Church-goers met on Monday to discuss the possibility of launching another Lutheran church in Brainerd.
The Brainerd/Baxter area has five Evangelical Lutheran Church of America churches, but retired pastor James Walth said the new church will be different. "I just have a feeling people are looking for an alternative to the ELCA," Walth said.
The church under consideration would be part of the Lutheran Congregations in Missions for Christ, a "post-denominational" affiliation. According to their website, the LCMC formed in 2001 following widespread discontent with changes made to the ELCA's interpretation of scripture. Walth said the LCMC is "an affiliation of like-minded congregations that choose the stand on the word of God."
Walth and his wife, Birdie, attend Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crosby. The Crosby church voted in May to leave the ELCA following the ELCA's decision to allow non-cellibate gay clergy to serve in their churches. After the ELCA council elected to release Immanuel from the denomination, the church joined the LCMC affiliation at the end of September. Immanuel is one of more than 300 ELCA churches that has defected to the LCMC in the last 12 months.
Before joining the congregation in Crosby, Walth spent 20 years pastoring churches in Minnesota and Iowa. Walth retired from the ELCA in 2010 and, after struggling through his own discontent with the denomination's scriptural interpretations, resigned from the roster of ELCA ministers. "I just couldn't take it anymore," Walth said. Walth later became rostered with the LCMC.
The meeting held Monday drew area church-goers from several ELCA churches. Walth was careful to communicate his intentions in orchestrating the meeting. "We are not here tonight to bash the ELCA or any ELCA pastors. We are here to offer folks the opportunity to mover forward with the faith, hope and confidence," he said. "This is not about my agenda. This is about God's agenda."
Walth said in the last few months he has had several conversations with people who suggested he start a church in the Brainerd area. "I didn't know if God's whispering in my ear or if I was hearing things," he said. " I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's God."
Having walked through the transition from the ELCA in Crosby, Walth said he wants Brainerd area church members to know they have options. Walth told those attending Monday night's meeting that his first concern is that they pray about the opportunity. "If God is not part of the process, we need to go home," he said. "We need God to be part of the process."
Should Brainerd church-goers decide to move forward with launching a LCMC church, Walth said he would be willing to serve as the pastor for an interim period. "I'm here to help facilitate the process," he said. "I'm not looking for a job. My concern is about the proclamation of the gospel and the continuing formation of the church."
Walth said Monday's meeting went as he expected. "There are lots of folks from ELCA churches that either aren't going to church or are leaving their Lutheran churches. People who love God and are standing on their faith are struggling with this," he said. "Concerned people showed up."
Walth plans to hostanother meeting to continue the dialogue.
"We want to provide a worship home for folks," Walth said. "We're not about the business of stealing members (from other churches). It's about providing a place to worship."
The next meeting is planned 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 15 at the Salvation Army building on Front Street in Brainerd.
SARAH NELSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5879.
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