February 2015

Want to Grow Your Mission?
Let Other People Do the Work

worldreachCreate a blog with good, sharable content and let people find it!

Last year, 2×2 started posting slideshows, channeling them through a social media platform called SlideShare. It was an experiment. SlideShare was fairly new and was getting some good press. Churches are likely to overlook it as it is not as well known as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.


SlideShare is big with marketers. Evangelism is a form of marketing. Worth a try!


Since last summer, we’ve been publishing less content while we focused on restructuring. We are a small, all volunteer church.


Today we received a surprise email. We thought our SlideShare site was just sitting there.  We had posted nothing in months and hadn’t checked on it!


The email from SlideShare was encouraging.


2×2’s SlideShare site is among the top 5% of sites on the SlideShare Social Media Platform. 


Wow! What a surprise!


That’s a reach we had not been calculating in our usual statistics.


This illustrates a point. The reach of a website goes way beyond the first tier of traffic. You may get only 100 readers a week but if you put good, sharable content on your church blog and intentionally link to other social platforms—and ask others to share—you’ll extend your influence. And it will happen while you sleep! Passive evangelism?!


The internet is full of surprises. Our SlideShare site is popular in the Ukraine! About 25% of our SlideShare traffic comes from the Ukraine. Makes sense! The Ukraine would have churches in the Orthodox tradition. The Orthodox Church uses icons in worship to focus meditation.


How did this happen? We are a small neighborhood congregation in Philadelphia. Who would have thought that we could influence Christians in the Ukraine!


This is how it happened for us—one of those overnight successes that takes 20 years!


A man in our neighborhood often worshiped with us. He was a big influence despite the fact that he never joined. He worked with neighborhood children in a choir which met at our church and often sang during our worship services. He brought icons to children’s choir practice to teach songs. He used songs from the Taize tradition, which blends the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant traditions of Europe. The use of imagery became part of Redeemer’s eclectic worship experience. We soon started using powerful imagery in our weekly bulletins. This, no doubt, influenced our creation of the slideshows posted on SlideShare. One thing leads to another!


It is the magic of small church ministry—the type of mission activity that church professionals don’t know how to measure and usually overlook when they assess congregations.


Every neighborhood congregation can now serve the world!


See how the internet can change mission thinking? Every neighborhood congregation can now serve the world!


We learned other things by reviewing our SlideShare statistics. We can see that our viewership grows with activity. We would probably have three times the statistics if we hadn’t slowed our content creation.


What does that tell us? Back to making slide shows!


(Actually, one of our projects we are about to launch is a training webinar—an extension of our SlideShare experiment!)


We will keep asking questions. If SlideShare is reaching thousands of viewers, should we start using YouTube? What about Instagram and Pinterest?


Questions like these arise every day in the digital world. Sadly, the structure of Church is often such that we evaluate what we are doing far less often. We are ill-equipped to make spur of the moment changes that are necessary for survival. There is a hefty financial commitment to keeping things the way they are. The world passes us by between those annual and bi-annual meetings! Some things require an act of God!


20 Reasons to Avoid the Internet in Ministry

Only about half of pastors see value in the internet in ministry according to a recent study conducted by the Barna Group.


This is an astounding and troubling statistic among other statistics. Most telling, perhaps, is that the study compares statistics with a similar study conducted 15 years ago. And this statistic has increased in 15 years by only 19%.


The Church is missing out on the greatest mission tool to ever be placed in their hands.


2×2 published several series of articles on implementing Social Media in congregations several years ago. Since then, we’ve just been practicing what we preach. We are more convinced than ever that congregations today MUST use these tools actively, if they hope to be around for the next Barna Group study 15 years from now.


In November 2011, 2×2 took a tongue-in-cheek look at the Church’s View of the Internet and Social Media. No surprise, given the Barna statistics—it hasn’t grown stale in four years! Here’s an update. Feel free to share it with your governing board!

