Congregation did not leave because of genetics draft only

Some concerns have been raised in various forums about the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Genetics.  ELCA FactChecker examines these concerns and offers factual responses.

Concern: Did an ELCA congregation leave the church because of the content in the draft social statement?

Response: A November 11, 2010 story in The Forum, Fargo, N.D., reported that an ELCA congregation had made such a decision, but it should be noted that prior to the congregation’s decision, this reason was not cited as a concern.  The Forum also raised serious questions about the reasons for such a vote in a November 17, 2010 editorial, “First, read the ELCA statement.” That editorial stated: “There is nothing … to suggest the statement is anti-farmer, anti-science or anti-genetic research and application. It’s not about stymieing new knowledge; rather it’s about how that knowledge is used and what could be the moral/spiritual implications of misuse.”

The editorial continued: “In other words, the ELCA draft social statement is in keeping with church tradition. The church has historically embraced its responsibility to develop frameworks for teaching and deliberating about issues that confront a modern, rapidly changing technological society.”

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4 Responses to Congregation did not leave because of genetics draft only

  1. There are some other pieces of information that would help to clarify the issues here. Which congregation voted to leave the ELCA? What public statements are posted on its Web site? What other facts than excerpts from one newspaper can be brought to bear? The post heading uses the word “only,” yet the post only speaks of the genetics statement. Were there other reasons? The post mentions that the genetics statement did not appear as a reason until after the votes. What is the source of this information? What reasons were part of the discussion before the votes?

    • ELCA FactChecker says:

      Thank you for writing. The congregation is Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church, near Sheldon, N.D. The bishop of the synod said he was not aware of any concern by this congregation about the social statement on the genetics when it voted to the leave the ELCA. In fact, Bishop Bill Rindy emphasized the “careful and thoughful” approach of the draft social statement (now proposed social statement), and said it did not dictate what farmers should or should not plant, nor did it dictate farming practices.

      • Thank you for your reply. I found an article ( published by Christian Century that seems to base its report of Bishop Rindy’s comment on the same source as you do. It’s interesting, though, to read the reported quotation of the congregation’s council president, Jill Bunn. The article states that “farmers who use genetically modified seeds are ‘pretty much sinners.'” In this citation, the phrase “pretty much sinners” is attributed to Jill Bunn, while the rest of the sentence is the report.

        The article also states, “Bishop Bill Rindy of the ELCA’s Eastern North Dakota Synod said he was unaware of any concern the congregation might have had about the proposed genetic statement when it voted to leave the ELCA. ”

        If this is an accurate report, as maintains, the absence of his awareness does not mmean the congregation did not factor into its decision the content of the statement on genetics.

        It would appear that until we can review more facts from the congregation itself, we cannot really conclude exactly why the congregation voted to leave the ELCA.

  2. Another article speaks about a congregation in Sheldon, N.D., that voted to leave the ELCA because “Congregation members at Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church don’t like the ELCA’s proposed position on genetics, specifically in relation to farmers’ use of genetically modified seeds. Biotech crops are common in the Red River Valley.” See article at

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