A decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America regarding who could serve as ordained clergy caused a local congregation to examine its own expectations.
Pastor Joe Campeau of Christ Lutheran Church in Valencia explained that the church-wide assembly held in August 2009 proposed the policy of accepting gay and lesbian clergy who were celibate and “grandfathered” in those clergy who were serving and in a monogamous relationship, something that their congregation found difficult to accept.
“We felt that this change was a conflict with the teachings of the Scripture,” Campeau said. “We asked ourselves what is our authority; the Scripture or cultural opinion?”
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As a result of this discussion, a vote was taken by the Christ Lutheran congregation to remain in the ELCA on a limited basis, while exploring membership in the Lutheran Congregation in Mission for Christ. The first of two required votes (whether to remain in ELCA or leave) was taken in November and another vote is scheduled for February.
Campeau says if the voting results are the same as those of November, then the congregation will change its full allegiance to LCMC this year.
The vote did not sit well with some members of Christ Lutheran’s congregation, which numbers from 1,200 to 1,300, prompting a group of about 100 people to split away from Christ Lutheran and form a new congregation. The new group calls themselves the Living Faith Lutheran Church and have found meeting space at St. Stephens Episcopal Church on Orchard Village Road.
KHTS erroneously reported that the split was caused because of Christ Lutheran’s reluctance to accept gay and lesbian congregants. Campeau said this was not the case.
“We pray for the best for Living Faith and its new pastor,” he wrote in an e-mail to the station.
“Our decision had nothing to do with whether gays and lesbians are welcome in our congregation,” Campeau said. “Gays, lesbians, everyone is welcome to worship with us. This was specifically about the clergy. Up until that assembly, it hadn’t been an issue.”
He added that churches across the country are dealing with the conflict.
“This goes across the face of ELCA,” he said. “Lots of people are trying to figure out where they stand in each congregation.”
Christ Lutheran Church has been part of the Santa Clarita Valley Community for 50 years. Campeau said that along with regular services and Vacation Bible School, congregants annually participate in a “compassion weekend,” performing ministries by helping at food banks, shelters and animal rescues. They also support Hope Gardens, a transition facility in Sylmar for homeless women and directly fund Lutheran Social Services, which is a key provider of services at the Santa Clarita Winter Shelter.
For more information, call 661-259-0200 or visit the church at 25816 Tournament Road in Valencia.