North Heights voted out of the ELCA and into the Alliance of Renewal Churches in the early 2000s. Asked by senior pastor Bob Cottingham to help in the process, having founded the ARC. 600 members present for final vote. Bishop Peter Rogness fielded questions in a positive and pastoral way. Until. He was asked: “Bishop, is it wrong for people of the same sex to sleep together.” Long silence, then to the shock of all, “I don’t know.” You could hear the gasps. A man who knew the Scriptures and was tutored by a godly and brilliant father waffled.
I went to the mic: “My father knew your father, Dr. Al Rogness. We know where he stood. My father knew Dr. Oscar Hanson, the father of the bishop of the ELCA, Mark Hanson. It was clear where he stood. My father also knew Pastor H. O. Egertson, father of bishop Paul Egertson, who like Mark favored blessing same-sex marriages. All three fathers would be deeply grieved if they knew where their sons stood. In one generation you have surrendered the truth embraced for centuries and given in to prevailing culture. You invited us to continue the discussion. 2 + 2 no longer equals four. We have nothing to talk about.”
A Lutheran pastor friend, Tom Brock, wrote an excellent article called, “Eleven Reasons Everyone Should Leave the ELCA.” 1) The ELCA pays for abortions for any reason–from offerings. 2) The ELCA’s health care plan decided to pay for sex change operations. 3) The ELCA has had a hard time referring to God as “He” and references to God the Father are rare. The ELCA’s hymnal has removed all masculine references to God in the Psalms. 4) The ELCA allows for the worship of “the goddess” and other pagan deities. Check out the ELCA church called “her church” (her church.org). When people have expressed concern, the leaders have defended the church rather than disciplining it. 5) Universalism is taught at ELCA seminaries. 6) The number of ELCA missionaries has been reduced dramatically since the ELCA’s founding in 1988. If universalism is true, why send out missionaries? (Everybody’s in). 7) Some ELCA pastors deny substitutionary atonement and are not disciplined. 8) The ELCA ordains practicing homosexuals as pastors. (And I add that some of them serve as bishops). 9) The ELCA has ordained transgender pastors. 10) Basic Christian teachings like the virgin birth of Christ are denied by many seminary professors in the ELCA. 11) The ELCA advocates for liberal political causes but does little to nothing to advocate for the unborn. My advice from Tom’s article: If you don’t agree with the ELCA–leave!
The ELCA’s departure from the truth led to the biggest exodus ever from any church body in the history of the church (approximately one million). When I introduce myself to Minnesota friends as a Lutheran pastor, I add the caveat, “I’m the kind that believes the Bible.” In 1997 I wrote an article, “If the Ship Is Sinking.” By then it had every appearance of being adrift, having lost its prophetic voice, the Word of God, and with nothing to proclaim but tolerance and grace without truth. Every year gets crazier. (Email me and I will send it to you).
I was invited some years ago to meet with the leadership of Oase, the Norwegian form of Lutheran Renewal. We gathered late one night in the balcony of a stately Lutheran church in the countryside. After praying for the people of Norway, our host came running up the stairs and announced loudly, “The bells are ringing; the bells are ringing.” I had leaned against the organ consul and pressed the button for the bells, which were wafting out throughout the whole valley with much volume–at 10:30 PM. We all had a good laugh. Then we thought about the parable we just experienced. I had asked our host how many people would attend church in the morning. He said 25. It is called a state church, but few go, except maybe to baptize their children, get married, and die. God was telling us, “Sound the alarm. The ship is sinking!” Same for the S.S. ELCA. If you’re on it–get off and find a lifeboat!