Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Central Lutheran, Minneapolis, turns down RIC membership

Decision on whether to become officially welcoming to gays, lesbians, failed by 11 votes

A large, historic, downtown Minneapolis Lutheran congregation confronted a controversial ministry proposal in mid-May and, when a vote was taken, discovered itself to be profoundly divided.
In the weeks and months before a specially-called congregational meeting, held Sunday, May 20, members of Central Lutheran Church explored the possibility of becoming a “Reconciling in Christ” congregation.
The proposal was strongly championed by some members and opposed with equal vigor by others. The difference, at the meeting where the final vote was taken, after two hours of intense debate, came down to 11 votes. The proposal was defeated, 283-272.
“Reconciling in Christ” (RIC) is a term used by Lutheran congregations which publicly declare themselves welcoming to gay and lesbian persons, and permit their names to be included in a national RIC directory.
After Central Church prepared itself for the decision, with educational opportunities that reached back into last year, a focused series of adult forums dealt with the proposal between April 22 and May 14.
One of the presenters, Dr. Merton Strommen, whose recently published book on the topic was reviewed in Metro Lutheran last month, explained his conviction that gay sexual orientation is more complex than many people understand. Strommen’s presentation is credited for having helped defeat the RIC initiative.
Two partisan groups, an RIC ad hoc committee supporting the proposal, and an independent group of members opposing it, stepped up what became an escalating campaign in the final days before the vote was taken.
In early May the congregation council circulated a letter to members, signed by president David Nasby, in which participation in the forums was strongly urged. The letter attempted to draw a distinction between becoming an RIC congregation and endorsing the agenda of the gay/lesbian advocacy group, Lutherans Concerned.
In a letter sent to members on May 12, signed by 36 individuals, extensive quotations from Strommen’s new book were cited as reasons why the RIC proposal was not acceptable for Central Church.
In a May 14 letter, the RIC ad hoc committee sent members a question-and-answer worksheet, attempting to defuse what the group said were unfounded rumors circulating in the congregation.
Just three days before the meeting to decide the issue, a group calling itself “Alternative View” sent still another letter, attempting to persuade members that RIC and Lutherans Concerned are inextricably tied together, and that a vote for one would be a vote for the other.
Both the St. Paul and Minneapolis Area ELCA synods passed resolutions in 1999, declaring themselves “Reconciling in Christ synods.” The resolutions included encouragement to ELCA congregations within both area jurisdictions to strongly consider becoming RIC congregations.
A dozen Twin Cities Lutheran congregations are currently identified as RIC. The only one on the list which comes close to Central Lutheran’s 3,700 membership size is Gloria Dei ELCA in St. Paul, with 2,300 baptized members.
At press time, some members of Central were petitioning for another vote, which would declare the congregation welcoming to gays and lesbians but not approve RIC status.