Below, an update on Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire from the congregation's president,
Below is her note, and below that is her official president's report to her council and congregation.
I have attached the President's Report that I delivered to our May Council meeting last week. While you are free to do with it what you will, I am not asking you to do anything except read it and act as a witness to the continuing challenges at Grace. You have all been tremendously supportive to me as I have tried to find a path through all of the obstacles that have been thrown at our church. The fraudulent Facebook page and the attempt to get our Council person fired coupled with Bishop Pederson's severing our ties to the church in Malawi and now his removal of Pastor Nestingen from the synodical council re-enforce to me what a big battle we are in.
Despite these efforts, the attendance at Grace is up. Our finances are in great shape. We have had many inquiries about new membership. The spirit of Grace is one of excitement for all the good that has come our way and anticipation for all the great things the Lord has in store. This has been a fascinating experience for us all.
Thanks for your past encouragement. Please continue to pray for us - that we are creative and energetic and positive; especially as we face a hearing next week to remove a different Council member for persistent trouble making. That meeting should be full of fireworks.
Hope this finds you all well and enjoying the warmth of summer.
Singing God's praise in Eau Claire,
John 1:1-2. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
As Christians we believe that the Word spoken of here is Jesus the Christ and Scripture at the same time. Somehow they are interwoven. We do not separate one from the other. The words of God in the Bible and the person of Jesus each possess the power of almighty God to reach and to teach. Jesus is our Hope, and the Word is our guide. They are interconnected. To take from one is to detract from the other.
About 18 months ago, we were told by Bishop Pederson that if 10 people are sitting around a table studying a Bible passage they could come up with 10 different interpretations of that Scripture. We were told that all of those interpretations were valid and that we must each of us respect the views of the other. We were told there was no unity in Scriptural understanding. Bishop Hanson supports this view by saying that “irreconcilable interpretations of Scripture are acceptable”. Each of us then gets to pick and choose what we want out of God’s words. We get to form our own god and worship it as we will, and no one can tell us that we are wrong in our “Scriptural interpretation”.
Some would say that this is liberating. Some would say that this offers freedom and empowerment. But freedom without responsibility leads to chaos. Empowerment without a guide leads to lawlessness. The license to do what I want when I want is selfish and arrogant. Procedures and guides are set up in society to protect all citizens from such behavior. For each of us to go our own way is destructive to the body as a whole. The lack of commonality in purpose and the absence of coherence in principle is the classic definition of anarchy. When we throw away Scripture, we throw out our moral compass.
And this atmosphere is what Grace has been living in for quite some time.
It first began about a year ago when letters were being written complaining about our pastors. The complaints were not just submitted to our Council or our Personnel committee – the proper procedure. The letters were also sent directly to the Bishop with requests that he discipline our leaders.
Then it was discovered that a member of Grace, without authorization, used our tax exempt number for personal purposes. The action is fraud. That person has been reported to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Instead of volunteering to take some of the six empty Council seats available in February and working through our current system, Grace for All was formed to represent the ELCA. The group sent out unauthorized mailings and passed petitions with misleading information. They resisted revealing information about their finances and membership; and when they didn’t get what they wanted, they formed their own church.
Rumors were circulated that Grace would not open its doors on May 22 for worship because all the real members had left, and the pastors no longer had a congregation. It was told that there would be no more music department. No more choir. No organist. The best and the brightest had joined the synodically authorized worshipping community and there was no one left to offer God’s praises at Grace. Her doors would be shut.
And last week two more incidents of lawlessness came to my attention.
On May 18, a person identifying themselves as a female born in 1990 named Grace Lutheran who had no college education but was employed by Amazing Grace Worshipping Community opened a Facebook page. She has posted worship services for the worshipping community and for GLC and advertised the youth play and the service honoring our high school graduates. Then she posted the names of all our graduates. The creation of the site is fraud. The posting of the names of those students is an invasion of their privacy. The site has been reported as being fraudulent and steps are underway to discover the identity of the person who set up the site.
And last week, someone approached the employer of one of our Council members and tried to get them fired from their job – not because of this person’s job performance, their expertise in their field or company loyalty. The attack came directly at this person’s character because they sit on Grace’s Council and have dared to ask questions about the ELCA. Now, this person’s employer knew the character of this employee and would not entertain any thought of dismissal. Their job is safe, but after such a personal attack and such a violent threat, it will be a long time before they feel any sense of security.
Why is all this happening? Don’t let anyone ever say that it has anything to do with the Social Statement passed in 2009. It has nothing to with that and everything to do with power and control. It has nothing to do with the ministry of Christ and everything to do with personal ego. It has nothing to do with spreading the news of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and our own assured salvation through Him and everything to do with the appearance of suffering for social justice. There are some who think they have the right to do whatever they want and get away with it. That simply cannot be because that is not the way true Christians live their lives. It is not always an easy way to live, but we do it nonetheless.
We speak this truth: Jesus loves us. Jesus died for us. Jesus expects us to honor Him through our living a life of personal responsibility, honesty, faithfulness, self-control, patience, humility and, most of all, love. We will continue to expose falsehoods. We will continue to protect Grace Lutheran Church from those who would use her to advance their own interests. The Church does not serve itself, it serves Jesus Christ who is the center of our faith. He is the beginning and the end. If we must suffer for speaking that truth, then we will suffer gladly.
Because without Him, we are nothing.