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Long Prairie church schedules vote on leaving ELCA

FARGO, N.D. -- A church of more than 700 in Long Prairie, Minn., has put a moratorium on giving to its denomination and has scheduled a vote on whether to leave the nation's largest Lutheran church body.

Congregants at American Lutheran Church will vote Sunday on a resolution to end its membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and join another Lutheran denomination, said the Rev. William Bakewicz.

The vote is part of the continuing fallout from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August. The assembly voted to allow congregations to recognize and support committed same-gender relationships and to allow individuals in such relationships to serve in the clergy. The assembly also passed a controversial social statement on human sexuality.

"We feel like we've been sort of forced into a position of having to make a decision like this," Bakewicz said.

A two-thirds majority is required for the vote to carry. To leave the denomination, the congregation must take a second two-thirds vote at least 90 days after the initial vote.

Officials at the Northwestern Minnesota Synod office declined to comment on the church's actions before the vote.

Fellow Northwestern Synod congregations Rodnes Lutheran Church in Erskine and Bethlehem/West Elbow Lake Lutheran Church in Elbow Lake have already taken first votes to leave the ELCA. The Elbow Lake congregation, however, plans to retake its vote on Dec. 13 after a procedural question was raised with its earlier vote.

There are 270 congregations in the Northwestern Minnesota Synod, according to the ELCA Web site.

Shane Mercer is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Forum and the Bemidji Pioneer are owned by Forum Communications Co.