St. Paul Pioneer Press, 20 Aug 99

Minnesota Lutherans try to move beyond rift


For Minnesotans at the ELCA convention, the vote in favor of full communion with the Episcopal church represents just the beginning of a healing process. The synod had been deeply divided on the issue.

Bishop Mark Hanson, spiritual leader of the St. Paul Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said many delegates from his synod had mixed opinions. ``Given the reality that our synod had a variety of opinions on the proposal, we are not gleeful, but we're moving ahead and we're working at our own differences.''

Hanson said he had scheduled a meeting with the delegates from St. Paul for Thursday evening and expected to work through some of the disappointment at that time. 

``We are in a somber moment of gratitude,'' Hanson said, ``because we do have to face the reality that there were deeply held and rational arguments on both sides of this proposal and we do not want this to become divisive.''

The Rev. Roger Eigenfeld, pastor of St. Andrew's Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi and the organizer of a countermovement that tried to defeat ``Called to Common Mission,'' said passage of the proposal doesn't end the controversy. Eigenfeld's efforts during two meetings at his church produced an alternative to ``Common Mission.'' The ``Mahtomedi proposal,'' as the document is called, asked Lutherans to accept Episcopal clergy and to continue joint ministries under previous agreements. But the resolution asked church members to reject the requirement that Lutherans accept the historic episcopate of Episcopal church.

``We missed (defeating the measure) by 28 votes,'' Eigenfeld said, referring to the passage of ``Common Mission'' by a two-thirds majority. ``So obviously we are disappointed. A lot of work has gone into this. I can rejoice in full communion with the Episcopal Church, but the boulder in the road is the historic episcopate. That is a difficult thing to ask a pastor to do.

``More than 700 pastors have signed this Mahtomedi resolution,'' Eigenfeld said. ``We owe it to them to bring the loyal opposition together in the spring and to ask where we go from here. We are the loyal opposition, and we do not intend to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. But what do you do at this point?''