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Churches / Philanthropy

New denomination headquartered in Indy?

September 24, 2009
KEYWORDS Churches / Philanthropy

Might a new church denomination form after members of a conservative Lutheran group meet in Fishers on Friday and Saturday, and might that denomination be headquartered here—far from the unofficial center of the Lutheran world, Minneapolis?


At least 1,200 disaffected members of the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America plan to discuss a 559-451 vote at a national denominational assembly to end a ban on gay clergy. The August convention was in Minneapolis. The Fishers meeting, which has been planned for months, was moved to the larger Holy Spirit Catholic Church from Christ the Savior Lutheran Church to accommodate an avalanche of registrations.

A member of the steering committee for the conservative group, Ryan Schwarz, says the group met in Indianapolis a year ago, and chose the city again for this week’s meeting for reasons cited by lots of other not-for-profits that make Indianapolis home: its central location and ease of traveling in and out.

Schwarz wouldn’t speculate whether a new denomination would form or, if so, where it would be headquartered. He emphasized the meeting hasn’t been called to create a new denomination, but rather to launch a year of study and “discernment” about a how to “bring about a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America.”

But, he says his group, the Coalition for Reform, or CORE, likes Indianapolis a lot. “I just know we’ll be back to Indianapolis for meetings, because it’s such a great place to be,” said Schwarz, a layman who lives in Washington, D.C. “I would be shocked if this is the last time we are in Indianapolis.”

The Evangelical Lutherans are nowhere near the size of the largest U.S. church denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, but with 4.6 million members and 10,396 congregations, it isn’t small, either.

Schwarz noted that a denominational survey taken in 2004 showed 57 percent of respondents opposed changing the traditional teaching on homosexuality. So, he suggested, it wouldn’t be surprising if a number of congregations leave the denomination.

Anybody disagree with his observations about Indianapolis? On a separate note, how do you feel about the gay clergy question that’s also rippling through United Methodist, Episcopal and other denominations?

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