allow this lawsuit, which is contrary to Scripture's instruction that Christians should not sue each other in court, to effect what we are called by the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) to do. Please also pray for the plaintiffs that they may repent of their actions and together they and Bethel may be reconciled, ending rifts between families who have worshiped together for generations. Please also pray that by Bethel standing firm on Scripture, God will allow other congregations to gain their freedom without having to endure the harassment that we have endured here in Holdrege.
Local ELCA pastors and churches, one of them reportedly armed with information from the NW Synod of Wisconsin, are going public with their attacks against the Synod-ordered removed members of Grace Lutheran, who are now members of Saving Grace, an LCMC congregation. (see here if you do not know about this situation)
For clarity this congregation will be referred to as “Saving Grace” from now on.
The ELCA affiliated St. John's Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, WI posted a document on their church website about Saving Grace. St. John's Pastors Nate Aaseng and Christine Emerson signed the document which they claim was “based on information from our synod office.”
The St. John's document claims “those from (Saving Grace), etc.” are “attacking the ELCA.” And then refers to concerns Saving Grace has about the ELCA as “conspiracy theories.” (see here)
Then there are two blogs attacking Saving Grace authored by ELCA pastor Michael Rehak, which are posted on his church's website (First Lutheran in Eau Claire, WI). In one of Pastor Rehak's blogs he claims “the constitutions of Grace Lutheran Church, the NW Synod of WI, and the ELCA were deliberately violated and dismissed.” Pastor Rehak then accuses the members of Saving Grace of threatening and abusing ELCA supporters from their former church. He said, “No one dare minimize the depth of the abuse, threats – including personal, physical, and to the building, public humiliation, ridicule, and public demeaning that was directed toward individual members in fellowship, council meetings, in worship – from the pulpit, at funerals of friends, and out in public at stores or on the street. These hostile behaviors not only drove them into exile but have continued.” (read here)
In another blog by Pastor Rehak, called “The Presence of Christ,” he expounds on these accusations, reporting that ELCA supporters said they were “'Called names,' 'screamed at,' 'told to leave,' 'mocked,' 'yelled at,' 'told I wasn’t a member anymore,' 'declared worthless,' 'told I was the problem,' 'spit on,' 'threatened…' With such remarks, others would echo, 'So was I,' or, 'I heard that too…'” (see here)
ELCA Pastor Rehak wrote that these ELCA supporters from Grace Lutheran “were the presence of Christ in our midst,” but he conveniently fails to mention that suing their church and taking them to court is a violation of God's Word (1 Corinthians 6:1-7.)
The ELCA leadership in Wisconsin has shown their true colors with the lawsuit and currently with these attacks on Saving Grace. It shouldn't surprise us though, the ELCA has always been about rewriting God's Truth so it conforms to “their truth.” That is what is most important to them.
But God has been blessing Saving Grace. Here is an update from Dean Kallenbach:
“Just a little update from Saving Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire. Just two weeks after forming (and less than three weeks after being expelled as members of Grace Lutheran Church by the ELCA), Saving Grace Lutheran Church has been forced to add a second Sunday morning service in order to accommodate the sheer numbers of people turning up at the funeral home chapel in which they are meeting Sundays. They also are holding a Saturday afternoon service at Faith Lutheran Mission Church, and are sharing a Wednesday night service with Faith.
“In addition, the TV ministry of the congregation lives on. Though not it the old timeslot of 10:30 Sundays (being used now by the small faction that was placed in power at Grace Lutheran Church by the ELCA), the Saving Grace broadcasts featuring the sermons of Pastor Rolf Nestingen and Pastor David Irgens now airs Sundays at 11:30 a.m. on WQOW-TV, Channel 18.
“I encourage you to check out their Facebook page 'Saving Grace LCMC.'”
Lastly, would you or your church be willing to support Exposing the ELCA in its ministry? It would be greatly appreciated. You can find information on how to do that on the right hand side of this page. Thank you for your prayerful consideration.
ELCA Synod Council Attempts to Remove Church's Council and Majority of Congregation as Voting Members
If you are unaware of what has been happening with Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, WI read this article for some background information. This article also reports on a new development. The article is titled "Synod Council: Grace leaders no longer eligible to serve."
