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Two weeks after dropping out of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Maumee will host a conference for other Lutherans struggling with the denomination's new policies toward homosexuality.
The conference, titled "Matters of the Heart," will be held May 8 at St. Paul's.
"In part this is a way to give back for what we have learned in the process of leaving the ELCA," said the Rev. Roger Miller, St. Paul's pastor. "The other thing is that there are a lot of folks that don't really know what the issues are."
St. Paul's in Maumee's second vote - an ELCA requirement to leave the denomination - passed by an 85 percent majority Sunday to drop out of the ELCA. It is the first church in the ELCA's Northwestern Ohio Synod to quit since last August's Churchwide Assembly voted to allow people in monogamous same-sex relationships to be ordained and to allow the recognition - but not the blessing - of same-sex unions. Nationwide, 89 of the 10,400 ELCA congregations have dropped out.
There are many questions among Lutherans today, and Mr. Miller believes the conference will provide some much-needed, and sometimes hard-to-find, answers.
"There are 47 Lutheran groups in the United States alone," he said. "Things are changing even as we speak."
The issues run much deeper than just the ordination of gay clergy, Mr. Miller said.
"It's really about our understanding of the use of Scripture, it's about law and the Gospel, it's about how we understand how God's word is used in helping us to determine the norm for faith and life in the church," he said.
The Maumee conference will feature national speakers from a variety of Lutheran renewal or reform groups, including Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, with which St. Paul's is now affiliated; Lutheran CORE, and WordAlone Network.
Mr. Miller believes there are Lutherans who have questions with the Churchwide Assembly's resolutions and are wondering what their options are.
"We've been here; we know where you are," he said.
He said St. Paul's has not changed its position toward homosexuality, it was the ELCA that changed - and that move forced St. Paul's and other like-minded congregations into deciding whether to stay or go.
The Maumee pastor added that St. Paul's welcomes homosexuals, just as it welcomes all people.
"We'll love them just like Jesus did. Jesus met people where they were, but he didn't leave them that way," he said.
The conference will feature presentations by Bishop Kenneth Sauer, bishop emeritus of the Southern Ohio Synod and former chair of the ELCA council of bishops; the Rev. Jaynan Clark, president of WordAlone Network; the Rev. William Sullivan, service coordinator for LCMC, and the Rev. Paul Ulring, member of the CORE Steering Commmittee.
The "Matters of the Heart" conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. May 8 at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 112 East Wayne St., Maumee. Registration is $10 per person, with an optional $10 for a box lunch, by calling John Eding at 419-865-5306 or online at www.saintpaulsonline.org.
- David Yonke