Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) is around ten years old. Like the WordAlone movement with whom it shares many members, it was born as a dissident voice within the ELCA, but as the years have passed, it has become a separate church body, and its relationship with the ELCA has become increasingly adversarial. Since the ELCA adopted pro-LGBT policies at its national assembly in 2009, LCMC has openly encouraged ELCA congregations and members to split from the ELCA and join their organization. The mission field of the LCMC would not appear to be the unchurched but rather a poaching of ELCA congregations. LCMC regularly provides speakers to congregations in conflict to advocate for their organization and against the ELCA. While many of their speakers may be fair-minded, there are also plenty of reports of heavy-handed behavior and misinformation.
As the relationship between the ELCA and LCMC deteriorated, ELCA secretary David Swartling, the principal person responsible for interpretation and enforcement of the ECLA constitution, issued a memorandum to Synod Bishops and Vice-Presidents on Jan 19, 2010 that stated clearly and explicitly:
“Dual Rostering” of ordained ministers and congregations is impermissible under the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Thus, when the senior pastor and council of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation of nearby New Prague, Minnesota, persisted in their attempt to dual affiliate with LCMC, they were naïve at best and belligerent at worst. The refusal of the council to allow the Synod Bishop to speak to interested persons at the church building prior to the scheduled vote regarding dual affiliation suggests more than innocent misunderstanding and is consistent with other reports of the heavy-handed tactics of LCMC supporters.
When the congregation voted down the resolution to dual affiliation offered by the senior pastor and council by a margin of 55% to 45%, it was effectively a vote of no confidence and a rebuke of the pastor and council, and now there appear to be consequences of failed leadership. The senior pastor has penned an open letter to the congregation, published in the congregational newsletter that appears online. The pastor writes (emphasis added):
A short time ago I visited with our Interim Bishop Glen Nycklemoe of the Minneapolis Area Synod. In the midst of our conversation, he presented me with several possible choices, including my resignation as your pastor.
However, rather than expressing contrition, the pastor attacks.
As I listened to his reasons, I was astounded at the level of misinformation that has made its way to his office … I am distraught over the lies that have been spoken.
I am more and more realizing that the church … has dramatically changed, and has more interest in protecting its hierarchical interests and structures than in seeking truth.
The pastor didn’t offer any details of the alleged lies and misinformation, nor any rebuttal to the fact that he and the council knowingly and willingly challenged their bishop and defied the constitution of the church body that nurtured him in his ministry and ordained him. By standing with the LCMC against the ELCA, he chose poorly.
If he doesn’t recognize the offense in his actions, then he is indeed naïve.