Lutheran change draws no outcry at small churchMembers of one small Red River Valley church that goes back 136 years say they’re not bothered by a new Lutheran church policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve as clergy, though not all embrace the idea. The rustic Gran Lutheran Church has been used every week since it was built in 1881, eight years after Norwegian settlers formed Gran halfway between Mayville and Hillsboro.
MAYVILLE, N.D. (AP) — Members of one small Red River Valley church that goes back 136 years say they’re not bothered by a new Lutheran church policy that allows gays and lesbians to serve as clergy, though not all embrace the idea.
The rustic Gran Lutheran Church has been used every week since it was built in 1881, eight years after Norwegian settlers formed Gran halfway between Mayville and Hillsboro.
The Rev. Jeff Macejkovic has been the pastor at the Gran Lutheran Church since 1981, before the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed in 1988 from three predecessor denominations. The ELCA earlier this month voted to allow gays and lesbians in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous” relationships to be pastors.
Lois Hanson, a Gran member who says she soon will be 90, says the change is not upsetting to her ELCA congregation.
“Nobody is dead-set against it,” she said. “Which isn’t what you’d expect, maybe.”
Jerry Paulson, who lives just across the Goose River, says he doubts the policy will change much at Gran, or in the Red River Valley’s hundreds of ELCA congregations, because each congregation still gets to decide whom to call as a pastor.
Edith Anderson said she has a nephew and rural neighbors who are gay, and she finds them ordinary and wonderful people.
Macejkovic mentioned the decision on gay and lesbian clergy during announcements at Gran’s 8:45 a.m. service last Sunday to the 30 worshippers.
“I don’t know exactly what to say publicly about the policy, because we all have opinions,” he said. “We will have to let it play out ...”
Gran is known to have “mothered” about 16 other congregations in the Red River Valley a century and more ago, through the work of the Rev. Bjug Harstad, who helped start Gran. It had what was perhaps the first boarding school in what later became North Dakota; students met in a small room behind the altar.
At least one member of Gran may leave over the policy change.
Tom Woodard just transferred to Gran from Mayville Lutheran, where he’s been a member 20 years, mostly to attend an early service each Sunday.
“I think it’s wrong,” he said of the new clergy policy involving gays and lesbians
“They are welcome to sit beside me in church and like me, have my sins forgiven. But from what I read in the Bible, it’s sin. That’s the way I believe. There’s nothing wrong with the people. They are just as good as I am,” Woodard said.
Woodard is the exception in Gran, as well as Mayville Lutheran, Macejkovic said.
“It’s not been a daily topic of discussion,” Macejkovic said.
Several years ago, he said, both congregations studied an ELCA sexuality statement for about two months together.
“I was very impressed that people on all sides of the issue came together and practiced civility and respect for each other,” Macejkovic said. “And I suspect that will still happen.”