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Afton church votes to leave ELCA

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Members of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton, Minn., voted at a congregational meeting Sunday, Jan. 31 to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and join an association named Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).

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For Shepherd of the Valley to leave the ELCA, however, bylaws call for one more vote -- it is scheduled for May 9.

The vote was 414 "yes" and 38 "no" to leave the ELCA. Members also voted 410 "yes" to 43 "no" to join the LCMC.

Congregational discussions, and later the Jan. 31 meeting, were initiated after the ELCA voted last summer to open the ministry of the church to gay and lesbian pastors and other professional workers living in committed relationships.

Church leaders have declined to comment on the matter until after the May vote, but according to literature at the church, Shepherd of the Valley leaders have had other issues with the ELCA over the past several years. It appears that the gay vote was, more or less, the final straw.

In a letter written to Shepherd of the Valley members in December, church staff members endorsed severing ties with the ELCA. The letter re-affirmed the same position which was taken by the church council and Pastors Steve Kramer and Zach Thompson. The letter also endorsed the association with LCMC.

Current membership is approximately 2,400. The church built a new facility in 2001 on its current site at 14107 Hudson Road So. (frontage road south of I-94) just west of Stagecoach Trail. A large addition with Sunday school rooms and a multi-purpose room was built in 2007. The church has a sizeable number of Hudson residents on its membership rolls.

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