20 Reasons to Avoid the Internet in Ministry

  1. Religion is a mystery. Let’s keep it that way!
  2. Pen and ink were good enough for St. Paul.
  3. Let people form opinions about church and religion from the popular media. They do a pretty good job!
  4. Social media allows for too much interaction between clergy and laity. It’s best to maintain boundaries.
  5. We do not want to be known by our works. It’s a theological thing.
  6. Why monitor our image? Who could have a beef with us!?
  7. So what if people criticize church and religion online. No one will pay any attention.
  8. We want people who join our church to know as little as possible. That way we can tell them what’s what!
  9. We don’t need to share ideas about faith. The Bible is crystal clear.
  10. Our congregation is a close-knit family. We don’t have time for other people’s problems.
  11. What’s in it for us?
  12. Somebody created a web page 10 years ago. As far as we can tell no one looks at it. Does anyone remember who made that page?
  13. We added a donate button recently, but no one uses it.
  14. If we start writing with other people in mind, they may get the idea that we care more than we really do.
  15. The Church has no business writing about non-Church issues.
  16. It’s not in the budget.
  17. Great idea, but it’s not my job.
  18. Our current members keep us plenty busy.
  19. What’s the use? Our church is dying.
  20. Everything is great just the way it is.

Martin Luther vs Barbie?

A 2×2 reader sent us this link:

Martin Luther toy is breaking sales records!!


The Virtual Church Is Real

…time to figure out what to do with it!


The Barna Group published findings of a recent study.

They surveyed senior pastors on their use of the internet and present interesting statistics on the future of the Virtual Church.


There is a problem with this survey. It polled pastors. Asking pastors to judge the effectiveness of internet ministry is like asking hunter-gatherers to evaluate farm equipment.shutterstock_183504395


One of the first statistics presented in the report points this out.

  • 96% of senior pastors use a computer at church
  • only 39% use that computer to access the internet


They are either using the computer as an abacus or they are just so focused on what they are doing that they think they exist in isolation of their communities and the rest of the world.


About a year ago, I looked up pastors on LinkedIn, the social media platform used by professionals. I probably was looking for one person and one thing led to another. That’s what happens on the internet!


Many were not on LinkedIn. Of those that were listed on LinkedIn, a large percentage had their profiles locked—private.


This reveals an interesting attitude. Do pastors not want to be found? Do they not want to witness!?


Why did they bother taking the time to sign up at all? Sharing is what LinkedIn and most of the internet is about.


Pastors Make Snail-like Progress

The Barna Group report shows that pastors are making progress from their answers to a similar survey in 2000, but the statistics still reveal slow acceptance of the greatest mission tool the world has ever known. Below is a screen shot of the infographic which is part of the referenced post. It is at the bottom of the long infographic and you might miss it. It is very revealing!


The Barna Group report is comparing the year 2000 with 2015—fifteen of the most fast-paced years of change in world. The advent of the desktop computer, which started all this, was circa 1985. So, it took 15 years for pastors to reach 35% in their vision for the future. Another 15 years to make another 19%. While the rest of the world is at 100% and moving full-steam ahead!


So let’s ponder why the Church faces such challenges today . . . .  Hmmmm?




What Would A Survey of Lay Leaders reveal?

I suspect that the statistics would be very different had the survey polled lay leaders.


How has the internet changed the lives of parishioners in the last 15 years?


A similar poll in most of the workplaces and homes of the people pastors expect to come to church would have 100% acceptance across the board.


You can bet we laity use the internet to find answers to biblical and spiritual questions. We are surfing to find resources to help teach Sunday School, etc. We share thoughts, photos, and videos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest. Our work could be benefiting our congregations! (Several 2×2 readers regularly PIN 2×2 object lessons! Thanks!)


The people the Church wants to reach are on the internet every day. The Church, for the most part, is somewhere else, still waiting for people to come to them on Sunday morning.


Even congregations with snappy websites are not using their sites for outreach and relationship-fostering—key benefits of online ministry.


