Argus Leader: Church to Mark Launch as Part of Upstart Group

North American Lutheran Congregation Sets Celebration

By Jill Callison

The first North American Lutheran Church congregation in Sioux Falls will commemorate its start Sunday.

King of Glory Church began worshiping at the Good Samaritan Society's Jerstad Center in March. It has 120 members and draws 130 people to its Sunday morning service, the Rev. Rich Merkouris said.

Merkouris is the first person to be ordained in the NALC, which was established in August and now has 214 congregations.

The NALC was started because of unhappiness with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States, Merkouris said.

The ELCA's churchwide assembly in August 2009 voted to permit congregations to call a pastor who is living in a lifelong, monogamous, publicly accountable same-gender relationship.

Not everyone agreed with the statement on human sexuality, including the South Dakota Synod council and its bishop.

The ELCA's South Dakota Synod has lost 25 congregations, said Kevin Stillson, coordinator of evangelical missions and communications.

No Sioux Falls church has left the ELCA. Hope Lutheran Church voted on the issue, but a proposal to leave did not receive the votes needed.

Another NALC congregation, Heritage Lutheran, started in Brandon after Brandon Lutheran Church's vote to leave the ELCA was unsuccessful, Merkouris said.

Merkouris is a 2004 graduate of the University of Sioux Falls and a 2009 graduate of Sioux Falls Seminary. He was ordained May 18 in the NALC with the Rev. John Bradosky, NALC General Secretary, presiding.

Factors other than the human sexuality statement played a role in the NALC's formation, Merkouris said.

"Other key decisions were made such as the historic episcopate with the Episcopal Church and some concerns about the political nature of the church and their involvement in politics," he said.

Merkouris said King of Glory, whose members came from other Lutheran churches, hopes to be identified as an evangelical congregation.

"We want to be a place that teaches, preaches and ultimately submits to God's word, the Bible, as the final authority," he said. "We want to be known as a place that serves the community and blesses our neighbors and those around us. Third, we want to be distinctly multigenerational, intentionally including different ages together."

Note: This article appeared in the June 2, 2011 edition of the Argus Leader announcing the launch of King of Glory and its Celebration Worship Service on June 5, 2011.