Friday, November 20, 2009

A Lutheran Break-off in Process

Yesterday in class we discussed sect-to-church transitions, including sect break-off formation. Though we discussed why this cycle is not a natural evolution for all religious groups, we also discussed how some religious groups do follow such a trajectory.

Well, some big news broke yesterday: a coalition of Lutherans upset with the direction the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ECLA) has taken has decided to break-off and form their own religious group. Here is the write-up from the Washington Times. They are breaking off for similar reasons why a similar split is occurring in the Episcopal Church: disagreement over interpretation of scripture and Church policy. As we discussed in class, those unhappy with the direction of the Church break off to form a new group that better matches what they consider to be the more original and true teachings.

Such splits happen periodically but not everyday events, so we are witnessing American religious history in the making.


  1. Kendra Tong (93201230)November 21, 2009 at 10:26 PM

    I think this is an example of variation in ideal strictness and profit opportunities. Some members are dissatisfied with the religious goods being offered by the ECLA and the direction it has taken. This is not surprising because, as we learned in class, it is difficult to satisfy many individuals' religious preferences. This created profit opportunities, and as a result, religious entrepreneurs have entered the market and filled in the niche by breaking off and making their own religious group to supply those not fully satisfied. This article shows that if a market is open, there will be entry.

  2. True, but furthermore, the idea behind this split is a reflection in the course that American culture is taking. I do think that religious break offs tend to in some ways reflect the current stream of consciousness which is a result of either politics, the economy, or just a sudden shift in the mindset of the 'new generation'. I'm guessing that within time, this new sect break off will form into a large congregation that will impose their own strict versions on their religion. There will be a different phenomenon in the American culture when this break off occurs. Though this new sect may break off from the Chicago based Lutheran church, and try to fix the holes where the Lutheran church errored, but will not be able to correct all of them. This continuous circle is what we did talk about in class and then a smaller sect in the newly formed sect will want to break off for whatever reasons that may be in the future.

  3. Nice thoughts, Kendra and Alex. I'm curious to see how many people will actually be in this new group.

  4. Kirk Arihara 26573377November 30, 2009 at 3:27 AM

    With the modern views about religion and with socially accepted religious changes, I think its hard for churches to deal with those who try to cope with social changes in churches. There are those have high religious capital from the church based on their beliefs and there are those who dont have a high religious capital. I would say a high percentage of those who attend church; their ideal strictness is not close to perfectly satisfied due to the changing environment. This is why many are more willing to break off. An example can be portrayed as what happend in the church I used to attend. The church i used to attend has strict belief that women were not to teach and lead over men in becoming a religious leader. However, with the changing social enitities and rights a woman became the minister, as many felt this was in strict violation to their religious belief, but NOT SOCIAL EQUALITY BELIEFS(of course women have equal rights to man). My church was split in two as the effect of this.

  5. Kevin Santora

    It will be interesting to see exactly how many people join the new group, but it seems that the break off is for good reason. The Lutheran CORE broke off because of the difference in belief about gay clergy. The general viewpoint on gays is shifting, and the break off religion is creating a new outlook on this. This sect creates a new religious niche that many people will more than likely go to because it has not been filled by many other religions.

    Also, during the article there was a lot of writing about commission and how much money the sect needed and was getting. It seems that sects have problems from an economic standpoint when first starting off, and it is interesting to see how they cover this economic hole. They said much of the clergy has given money and covered this economic problem, but it makes me wonder if all sects have an economic problem when they first start and how they usually go about fixing it.

  6. Kirk, I think your point about most people not getting their ideal strictness at church is an excellent one... Extra credit for you! Though there are many forces at play in church membership, churches are still ultimately voluntary organizations. Keeping people in the church when they are not fully satisfied is a fundamental issue for any church for this reason. No wonder so many churches have splintered over time.

    Kevin, Yes, getting the resources to keep the group afloat is a big hurdle for new religious groups. Just like new businesses start and die out all the time, new religious groups start and die out all the time. Having staying power is the challenge.


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