The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SEPA / ELCA) has become a disciple of Seth Godin, the leading authority on marketing and societal change with a voice on the web. They have quoted him to their congregations.
Seth’s blog today should interest them.
Some organizations demand total fealty, and often that means never questioning those in authority.
Those organizations are ultimately doomed.
Respectfully challenging the status quo, combined with relentlessly iterating new ideas is the hallmark of the vibrant tribe.
SEPA begs its congregations to innovate and change. When they don’t change the way the synod has predetermined that they SHOULD change, they close them down and claim their property.
Redeemer is a case in point. Redeemer was growing quickly when SEPA saw their longed-for chance at claiming our property slipping away. Bishop Almquist had made an attempt to close us and seize our assets in 1998 and backed off after two years. But he refused to work with us in ministry if we didn’t accept the part-time pastor he had chosen for us. His call or no call.
We continued to grow without his help.
SEPA has a mission plan for small churches. They call it triage — shoving the smallest churches to the side and waiting for them to die, while attention is spent on larger churches with more promising prospects for supporting the hierarchy. Property values and assets DO enter the equation. A small congregation is better off if it has no assets than if it has an endowment! Compare Redeemer’s story with Faith/Immanuel in East Lansdowne.
Bishop Burkat loves to call Redeemer “former Redeemer.” We are not sure if she means Redeemer of the 1960s, Redeemer of the 1980s, or the Redeemer she visited with a locksmith in 2008 and spent the last five years suing. We exist if only so we can be sued!
Or maybe she thinks because Synod Council voted to close Redeemer in 2010, never bothering to inform the congregation, that Redeemer is closed. We notice in the latest ELCA yearbook that we are still contributing to the national church! Sounds like we are open!
Synod Council does not have the power to vote congregations out of existence. They’d know that if they read their founding documents. We reserve our constitutional right to challenge synod council’s actions when SEPA can provide a fair forum for hearing a challenge.
We recall very well our appeal in 2009 — which the Synod Assembly never voted on, substituting a vote about our property (not within their authority) when we were appealing Synodical Administration. Check the Synod Minutes and read the question that was voted on. It had nothing to do with our appeal!
Bait and switch. Then claim immunity from the law to pull it off in court.
Redeemer still exists in every way. Redeemer meets weekly — sometimes more often. Redeemer worships weekly —sometimes more often. Redeemer’s efforts to continue ministry— even as SEPA locked us out of the church we built and excluded us from all rights and fellowship within its fold—have grown our congregation in reach and influence despite persecution.
Redeemer is a vibrant tribe. We were always a viable, innovative congregation and our experience of the last five years has only made us stronger in innovation. We will relentlessly iterate our innovations for the good of all.
SEPA congregations are not powerless. They can still turn this around for the good of mission. But they have to respectfully challenge the status quo and demand peaceful reconciliation.
But what we’ve heard for the last five years is silence.