The local ELCA Lutheran congregation voted on Sunday to leave the national church over the social statement adopted last summer.
One of my best friends and her family have been members of this congregation for over twenty years. As good country folk, the church was their social community and home away from home; relationships formed in church were very important to them, and the Lutheran spirituality permeated their lives.
This Sunday, though, things changed. It has been brewing for a long time; the pastor had made it very clear in the pulpit that he wanted to take the congregation out of the ELCA. The congregation has been breaking into two groups, and there was little Christian charity from one side toward the other. No room for disagreeing on 'the gay issue.' No room for sharing at Christ's table for those who, in good faith and conscience, held to a position that others disagreed with. One side just couldn't have that. There is no compromising the 'purity' of the faith.
There were some underhanded political moves as well. Human beings are political beings.
The pain I saw in their faces hurt me deeply. The actions on Sunday were divorce and death at the same time. I know that they'll persevere. They're not giving up, as the vote won't be final until ninety days from now. They'll keep trying to heal wounds and exorcise demons that work so hard to fracture and destroy the Body of Christ (Yes, I say exorcise; when hate, pride, and schism abound, I say something dark is at work). Will it work? I have no clue. But I know them, and I know the depth of their faith. That doesn't erase the pain, though.