Three congregations in the Northwestern Minnesota Synod (NWMS) passed resolutions in June to part ways with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Trefoldighed Lutheran Church of rural Battle Lake took the second of two votes to leave the ELCA on June 13, while Salem Lutheran Church and Sauk Valley Lutheran Church, both of rural Osakis, took second votes on June 20, according to the current edition of the NWMS' e-mail newsletter.
A congregation must take two consecutive two-thirds majority votes in order to exit the denomination.
The ELCA continues to feel the effects of controversial decisions on sexuality made at the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly. At the gathering in Minneapolis, voting members moved to allow individuals in same-gender relationships to serve in the ministry and passed a controversial social statement on human sexuality.
"Each of these congregations will be finalizing their future plans for affiliation in the coming months," NWMS Bishop Larry Wohlrabe said in the newsletter. "Please remember these congregations and pastors in your prayers. We wish them all godspeed as they discern where God is leading them."
Trefoldighed Lutheran Church has 63 baptized members, according to 2009 numbers on the ELCA website. Salem Lutheran Church has 86 members, and Sauk Valley Lutheran Church has 69 members.
A total of six NWMS congregations have opted out of the denomination since the Churchwide Assembly. Rodnes Lutheran Church in Erskine, Bethlehem/West Elbow Lake Lutheran Church in Elbow Lake and American Lutheran Church in Long Prairie passed second votes to disaffiliate with the ELCA earlier this year.
More than 360 congregations comprise the Northwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA.
Messages left with Wohlrabe and the pastors of the three congregations were not returned.