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Hope Lutheran in Fargo suspends funding to ELCA

FARGO -- Fargo's largest Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregation has suspended its funding to the ELCA.

A letter dated Oct. 20 on the Hope Lutheran Church Web site states that the "leadership has suspended all financial support to the ELCA and will develop a process to define who our mission partners will be." The letter is signed by the "Hope Lutheran's Church Council and Pastors."

The statement references recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions regarding gays in the ministry. In August, the assembly voted "to find ways to recognize, support, and hold publicly accountable" committed gay relationships and to allow individuals in such relationships to serve in rostered ministry.

"What the ELCA vote has accomplished is to make each congregation even more autonomous," the letter says. "That independence frees us to choose who we work with in mission and who we support financially."

Hope Lutheran has two campuses in Fargo and, according to 2008 numbers on the ELCA Web site, has 10,304 baptized members and an average attendence of 2,273.

Last month First Lutheran Church, Fargo's second-largest ELCA congregation, opted to designate their benevolence funds so that they bypass the national ELCA offices. Pontoppidan Lutheran Church in downtown Fargo voted last month to suspend its benevolence giving to the ELCA while a committee studies the impact of the ELCA's recent decisions and the effect on Pontoppidan.