Are SEPA Congregational Statistics “Cooked”?

We recently came across the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod’s statistical reports as presented to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — the national church — on the ELCA web site. The report was dated August 17, 2010. We were surprised to see Redeemer listed at all, since elsewhere on the internet SEPA Synod reports our congregation as closed as of June 10, 2010. Redeemer seems to be open when Synod wants to count us and closed when they want us to be closed.

Where did these statistics come from?

The statistics in this report begin in 2004 when we are listed as having 28 members. Redeemer was listed in the same sort of report in 2005 as the only congregation in the SMALL category that was GROWING. Now Redeemer is categorized in the same year as DECLINING! The most recent report rewrites history and shows Redeemer having only THIRTEEN members in 2005 and every year thereafter, including 2010. We have been locked out of our church since September 2009.

UPDATE : In February 2012, SEPA Secretary Rev. Ray Miller and Redeemer “trustee” testified in court that Synod records had Redeemer’s membership at 26 or 28 (ignoring the list of some 70 names we had provided to them). Yet the report issued to SEPA Synod Assembly stated 13. Synod’s lawyer went on in the same proceeding to attempt to prove that Redeemer acted without authorization because the congregational vote of 17 did not constitute a two thirds quorum. It is now clear that SEPA was lying to its member churches to solicit the vote they craved. 

Redeemer has very few members. Honest!

Redeemer has very few members. Honest!

For the record, REDEEMER was a growing congregation with slow but steady growth throughout most of this time period. Part of this growth was among East African immigrants. We experienced a significant growth spurt in 2006-2007 when we began a concentrated outreach to the friends and extended families of members who had been part of Redeemer for as many as 10 years.

This favorite number, 13, keeps cropping up. It was the statistic included in the Trustees Report to Synod Assembly which was first read to the entire assembly in 2008 (along with other inaccurate information) without ever having been shared with Redeemer. We asked in writing for Synod Leadership to correct this report, but it was dragged out again before the entire Assembly in 2009. Redeemer was denied voice or vote at this Assembly.

FACT: Our church council met with Bishop Claire Burkat on November 1, 2007, and presented our membership list along with a detailed ministry plan and a resolution to call a pastor who had agreed to our payment terms and was willing to commit to five years of service. Our membership list had been carefully compiled for this report and was part of a 16-page ministry plan (see page 11). The congregation had worked on this plan months. It included the names of approximately 75 members (full members, associate members and children). We accepted a few more into membership after that meeting. We had many more who had expressed interest in joining our ministry.

The list we presented to the bishop was a conservative count. Had we included a few “drifters” (young people of college age who hadn’t attended in a year or so, for example) we could have claimed another dozen members, but we wanted to be accurate in representing our changing congregation. We had nothing to be ashamed of . . . we were growing quickly!

At this meeting Bishop Burkat reviewed our membership list and commented that many of the names “looked African.” She then added, “White Redeemer must be allowed to die. Black Redeemer . . . .we can put them anywhere.”

SEPA statistics make no sense.In about 2007 or early 2008, the synod demanded a monitored congregational vote on a resolution we had presented to the bishop. We complied with their request and a Synod Council representative attended the meeting, reporting 14 present for the vote. Synod challenged the quorum, so they believed at that time that Redeemer had 42 voting members and even more non-voting members. Redeemer has few members when Synod wants us to have few members and many members when Synod wants us to have many members.

Who came up with these statistics? We had no pastor during much of this time, so we know the forms were not filled out by anyone at Redeemer. The secretary of Synod, Rev. Ray Miller, also served as a trustee for Redeemer. Does he have the answer to this question? Were these statistics presented to the court to justify their takeover? Since Synod has defined “two” Redeemers, dividing our church along racial lines, are the 13 members they are counting our white members?

All churches should check the accuracy of these documents in reference to their congregations. Otherwise these statistics could be used against you some day. Here’s a link: