Church leaders unhappy with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's decision to allow non-celibate gay and lesbian pastors into its ranks are expected to come together and vote this week to create a separate denomination.
"Leaders of 18 former ELCA churches are expected to vote Friday to create a brand new Lutheran denomination that they claim will follow the Scriptures more faithfully: the North American Lutheran Church. 'The issue is departure from the word of God,' [Richard] Mahan [lead pastor at St. Timothy in Charleston, W.Va.] said. His church has already voted twice to end its longtime identity as a ELCA church, also ending an annual $36,000 in tithing to the denomination…As of early August, 199 congregations had cleared the hurdles to leave the ELCA for good, while another 136 awaited the second vote needed to make it official. In all there are 10,239 ELCA churches with about 4.5 million members, making it still by far the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S. And the breakaway members gathering in Ohio will face their own challenges if they vote to start another denomination at a time when attendance at mainline Protestant churches is falling and denominational distinctions appear irrelevant to a growing number of churchgoers."