(The following report came from Dean Kallenbach but I am not sure who wrote the first paragraph.)
Here is the response by the President of Grace Lutheran Church -- Anne Carter -- to the Synod Council's interpretation that the Council of the congregation needs to be removed. While this is addressed to her congregation, I am sharing it with her permission and awareness to keep you all in the loop, and to keep prayers coming on this matter.
Here is another statement by Grace Lutheran's council president from Sunday.
After Lawsuit Verdict Forces WI Church to Stay in the ELCA, Bishop Kicks the Church's Pastors Out of the Denomination
(From Dean Kallenbach)
This note was forwarded yesterday to members of her congregation by Grace Lutheran-Eau Claire president Anne Carter. Please continue to keep Grace and its pastors in your prayers....
NEW DEVELOPMENT UPDATE
March 22, 2013
This afternoon both Pastor Nestingen and Pastor Irgens were informed by letter that they have been removed from the ELCA roster of clergy. Their removal is effective March 22, 2013. Bishop Duane Pederson removed both pastors. He reasons that both pastors have engaged in schismatic activity by allowing Grace Lutheran Church to dually affiliate with the LCMC. He also claims that they have defied the Synod Council's decision and the civil courts.
Bishop Pederson's actions do not meet the criteria for removal of pastors as outlined in the constitution of the NW Synod of Wisconsin.
Grace has been dually affiliated for almost two years. Bishop Pederson has been presiding bishop during that time. This fall he announced that he would not seek re-election and instead will be leaving March 31 for a new position.
No response has been determined at this time. 'But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
'But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.' Jude 17-21
Thank you for your continued prayers for Grace Lutheran Church.
(This update comes from Dean Kallenbach)
Folks...a couple of days ago I shared the email that Grace Lutheran Church of Eau Claire (Wisconsin) president Anne Carter shared with her congregation breaking the news of the court decision that went against the congregation on Friday after protracted proceedings spanning nearly a year-and-a-half. Following is the address Anne made to the congregation during Sunday services, which fleshes out the ramifications (and the opportunities) the decision brings.
Top o’ the Morning to Ya and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day,Friday afternoon Judge Molly GaleWyrick entered a decision with the court in the lawsuit filed against Grace Lutheran Church. I have met with our attorney and with Pastor Nestingen briefly to discuss the decision. The decision made by Judge GaleWyrick is 4-1/2 pages long. A copy will be available in the church office tomorrow if anyone would care to read it. As with any legal document, there are terms unique to the legal profession and may not be easy to understand.
Before I tell you the specifics of that decision, I want to go over some of the timeline of this suit. In November 2011, Amazing Grace ELCA, Inc. filed suit against Grace claiming that dual affiliation effectively split Grace into two entities – one was ELCA and one was LCMC. The suit claimed that authority in the church resided with Amazing Grace who claimed ELCA loyalty. They asked the court to overturn the current Council and turn over control of the assets of the church to them. We had 30 days to respond, and on January 6, 2012, we filed a motion to dismiss the suit claiming that the courts did not have the right to impose membership or governance on a church body. Once the lawsuit and our motion were filed, we had to follow the schedule of the court and the authority of a judge.
In the meantime, Amazing Grace asked Bishop Duane Pederson to arrange adjudication on their behalf. The bishop arranged for a hearing before the Consultation Committee which resulted in a decision by the Synod Council on January 16, 2012. Grace Lutheran Church was then involved in two separate actions. It wasn’t until the summer of 2012 that Drew Ryberg, attorney for Amazing Grace, brought the two together by including the Synod Council’s decision in the lawsuit and asking the court to impose that decision on this church by removing our Council, turning over assets, evicting us from this building, etc.
So, to simplify and to paraphrase the decision:
Those directives briefly are:
The judge has ordered that Drew Ryberg draft an order in conformity with the decision and submit it to our attorney for approval. That is the court’s way of saying that the attorneys agree with each other about what the judge has ordered and write it up for her approval. After an order has been mutually agreed upon, the judge will sign it. That order is to be submitted by April 8, 2013. So, what does all this mean? I know that there are many questions. The court can only declare the directives to be final so we have to refer to the directives themselves to understand the practical implications of this decision.
