Redeemer-East Falls, Philadelphia

Redeemer is a small church that found itself in the midst of major controversy within the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Here’s an account of the day SEPA tried to forcibly take our property.

Here’s a timeline of the broader history.

Redeemer has continued its ministry without a church building by starting 2×2. We have spent three or more Sundays of every month visiting other churches to learn their challenges. We will soon have visited nearly half of the congregations who rushed to vote to take our property. We meet once a month in the community to worship and share communion.

Several innovative programs have resulted from its visitations, none of which requires a building.

Nevertheless, the congregation looks forward to the day when we can return to the property we purchased, built and maintained for more than 100 years. A physical presence in the community has benefits, too!

We are disappointed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for its failure to honor its polity and the promises made to their congregations.

Redeemer has proved its viability by surviving five years of litigation and still holding regular worship services, mission projects and conducting business as a Lutheran congregation.

  • Redeemer’s never voted to leave the ELCA.
  • Redeemer appealed several issues to the 2009 SEPA Synod Assembly. SEPA Synod Assembly never voted on the issues we appealed but substituted a question about our property ownership—which was not part of our appeal. All the issues we appealed were totally ignored. Property ownership is covered in SEPA’s Articles of Incorporation, which state that the synod cannot convey congregational assets without the congregation’s consent.
  • SEPA sued our congregation before this appeal took place—tainting the process.
  • SEPA improperly denied our congregation vote and say in that Assembly.
  • SEPA Synod Council voted to close Redeemer in June 2010 without informing our congregation. That means Redeemer was open in 2009 and 2010 when we were denied voice and vote at the May assemblies—a clear constitutional violation and one that according to Roberts Rules of Order invalidates all the proceedings of those Assemblies.
  • Since a congregational vote is required to close, Redeemer is still an active congregation. We intend to hold the ELCA responsible for not enforcing its polity with its member synods, when a fair forum can be provided for a redress of grievances.
Redeemer members gather in front of locked church for Easter.

For the second year, Redeemer members met in front of their locked church to celebrate Easter. There were 11 this year, three more than last year. All who attended are not pictured. Both years we had two visitors. Passersby rejoiced to see we were “open” and wanted to worship with us. We handed out flowers to those who stopped to talk and left some of the flowers on the steps. A friend stopped by on Monday to plant them and reported that they had already been planted. We migrated to a nearby home for our traditional Easter breakfast.