Ten jobs in limbo as new group takes over Eau Claire church

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EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - A divided church is changing more than Sunday services. Jobs are at stake.

Two days after a judge ruled some in the congregation could not be full members of Grace Lutheran church, about a dozen are left not knowing if they have a job.

William Bates said he started working as a custodian at Grace Lutheran 44 years ago.

Thursday, he said he's locked out of what's become his second home, thinking he may have mopped his last floor.

Months of debate over a difference in beliefs regarding the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America separated Grace Lutheran Church in Eau Claire.

It ended with a lawsuit and a court decision, that left 67 members in control, while denying about 1,700 from full membership and leadership roles, members said.

The remaining group said two pastors are no longer employed there, with the jobs of ten other employees hanging in the balance.

"What I liked about the job probably the most was a big variety of work," Bates said.

Bates said he expects to lose his job after 44 years at Grace Lutheran.

"The conflicts in the past we've had with pastors, it never jeopardized any of the staff's jobs. This is the only one that did," he said.

Although he sides with the ousted group, Bates said he'd want to keep working at the church for at least another year, regardless of who's running it.

With the doors locked, Bates said he doesn't expect to be invited back.

"They told me the other day to get out of the building. So I got out of the building." "It's gonna be hard, for my wife and me. We depended on that money coming in. We've got house payments and everything else, we may lose the house now."

At age 65, he said finding a new job with insurance will be tough and retirement may be his only option. But he said his hobbies, like drawing and wood working will keep him busy.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

The Amazing Grace group, who now controls the church, said a lot of transitional work is needed and decisions need to be made, but would not say if anyone would keep their jobs. They declined to do an on-camera interview.