New Hope Lutheran Church was formed by a group of former ELCA members from 6-8 different area congregations. This group believed, and continues to believe, that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God. They were troubled by one or more of the things the ELCA was doing and had done over the past several years, including the “Call to Common Missions”, the way the Synods dictate the Pastor Call and removal process, the way the “Study of Human Sexuality” was handled, the move towards Universal Salvation, and finally the straw that broke the camels back, the August 21st, 2009 vote by the Churchwide ELCA assembly to allow ordination of practicing gays and lesbians. This group believed the ELCA was moving away from its scriptural roots to more of an “everybody decide for themselves what the Bible means” approach.
The largest segment of those starting New Hope Lutheran Church came from Faith Lutheran in Grantsburg, WI but they had support from others at Pilgrim Lutheran in Frederic, Bethany Lutheran in Branstad, Bethany Lutheran in Siren, Lakeside Lutheran in Web Lake, Zion Lutheran in Trade Lake as well as others.
On Sunday, August 23rd, two days after the ELCA vote took place, several members at Faith voiced disdain regarding the vote and openly asked “what are we going to do?” and further stated “we can not stay within the ELCA”.
Discussions with the Pastor at Faith, and the President of the Faith congregation revealed they did not want to pursue any action as the Bishop had asked everyone to “not overreact” to something the Churchwide leadership felt was not a big deal. A petition was submitted to Faith Lutheran on Sept 1, 2009 calling for a special congregational meeting to temporarily “de-fund” the ELCA while we discussed what the ELCA had done, and looked into alternatives.
As a result of this petition, a special meeting of the Faith Lutheran congregation was set for October 4. At this meeting there was a motion made to postpone the vote on de-funding the ELCA until the annual meeting in Feb. This motion passed 60% to 40% and those opposing the ELCA vote started to see the handwriting on the wall. While this group remained hopeful they could convince the majority at Faith to see things their way, it would not turn out to be the case.
The Pastor and council at Faith did schedule two internal discussion meetings on the subject and invited the Bishop to come and speak to the congregation but they would not allow literature expressing opposing views to be distributed in the Church, nor would they allow other outside speakers who were knowledgeable and articulate on the subject to come in to address the congregation.
During the month of September an ad hoc group consisting of Marlyn Wedin, Gary Nelson, Alma Karels, Betty and Rodney Hanson, Marilyn and Gene Gronlund, Terry Swenson and others had formed to discuss options should the vote to de-fund the ELCA on Oct 4th be rejected. So many people were expressing thoughts of finding another Church to go to, or quitting Church attendance altogether, that they decided to hold a meeting for members of area wide ELCA congregations who might be interested in forming a new congregation.
The 1st area wide meeting was held Sunday October 18th at the CREX convention center in Grantsburg. 78 individuals from 5 different congregations attended the meeting. At this meeting Pastor Mark Richardson from Bethesda Lutheran in Dresser WI spoke about the LCMC.
The group also elected the following steering committee:
- Bill Ellis
- Linnet Jensen
- Alma Karels
- Gary Nelson
- Linda Pederson
- Kobi Phillipps
- Kay Thorsbakken
- Terry Swenson
- Marlyn Wedin
- Ron Wilhelm
The steering committee was charged with organizing future meetings, meeting more frequently than the larger group, taking input from the larger group along with input from their respective congregations to come back to the larger group with follow up and recommendations. The next larger group meeting was set for Oct 25th.
The 1st steering committee meeting was held Oct 21st, 2009 at the Lions building in Grantsburg. (They changed to meeting at Gary Nelson’s Insurance office in late November.) The steering committee would meet weekly (with 2 or 3 exceptions) until June 23rd , 2010.
125 people, from 12 different congregations of those looking to start a new congregation, attended the 2nd meeting (October 25th, 2009 at the CREX convention center in Grantsburg). Pastor Eric Christenson from the Free Lutheran Church in Amery spoke to us about The Association of Free Lutheran Churches. By a show of hands the group asked the steering committee to start looking at holding interim Worship Services. The next meeting was scheduled for Nov 1st, 2009.
