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Brainerd congregation finds fresh start with new identity

Jim Walth is after one thing: truth.

That’s why the formerly retired, but now back to work, pastor is changing the name of his 11-month-old Brainerd-based Lutheran congregation.

“The name change comes as a step of faith,” Walth said. “A step taken to establish a unique and individual identity as a worshipping community that welcomes folks of all denominations, including those folks searching for a church home.”

Walth’s congregation of approximately 30 parishoners has been meeting at the Brainerd Hotel on South Sixth Street for nearly a year under the name Immanuel Lutheran Church of Brainerd. Walth said the church recently decided to change their name to Truth Lutheran Church.

Walth said the reason for the name change is not a singular one. “We need our own identity,” Walth said.

When Truth Lutheran Church was founded earlier this year as Immanuel Church of Brainerd, it was established as a daughter church of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crosby.

“We’re still known in the community as Immanuel,” Walth said. “We’re not completely severing ties with Immanuel in Crosby, but we’re stepping out on our own.”

Walth is a former member of the Crosby congregation.

Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crosby voted in the spring of 2010 to end its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America after the denomination made the decision to allow non-celibate gay ministers to fill lead pastoral roles. Nationwide, approximately one percent of ELCA congregations left the denomination.

“The main issue for many congregations, many members of mainline protestant religions is they are not aware that is the position of their church,” Walth explained. “The issues are the same — it’s the relevance of the authority of God.”

“You can’t put words into God’s mouth.”

Both Immanuel in Crosby and Walth’s church in Brainerd are now affiliated with the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ — a denomination many defected ELCA congregations joined after voting to end affiliation with the ELCA. Walth resigned from the roster as an ELCA minister in January 2010.

Truth Lutheran Church is the only LCMC in Brainerd.

“Lots of folks still don’t know there is an LCMC congregation in the community,” Walth said. “A lot of them don’t understand why we are here.”

Walth said the congregation chose to use Truth in their name because it represents with they stand for. “It just seemed natural to go with,” he said.

Walth said he believes the name “Truth Lutheran Church” is unique to the Brainerd congregation.

“I am unaware of no other congregation in the United States that is known by that name,” Walth said. “Truth Lutheran Church was chosen for several reasons, the most important being that the folks of the congregation wanted to make a bold statement as to who we truly are as a worshipping community.

We are a Lutheran church worshipping God in the tradition of Martin Luther. That is to say, the scriptures define who we are and what we believe.”

Walth said the first year for the congregation has seen some slow growth, but he’s hopeful that with the new name and new identity, might make them a bigger presence in the community.

“Lutherans by tradition are shy,” Walth laughed “It’s hard for us to be bold about the tradition of our faith.”

Truth Lutheran Church holds its weekly Sunday services at 9 a.m. at the Brainerd Hotel.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.