Our congregation decided on October 17, 2012, to disaffiliate from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) so that we can continue to believe and teach that sinners are saved and justified in no other way but by faith in Christ. The WELS demanded that we believe and teach that God has already saved and declared all people to be righteous in His sight, whether or not they believe and are baptized. When they condemned our confession of faith as false doctrine, we could no longer remain in fellowship with them. The Gospel is more important than any denominational affiliation, and by God's grace alone, the Gospel is still being proclaimed in our midst.
Our congregation faced an immediate challenge. Our church's mortgage was with the WELS Church Extension Fund (CEF), and we still owed $275,000 on the property. Within 48 hours of our decision to disaffiliate, in spite of the fact that we had never missed a monthly payment, the CEF sent us a letter in which they cited a clause in our loan agreement that placed us in default on our loan the moment we disaffiliated from the WELS. In the same letter, they threatened to begin foreclosure proceedings if we did not pay off our balance in full by December 1st.
We were not entirely surprised by this letter from the CEF. On the very evening on which we decided to disaffiliate from the WELS, within two hours of our decision, Pastor Jon Buchholz, president of the Arizona-California District of the WELS, who happened to be at a pastors' conference at that very moment, began announcing to some of the pastors there that the CEF would call the note on our loan—another warning not to defy the synod.
But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-17).
The Lord provided willing and generous hearts among our members and among our brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the country, and we were immediately able to reduce our debt by over $25,000. At the same time, He provided a local bank that was willing to refinance our mortgage. We closed on the loan November 26th, five days ahead of our December 1st deadline.
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies (Romans 8:31-33).
This is part of a letter I sent to my members yesterday: