Local church won't break away from ELCA - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Despite majority approval, local church won't break away from ELCA

Eau Claire (WQOW) - It turns out, a local Lutheran church was divided on a decision to break away from its national organization. 

The congregation at Grace Lutheran voted Sunday whether or not to separate from the ELCA.  A large number of members aren't happy with the direction their national organization is headed.  For example, the organization decided more than a year ago to allow openly gay clergy who met certain criteria. 

A majority of Voters at Grace Lutheran (288) wanted to break away, however the final tally was 52 votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to approve a final vote.

The pastor called Sunday's vote was "very civil".  Leadership at the church will meet Tuesday night to decide where to go from here.

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - Members say a national organization of churches is heading in a new direction and a local congregation considers cutting ties. But its members are divided over what to do.

That division at the Eau Claire church is leading to a vote, which could change the church forever.

As Grace Lutheran's congregation gathers together for service Wednesday, members are at odds.

When ask if her church is divided, church president Anne Carter says, "Yes."

At issue is the national Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The organization decided more than a year ago to allow openly gay clergy who met certain criteria at its churches.

"There was a foreboding feeling for me that this would lead to nothing but trouble--the exact kind of situation we are experiencing right now," says Pastor Rolf Nestingen.

Members of Grace Lutheran Church are divided over the direction the ELCA is headed, and they are considering breaking away.

"Since August 2009, there have been some 400 churches across the nation that have left the ELCA," Pastor Nestingen says.

Now, division among this Eau Claire congregation is causing pain.

"As the case with a couple that contemplates divorce, they discover that there are all kinds of attending emotions and issues that are involved with that. So it is in the church," says Nestingen.

This weekend, the congregation will vote to decide whether to further look in to separating from the ELCA. The church president says the results will have consequences.

"Either way, I think that people will leave Grace and those who are left will need to pick up the pieces," Carter says.

In the meantime, people at Grace Lutheran are asking the rest of our community for help.

"I think the best thing that anybody can do is to pray, to pray for God's will to be done," Grace says.

This Sunday, Grace Lutheran's 2,700-member congregation will vote whether they support or do not support separating from the ELCA. If two thirds are in support, the congregation will have to wait 90 days before taking another final vote.

The ELCA's regional office declined to comment about churches breaking away from the organization.

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