Kathryn Berry-Koppang, Jamestown, N.D., Published July 21 2012
The 29 ‘brave souls’I was surprised to see Amey Schnabel’s article “22 say ‘yes’ to equality, acceptance” (July 14 Forum editorial page) where she shared personal information about the workings of her home-town church (Hendrum, Minn.). She wanted the world to know that 22 people voted “yes” to calling a partnered gay man to serve as their pastor.
I have extended family members who are longtime members of that church. I have been there many times to celebrate life events. I grew up in the same rural area.
Schnabel provided a service to rural communities when she exposed a struggle that caught her hometown congregation by surprise. Members of small-town Evangelical Lutheran Church in America churches, listen up.
Twenty-nine people did not agree with Schnabel’s assessment that the call committee had “worked a miracle” when they found the person to be their next pastor. Schnabel said, “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.
I received a firsthand report of a meeting held at the church wherein 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 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 tears and heard 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 views of those brave enough to oppose politically correct agendas are often marginalized. Someone needs to wave a flag of warning to other rural churches.
I am not belittling the 22 who voted to call a 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 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” for God’s church is for all people. We are all sinners in need of Christ’s mercy and grace.
Those 29 brave souls who voted “no” were standing on solid ground. I applaud them and offer my prayers for the journey before them.