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National media concentrate on Bachmann church change

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As Metro Lutheran went to press, The Atlantic website broke a story that Rep. Michele Bachmann, the U.S. Member of Congress from Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District, had requested release from her membership at Salem Lutheran Church (WELS), in Stillwater, Minnesota. Bachmann had been one of two WELS members elected to Congress in 2010.

Joshua Green, author of the website article, noted that Bachmann’s letter of request had been sent six days before Bachmann announced her presidential aspiration.

Green, senior editor of The Atlantic, speculated that Bachmann may have decided to transfer to a community church in Washington, D.C., due to questions that arose about WELS’ stance on the papacy. According to Green, Bachmann was asked at a campaign event whether she agreed with WELS’ “Doctrinal Statement on the Anti-christ,” which associates the papacy with the Antichrist. She was also asked how she thought Catholic voters in her district would react to such beliefs.

Joel Hochmuth, WELS communication director, confirmed that Bachmann had sent a letter stating her intention to leave WELS fellowship. He explained the media controversy: “Some people have this vision of a little devil running around with horns and red pointy ears. Luther was clear that by ‘Antichrist,’ [he meant] anybody who puts himself up in place of Christ. Luther never bought the idea of the Pope being God’s voice in today’s world. He believed Scripture is God’s word.”

At the time Bachmann was questioned about the WELS position, she assured reporters that her pastor, the Rev. Marcus Birkholz, had said that the church did not abide by that position. When questioned, Birkholz told a Washington Post reporter, “I have been asked by my congregation not to give any more interviews.” (Metro Lutheran therefore did not seek an interview.)

As the story develops, updated articles will appear on Metro Lutheran’s website: www.metrolutheran.org. The original article from The Atlantic is available at www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2011/ 07/michele-bachmanns-church-says-the-pope-is-the-antichrist/241909/.

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