Tornado Hits Near ELCA Assembly Hall During Vote

At approximately 2 pm yesterday, a tornado touched down in downtown Minneapolis. It was the first tornado to hit this area in nearly 90 years. Even more profound is that the agenda for the churchwide assembly stated that discussion surrounding the proposed human sexuality statement would begin at, you guessed it, 2 pm.

I’m not saying that this tornado was sent by God as a warning of the “wrath to come.” But I’m also not prepared to rule it out. Either position–assurance or dismissal–is grounded in pride and arrogance. One has to at least entertain the fact that this is a profound coincidence. Either way, it cannot be ignored.

A Minneapolis pastor, not Lutheran, phrased it like this on his blog:

On a day when no severe weather was predicted or expected…a tornado forms, baffling the weather experts—most saying they’ve never seen anything like it. It happens right in the city. The city: Minneapolis.

The tornado happens on a Wednesday…during the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America’s national convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center. The convention is using Central Lutheran across the street as its church. The church has set up tents around it’s building for this purpose.

Here are some pictures from the tornado damage at Central Lutheran. This ELCA church was serving as a “home base” for the attendees of the assembly. The assembly hall where the ELCA is meeting is across the street.

The first picture is the steeple of Central Lutheran. The second picture is the courtyard area of the church. You can see the damaged steeple at the top of the picture. The white tents on the ground were to house a “pub” for the assembly attenders, amongst other things.


Severe Weather

Another interesting observation is that the vote on the sexuality statement passed by exactly two-thirds percent, or 66.6%. Traditionally that number, thee sixes in a row, doesn’t have a great track record. Again, I’m not suggesting we look deeper into this than need be. But I’m also not dismissing it outright.

These are extraordinary times in the ELCA; the Church at large really. I think it’s safe to say that something happened yesterday. Discerning what that something is is a matter of prayer, reflection and time.

You can check out the webcast of the ELCA churchwide assembly here and read our other posts on the assembly here. runs on the Standard Theme

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34 Responses to “Tornado Hits Near ELCA Assembly Hall During Vote”

  1. Bill Bolte August 20, 2009 at 4:13 pm #

    OK, that is totally amazing. It's certainly hard to dismiss outright isn't it?

    • Justin Wise August 20, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

      It really is profound. I don't want to be a teetotaler on this, but it does beg us to pay attention. Of course, those who would want to dismiss it are already bringing the "Pat Robertson" charges. Sad.

      • Bill Bolte August 20, 2009 at 6:26 pm #

        Justin, when you say "It was the first tornado to hit this area in nearly 90 years", how are you quantifying that? It does appear that there has been tornado activity in that area within the last 90 years. I'm just curious as to what you mean? Has Minneapolis not been hit in that long?

        • Justin Wise August 20, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

          Sure. I was talking to a one-time Minneapolis resident and he mentioned that this specific area of downtown has not been affected by a direct tornado strike like this one in 90 years.

          Are you hearing different? I want to make sure I'm writing correct information.

          • Bill Bolte August 20, 2009 at 8:02 pm #

            no, not specifically. i was discussing with a coworker and we did some looking. from what we can tell, nothing specifically in Minneapolis, just the surrounding area. that ws all.

  2. Kristin August 20, 2009 at 5:03 pm #

    That is unbelievable…

  3. LibGirl August 20, 2009 at 5:50 pm #

    That is amazing. I hope it prompted everyone to pray and re-examine their actions and reactions in the light of God!

  4. Rev Bill Pyatt August 20, 2009 at 6:21 pm #

    Guess it means that God loves ELCA gay clergy as much as any other clergy. Go figure.

    • Justin Wise August 20, 2009 at 6:49 pm #

      Bill: What would make you think anything different? Why would God not love gay clergy? Furthermore, how are you choosing to define "love"?

  5. Emily August 20, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    We definitely need to keep praying praying praying for the Spirit's guidance, love, and compassion.
    No easy answers. I led Bible study this morning and was very awakened to how divisive issues related to sexuality can become!

  6. Jim August 20, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Could it be possible that God was making a statement against greed in the church? Or perhaps gluttony. There are a multitude of reasons that there was a tornado on that day in that place. To try to interpret this as a statement against what the ELCA is doing is, well, immature. Who are we to know what it means?
    And why is it that when something like this happens to a group of people who we deem to be unrightous, its God's will? But when it happens to a group that is something we consider rightous, it must be Satan's power?
    We (myself included) are always so quick to condemn, but so slow to forgive and love.

    • ideas August 20, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

      Exactly Jim. How do we know "who" sent the tornado or if it was just a freak of combining air masses. It could have been the devil trying to shake the confidence of those voting in favor of the statement. Or it could have been God shielding the church and convention from a tornado that ended up causing only minor damage and no injuries. How do we know how to interpret this occurance. Each side will read it differently. The important thing is that the ELCA is doing what it thinks is right and what Jesus would want them to do. If it is not, then God is loving and forgiving and will understand that they did it because of Jesus' love and teachings.

      • Mike August 20, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

        "My sheep hear my voice." It doesn't matter what each sides thinks or says when you know that you know that you know that He has spoken. Doing what one "thinks" is right sounds like a proverb…"there is way that seems right to a man, and in the end it leads to death." Doing what one "thinks" is right is the fruit of the mind of the flesh" (Romans 8:6). Does the ELCA have the mind of the Spirit or the mind of the flesh? Are they doing what is right or what seems right? If God is making a statement, He is not trying to confuse people. Those who know him, know his statement. Those who don't know him…interpret what seems right to them.

