Rural church leaves ELCA over gay clergy, genetics proposal

(RNS) A rural North Dakota church has voted to leave the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America, not only to protest its recent policies to
allow gay clergy but also its proposed statement on genetically modified

Members of the Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church near Sheldon, N.D.,
interpreted the ELCA's draft statement as saying farmers who use
genetically modified seeds are "pretty much sinners," said church
council president Jill Bunn.

The church is located in the Red River Valley, where farmers often
use enhanced seeds to help plants resist weed killers.

The 25-4 vote, taken Nov. 7, comes at a time when other churches are
leaving the ELCA after it decided last year to permit noncelibate gay
clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions.

Bunn said news of the ELCA genetics proposal in a farming
publication gave the congregation another reason to depart. "That just
added to the gay-lesbian proposal that they passed already," she said.

Bishop Bill Rindy of the ELCA's Eastern North Dakota Synod said he
was unaware of any concern the congregation might have had about the
proposed genetic statement when it voted to leave the ELCA.

The 63-page draft statement is being developed for consideration at
the ELCA Churchwide Assembly next August, but Rindy said it will likely
be revised before then.

"If anyone reads the statement for themselves they'll see that it
does not condemn genetically engineered seeds and it doesn't make any
recommendation on farm management practices," said Roger Willer, the
ELCA staff person working with the task force developing the statement.

The North Dakota church has joined the more conservative Lutheran
Congregations in Mission for Christ, which attributes most of its growth
to departing ELCA churches.

Adelle M. Banks

Adelle M. Banks is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

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