Will our Council be replaced? NO. The present Council was duly elected by Grace Lutheran members and will continue as our leadership. I have been recognized by the NW Synod as the president of Grace and will remain in that position. The Synod Council’s decision does not address our leadership.
Do we lose control of our assets? NO. Our bank accounts still belong to Grace and will be maintained by present Council. The Synod Council’s decision does not address control of our assets.
Do we have to vacate the building? NO. Despite the interrogatory that demanded to know our computer codes and the location of the keys to our building, we are not going anywhere.
Will the pastors be forced to leave Grace? NO. Pastor Nestingen and Pastor Irgens were called by this congregation to serve God in this place and will remain our pastors for the duration.
Will Amazing Grace members be able to vote on Grace matters? Yes. Those Amazing Grace members who are members of Grace Lutheran Church are currently classified as voting members. Their voting rights were restored last May in accordance with the Synod Council’s decision.
Will Amazing Grace members be coming back to worship at Grace? I can’t answer that question. They have always been welcome here. It has been their choice not to worship here for almost two years. It has always been their right to choose a church that best fits their own personal desires and needs.
Do we have to pay any monies to the ELCA to support their programs and policies? NO. There is no prescribed amount of money that a church must pay to the ELCA. We currently send no money to support the ELCA general budget.
Will we always have to be an ELCA church? NO. The Synod Council decision reiterates our constitutional right to disaffiliate from the ELCA. This congregation has the right to determine its own future affiliation.
If we are forced to be solely affiliated with the ELCA for the time being, does that mean that we owe some oath of fealty or loyalty to the organization? NO. We owe it something much bigger. We owe it the truth, and the truth is that leadership in the ELCA have been found guilty of embezzlement and fraud. The ELCA is involved in several lawsuits appropriating land and assets from congregations across the country. Long-standing ELCA institutions are in danger of collapse due to financial mismanagement. Scriptural divergences that used to be isolated have now become mainstream.
Is this decision a bad thing? NO. We will soon be out of the jurisdication of the court and be able to plan and course the future of this church without interference.
Were the last two years a waste? NO. Over the last two years we have seen that the warnings we made about the ELCA have come true. Over the last two years God has shaped us and molded us into a new church. We have come to a truer understanding of what it means to be in relationship with Him.
And what kind of relationship is that? We are children of God who are members of God’s family here in this place called Grace. In this place we learn and study and grow and sing and give praise. We are disciples of Jesus Christ and with that comes responsibility. We are to be like the Christians in Berea who studied God’s Word to make sure that Paul was preaching the truth. We are to be watchdogs to let other ELCA members know the danger the church is in. We must call leadership to account. We must ask God’s people to repent.
Most importantly, we are to continue to honor Jesus. Jesus is not myth. Jesus is not a metaphor. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises made to us at the beginning. Jesus is not an image of us. He is the face of the Father. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. It is through Him alone that we come to the Father, and it is through the Father that we receive forgiveness and salvation. We have had quite a journey, and it is not over yet. But hasn’t this been fascinating? We have been given a privilege not many people get: We have been given a front row seat to watch God in action. We are witnesses to His transformative power. He has changed us. He has brought His light into dark places.
Is this over? The lawsuit, maybe. Or maybe this is just the beginning of a glorious and wondrous adventure with a loving Savior who trusts us enough to walk with us and allow us to work at His side.
One thing’s for sure: This is the day that the LORD has made! We will rejoice and be glad in it!!
17 March 2013
The ELCA makes great effort and invests a lot of money to partner with non-Christian religious entities. Not for the purpose of evangelism or helping others come to salvation only found in Jesus, mind you, but for the purpose of “understanding” each other. (See here, here, here and here)
If you do a search on elca.org for “understanding muslims” you find a plethora of information (over 580 results). Yet there seems to be another effort in the ELCA to demonize fellow Lutherans and Christians. (See here, here, here and here)
A recent newspaper article about a dual-affiliated church (ELCA and LCMC) provides more evidence of this. Bishop Michael Burk of the Southeast Iowa ELCA synod made many non-charitable comments about the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) association:
“Burk said the dual affiliation with the LCMC is ‘becoming a member of two groups that are opposed to each other.’”
Bishop Burk said that the dual-affiliated church’s council, “decided to join that body knowing that’s prohibited in the ELCA” and that dual-rostering isn’t allowed by the ELCA (a statement Burk later contradicts) “especially if the church body you want to join is schismatic body,” (referring to the LCMC).