  7. Mike August 20, 2009 at 8:09 pm #

    The steeple is no different from the sexuality issue at hand. God is leading his people and if division is happening than so be it. Let the camps divide. Let the children of the light and children of darkness be revealed. So you can take whatever path seems right to you…I know where my Shepherd is…because I hear his voice. Cause in the end…the only hope you have of being in the light…is the voice you hear and the voice you follow (Rev. 3:17-18). I suggest you pursue the voice of God lest you be confused and do what seems right, which in reality is you leading yourself.

  8. Dan Berryman August 21, 2009 at 1:19 am #

    Come on, for a tornado to hit the precise time and location of a controversial vote is coincidence. The Bible is full of coincidences like… Jesus being born in Bethlehem when Mary lived in Nazareth… the wind stopping when Jesus made the request… the walls of Jericho falling (well this took 7-tries)… Elijah calling fire from heaven (all the prophets of Baal needed was a little more time but Elijah’s timing, perfect)… Life is full of little coincidences.

  9. anna August 21, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    • Justin Wise August 21, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

      LOVED Greg's response. Thought it was timely and well thought out. Everyone should check out his assessment!

  10. bigbluepenguins August 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    Um… its 4 sixes divided equally by a decimal point. Get over it. Trying to use wit and humor as icing for your bigoted opinions is pretty sick. Quit abusing the church by using it to cover for your hate.

    • Sam August 21, 2009 at 7:03 pm #


    • Justin Wise August 21, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

      It sounds like you're saying, "Don't wit on me!" Correct?

      BigBlue, I can tell you unequivocally, unabashedly, undeniably that this has nothing to do with hatred.

      • Robert Zampetti August 22, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

        So there's nothing you need to repent of then? Good for you. And good luck there with your relationship with God. Me? I'm going to be a little more humble and recognize that I may harbor hatred that I fail to recognize. And I'll ask for the discernment to confess that hatred and turn away from it when it appears.

  11. Andrew August 23, 2009 at 11:54 pm #

    Very interesting article. I am an Orthodox Christian and last night a woman who is ELCA came to our parish for All-Night Vigil and was telling me about this story. She is very distraught and sees this as the final mark of the Lutherans' apostasy (her words). Didn't something similar happen to the Episcopalians/Anglicans when there was a vote on the issue? A fire perhaps?

  12. Julie August 24, 2009 at 3:01 am #

    If you think natural disasters don't occur based on unGodly decisions, read the book Israel: Blessing or Curse.

  13. David August 24, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    Come out of her my people!!! It is time to get out of organized religion of all denominations. The hierarchy is more interested in material things, and are decieved. They don't know right from wrong anymore.
    Come out of her my people, lest you partake of her iniquities!!!

    From a 70 year old preachers kid: My Dad left the church after preaching for 60 years when the old ALC changed to the ELCA. He saw the future and opted to get out while the getting was good.

  14. Darthmeister September 4, 2009 at 7:02 pm #

    No such thing as "coincidence". I'm generally not someone who believes in supernatural events but when a once-in-a-century tornado hits near an assembly of "Christians" who are thumbing their noses at four thousand years of Holy Writ … see, you intuitively make the connection right?

    Now I do believe in serendipity, that is the timing of some things occur without a rational explanation to the benefit of those involved. Liberal religionists need to RE-THINK their proposition that they know better than God and the Bible about what should and shouldn't be happening in the name of the Church of Jesus Christ, but somehow I think their liberal humanist arrogance will continue leading them down the road to spiritual ruin. Won't they be surprised when believing they are exercising such "spiritual enlightenment" that one day they may find before the Judgement Seat itself that they believed in the Great Lie and the anti-Christ. These kind of people are cattle, not the sheep who follow the Good Shepherd despite the hoity-toity vain reasonings of cosmopolitan humanity.

  15. Darthmeister September 4, 2009 at 7:04 pm #

    BTW, Jesus Christ didn't die for some emerging left-wing form of Churchianity or to perpetuate New Age liberal religion, He died to reconcile individual penitent sinners to a Holy and Just God. Having said that it's been my experience that the most self-righteous, arrogant, prideful, and unrepentant people I know are liberal humanist wolves in sheep's clothing posing as "Christians." They've not only re-interpeted the Bible in their own image but you also see their deceitful re-intepretation of other important historical documents like the U.S. Constitution. In essence they are nanny fascists, projecting the imagine of civility and "peace" while destroying the very fabric and traditions of civil society with their counter-cultural propaganda.

    When Jesus was asked why certain people died because of a natural disaster (read about the collapsing of the Wall of Silome in the Gospel accounts) He said it was a sign to those still living to REPENT! I believe the arrogant Lutheran leadership involved in such pro-homosexual abominations are in need of some real and efficacious REPENTANCE so that the scales of counter-cultural dogma will fall from their eyes.Enough said.

  16. TruthSeeker September 18, 2009 at 4:03 am #

    The answer is simply in God's Holy Word – Read it, Live It, Speak It – How can you ignore it?
    Romans 1:18-32
    18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
    21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

  17. TruthSeeker September 18, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    Romans 1:18-32 (continued) 24Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

  18. TruthSeeker September 18, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    Romans 1:18-32 (continued) 28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

  19. Debi Johanning November 2, 2009 at 6:33 pm #

    This is just amazing!

  20. Jonwards November 8, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    Google “God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up” for some interesting comments.

  21. Jonwards November 8, 2009 at 6:05 pm #

    Google “God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up” for some interesting comments.