The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has taken hits in recent years from those who are offended by how open our welcome is to those who are being drawn by the Spirit.

For instance, the ELCA proclaims: “You don’t have to carry an ELCA membership card to approach the Holy Communion table.  All the baptized are welcome to the Lord’s table!”

For instance, the ELCA proclaims: “You don’t need to be a straight male to be ordained a pastor.  All people are welcome to pursue the process towards ordination!”

Because of the criticism, many in the ELCA have been in a defensive posture in recent years.  Personally, I think our open welcome is a gospel-centered strength, and should be celebrated.  It’s part of what makes us evangelical.  Indeed, it is not unusual that I have the high privilege of offering pastoral care to someone who has been excluded by another tradition of Christianity.  I am able to say, “You are welcome in this community of faith!”

I am overjoyed by the fact that our building now proclaims that welcome — for the first time.  What a light, bright Gathering Area we now enjoy!  And now that is true of the doors from our Gathering Area into our worship space.  Here’s what the old doors looked like.  (I suggest a caption of: “Keep Out.”)

Below is what the new doors look like.  “Welcome!!!”

About Pastor Andy Ballentine

Pastor Andy Ballentine loves being a parish pastor! Pastor Ballentine took his BA degree from the University of Virginia (with a major in sociology) and earned the Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. He earned the Master of Sacred Theology degree at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, with the thesis topic of: "How Benedictine Monastic Spirituality Nourishes Parish Ministry." He has completed the program of Spiritual Direction from the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation. In the Virginia Synod, Pastor Ballentine has served as Dean of the Peninsula Conference and as chaplain to the candidates in the Virginia Synod’s Candidacy process (those on the way to being approved for ordained and professional ministries in the church). He has staffed many, many Virginia Synod youth events!

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