Individual Lutherans may be informally "voting" against their current denomination with their checkbooks.
Last November, the national Evangelical Lutheran Church in America church council, or board of directors, had to cut spending by nearly $7.7 million and eliminate the equivalent of 40 full-time jobs.
That was just three months after the controversial vote to allow homosexuals in committed relationships in the pulpit.
The organization reported a decrease in income of $2.9 million, or 15.6 percent, in the three-month period ending in April, compared to the same period in 2009.
"The ELCA will endure but with smaller numbers and less money," said the Rev. Donna Hacker Smith, pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran in Champaign.
To accommodate dissenters of the national policy, Good Shepherd allows its contributors to earmark 11 cents of every dollar that formerly supported the national church and Central/Southern Illinois Synod for a Lutheran charity.
Each Lutheran church that ultimately leaves the ELCA falls under different rules about whether it can keep its property, buildings and bank accounts.
The three area churches that have taken a first vote to leave – Rantoul, Flatville and Royal – were members of the American Lutheran Church before its merger with two other denominations to form the ELCA. Because of that affiliation, pastors of the three churches believe they can keep all property. But they are required to join new denominations, according to ELCA rules.