The 2x2virtualchurch.com Experience

Six years ago, a bishop declared 2×2’s parent church, Redeemer Lutheran in the East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia, closed. (Lutheran bishops don’t really have that power.) She deemed our congregation of 82 members too small to achieve a missional purpose. Our money and property were confiscated. Pastors fled. But we were not closed. We were locked out. There’s a difference.


We took our ministry online. It costs only about $50 a year to have an internet presence! We named our online ministry after the reference to Jesus sending disciples out in teams of two as recorded in Mark 6:7.


Truth be told, we didn’t know what we were getting into when we started our congregation’s website. We knew only that our denomination was thinking in the past!


Frankly, one reason for 2×2’s success may be that we suddenly had no pastor. We could launch our site without any protocol.


Our initial objective was to keep our congregation in touch and grounded in what we knew was our missional purpose.


That objective was easily achieved.


We soon saw even greater opportunity. We became pioneers in online ministry!


Four years into our experiment we are reaching more people each year than we reached in our entire 100 years of neighborhood ministry. Now that’s fulfilling missional purpose! And we feel like we are still just beginning!


We learned two things.

  • Vision for tomorrow cannot be measured with tools and measures of the past.
  • Pastors who do not use and understand the internet have no business judging any congregation’s mission.


If pastors are not using modern tools, they have no idea what might be possible.

  • They do not realize that they can nurture their members (and the entire community, the world even) every day. They don’t have to wait until Sunday.
  • They may not realize that the Bible is online! It is so easy to find passages with a key word search! And to find commentaries! Everyone with a smartphone has a Bible at their fingertips.
  • They have no idea that their members are finding resources offered by other churches who have embraced new media. If they want to influence members from going astray, they need to be part of the dialogue.
  • They have no idea that an online mission will direct and fuel their mission. Opportunities and needs will find you. The neighborhood will see you in action. They may want to help.
  • They have no idea that their people will be talking about their faith experiences online. If the congregation isn’t there, they cannot be part of the message. (This is especially important if a sharer is unhappy with your church!)
  • They still don’t understand that the few people who are looking to attend church, check a website first. No website. No visit.
  • While they can fret about poor attendance in Sunday School and forums, they fail to realize that they can teach online. People can learn at their convenience.


What’s the Holdup?

The holdup is in shaking that old Top-Down thinking. Top-Down thinking assigns important jobs like this to pastors.


Most pastors don’t have the skills. This will surely change but it is likely to come slowly. The aging of clergy is one of the challenges of the mainline church today.


Lay people have the skills but can’t exercise them without authority.


To use the internet well, foundational thinking must change.


But this we know: it sure beats waiting to die.


2×2 has published many articles on how congregations can use a website to grow mission. Here’s a short list with links, but you can find much more by typing Social Media into the search box.


The True Strength of the Horizontal Church

HorizontalLeadershipFirst, let’s define the difference between the “Vertical Church” and the “Horizontal Church.”


The Vertical Church developed early in Christianity’s history. The Bible gives advice and talks about the qualities of leadership, but the rules of the Church as practiced for centuries are man-made—popes, cardinals, bishops. monsignors, pastors, laity  (or any denominational equivalent) were ordained by men, organizing the only way they knew how. When Christianity was developing, top-down was the societal norm in government, business and even in family life.


Vertical thinking is all most people in church leadership positions know! Their paychecks rely on them being good at it. They are often truly surprised when the authority they safely assumed is no longer automatic.


Time, patience—and money—for vertical structure are running out.


The Horizontal Church is emerging. It is the product of worldwide restructuring of how people think and relate to one another TODAY. Leadership is learning that top-down management stifles creative energy. It is growing more and more difficult for CEOs to give orders and compete in the marketplace with their products and for good employees.


The fuel for this shift in thinking is undoubtedly the internet. Today, when creative thinkers are told NO, they simply go online and figure a way to fulfill their dreams without the traditional structure that looks out for itself.


