Gay Marriage Could Split Evangelical Lutheran Church

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The liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is heading for a split over gay marriage.

The denomination voted in August to allow sexually active gay and lesbian pastors. Opponents say that's in direct contradiction to scripture.

"We don't feel we have a choice," Paull Spring, a retired Pennsylvania bishop now chairman of Minnesota-based Lutheran CORE told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The vote on sexuality opened the eyes of many to how far the ELCA has moved from biblical teaching."

Conservative Lutherans say they will soon start drafting a constitution to form a new denomination. They hope to have it off the ground by next August.

Local pastors who have aligned themselves with Lutheran CORE said it's too early to decide whether their congregations would sever their ties with the ELCA, the largest Lutheran church body in Wisconsin and the nation.

"We're taking baby steps at this time," said the Rev. Mark Knappe, pastor of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Menomonee Falls, who was surprised by the move.

"I guess I have mixed feelings about a new denomination," said Knappe, who voted against the decision to allow gay clergy and attended a CORE conference that drew 1,200 like-minded Lutherans to Indianapolis in September.

"The body of Christ does not need one more schism, but I'm not unsympathetic to it either, given what the ELCA has done."

The interim bishop for the Greater Milwaukee Synod claims that so far, he has heard of only five congregations who are considering leaving the ELCA.

If the CORE group votes to leave the ECLA, it would mark the second division of the church since it was founded in 1988. A group of churches known as the Word Alone Network left the ECLA after it decided to enter into full fellowship with the Episcopal Church in 1999.

Sources: Associated Press, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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