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Another church suspends ELCA funding

Pontoppidan Lutheran Church is located at 309 4th St. North in Fargo. Forum file photo is located at 309 4th St. North in Fargo. (Forum file photo)

FARGO -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's decision to change its policy on gays in the clergy continues to have a local impact, with Fargo Pontoppidan Lutheran Church creating a committee to study a denomination outside the ELCA.

Pontoppidan's committee will gather information on Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and compare that group to the ELCA so the congregation can decide whether to stay or leave the ELCA, said Paul Linstad, president of the downtown Fargo congregation.

LCMC has been described as "centrist," and grew out of WordAlone, a group that works for renewal in the ELCA.

Congregants at Pontoppidan voted 61-3 at their tri-annual meeting in September to create the committee to "study the impact of the ELCA's recent decisions and the effect on Pontoppidan," according to the church's newsletter.

In August, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to allow gays in committed relationships to serve in the clergy. Linstad said some Pontoppidan members "have made the comment that there are alternatives to look at because of their dissatisfaction with the decision at the national regarding rostered clergy."

The congregation, which has about 750 baptized members, also voted 37-28 to suspend its funding to the national ELCA office and the Eastern North Dakota Synod while the study is being conducted.

"These are budgeted funds and will be kept in an escrow account for future disbursement as the congregation directs," according to the newsletter.

The funds could eventually be directed to the synod and national offices, Linstad said.

Pontoppidan budgeted about $144,000 in benevolence giving for the Eastern North Dakota Synod and the national offices for this year.

First Lutheran Church in Fargo has also decided to alter its benevolence giving, directing dollars away from the national ELCA office, while still making its benevolence payments to the Eastern North Dakota Synod.

Linstad said Pontoppidan could decide to affiliate with both the ELCA and LCMC, but, "I can't see that happening."

"That would become, I think, a little bit of a chaotic situation," he said. He believes the only option is to go with one or the other.

The committee aims to finish its work in January.

"Congregations are exploring options and seeking to be faithful, and they're going to be exploring different things to see what fits them best," Eastern North Dakota Bishop Bill Rindy said of the congregation's decision to look at LCMC.

"I think everybody's trying to figure out what it means to be faithful, and they're prayerfully seeking to discern what it means to be the church in a post-Churchwide Assembly world," Rindy said.