On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. This event marked the beginning of the Reformation, and caused problems for Luther personally. Although directed at the abuse of “indulgences” (pieces of paper that falsely promised heaven at a price), the “95 Theses” was also critical of the papal office and the pope himself. Luther maintained that the pope could not forgive sins, because only Jesus could truly forgive. Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14: 6); and we are justified by faith in Jesus, not the pope. The “95 Theses” and these thoughts, so angered the pope; he excommunicated Luther, kicking him out of the church.

Exiled from the church, Luther spent his time studying and translating the Bible. In the meantime some of his followers, led by a man named Andreas Karlstadt, started a revolution against the church. They burned buildings, destroyed art work and relics, and disrupted worship; all in the name of Jesus and Martin Luther. Finally, Luther had to act. Coming out of exile, Luther left his tower in Wartburg and confronted his followers, admonishing them for their behavior (physically throwing Karlstadt out of his church). With anger, Luther reminded his followers that the church is about faith and love. A church without faith is meaningless. But a church without love is cruel.

Luther was one of the great reformers in history. He worked to reform the church, correcting the abuses in the church. But he never wanted to destroy the church. For Luther, there was no place in the church for retribution or anger or hate. As 1 Corinthians 13 reminds us, the church is about “faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

On September 12, 2010 our church voted to leave the ELCA. We sent a certified letter to the Western Iowa Synod on September 20, 2010 notifying the synod of our decision. The letter closed with these words, “We take this action with no ill-will or animosity towards the ELCA or the Western Iowa Synod, but with the conviction that this is the proper direction for our church. As we part ways, the ELCA and the Western Iowa Synod will continue to be in our prayers.”

I firmly believe that leaving the ELCA was the right decision. Luther was forced to leave his church after years of service as a priest and monk. We have left the ELCA after years of service as a church. But, like Luther, we don’t want to see the destruction of the church (or the ELCA). In deed, as we go our separate ways, we wish the ELCA well. For we are a church of “faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Your friend in Christ,

Pastor Ron.