It all began with St. James Lutheran Church’s pastor, Larry Gember. The spiritual leader of the congregation, recommended that they vote to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (The St. James Church Council also recommend that they leave.) Pastor Gember outlined his thoughts in a letter to the congregation a few weeks before the church’s scheduled November 21, 2010, vote.
In the letter, Pastor Gember outlined troubling issues he saw within the ELCA. He mentioned his concern over the ELCA’s system of decision making and his theological concerns over what was happening in the ELCA, among other things. Near the close of Pastor Gember's letter he said, “I would like to be part of a church body that has relative peace and is joyfully focused on the basics of mission and evangelism. I see those things in both LCMC and the NALC. Therefore I urge you to vote 'yes' to the Council’s recommendation.” (read Pastor Gember’s letter here)
On November 21, the majority of the congregation at St. James Lutheran Church voted to leave the ELCA. Unfortunately the majority was 6% shy of the 67% needed. (87 members voted to leave the ELCA, 54 members voted to stay) (see here, under the “newsletter” link)
Less than a month after the November 21 vote, ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod Bishop William O. Gafkjen requested that Pastor Gember resign as an ordained minister in the ELCA. Bishop Gafkjen said he made this request because he did not want someone who is not committed to the ELCA and who, he claimed, is working to undermine the denomination, to be a pastor in the ELCA. (read Bishop Gafkjen’s letter and St. James Lutheran’s response here)
The request by Bishop Gafkjen is very troubling. It tells me that some, maybe most, of the leadership in the ELCA want to eliminate pastors who disagree with the direction the ELCA is taking. Exposing the ELCA has reported on other attempts by ELCA bishops to silence, blackball and remove pastors from the ELCA roster because the pastors would not go along with the ELCA and compromise their historic Christian and Lutheran understandings of God’s Word. (see here and here for examples)
It is evident that the ELCA desires to silence and remove the orthodox voice, which is the historic, worldwide understanding of Scripture. Peter, John, Luke, Paul and Jesus Himself would have been asked or forced to leave the ELCA based on their understanding of God’s Word and for the stand they took toward those who distort Scripture.
Pastor Gember has declined Bishop Gafkjen’s request to resign. On January 2, 2011, in a great show of support for Pastor Gember and Scripture, St. James Lutheran held another vote to leave the ELCA, which passed 172 to 50.
Jesus said, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” Matthew 10:14. That is what St. James Lutheran Church is doing, shaking off the dust. We all should do the same.