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Hawley church schedules vote on leaving ELCA

Hawley Lutheran Church, a congregation of more than 1,100 baptized members, could take the first step Sept. 19 toward breaking with its denomination.

The congregation has scheduled a "special meeting" that day to vote on whether to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Congregation President Clayton Lilleby confirmed the meeting via e-mail Tuesday.

To leave the ELCA, a congregation must pass two votes separated by at least 90 days.

It won't be the first time the congregation has broached the issue. In May, 58 percent of voters favored leaving the ELCA, but that was short of the two-thirds supermajority required to pass the measure.

The Sept. 19 vote comes as congregations in the region and nation continue to react to controversial decisions at the August 2009 Churchwide Assembly, when the ELCA decided to allow individuals in same-gender relationships to serve in the clergy.

Lilleby did not comment beyond confirming that the Hawley congregation's vote is scheduled.

"At this point, we have decided not to make comments for the media until our situation has a resolution," he wrote.

The vote comes in response to the request of 54 members, according to the church newsletter.

Hawley Lutheran Church has 1,142 baptized members and an average attendance of 298, according to 2009 numbers on the ELCA website.

A message left for the Rev. Jeff Teeples, the Hawley Lutheran pastor, was not returned.