“(The LCMC) wasn’t just upset with the ELCA and deciding to leave, but they were doing everything they could to disenfranchise the ELCA, to undermine everything that the denomination believes,” Bishop Burk said. (read here)
You should know, the LCMC is fine with churches being affiliated with the ELCA and themselves, but the ELCA is not fine with ELCA churches being affiliated with the LCMC.
What kind of denomination wants to partner with religious groups which boldly worship false gods yet, that same denomination, wants nothing to do with certain Christ-following persons and fellow Lutherans?
Below is a letter from St. Mark's Lutheran Church (Marion, Iowa) church council president and senior pastor indicating that this ELCA and LCMC dual-affiliated church has been removed from the ELCA roster of churches by the Southeastern Iowa Synod Council.
April 24, 2012
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As you know, the church council has been in continuing conversations with Bishop Michael Burk regarding our denominational affiliation. It has been and continues to be our desire to keep you up to date. We were informed yesterday that on Saturday, April 21, the Southeast Iowa ELCA Synod Council removed St. Mark’s congregation from the roster of ELCA churches. St. Mark’s remains a Lutheran church, our building remains the property of St. Mark’s, and our congregation’s mission continues as before. We neither celebrate nor grieve the synod’s actions, but we desire to listen to those who may be hurting or confused as a result of these actions.
After the decisions of the ELCA church-wide assembly in 2009, our congregation spent much time studying our denominational affiliation. Our congregational votes to leave the ELCA ultimately resulted in St. Mark’s remaining part of the ELCA. To bring healing and unity to our church family, the church council held discussions with congregational members and Bishop Burk, and reviewed the precedent set by other congregations who are dual-affiliated. After these actions, the church council voted to join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) while remaining in the ELCA.
Soon after St. Mark’s dual affiliation with the ELCA and the LCMC, the synod placed our congregation under censure and admonishment. In addition, Pastor Fruhling was recently removed from the clergy roster of ELCA pastors. The synod’s unprecedented action to remove St. Mark’s from the ELCA because of our dual affiliation is saddening and disappointing. We remain a distinctly Lutheran congregation in the Cedar Rapids area as a part of the LCMC, and we belong to no one but Christ.
St. Mark’s will continue to support and work with our brothers and sisters in the ELCA and remain faithful to our mission partners in the ELCA, such as CrossRoads Mission, San Lucas and Cristo Rey Lutheran churches in Texas and Mexico, and World Hunger Appeals, among others. Our focus remains on outreach and our mission is to share Christ’s love with others.
We will continue our pastoral call process and begin to look at constitutional updates that will be needed. While there are challenges ahead, there are opportunities for strengthening our witness as the body of Christ, and we are confident that St. Mark’s will move forward in mission for our Lord.
Yours in Christ,
Previous article about St. Mark's Lutheran Church:
- Dual Rostered Church Censured, Pastor De-Rostered By ELCA Bishop (see here)
The following is a letter from both the council president and senior pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Marion, Iowa. (elca.org lists St. Mark's average attendance at 961)
March 27, 2012
There is on body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:4-6
Dear Partners of St. Mark’s,
As we continue our Lenten journey, we give thanks to God for calling us to the cross and into a deeper relationship with Christ, and for continuing opportunities for faithful service to Him. St. Mark’s church council last updated you in late November regarding denominational issues. That update followed the council’s resolution to dual roster with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Since then, we have continued conversations with our synod bishop, Michael Burk, in regard to our relationship with the ELCA.
In response to the council’s November resolution, Bishop Burk has placed St. Mark’s under censure and admonishment. Our council has continued conversations with the synod to fully understand what this means. The first indication of any change in procedures was that the synod office would not provide assistance to us in the pastoral call process. Our call committee, however, is continuing its work and has several excellent ELCA pastoral candidates with whom it is moving forward in conversations that may ultimately lead to a call. Each of the candidates is aware of our circumstances and is pleased to continue the interview process.
