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HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

THE ELCA AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZING – PART TWO

Introduction

For the January 2022 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, I wrote the first part of a two-part article entitled, “How Did It Happen?”  How did LGBTQ+ values, priorities, and agenda completely take over the ELCA, and so quickly?  I began with an explanation of the principles of community organizing and how that methodology has been used extremely effectively by such groups within the Lutheran community as ReconcilingWorks.  A link to that article can be found here.

In that article I covered such things as –

  • Resources for further study
  • Community organizing as part of the curriculum at ELCA seminaries
  • The emphasis upon strong relationships and shared values
  • The “Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit” from ReconcilingWorks
  • Minimal use and major misuse of Scripture

In this second part I will further describe how those who put into practice the principles of community organizing can take over a congregation.  Then I will close with several suggestions as to what those who hold to a high view of the authority of the Bible and the Bible’s clear teachings regarding human sexuality can and need to do.    

Mapping the Journey

A key component of community organizing is categorizing people according to how supportive and/or useful they will be to the cause, and then working to change the minds of the others who are most likely to change their minds and support the cause.

The fourth (out of eleven) steps is called “Mapping the Journey.”  In this step people are divided into five categories according to the level of their support or lack of support.

  • Innovators – 2.5%
  • Early Adopters – 13.5%
  • Early Majority – 34%
  • Late Majority – 34%
  • Laggards – 16%

The percentages given for each category reflect the estimated percentage of people in the total group (a typical congregation) who will fall into that particular category.

The Innovators are expected to be either already on board or easily convinced.  They are then appointed as core team leaders and/or congregational influencers.  After the Innovators, the Early Adopters are the easiest to convince.  The Early Majority will require more persuasion to be on board, but with some effort, they, too, are not too difficult to convince.  Therefore, the Building an Inclusive Church (BIC) Toolkit recommends that these three groups be the primary focus of the efforts.

Because a vote to gain RIC (Reconciled in Christ) status requires a 75% vote on the part of the congregation, the Late Majority will also have to be engaged in order to have enough people to say “yes.”  The BIC Toolkit’s strategy for dealing with the Late Majority is to do the following:

  • Focus first on the Innovators, Early Adopters, and Early Majority.  These people will be easier to convince.  Only then start working on the Late Majority.
  • It is hoped that efforts to win over the Early Adopters and Early Majority will have some effect on the Late Majority so that it will be easier to convince them.
  • Engage in One-to-One Visits with the Late Majority in order to get to know them better, build trust, make them feel heard, and form a strong relationship with them.
  • Leverage this trust with the Late Majority in order to press them to agree with you, or at the very least to not be opposed to you, as you push for change.  (Statistically most people who do not agree with a decision will be willing to live with that decision if they feel that they have been heard and included in the decision-making process.)
  • Gradually work on their hearts and minds, until they are willing to say at least “maybe” if not “yes.”

Laggards are regarded as lost causes.  No attempt is to be made to meaningfully engage with them.  Instead, the BIC Toolkit’s strategy is to engage with everyone else, get all the others on board, and then force the Laggards to either change their minds, begrudgingly accept the decision, or leave the community.  The expectation is that many Laggards will choose to just leave.

The community organizing approach reflects what ReconcilingWorks has been doing throughout the ELCA to bring the ELCA to becoming LGBTQ+ affirming.  This is how the liberal/progressive wing of the ELCA has managed to gain so much power and to have so many things, such as changes in liturgy and in church policy and practice, go in their favor.

Response and Actions

Clearly, the confessional Lutheran community has not been effective in battling the community organizing method nor in responding to the needs and concerns of those who get swayed by these tactics.  What do we who hold to a high view of the authority of the Bible and the Bible’s clear teachings regarding human sexuality need to do?  I can think of several things.

  • We need a strong and effective response to these community organizing techniques.  We need to build strong relationships with people.  That is at the heart of how the LGBTQ+ affirming community was able to get so many people who were once opposed to their ideology to accept it.  If they can do it, we can do it too!  In fact, I believe that the revisionists may have had the advantage in gaining empathy through their telling stories of same-sex attracted people who have experienced rejection, are suffering from depression, and are even suicidal, but those who hold to traditional Biblical moral values should be able to have the advantage of gaining empathy through telling stories of people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery and now regret their decision, are experiencing medical ill affects because of their decision, and/or have found that their undergoing that surgery did not bring them the joy and peace that they had been hoping for. 
  • We need to build a strong understanding of the basics of the Lutheran understanding of the Bible.  We need to promote and model good engagement with Scripture and proper understanding of Scripture – the whole of Scripture – in light of Scripture’s primary message of Law and Gospel.  People’s lack of Biblical knowledge and failure to properly engage with Scripture leave them vulnerable to all manners of false teaching.
  • We need to model what showing love to the LGBTQ+ community looks like in a biblically sound way.  The charge against us – that we are angry and hateful – is widely believed because some people have experienced far more anger than love from those who hold to traditional views of human sexuality.
  • We need to have good answers to such questions as, “What do I do if I am gay?” and “What should I do now that my child or friend has come out as gay?”  We need to do more than just tell people not to sin.  We also need to equip them with tools and support to resist sin.  We need to provide and be for these people a loving and supportive faith community which will walk alongside of them in their struggles against sin and will proclaim God’s gift of forgiveness for them so that – when they do fall – they will find hope in Jesus.
  • We need to find resources that have been created for LGBTQ+ people and their loved ones that are biblically sound.  We need to find them, let people know about them, and promote their use.
  • We need to provide support for LGBTQ+ identified persons who are honest about struggling with sin, yet who want to live in a biblically faithful way.  We need to encourage them and show them that it is possible to live a life that is pleasing to God.  These people carry a heavy burden, which is often made only heavier by rejection from conservatives (because of their having same-sex attraction and/or gender dysphoria) as well as from liberals (because of their wanting to live in a biblically faithful way).  These people need our support.  We need to have empathy for them and show love to them. 

