St. Luke members to vote whether to restore funding to synod, ELCA
The members of St. Luke Lutheran Church in Cottage Grove will vote Sunday whether to restore funding to its local synod and parent denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
At the church's annual meeting Jan. 31, members will vote on the budget -- the first vote of the membership on financial issues since the church council chose to revoke funding from the Saint Paul Area Synod after the ELCA decided in August to allow openly gay clergy.
In an open letter to the congregation sent in January, Saint Paul Area Synod Bishop Peter Rogness asked church members not to withhold funding -- called benevolence -- in protest, because to do so hurts ministries. In the letter, Rogness said that support to local ministries such as the Minnesota Faith Chinese Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Campus Ministry of Minnesota as well as international ministries have been told that their support from the denomination will be cut.
"The withdrawal of these dollars has no effect on the 1,050 voting members who made these policy decisions," Rogness said in the letter. "As dollars tighten -- a reality faced by many churches -- it is ministry that is lost."
In a response to Rogness's letter, St. Luke pastor Tim Housholder said the decision to withhold funds was in the best interest of the congregation, and that the church gave money to other charities "beyond our walls."
"The church universal certainly extends beyond the mission and ministry of the ELCA," Housholder said in the letter.
Housholder spoke against the move by the denomination to allow openly gay clergy in monogamous relationships at the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis last August.
"I stand here with every congregation who will withhold benevolence because now their conscience binds them to," Housholder said to the assembly.
Housholder has acknowledged that there is disagreement among members at St. Luke about the issue of gay clergy, and has said that people "know they can disagree with their pastors and still be a vital part of this congregation."