On the morning of November 1st, Marlyn and Elaine Wedin, Bill and Ellen Ellis, Linda and Larry Pederson, and Terry and Linda Swenson attended Worship Service at Grace Lutheran Church in Hayward, WI. They met with several of the parishioners of Grace after the Service to hear about their experience in starting up a new breakaway congregation. (The members that started Grace Lutheran had left the ELCA 6 years earlier as a result of their concern with the direction of the ELCA.) This is an important thread in our history as it was at this meeting they met Gary Nathan, who would later call with an interim Pastor recommendation. Gary Nathan recommended they call Ralph Larson, who in turn recommended Pastor Emory Johnson.
The November 1st, 2009 group meeting was again held at the CREX convention center. Pastor’s Rokenbrodt and Mark Homp talked to us about the American Association of Lutheran Churches. At this meeting the group voted to begin a Sunday am Worship Service the next week (November 8th, 2009) at the High School Auditorium in Siren, while we continued to look at denominational options. Linda Pederson, Alma Karels, Vance Wedin and Brent Blomberg volunteered to be on the Worship committee.
On November 2nd the Worship committee met at Terry and Linda Swenson’s home to put together a Worship service for November 8th. Pastor Paul Anderson, co-founder of the Alliance of Renewal Churches (ARC), and founder of the Masters Institute (a seminary in Mpls, MN) was contacted on Nov 3rd and agreed to lead our Worship Service on the 8th.
On Nov 6th retired Pastor Ralph Larson was contacted regarding leading our Service on Nov 15th. He declined due to health reasons but called back later recommending a friend, Pastor Emory Johnson, who was a retired Chaplain living in Spooner. Pastor Johnson was contacted and agreed to lead our Worship Service on Nov 15th.
What would eventually become New Hope Lutheran Church held its first Worship Service at the Siren High School Auditorium on November 8th, 2009. 102 people were in attendance. (Bill Ellis arranged for the Auditorium and he and Dave McCrane paid the expenses for use of the building. Bill also arranged for one of the two donated sets of Hymnals and stored them at his house during the week, bringing them to Church each week until storage space at the Auditorium was obtained.) Pastor Paul Anderson gave a healing message and afterwards shared information about ARC with the attendees. Patzy Wenthe and Marilyn Gronlund volunteered to bring coffee and goodies for fellowship after the next weeks service and have managed the sign up sheet for goodies since then.
Pastor Emory Johnson led our Worship Service on November 15th, 2009 at the Siren Auditorium. He felt and understood our pain, giving support and encouragement to those in attendance. Pastor Johnson had lived in Israel and sprinkled his messages with local Israeli knowledge and history. Some said it “made the Bible come alive”. Had it not been for the fact that we had already scheduled other Pastors for the next two weeks Pastor Johnson would have been asked back for Nov 22nd. Pastor Johnson was asked back and led our Service again on Dec 6th and has continued thru today except when he has had previous commitments.
Other Pastors who led Worship Service in Nov of 2009 and in 2010 during Pastor Johnson’s absence were Pastor Carl Buetemeier from White Bear Lake, MN, Pastor Kent Wallace from Callender IA, Pastor Craig Nelson from Minong, WI and Pastor Paul Nash head of Mission Church Development with the American Association of Lutheran Churches. We continued to Worship at the Siren High School Auditorium until our move to Grantsburg in June of 2010.
A few other key dates, occurrences, and facts.
Nov 29th, 2009 – We needed to have a name for our congregation in order to file Articles of Incorporation, a prerequisite for 501C3 status. So, after Worship Service on Nov 29th we voted and chose the name of New Hope Lutheran Church. Other names which were included in the voting were Abiding Word, Amazing Grace, God’s Word, Lutherans for Christ, and Word of God Lutheran Church.
