Eight-seven churches in total have publicly vowed to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the largest Lutheran denomination in America with nearly 5 million members, and join the conservative group Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (Lutheran CORE) after the ELCA voted in favor of several gay issues.

Unhappy that ELCA leaders voted to drop its 20-year-old ban on non-celibate gay and lesbian clergy and approved a plan to bless gay unions during its Minneapolis meeting in August, members of Lutheran CORE decided to splinter from the church.

“God is calling us to do something,” Rev. Paull Spring, chair of Lutheran CORE, told members in September. “The ELCA has fallen into heresy. It is a time for confession and a time to resist. It is, please God, also a time for new life and transformation and for mission.”

According to the group's website, the highest number of defections have come from Minnesota, where 15 churches have abandoned the ELCA. Another 10 congregations are from Pennsylvania, while 9 Iowa churches have joined Lutheran CORE.

The churches have affirmed the group's Common Confession, which reads in part: “We teach and practice that sexual activity belongs exclusively within the biblical boundaries of a faithful marriage between one man and one woman.”

Lutheran CORE members agreed in September to authorize the creation of a panel that will recommend how the group will leave the ELCA. That report is due next fall.