Conclusion

There is no question but that those who have wanted to totally remake the church’s view and practice of issues related to human sexuality have been extremely effective – much more effective than those who desire to maintain traditional, Biblical moral values. 

In Luke 16: 8 Jesus said, “The children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.”  Those within the ELCA whose beliefs, values, and priorities reflect the world rather than are based upon the clear teaching of Scripture I would call children of this age rather than children of light.

We need to be concerned for upcoming generations, who more and more are going to be told lies concerning human sexuality, so we must be aware of the principles and methodology of community organizing.  Traditionally minded congregations need to be made aware so that they will not fall prey.  We who believe that the Bible is the Word of God need to show compassion and care for those who struggle with same sex attraction.  We need to be of encouragement, support, and help to their family members and friends.  And we need to be prepared to point them to resources that will help them live a life that is pleasing to God.        

* * * * * * *

VIDEO BOOK REVIEWS

“THE PATIENT FERMENT OF THE EARLY CHURCH”  

Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to ELCA Pastor Matt Voyer for his review of the book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church: The Improbable Rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire, by Alan Kreider. 

We all have admired and been in awe over the phenomenal growth of the early Church, even in spite of opposition and persecution.  Alan Kreider argues that the great growth of the early Church was driven by the lifestyle of early Christians.  What attracted people were not moving and relevant worship services but the way of life of the early believers.  It was not what Christians said, but what they did.  Their lives and habits and ways of being and living in the world drew people not just to the Church, but to our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Pastor Voyer highly recommends this book and suggests that it be read by individuals, church councils, and within small groups.

“A PLACE FOR TRUTH” – EDITED BY DALLAS WILLARD

I would also like to remind you of ELCA Pastor Kevin Haug’s review of a book edited by Dallas Willard, A Place for Truth: Leading Thinkers Explore Life’s Hardest Questions.  Dallas Willard was a long-time professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California and is well known for his writings on Christian spiritual formation.

The book is a series of fifteen lectures covering such topics as truth in relation to post-modernism, an examination of the exclusive claims to truth of Christianity, human DNA as evidence for a creator, and a psychological study of why some people may be atheists. 

Pastor Haug commented regarding the book, “I found it to be very intellectually stimulating and satisfying.  If you have a high regard for the authority of Scripture and a high regard for reason, logic, and science, if that is you, this book is for you.” 

These reviews, as well as fourteen others, have been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.

PLAYLIST

If you would like to watch Lutheran CORE’s playlist of all of our video book reviews, click here, then scroll down and start the video by selecting the play button or click on the three vertical lines near the top right of the first video to select a new video from the list that will pop up. 

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

dennisdnelsonaz@yahoo.com

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • David M. Keck says:

    This has been a very valuable service because it puts everything in context and in a rational perspective. I would add some anecdotes about how this community action plan has been implemented, having been present for significant portions, including two Churchwide conventions and numerous Synod Assemblies as a delegate or voting member, and my wife as voting member in 2009, also present at Fisher’s and signatory to the charter of the NALC. I remember in Chicago at Churchwide outside the breakfast area in the morning, a man playing guitar and another passing out a slick-packaged (what they called a) “devotional.” It was anything but. It was a series of testimonials by clergy and seminarians from the LGBQT community with various stories of how they felt excluded, how kind some were to them, and how they disobeyed their vows taken on ordination and clear promises and agreements made when they were ordained. Further, I have since found out that a large portion of these activities were funded by groups and individuals who have no connection to the ELCA, church bodies in general, or even profess to be Christian. These things, of course were never discussed by them, and to ask about it was to be a bigot. At Minneapolis in 2009 among the speakers were LGBQT participants who were ordained who proudly admitted they disregarded those promises and “got away with it,” presenting themselves almost martyr-like, when they were enabled by the Presiding Bishop at the time who did nothing as they flaunted those promises. I think the key to the four other social statements’ passing was the first, and the first, moderates at the Churchwide who thought they were being “nice,” or “understanding” or “Christ-like” in “compromising” so everyone could think what they wanted. When I got my two minutes to speak, my main theme was directed to the moderates simply saying that if in voting for these social statements they think it will stop with that, they will be mistaken. What I didn’t know was that it wouldn’t take as long as I thought for it to happen. Of course it passed by one vote, at which time the Presiding Biship visibly paled, just as a rogue tornado tore through Downtown Minneapolis and bent the steeple to the nearby liberal ELCA church. I know a pastor who was ELCA who tried to change synods and when the bishop in the other synod asked if he were a member of a group of pastors who met informally to share orthodox views, was told he not welcome. I know another retired pastor whose membership was in his neighborhood church (by the way, where the NALC charter was voted and signed), but who, in semi-retirement was an associate part-time pastor at a church in another suburb, and stayed in that church when he retired, which makes sense and follows ELCA guidelines about not belonging to the church you last served. That church went NALC, and his synodical bishop was promptly told he had to de-roster the retiring pastor, which he refused to do. When I was in Chicago, and was authorized by that same bishop to serve as a voting member when a voting member did not show up, the ELCA employee at the registration desk rolled her eyes and made a face when I mentioned who my bishop was. This is how these folks operated and, so much for grace and tolerance. As it turns out “bound conscience” was never meant to be practiced, just put in the social statement to gain the votes. It worked. If there is anyone out there who thinks the leadership of the ELCA ever intended to honor that, they would have to be sadly disappointed, but this is no surprise.

  • Alan Baglien says:

    I appreciate your study in this regard! this has been coming since the ULCA!