This past week we received word that Pastor Perry Fruhling has been removed from the ELCA clergy roster. While the ELCA actions are disappointing, we anticipated that there could be some ramifications to our council resolution. Pastor Perry was called and will continue to serve St. Mark’s congregation for years to come. Arrangements have been made to ensure continuity of his healthcare benefits and pension. Since Pastor Perry was called according to our constitution as an ELCA pastor, we have simply extended the provisions of that call going forward.
What follows remains in the hands of our local bishop and the Southeastern Iowa Synod Council. In our communication with the bishop, we have made it clear that we desire to continue our current relationship with the ELCA as a dual-rostered church. We continue as a congregation to generously support numerous faithful ELCA ministries.
Our application to affiliate with the LCMC has been accepted, and we remain committed to being part of a Lutheran church body. Regardless of any ELCA actions, St. Mark’s continues as a Lutheran church and ownership of our building remains firmly with our congregation. Our building addition gives St. Mark’s the unique ability to reach out to the community and continue to serve others. Our recent Christmas Eve services and Ash Wednesday service had record numbers of people attending. As a congregation of faithful servants to God’s Word, we will continue to grow.
We encourage you to pray for the ELCA, the LCMC and for all members of St. Mark’s as we move forward in serving Christ. As always, please call or email email@example.com with any questions or concerns.
Yours in Christ,
I received this update from a friend.
Much is happening with the confessional Lutheran movement in Wisconsin. Here are some highlights - please pray God's guidance and glory be demonstrated in each of these circumstances:
The Resolution of Revenge
By Rev. Cary G. Larson
In spite of numerous scriptural support from the Old and New Testaments for Christians to not to seek vengeance or revenge, as this is a matter for God and God alone, members of the ELCA’s Southeastern Minnesota (SEMN) Synod apparently believe that God needs some assistance.
On May 7th, the SEMN Synod’s assembly, entertained and voted on a resolution benignly titled “Resolution 2011-01: ELCA Health and Benefits Program”. This resolution of revenge sought to recommend to the ELCA Church Council to seriously consider and adopt a policy of “removing from the Health and Benefits Program of the ELCA, clergy who have left the ELCA or encouraged their congregations or laity to do so.”
In the original form the Resolution of Revenge was recorded as follows:
WHEREAS, both the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) are encouraging congregations, clergy, and laity to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); and
WHEREAS, some clergy have violated the governing documents of the ELCA by encouraging their congregations to leave the ELCA;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the 2011 Southeastern Minnesota Synod in assembly request that the ELCA Church Council consider removing from the Health and Benefits Program of the ELCA, clergy who have left the ELCA or encouraged their congregations or laity to do so.
The “whereas” paragraphs seemed problematic as according to the Synod’s own report, “During the discussion, multiple amendments to the resolution were brought to the floor, ranging from modifying phrases to revising language to striking all of lines 1-11. As discussion continued, Bishop Usgaard brought the discussion to a close in order that parliamentarian study could take place.” Lines 1-11 are the words prior to the “Therefore”.
According to one source that was present, during the lengthy preliminary discussion Rev. Sandy Rothschiller of the ELCA Board of Pensions (BOP) was granted the floor and advised against such measures as it hurts the BOP in the long run. Apparently this wisdom was ignored.
“Later in the afternoon, Bishop Usgaard was seen at the podium holding a copy of Robert’s Rules for Dummies, helping to lighten the mood, and he made a promise to the assembly that “We’re going to finish this.” Each proposal to amend the resolution was discussed, voted, and defeated, bringing the assembly back to the resolution as a whole. The debate continued. The resolution eventually passed as amended with a vote of 239 for, 129 against.” continues the synod’s report.
The resolution of revenge passed significantly after striking the words, “or encouraged their congregations or laity to do so”, of the original resolution.
It is interesting to note that while the wellness of dependents of clergy, including infants and children, could be grossly affected by this resolution, Bishop Usgaard took it upon himself to “lighten the mood” as the assembled synod delegates addressed this most serious issue.
The resolution of revenge as passed by the SEMN Synod of the ELCA clearly demonstrates that the patience within the ELCA is waning towards those, especially clergy, who disagree with the apostasies voted into play at the CWA09. Instead of practicing tolerance and grace, which the ELCA boasts as their cherished virtues, the proposed and adopted resolution clearly illustrates intolerance towards clergy who stand on the authority of Holy Scripture alone.
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. - Ephesians 5:11