The Horizontal Church will bring new ideas and energy to a religion that is struggling for relevance in today’s society.


But it won’t be easy going for a while. The Church is entrenched in being Vertical. It will be difficult for church leaders to accept that the future of the Church will be stronger if they let go.


It is obvious in a study of statistics that the Church resonates best with the elderly–people who grew up with top-down, vertical power in their lives. Younger people, say 50 and down, have made adjustments in their lives. The older end of this spectrum either made adjustments in their fields or struggled to find a new field where they didn’t have to adjust. (Could that be the reason for so many second career seminarians?) The younger spectrum has known nothing but horizontal thinking. Church makes little sense to them.


The Horizontal Church must let the laity in—and not in a token way.


The church recognizes the shift in thinking to some extent. Here is a quote from a church leader.

“…the church has largely trailed corporate America in styles and patterns of leadership. While we’re still practicing an authoritarian style of top-down leadership we copied from corporate America in, say, 1950 or so, much of corporate America has moved on to embrace a more collaborative, engaged kind of leadership. These old patterns of leadership in which we’re often stuck are not sufficient for the leadership tasks at hand.—Amy Butler, Senior Pastor, Riverside Church, NYC

I’m Weak Like You

This writer goes on to describe what she feels must become the norm in the Church. She calls it Vulnerable Leadership. Pastors lead by sharing their failures. “I’m weak like you. Let’s work on our weaknesses together.”


Perhaps I see a problem here because I have been self-employed most of my life. Really self-employed—not like pastors who claim self-employment but who get a monthly paycheck with benefits. I know that vulnerability is not a strength. The self-employed learn early that customers may show empathy but they won’t hire you for their important jobs if there is any chance you will be focusing on your health or personal struggles.


A Vulnerable Pastor makes the first job of every congregation to heal‚ starting with the pastor. The result? A clique of dependency. Stronger church members, who might be raring to take on ministry challenges, will be perceived by those in the clique of dependency as a threat to the social order. The neighborhood will soon see a Church that is not for them, because they don’t fit into the clique of dependency or they will catch the vibes of tension between the clique and those who don’t fit into the clique.


A Better Way: I’m Strong Like You

Vulnerable Leadership may have its place, but younger church people are likely to view it as condescending.


WORSE: It misses the strength of Horizontal Leadership. For Horizontal Leadership to work, the approach must be “I’m strong like you. How can we work together?”


This shift in thinking will empower people who are chafing to make a difference in the world — and who can make a difference almost everywhere but in the Church!


Build on strength—the gifts of the Spirit. Be bold. Be strong. For the Lord God is with you!


Strong people can show compassion! Model it. Teach it. But lead from strength of character.


I urge church leaders, dabbling in Horizontal Leadership styles for the first time to:


Lead from strength. Put your best foot forward.

Expect and encourage laity to do the same.

Accepting Vulnerability in the Pulpit
Why It Is A Bad Idea

shutterstock_214609957In the last 24 hours, I have read two posts that have a connection. One is from the Baptist/UCC tradition and one is from the Episcopal tradition.

The first post I read with skepticism. Hard to believe!

Here’s the first link.

Vulnerable leadership can be a powerful tool for building Christian community. But can pastors go to far?

(I’ll get to the second post later, but note at this point that it answers the question asked in this headline.)


This post presents a theory being discussed on seminary campuses that pastors can lead from a position of vulnerability.


In most cases this means that a pastor should talk about personal bouts with depression/mental illness, drugs/alcohol, infidelity, or personal or career failures. Sharing is caring.


I saw this in practice a year or so ago and couldn’t believe my eyes and ears. I happened to visit a church that was voting on a pastor.


The experience was surreal to my outsider’s eyes. The congregation, about to vote on a candidate, was listening to a sample sermon that was highlighting all the candidate’s problems, which were a bit alarming! I didn’t stay to learn the results of the congregational vote, but read later that the call was approved.


