Religion Briefs : 54 American Lutheran Flocks Leave Church
At least 54 congregations of the old American Lutheran Church, including six in Southern California, withdrew before the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America came into being Jan. 1, according to officials of the new denomination in Chicago.
Opponents to the three-way merger contended that the new body is too liberal in its interpretation of Scriptures and does not afford congregations sufficient autonomy. There were no reported departures from the other two merger partners--the Lutheran Church in America and the Assn. of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The new denomination has more than 11,000 congregations.
Bishops of the American Lutheran Church had predicted last summer that the church would lose no more than 50 to 60 congregations. Church officials said the figure of 54 could rise in coming months since another 12 churches said they had voted in the first of two required ballots to withdraw.
In Southern California, churches that sent notice of their final withdrawal were Trinity, San Pedro; Prince of Peace, Costa Mesa; First, Camarillo; Cross and Crown, Montebello; St. Paul, Lynwood, and University, Long Beach.
Some breakaway congregations have joined either the 25-year-old Assn. of Free Lutheran Congregations or the fledgling American Assn. of Lutheran Churches.