This is an extremely sad time for me, for my family, and for the church as a whole. But, for the sake of the ongoing mission and ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ in our area, it is best at present if I step down and allow the members of our church to decide how they will move ahead, either with this church family or with another.
Many members of our church are feeling deep distress that does not seem to be getting better. During the past few weeks we've received several resignations. Some members have resigned from the congregation or from committees and other volunteer positions. At the regular July council meeting we had two resignations--our Faith Family ministry leader, who serves as Sunday school superintendent, and one council member. Since that time another council member has resigned.
These are very hard times. It seems as though it's time for me to step aside and allow each person to choose what their future course will be.
We don't know what is next for us. Please keep us in your prayers and please don't be strangers. Give us a call or stop by for a visit. In addition to the sadness, this is be a very lonely time. Sometimes people avoid one another during hard times because emotions are hard to handle, but it's harder to be alone.
Here's my letter.
30 years ago I heard God's call to ministry in the American Lutheran Church. After several years of preparation I received a call to serve in the ministry of the ALC. I then publically and officially accepted the Bible as the Word of God and agreed that I would adhere to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church. On that basis I was ordained on June 22, 1986.
In 1988 the ALC merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA's confession of faith speaks of the Bible as the "inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life" and accepts the Lutheran Confessions. It is the agreement between my ordination promises and the official statement of faith of the ELCA that has allowed me to serve as an ELCA pastor for the last 22 years.
For many years, however, I, with many in the ELCA, have been concerned that our denomination has been departing from its confession of faith. During the past 10 years or so, I've been able to continue to serve as an ELCA pastor only because of the support of the many friends and colleagues who remain committed to that confession within the ELCA. The WordAlone organization has been central to that support. I made that clear when I considered and then accepted my call to serve as pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato.
Unfortunately that support network of friends and colleagues within the ELCA is weakening both nationally and locally. Many are leaving the ELCA. Locally, some members of our church have not been attending because they can no longer support a congregation that allies itself with this denomination.
After much time spent in prayer, I have come to that same decision. Because my call as pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato requires me to continue to serve a denomination that I can no longer support, I must resign my call to Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cokato. My resignation will be effective August 22, 2010.
I resign with much grief. I do not want to leave. The Holy Spirit has been moving among us. Lives have been changed. Prayer and spiritual life has been deepened. People have come to know the Lord Jesus. I am surrounded by a wonderful staff and excellent spiritual leadership from our lay people. We've been "church" together in fresh ways. For all of that, I am grateful. It's sad that is coming to an end.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, our Lord will challenge us to be generous of heart. Jesus calls us to forgive those who have hurt us and ask forgiveness of those we have hurt with our words and actions. What seems impossible to you and I is possible with God. Healing and new life can begin.
I am, above all, confident that, as it states above the entrance doors to our church, that God's Word will, indeed, endure forever.