A friend with an Episcopal background told me this was a current leadership strategy. Apparently she is right.


The Church Is Looking for Wounded Leaders

There is strength in revealing vulnerability to be sure. It takes a strong person to exercise that strength well. The writer of the Vulnerable Leadership doesn’t spend a lot of time exploring that. She dismisses it with an odd air of acceptance.


“Jesus and his example and all that.”


Coming from vulnerability is not inherently bad. But coming from vulnerability into immediate acceptance as a leader is fraught with potential problems. It’s the leadership—the use or potential abuse of power and position—that congregations need to consider.


The Compassionate Nature of Christ

The post contains a list of seven reasons clergy think this is a good idea. They suggest it follows the compassionate example of Christ. Perhaps we should remember the compassion shown for Judas who succumbed to his vulnerability despite being in the presence of the ultimate mentor every day.


In reality, the seven objectives create a minefield in congregations that assume the candidates presented to them meet higher standards.


Good leaders put other people first. Given the nature of human frailty, this is all but impossible for the vulnerable.


Misery loves company and all that.


A Camaraderie of Pain

Sympathy is an opiate. Vulnerable pastors will find sympathizers. The idea proposes that congregations and clergy work through problems together. But the Church should not forget these things:

  • A pastor is paid.
  • A pastor is the voice of the church.
  • A pastor has authority.
  • And yes, a pastor has power.


Power in the hands of the vulnerable is dangerous.


How Can Church Leaders Think This Is A Good Idea?

The answer may lie in the current vulnerability of today’s denominations. When threatened, hierarchies find comfort in a rank and file that won’t add to their problems. The Protestant tradition promotes independent thinking and conscience among its clergy. But today hierarchy is threatened. Vulnerable clergy are more likely to follow their superiors without question. But how can the Church impose the same conformity on the laity?


Lay leaders are responsible for their congregations. While most members go about their personal spiritual journeys, lay leaders accept the burden of caring for the whole. Their job is not to protect the pastor! They are in a position to see problems developing and are conscience-bound to do right by their congregation. They have no desire to hurt anyone or expose a pastor’s problems any more than needed—but that is likely how the story will be told by a vulnerable pastor.


A change in leadership may be the best solution when things are not going well. Changing pastors is divisive by nature. Unhappy pastors can leave at any time. Unhappy congregations must vote. It gets ugly quickly.


Vulnerable leaders, who feel challenged (and more vulnerable) are likely to surround themselves with sympathizers. Sympathy is an opiate. Finding support beomes the focus of ministry. The congregational atmosphere can become cult-like. Result: a damaged congregation.


A Strategy that Puts Lay Leaders at Risk

Lay leaders gain status in their congregations when they consistently sacrifice for their people over time. They are tested over and over. Presenting congregations with vulnerable pastoral leadership puts these important and long-standing relationships at risk. It is a prescription for trouble.


The second post I read that day, makes it clear where this leadership strategy can lead.

Manslaughter charge prompts church to examine relationship with alcohol

An Episcopal bishop is charged with manslaughter for the death of a cyclist she is alleged to have struck while driving drunk. It wasn’t the first time she had driven drunk—very drunk.


The Church excused her frailties. Hush!


People were asked to vote on her candidacy for bishop without knowing that serious missteps had been forgiven.


The resulting damage is obvious. Will the Church once again brush the dust under the rug?


Advocating for vulnerable clergy puts the needs of clergy first. Poor stewardship. Poor leadership.


How many lay leaders are part of the discussion when these strategies are formed?

A Post Worth Sharing on Ash Wednesday

Here is an interesting Ash Wednesday post we are happy to share.

It asks interesting questions about the corporate need for atonement.

Lutherans are very big on the corporate nature of church, focused mostly on corporate worship. The church is the people, we like to say.

Bodies of people are just as capable of wrong-doing as individuals.

How do we repent for the wrongs we impose on others? How about the wrongs we impose on our own?

Good questions.


The first step might be to admit that churches make mistakes. BIG mistakes, sometimes.

Don’t just read this post. Take some time to answer it—in theory and action!

You Can’t Build Church by Rewriting the Bible

Do Christians Believe in the Resurrection?

I’m looking for proof! Not proof in the Resurrection. The Church accepts that, don’t we?


I’m looking for proof that church leaders believe.


There is so much talk in the Church about dying—especially dying congregations.


I don’t know one church governing council that meets monthly to talk about their death. They don’t consider themselves to be dying. They recognize challenges, but the people who are keeping the church alive aren’t subscribing to their death sentences. They rely on hope. They look to leaders for help. Often, they find none.


The people are frustrated that their work is unrecognized. What they hear from leaders is troubling. Our experience at Redeemer illustrates it:


In 2000, a bishop told us he had no intention of helping our congregation. “In ten years, you will die a natural death.”

Instead, we grew. Slowly. But we grew.

In 2006, we started to grow quickly. We returned to our regional body. “Will you help us now?”

It took numerous attempts to get an answer—and what a discouraging answer.

“It doesn’t matter what you do. The bishop intends to close your church.”

It was two more years before the bishop got around to implementing the plan made with no consultation of our members. Our church had accepted 49 new members in that time.

But the bishop’s envoy was right. Nothing the laity of the church achieved mattered.

We were on the synod’s death list.

That death list in the Christian church is long.  It is a topic frequently addressed on church blogs.


The focus attacks the church at its roots. Church members hear the stories of God’s love. They hear about how each one is precious. Then they are told by church leaders, that they don’t count and worse—they are causing church failure.


Where is this approach getting us?


There are prominent church leaders who make a living off of this situation. They create a theology around what they are doing—a dangerous and misguided theology.


Scriptural references are twisted from their original meanings to justify the point of view of the modern  “reformers” or “replanters.”


The truth is they can’t find much support for their approach to ministry in the Bible.


New Wine and Old Wine Skins

Mark 2:22

And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

Old wine skins are not the people of the church. The old wine skins are the Pharisees and Scribes—the church leaders! This passage addresses the transition from Jewish practices that predate the coming of the Messiah.


churchreplantersThis text should never be used to condemn Christ’s followers today. Yet, this is what we hear from church leaders.

We have to get rid of old memberships to replant churches. We have our own theory about that. See at left.


We might pay more attention to a later verse in the same gospel.

Mark 9:42

“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.

Old Churches Must Die,
So New Churches Can Live.

It’s A Modern Resurrection!

The second foundational story of a modern church-buider’s theology is the Resurrection story.

You know the story: Christ died so that we can live.

Theologians change the story. Congregations must die so new churches can live.

You discourage the faithful to encourage new faithful!

Cock-eyed thinking.

Christ died once and for all.

We can’t repeat that miracle no matter how hard we try—and there is no need to!

A New Study Sees Value in Those “Old Wine Skins”

Now there is a study proving that some of the rhetoric of church leaders is worthless.

The “new” ways to grow churches are no better than the “old.”

Flashes in the pan. Neighborhood churches sense that already and look upon the advice of church leaders skeptically.

Maybe we should return to the Bible—the way it is written. Focus on love, service, caring, forgiving, reconciling, etc. These are the messages of Christ.

When we focus on love, we prove that we truly believe in the Resurrection.

South Carolina Courts Rule in Favor of Redeemer

OK! The headline is a stretch, but the issues in this South Carolina intra-church feud are the same issues that Redeemer (2×2’s parent church) hoped Pennsylvania courts would hear sometime between 2008 and 2011.


We didn’t fare so well in Pennsylvania. Our courts ruled that they don’t have jurisdiction in church cases, which leaves Pennsylvania denominations in a state of lawlessness. A final ruling contained this troublesome note: If the law were applied, Redeemer’s arguments have merit.


But the law doesn’t matter in Pennsylvania churches.


There are notable differences between the points made in this article and our long saga.


