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July 17, 2020

Dear Bishop Eaton:

As I was reviewing the section on the homepage of the ELCA website entitled, “Resources for the LGBTQIA+ Community,” I was surprised to find a link to the 2009 social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” because of the multitude of ways in which the ELCA violates the commitments, does not maintain the boundaries, and essentially has rewritten the documents that were approved by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.   

The ministry policies, adopted in 2009, only had to do with people in (PALMS) “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”  That phrase was used repeatedly.  The policies did not have to do with B, T, Q, I, A, or +.  They only had to do with a certain group of L and G – those who are in “publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships.”  And yet what does the ELCA claim to be celebrating?  The tenth anniversary of LGBTQIA+ persons’ “being able to serve freely in the church.”  This is language that you yourself have used.  In a letter dated June 29, 2020 you wrote, “And it wasn’t until 2009 that barriers to ordination were removed for LGBTQIA+ individuals in committed relationships.”

The 2009 human sexuality social statement described four positions, each of which would have a place within the church.  All four of those positions are more conservative and traditional than the full LGBTQIA+ agenda which the ELCA has now totally embraced and claims to be celebrating the tenth anniversary of. 

One of the RESOLVED sections in the 2009 ministry policies states, “RESOLVED, that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America make provision in its policies to recognize the conviction of members who believe that this church should not call or roster people in a publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same gender relationship.”  What has the ELCA done to “recognize the conviction” of members who hold to traditional views?  In 2018 at the youth gathering, the assembly was addressed by a transgender activist (which was outside of what had been approved by the church) and another keynote speaker led the young people in renouncing traditional views as a lie.  The home page of the ELCA website now contains a link to ReconcilingWorks and its resources.  No support is ever given to traditional views in the selection of speakers for youth gatherings or in links to resources on the home page of the website.  And no concern or support has ever been expressed by you for those who fear that they might be adversely affected by Supreme Court decisions regarding same sex marriage and/or LGBTQIA+ rights.

The only possible positive point is that the information accessible through links on the homepage of the ELCA website does describe ReconcilingWorks as an “Independent Lutheran Organization” – rather than as a department of the ELCA.  But it is obvious that ReconcilingWorks is the preferred, recognized, and approved organization, and when it comes to matters of human sexuality, the only organization that counts. 

How can the ELCA be trusted?  How can the ELCA be seen as having moral integrity and authority when it neither honors the commitments nor respects the boundaries from the 2009 human sexuality social statement and ministry policies.  What would happen if any branch of the government were to take a law passed eleven years ago – or anyone were to take a business contract signed eleven years ago – and then claim that it said something different from what it actually said?

Going forward, why would anyone on any side of any issue trust that any decision made by any Churchwide Assembly would be honored?  

Thank you for hearing my concerns.  I deeply hope and pray that the ELCA will begin to keep its commitments in this area and begin to act in a more honorable and honest way so that it can be trusted and so that the trust which you described as so important when you were first elected can be rebuilt and regained. 

Thank you for your leadership of the church.

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson
Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Henry pawluk says:

    Thanks for writing this honest appraisal and request for trustworthiness. Yet I doubt it will even be heard let alone recognized as legitimate critique.
    M Henry Pawluk MDiv STM STS

  • Thank you for your encouraging words. It would be a gift from God if we are heard.

  • Sandra Bielfield says:

    Thank for publishing this. It is just another example of the questionable leadership of what should be the best church in the world. Not only have they violated the policies of our Churchwide Assembly but they continue to violate our Christian principles as well. How much violence and death must be perpetrated on Chicago the headquarters of the ELCA before Bishop Eaton et al join the black pastors trying to effect change in their Chicago communities?? No, this church leadership would rather be the priest and the Levite than the Good Samaritan. Except , of course, when it comes to LGBTQIA+ matters.

  • Thank you for your comments and concern.

  • Tom Fincher says:

    The church of my baptism is no longer that church. Sadly, many in the ELCA congregations have no clue concerning what their church now embraces.

  • You are absolutely correct. I could not agree more. Thank you for your concern.

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