Few people watched when the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America fell apart two years ago in Minneapolis, but I did.
One convention delegate said he was, for at least a few more hours, a pastor in the church and that he stood “broken, mournful” over what the assembly was about to decide. Another pastor spoke, opposed to the first man, with the same heavy sorrow, and pleaded for sympathy without judgment: “I so want to be understood.”
They debated. They prayed. They voted, with 559 in favor of allowing openly gay clergy, and 451 against it. Then they sang a hymn and prayed once more — some for the very last time together — and then they fell apart.
Battles fought in the public square are eventually fought in church. When, as a former culture warrior, I lost the fervor to tell other people how to live their lives in the public square, it was only a matter of time before I lost the fervor to tell others how to act out their faith in church. When I changed my politics, I found I had to change my church. And so the stories about how I left behind conservatism and tales about how I left behind evangelicalism are intertwined.