As the ELCA has left widely held Lutheran doctrine and a consistent understanding of God's Word in the dust, people have needed to stand up for Jesus in bolder ways and encourage the faithful to continue to follow the historical confessional truth that we have held onto for generations. I praise clergy who stand up against their synod and reach to a future filled with hope away from the ELCA. As a clergy person myself I am not trying to pat myself on the back, I am simply sharing that clergy are in a unique place as they take a position and say themselves, "Here I stand."
Clergy most certainly will have the synod staff and Bishops against them, some will have neighboring clergy against them who say painful things to hear or are turned away from gatherings, and some congregational members may find it compelling to attack their Pastor. And during this time the clergy may wonder if he of she will still have a Call if the congregation sadly decides to remain in the ELCA. The clergy person makes a vow to uphold the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and many of us find it incongruent to continue to be able to do so within the fallen ELCA. There is tremendous pressure theologically, spiritually, emotionally and relationally as one goes through the process of staying Biblically true even at the cost of all attacks. It is a burden to bear.
A comfort is found in Matthew 5:10, "God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs." This is a good thing to know, believe and trust for all of us. But I ask you, if you are in the process of leaving the ELCA, make sure that the clergy in your congregation is comforted by you too as you affirm them, care for them, treat with great kindness, and genuinely listen to their life story. They are reflecting, leading, and taking shots at them all at the same time. And even though they are wearing the full armor of God, make sure that they are protected by prayers wrapped all around them. Yes we are all in this together, but clergy are often under extreme stresses that few truly understand unless you have walked the same road. As one who has walked the road, please minister to your ministers.
Lastly, I want to lift up and praise my friend Pastor Mark Gehrke of Faith Lutheran Church in Moline, IL. He is an example of determination in the face of injustice being done to him. He has held tightly onto Scripture as his guide and has led others to follow him deeper into God's Word through the ordeal at Faith. The faith at Faith Lutheran Church is stronger because he has shown what it means to live by faith and do what is right. Even though he has been attacked mercilessly he has shown mercy. Even though the synod has brought him discomfort he has been pastoral and brought comfort. Even though there have been dark days of despair he has reminded people of the light of Christ. And even though this journey of leaving the ELCA has been filled with unexpected turns and curves he has announced "Make straight a royal highway to the Lord" and welcomed many into the body of Christ called Faith. It has not been an easy task, but I believe God placed Mark at Faith Lutheran for a time like this so that the light of Christ would burn even more brightly against a darkened sky. Hats off to you Mark.
Encourage your clergy,
Pastor John P. Nelson
Hosanna! Lutheran Church
St. Charles, IL