Large church in Carrington, N.D., votes to leave ELCA
CARRINGTON, N.D. - Trinity Lutheran Church in Carrington, N.D., voted Sunday to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. That brings to 30 the number of ELCA congregations in eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota - the most ELCA-d...
CARRINGTON, N.D. - Trinity Lutheran Church in Carrington, N.D., voted Sunday to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. That brings to 30 the number of ELCA congregations in eastern North Dakota and northwest Minnesota - the most ELCA-dense region in the nation - that have voted to leave the nation's largest Lutheran denomination in the wake of the controversial vote in 2009 to allow gay and lesbian clergy. That is about 6 percent of the total of about 505 congregations in the two synods three years ago.
Nationwide, about 4 percent of the ELCA's roughly 10,000 congregations have voted out of the denomination in the past 20 months, church officials say.
According to a note posted on the door of Trinity Lutheran in Carrington, Sunday's vote, the second of the two required votes, passed 161 to 16.
Calls to the church and pastor were not returned Monday. Many pastors take Mondays off after weekend services.
The Rev. William E. Rindy, bishop of the Eastern North Dakota Synod, confirmed Trinity's decision to leave. He said the decision was a reaction to the 2009 church-wide assembly voted to allow people in committed same-sex relationships serve as clergy.
"It's always sad when part of the family walks away from the table," Rindy said, adding that he "wishes them God's blessings."
Rindy said Trinity is the sixth church in the synod to leave the ELCA since 2009.
The Fargo-based synod, one of 65 regional synods in the 4.3-million-member ELCA, had 223 congregations with about 102,000 baptized members before Trinity voted to leave, according to the synod's web site.
Within the past three years or so, the number of congregations in the synod has gone from 234 to 222, both from closings of small churches and congregations voting to leave, according to the ELCA yearbook.
Trinity, with about 1,300 baptized members, is one of the largest congregations in the region to leave the ELCA.
Across the Red River, the ELCA's Northwestern Minnesota Synod has lost 24 congregations that have voted to leave the ELCA since the August 2009 vote, Bishop Larry Wohlrabe told delegates to the synod assembly last week in Moorhead.
That leaves the synod with about 247 congregations and about 103,000 baptized members. Wohlrabe pointed out that 21 other congregations also have held votes on whether to leave and voted to stay in the ELCA.
"Walking with those who have felt so frustrated with our church body has been one of the most draining aspects of my ministry as your bishop," Wohlrabe told delegates in his annual report last week. "God, however, has sustained me with your prayers, encouragement and support. I am so grateful."
The membership of the two ELCA synods along the Red River is equivalent to about 28 percent of the general population.
(Herald Staff Writer Stephen J. Lee contributed to this article.)