Dec 6th 2009 – Vote at Faith Lutheran to leave the ELCA failed by a vote of 119 to leave and 158 to stay.
After this vote Pastor Johnson was asked if he would be available to lead our Worship Services thru the month of Feb, 2010. He said he would be available except for 3 Sundays in January where he had previous commitments.
Dec 16th, 2009 – The steering committee voted and approved asking Pastor Emory Johnson to be New Hope Lutherans Pastor until we established a new direction. Pastor Johnson said he would continue to lead us until God told him it was time for a change.
Jan 17th, 2010 – Congregational meeting at the CREX convention center in Grantsburg.
At this meeting we;
1. Heard from Sue McKenzie of Grace Lutheran in Hayward, WI about their experiences in starting a new breakaway congregation. She also answered some questions regarding the LCMC.
2. Authorized ourselves as the voting body to;
- Approve the affiliation we align with
- Approve any location changes for worship services
- Approve dispersion of funds for Missions and any expenditures over $500.
- Elect a task force to develop a formal constitution and by-laws.
- Set the date of a constitutional meeting
- Approve the New Hope Lutheran constitution
(At this point the steering committee resigns and we elect congregation officers and council)
3. Voted to write a constitution as if we were going to remain an independent Lutheran Church. A committee to write the constitution would be elected at a congregational meeting on Feb 21st.
Feb 9th, 2010 – State of WI approved New Hope Lutheran Churches Articles of Incorporation.
Feb 21st, 2010 – Congregational meeting at the CREX convention center in Grantsburg.
At this meeting we;
1. Elected the following committee to write the constitution and by-laws for New Hope Lutheran Church.
- Lois Carlson
- Mitch Ryan
- Dave Dahlberg
- Lynn Johnson
- Mark Dahlberg
- Ron Wilhelm
2. Marlyn Wedin, head of the location committee reviewed options other than the Siren Auditorium for us to hold Worship Services until we were able to build. A show of hands indicated the majority would like to move into our own location.
3. Voted to give 10% of all our general fund donations to missions outside of our Church.
March 28th, 2010 – Voted to move from the Siren High School Auditorium and lease part of the Mark Harmon building in Grantsburg.
April 25th, 2010 – Congregational meeting after Service at the Siren Auditorium
At this meeting we voted to lease 2/3’s of the Mark Harmon Building in Grantsburg subject to the Grantsburg Village board giving New Hope Lutheran a conditional use permit.
Between April 25th and June 20th the whole congregation joined together giving of their time, energy, talents, resources, gifts and finances to renovate the building and turn it into a beautiful, fully furnished, sanctuary with a fellowship hall, pastor’s office and multipurpose room.
June 1st 2010 – The steering committee signed a lease with Mark Harmon for 2/3’s of his building located at 685 W. State Rd 70 in Grantsburg.
June 20th, 2010 – The 1st Worship Service was held at the Grantsburg location. 160 were in attendance.
June 27th, 2010 – The 1st Confirmation class was confirmed at New Hope Lutheran. There were two confirmands, Paige Johnson and Brady Thompson.
June 27th, 2010 – Congregational meeting to ratify the constitution and elect formal Church council. (By the time of this meeting 175 individuals representing about 80 families had signed up to be Charter Members of New Hope Lutheran Church.)
At this meeting we;
1. Voted to ratify the constitution as presented. Motion by Bill Ellis, second by Linda Pederson.
2. Elected by unanimous consent the slate of Church Council nominees presented. Motion by Fred Olson, second by Cindy Jensen. The council elected were;
Board of Worship
- Lois Carlson
- Mark Dahlberg
- Pat Johnson
- Kobi Phillipps
- Caren Sundquist
- Ron Wilhelm
Board of Trustee’s
- Robert Berg
- Doug Panek
- Larry Pederson
- Mitch Ryan
- Mike Thoreson
- Bob Thorsbakken