I am proud of the 29 people who were willing to cast votes in favor of morals. I am proud that they recognize that God's word is unchanging.
I was surprised to see Amey Schnabel's article "22 votes for a pastor -- for progress" (July 10), in which she shared what felt like personal information about the workings of her hometown church. She wanted the world to know that 22 people voted yes to calling a partnered gay man to serve as their pastor.
I was surprised that she aired her concerns in such a public way, but was not surprised that the Star Tribune chose to run this politically correct piece written by a bright young professional. While it isn't my intent to create more division, I do believe the issue deserves a deeper look.
I have extended-family members who are longtime members of the church Schnabel discussed. I have been there many times, and I grew up in the same rural area. Whether rural churches are surrounded by fields or nestled amid the houses in a small community, many of the congregations in these quaint structures are struggling.
Schnabel provided a service to rural communities when she exposed a struggle that caught her hometown congregation by surprise.
Twenty-nine people in that congregation did not agree with Schnabel's assessment that the call committee had "worked a miracle" when they found the person they thought should be their next pastor. Schnabel said that "29 members would not, or maybe could not, look past their values to call a committed minister to lead them in worship."
I've read the Bible and can say with certainty that looking past values in selecting a church leader is not included. To the contrary, the Bible lists strict requirements for those in such roles.
I received a firsthand report of a meeting held at that church, during which a stoic old man wept openly over what was happening to the church that had nurtured the spiritual life of his family for generations. Those tears are a perfect backdrop to uphold something that gets little press -- that God's faithful people are deeply hurt when the church embraces worldly ideologies over obedient submission to God's word.
I want to provide a voice for the tears of that dear senior citizen.
In my 17 years serving ELCA parishes as a lay minister, I both saw the tears and heard the angry words of those who believe, like Schnabel, that they "read deeper into the meaning of what was written in the Bible." Leaving the ELCA was the best decision we've ever made as a family.
The viewpoint of those brave enough to oppose the politically correct agendas are often marginalized. I will take that chance, because someone needs to wave a flag of warning to other rural churches. This isn't the first and won't be the last small-town church in the ELCA where unity is sacrificed in favor of an agenda.
I am not belittling the 22 who voted to call this gay pastor. Schnabel sees them as being "ahead of their time," and the ELCA is clearly on their side. After all, it was the synod office that recommended this candidate. It was the synod office that permitted his return to the pastoral roster after previously removing him for leaving his wife for a male partner while serving a church. I guess this is called progress.
I am proud of the 29 people who were willing to cast votes in favor of morals. I am proud that they recognize that God's word is unchanging. They are living up to the mission of their church to be "a congregation strengthened by God's Word."
Because they voted no to a partnered gay man being their pastor does not preclude them from "reaching out to all people with Christ's love." God's church is for all people. We are all sinners in need of Christ's mercy and grace.
After all, the church is "the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15b) and Christ has promised, "... on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it"(Matthew 16:8b).
Those 29 brave souls who voted no were standing on solid ground when they cast their votes. I applaud them and offer my prayers and support for the journey before them.
Kathryn Berry-Koppang is an educator in Jamestown, N.D.