ELCA NEWS SERVICE
September 27, 2009
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Community Church of Joy, Glendale, Ariz., ended its affiliation Sept. 27 with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.
The congregation was the 10th largest in the ELCA with 6,800 baptized members. According to the 2009 ELCA Yearbook, Community Church of Joy's current operating expenses are more than $2.7 million. It gave more than $207,915 to the ELCA and other organizations in benevolence. By a unanimous vote of 129-0, Community Church of Joy terminated the relationship at a congregational meeting following worship.
"I was praying that (the vote) would be a clear direction from the congregation," said the Rev. Walter P. Kallestad, senior pastor of the congregation. Seeking to be consistent with the congregation's decision, Kallestad announced to the congregation his intention to resign from the ELCA's clergy roster.
Two votes were taken as part of a process to end the affiliation. An initial vote took place June 28, when 185 members voted 174-11 in favor of ending the relationship. Also in June, voting members chose to join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ -- an association of 197 congregations in the United States "rooted in the Lutheran Confessions."
Community Church of Joy's vision, values and mission are no longer aligned with the ELCA, according to Kallestad. "There is such a different direction that the ELCA has chosen, a path they're traveling on, and we really believe that it just was not consistent to where God has called us. And so we're parting," he told the ELCA News Service.
On its Web site, Community Church of Joy cited three documents to help make clear the reasons for the congregation's actions. One document is about Israel and another is about Holy Scripture. A third document references the actions of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly on the topic of human sexuality.
The assembly approved a series of proposals to change ministry policies, including a change to allow Lutherans in lifelong, publicly accountable, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers. The assembly also approved "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" -- the denomination's 10th social statement, which addresses a spectrum of topics relevant to human sexuality from a Lutheran perspective.
The Rev. Stephen S. Talmage, bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod, Phoenix, spoke to members of Community Church of Joy in early September. He said about 40 people were present, and about 20 of them were members of Community Church of Joy. Kallestad was not present.
"In the meeting I affirmed the ministry of Community Church of Joy," Talmage told the ELCA News Service. "I lifted up that Pastor Kallestad and the congregation have had a historical reputation of trying novel and creative things. They also, without a doubt, clearly have a heart for reaching the unchurched. They've pushed the envelope for the ELCA, having us look at how we do worship, how we evangelize and how we reach out."
Talmage said he also listed the ways in which Lutherans engage in mission and ministry across the country and overseas. "That will be lost, and that's sad," he said. "My hope is that, although they're leaving, we can still discover ways we can cooperate in ministry and celebrate our common commitment to growing disciples."
Talmage was not present for the Sept. 27 vote at Community Church of Joy. The Rev. John Q. Cockram, Shepherd of the Desert, Sun City, Ariz., represented the synod.
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Information about Community Church of Joy is at http://www.joyonline.org on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog