Michele Bachmann’s new church

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eagle brook.jpgIn her piece
on Michele Bachmann in Sunday’s NYT, Sheryl Gay Stolberg managed to get
some information on where the Minnesota congresswoman and her husband
now go to church; to wit: “Friends say they now attend services at
another evangelical church,
Eagle Brook, closer to their new home in another Stillwater
neighborhood.” If so, then the Bachmanns have traded in their Lutheran
identity for a Baptist one.

Not that you can tell from its website, but Eagle Brook belongs to the Baptist General Conference, a small denomination
derived from Swedish pietism. Eagle Brook itself, however, is anything
but small. Starting out as a tiny mission in White Bear Lake 60 years
ago, it has become the largest church in Minnesota, boasting over 13,000
members–more than five percent of the entire denomination–at four
different “campuses.”

But contrary to what the friends told
Stolberg, not one of the campuses is actually closer to the Bachmann’s
new home on the eighteenth green of the Stoneridge Golf Course than
their old Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) church, Salem
Lutheran, was. The drive from their mini-mansion to Salem is just eight miles, as
opposed to 19, 28, 29, and 29 miles respectively to Eagle Lake’s facilities
at White Bear Lake, Lino Lakes, Spring Lake Park, and Blaine.

if not proximity, what could have accounted for the Bachmanns’ change
of allegiance? It’s hard to avoid the suspicion that this had something
to do with that pesky controversy which arose when Bachmann first ran for Congress in 2006, over WELS’ doctrinal position that the papacy is the Antichrist. Why else would Bachmann have informed WELS that she was no longer a member just six days before declaring her candidacy for the GOP presidential nomination?

Eagle Brook looks for all the world
like your standard evangelical megachurch–“real + relevant,” as its
logo says, but neither noticeably political nor (God forbid) doctrinally
trouble-making. (“Baby boomer” is how one sour Twin Cities church blogger
it.) Nor is it hard to get lost amidst the crowds in the stadium seats.
Whether or not Bachmann’s been attending regularly, it’d be hard for anyone
to say she hasn’t.

For what it’s worth, the Baptist General Conference also includes 4,915-member Wooddale Church of Eden Prairie, which is pastored by Leith Anderson,
president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and attended by
Tim Pawlenty, the sometime Minnesota governor who also aspires to
the GOP nomination. Apparent bottom line: Michele
Bachmann has joined Tim Pawlenty’s denomination, but her church is
bigger than his church.