Here is a brief summary of what has happened so far. Offer a correction if you think any of this is not accurate.
Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, Wisconsin was going through the process of trying to leave the ELCA.
At least one of the pastors stated that others were interfering in the ministry of the congregation.
They failed to get a two thirds majority vote to leave the ELCA.
The synod bishop informed them that they would hold a special service of the congregation in which he would preside and the pastors of the congregation would assist him.
The congregation council decided not to hold the special service the bishop had scheduled for them, and that service was not held.
The congregation council voted to affiliate with the LCMC in addition to being a congregation of the ELCA.
With the encouragement and support of the synod bishop, some of the members stopped attending services at Grace Lutheran and formed a worshipping community called Amazing Grace which held services in the building of another congregation.
The congregation council of Grace Lutheran moved those who had stopped attending their services from the list of voting members to the list of associate members.
Some of the members of Amazing Grace Lutheran sued Grace Lutheran.
The circuit court judge ordered that Grace Lutheran could not hold their annual meeting, or elect new officers until the case was settled.
Grace Lutheran complied with that order and continued on with the officers who had been elected previously.
The synod decided that Grace Lutheran could not be affiliated with the LCMC and that those who had been moved to associate member status were still voting members of Grace Lutheran.
The circuit court judge agreed with the synod.
Grace Lutheran complied with that order.
The synod bishop removed the pastors of Grace Lutheran from the clergy roster of the ELCA.
The synod decided that those who had continued to attend services at Grace Lutheran had been disloyal to the ELCA and had to be moved from the list of voting members to the list of associate members, and that the keys to the property of Grace Lutheran had to be handed over to the members of Amazing Grace Lutheran.
The circuit court judge agreed with that decision of the synod.
The leaders of Grace Lutheran complied with that order and handed over the keys to the property to a representative of the synod and those who had been members of Amazing Grace.
A representative of the synod told the employees of Grace Lutheran that they had a certain amount of time to remove any of their personal property from the property of Grace Lutheran.
The Grace Lutheran building is now locked up and not being used by anyone.
Those who were members of Amazing Grace, who are now the only voting members of Grace Lutheran, held a Sunday Service in the building of another congregation.
A number of those who by the order of the court are no longer voting members of Grace Lutheran held a Sunday Service, Sunday School and a meeting in a funeral home chapel. At that meeting they voted to form a congregation that would be affiliated with the LCMC and asked the former pastors of Grace Lutheran to continue serving as their pastors. They are calling this congregation they are forming Saving Grace Lutheran.
As of now, the only voting members of Grace Lutheran are those who were members of Amazing Grace. Since the voting members of the Grace Foundation are the voting members of Grace Lutheran, those who were members of Amazing Grace also control the ministries and property of that large foundation. (It is possible that the orders of the circuit court judge, enforcing the decisions of the synod, may be appealed to a higher court.)
I doubt that many think this is good for the reputation of that synod or the ELCA.
Many of you have probably read something about the legal battle between Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire, WI and the ELCA. Here is a good rundown of all that happened. This was posted on a Lutheran message board. (see here)
(the following was sent to me by Dean Kallenbach)
Brothers and sisters,
Below you will read an email that was supplied to members of her congregation by the president of Grace Luthearn Church of Eau Claire, Anne Carter. As you can read in the summary, the judge in the case has sided with the ELCA-supported plaintiffs. The suit forces the congregation to leave its affiliation with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ.
As more information becomes available, I'll be certain to share it. Meanwhile, prayers for the congregation, its pastors and its leadership would be welcome.
In November 2011 a lawsuit was filed against Grace Lutheran Church by Amazing Grace ELCA, Inc. Today a decision regarding the case was filed with the courts by Judge Molly GaleWyrick.
This afternoon I met with our attorney, Jay Heit, in a preliminary meeting to discuss the decision and any future action by counsels in the case. Pastor Nestingen and I also met briefly. Following is a synopsis of the decision. A full copy will be available in the church office on Monday for anyone to review.
As with any legal document, there are terms unfamiliar to those outside the legal profession. So, to simplify and paraphrase the decision:
Those four directives are as follows:
In other words, Judge GaleWyrick has turned back to the church the implementation of a decision of the church.
A congregational meeting will be scheduled in the near future for feedback and to answer questions.
As we enter the celebration of Easter, may we remember that nothing that is done to honor our dear Lord is in vain. He loves us completely and rewards the faithful.
Thank you for your prayers and support.
The ELCA's Southeastern Iowa Synod issued a statement in their weekly newsletter concerning the Southeastern Iowa Synod Council's removal of St. Mark's Lutheran church (Marion, IA) from the roster of ELCA congregations. Within the statement it says, "The congregation is being served by a pastor of LCMC, a church body considered to promote separation (schismatic) from the ELCA." (see here)
This is interesting to me because firstly they openly claim that the LCMC promotes separation from the ELCA. What are the facts that support this allegation? The fact of the matter is that this congregation, which the synod took action against, is dual-affiliated with the ELCA and LCMC. The LCMC is fine with the dual-affiliation, yet the ELCA is not. Who here is promoting separation from whom?
Secondly, the reason this congregation's pastor is a LCMC-rostered pastor is because last month the Southeastern Iowa Synod bishop, Michael Burk, removed this pastor from the ELCA clergy roster. (see here)
'See!' he said to all the people. 'This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.'
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