  • This is a group of churches, not just one tiny church. They also included some of the diocese’s larger congregations. They had more resources than our little church! Click on the link in the article to download the 46-page ruling. Six of those pages list the 36 attorneys involved!)
  • The stakes are greater — $500 million in property as opposed to $1 million, more or less.
  • Their effort was clergy-led, which gave them more credibility in court. When both sides in the issue wear collars, judges can’t as easily talk down to laity involved.
  • No volunteer members of congregations were named personally—a travesty that should shame the member churches of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod (SEPA), but doesn’t.


Those are the major differences. There is much the same. If in six years, Pennsylvania courts had decided to hear SEPA vs Redeemer, we would have made the same arguments.


  1. That our rights under Lutheran law were denied.
  2. If you have the right to join, you have the right to withdraw.
  3. That the internal review process within the church was biased to the point of nonexistence.
  4. That congregational representatives are elected to serve the congregation—not the bishop.
  5. That the history of our congregation and property ownership predate the establishment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.


Had our case been heard, we could have detailed the abuses and countered the arguments and claims of synod officials. None of that happened.

The Illusion of Justice

Our case was not argued in or out of the church. Our presentation to the Synod Assembly did not allow for questions and answers! We were already being sued by the Synod—so what outcome could be expected? While Redeemer was allotted a set time—about 15 minutes—we were not permitted to be part of the discussion afterwards The synod took the same amount of time and added 20 minutes of witnesses who were lined up at microphones. They spoke with great authority knowing they could not be questioned. This was so orchestrated that the synod admitted just before our presentation that they were doubling the amount of time for “discussion.” They had the “discussers” predetermined and knew exactly how much time they would take. The first person who came to the microphone with a question was told “time’s up.” Some of these experts on Redeemer were unknown to our congregation! Others hadn’t set foot in our church in 15 years! That’s how you settle a million dollar issue in 50 minutes.


Checks and balances? That’s the Synod Council’s job.  Elected to represent the congregations, they acted as an arm of the bishop’s office. Early on, one of our members approached one such elected representative and reported upon his return that he was met with a threatening tirade and couldn’t get a word in. This should trouble member congregations but most seem happy as long as they are left alone. The culture of bullying.


ELCA constitutions allow for a congregation to withdraw. The statute calls for such a request to signal 90 days of negotiation—which is what we were hoping for when we made the withdrawal request. Instead, we received a fax from synod’s lawyer that we could not withdraw because we were “terminated” by decree—a process not defined in the constitution. Church constitutions are worthless in Pennsylvania.


In fact, there was no vote to terminate Redeemer until June 2010—two years later—and it is still constitutionally questionable. Our congregation would have had a right to be part of the process and challenge this and other decisions under Lutheran law. We were denied representation or voice within the church during those two years! Under synod rules, this makes all Synod Assembly proceedings during this time and perhaps after invalid legally—but laws in the church do not apply.


There are many church property and governance cases in the courts. Lutheran and Episcopal cases dominate. Historically Lutheran and Episcopal polities are entirely different, but today’s Lutheran leaders crave the land ownership polity of the Episcopal tradition and use their “full communion” agreements to justify unLutheran thinking. But, as this case shows, the Episcopal tradition is crumbling. Perhaps we should be happy we are Lutheran.

The Tide May Be Turning

Regardless, cases since our loss have often sided with congregations. One case in Pennsylvania (Presbyterian) was being heard at the same time courts were refusing to hear ours—and the ruling was in favor of the congregation.


Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America take note. The tide may be shifting. It might be easier to read and follow your rules rather than asking secular courts to give you authority your congregations don’t give you. Member churches should look into just how much the last six years have cost you. What, if anything, did all the animosity gain?


One day the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America may have a presiding bishop that actually presides!

A Prayer for Our Church

Langston Hughes was only 113 years old on Saturday. So much of this video speaks to our congregation’s experience on our 4th birthday (Redeemer’s 124th). Enjoy!