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Lutherans cut budgets

Staff report
Hurt by the recession and decisions by some Lutheran congregations to withhold their support, the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America acted last Sunday to reduce its budget by 10 percent and eliminate more than 40 full-time positions.
Many Lutheran congregations, including some in Rowan County, have redirected their mission support to the ELCA in protest of the national organization’s recent vote to allow gays and lesbians to serve as clergy.
In October, about 450 Lutherans met at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Rowan County to discuss the ELCA’s change in ministry policies. Those assembled approved a resolution to form a Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE) in North Carolina.CORE is described as a network of clergy and lay Lutherans who believe the church has fallen into heresy and is aiming for a “reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism.”
In August, the ELCA adopted a social statement on human sexuality that changes ministry standards to allow gays and lesbians ó in open and monogamous relationships ó to serve in leadership positions.
The assembly takes in some 4.8 million Lutherans.
Previously, gay clergy were only allowed to serve if they remained celibate. With the new social statement, congregations would be allowed to decide whether to accept as church leaders those in committed same-gender relationships.
In a press statement, the ELCA said its program and staff reductions were necessary “because of a decline in funds due to the struggling U.S. economy and decisions by some ELCA congregations to withhold or redirect mission support as a way of registering disagreement with the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly’s decision to change ministry policies.”
The ELCA reduced the 2010 current fund by almost $7.7 million ó 10 percent less than was authorized in August by the Churchwide Assembly. The organization’s budget goes down to just more than $69 million a year. World Hunger spending of $18.7 million, which also was authorized by the August assembly, is not affected by the changes.
Nearly 81 percent of the churchwide current operating budget consists of “mission support funds.” The forecast for 2010 mission support is about $55 million, $7.2 million less than what’s in the current year’s plan.
At the recent ELCA meeting, the Rev. J. Pablo Obregon, a council member from Willmar, Minn., called on church leaders to communicate the story of the wider church with members, the press release said.
Council member John R. Emery of Fond Du Lac, Wisc., said the ELCA has to find steps to reverse the adverse budget trends.
“It falls to us to do a better job of educating people at the synod and congregational level about what their mission support dollars do,” he said.
Mission support funds ó those coming from congregations to support synod and churchwide ministries ó have “synergistic power,” Emery said.

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