Greenford Lutheran Church finds ‘better fit’ for congregation
By LINDA M. LINONIS
A disagreement with a resolution adopted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) led the congregation of Greenford Lutheran Church to vote to leave the organization. The church opted to become a member of Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).
Eric P. Ericson, church council president, said the congregation has felt for awhile that the ELCA has veered from orthodox Lutheran beliefs. He noted the ELCA’s approval on Aug. 21, 2009, of a resolution to allow gays and lesbians in same-sex relationships to be ordained “was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” in a manner of speaking.
Greenford Lutheran didn’t make the decision in haste. It was this spring that the congregation voted to change its affiliation. Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the ELCA’s Northwest Ohio Synod came to the church to speak.
The Rev. Michael McCarthy, pastor since July 22; Ed Schaefer Jr., call committee chairman; and Harold Everson, property committee chairman, agreed that the majority of the congregation no longer felt its beliefs were in line with the ELCA.
The church members said that their understanding of Scripture, what Ericson described as “the unbendable word of God,” did not condone same-sex relationships and marriage.
Schaefer noted the ELCA resolution was a “social statement.” “It did not make sense to the congregation,” he said.
Previously, the ELCA allowed for the ordination of gays and lesbians if they remained celibate. The ELCA Task Force on Human Sexuality was asked to develop a social statement on human sexuality and make recommendations on changes to policies regarding practicing homosexual people. The panel’s social statement was titled “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.”
The Rev. Mr. McCarthy said he felt that the resolution “abandoned the Christian understanding of marriage” and “brought a whole new take.”
Schaefer described Greenford Lutheran as a "small rural church.”
He said an affiliation with a larger organization provides a support system, for example, to call a pastor.
“Our focus was about our church staying together. That was important,” Schaefer said. “We believe the ministry of the church is about loving God, serving people and spreading the word.”
Everson said he voted to leave the ELCA but “wouldn’t have left the church” if the outcome had been different. But, he added, some people commented that they would leave.
The church members said leaving the ELCA was more about Scripture and understanding of the word of God.
They noted that the Lutheran denomination had come out of Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation. Lutherans believe that salvation is not earned by good deeds but by the gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus as the redeemer.
They also acknowledged Lutheran history includes disagreements. The ELCA is the result of the merger of Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in 1982. Those groups were born out of previous mergers and splits.
Basic tenants of faith, like a triune God and the largess of God, were shared; various interpretation of theology has caused disputes.
Schaefer said the LCMC “was the best fit" for the church.
Greenford Lutheran follows the Mass that Martin Luther compiled; communion is on the first, third and fifth Sundays.
In the community, Greenford Lutheran is a member of the 3C’s — Christ, church, community.
Other members are Mount Olivet United Church of Christ, Midway Mennonite Church, Common Ground and Locust Grove Baptist Church. Greenford Lutheran supports the 3C’s food pantry.
The congregation is “reading the Bible in 180 days” and Advent programs will begin at 6:15 p.m. Wednesdays.