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If there ever will be a time when that old adage will be proven true, it will be with the ELCA’s thirty-five-member Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church.

This commission was formed in response to action taken by the ELCA’s 2022 Churchwide Assembly.  The assembly directed the Church Council “to establish a Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church” which would be “particularly attentive to our shared commitment to dismantle racism” and would “present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention.”  

Later communication from the ELCA Church Council stated that the commission should be made up of at least 25% people of color or whose primary language was other than English and 20% youth and young adults.  Keeping in mind that the membership of the typical ELCA congregation is older and white, this means that the commission will not represent the ELCA as it is but the ELCA as those who are leading and driving the process want the ELCA to be. 

The thirty-five members of the commission have been chosen and have met once (in mid-July).  Their biographical paragraphs can be found on the ELCA website under

As I read the bios there is no doubt in my mind that the commission is made up of people of great experience and expertise.  I have no question about their ability.  My concern is with their passions and priorities.  Reading their bios and remembering that these are the people who have been chosen to reshape the ELCA, one realizes that in a very short time the ELCA is going to be radically different from the church body that was formed in 1988. 

This is a very capable group.  It includes –

  • Two synodical bishops
  • One seminary president
  • Three ELCA college and seminary professors

Members of the commission have held such positions as –

  • President of the ELCA Latino Ministries Association
  • Assistant general secretary for international affairs and human rights for Lutheran World Federation
  • Top leaders of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
  • Chair of the Lutheran Campus Ministry Network
  • A person who has been chair, vice chair, and secretary of the board of trustees for Portico Benefit Services
  • Executive Director of South Carolina Lutheran Retreat Centers 
  • Member of the board of trustees and treasurer for Lutheran Outdoor Ministries
  • President and chief executive officer of Mosaic (a social ministry agency which serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and other diverse needs)   

Thirteen of these people have held positions within their synods or have served on the ELCA Church Council. 

I was glad when I read comments from two of them.

  • One said that “he hopes the perspectives he brings from his law practice and his work on synod and churchwide constitution committees will help him spot obstacles and identify solutions in our governing documents.”   
  • Another one (one of the co-chairs) described himself as having “a penchant for good governance and organizational structure.”

But beyond that, reading the bios I became more and more deeply concerned.  I see this group as creating a new church body whose primary focus will be not on fulfilling the Great Commission but on social justice, LGBTQ+ and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion activism, and where men will continue to play a diminishing role. 

For all of the talk about the equal participation of women in the church, the ELCA Church Council and this commission are obviously not concerned about the equal participation of men in the church.  The commission is made up of twenty-one women and only fourteen men.  Women outnumber men by 50%.  And there are nearly three times as many women of color on the commission as men of color.  Of the eleven people of color (eleven out of thirty-five or nearly one-third of the commission), eight are women and only three are men.

Three of the members of the commission are assistants to synodical bishops.  But in each case their focus is on social justice issues and anti-racism, not on any of the other functions and ministries of a congregation.  As an example, one of the members is assistant to a bishop for communications and development, but in his bio paragraph he celebrates the fact that he “has successfully centered social justice and advocacy in all aspects of communication and community engagement.”

Seven out of thirty-five (20% of the commission) hold positions of leadership within LGBTQ+ activist organizations and/or mention that they are in a same-sex married relationship.  Please note:  This is not saying that only 20% of them are in favor of LGBTQ+ issues.  Rather it is saying that 20% of them see their being an LGBTQ+ activist as among their most prominent qualifications for being on the commission.  These people include –

  • A Proclaim chaplain with Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries 
  • Someone who has consulted with numerous synods supporting LGBTQIA+ cultural competency
  • An ordained deacon at a Reconciled in Christ congregation
  • The convenor of a synodical Reconciled in Christ ministry 
  • The director for Pride in her company’s LGBTQIA+ Business Resource Group 
  • Someone who has served as director of community relations for a non-profit corporation that serves the support and advocacy needs of transgender service members
  • A board member and former co-chair of ReconcilingWorks 
  • Someone who since the age of six has “stubbornly refused to conform to society’s expectations” and whose self-description is a “genderqueer lesbian” who “seeks to bridge binaries and transgress borders”

Equally alarming is the fact that seven out of thirty-five (again 20% of the commission) hold positions of diversity, equity, and inclusion activism in their place of employment and/or leadership.  Again this is not saying that only 20% of them make decisions and take actions based upon the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Rather it is saying that a full 20% of them see their holding positions of diversity, equity, and inclusion activism in their places of employment and/or leadership as among their most prominent qualifications for being on the commission.  These people include –

  • A senior diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant in local government
  • The chief diversity officer for a religious health organization who has received two certificates in diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • A former diversity/cultural competency consultant in the non-profit sector 
  • The convenor for a synodical resolution on authentic diversity and inclusion 
  • Someone with over thirty years’ experience facilitating and training for intercultural equity leadership and organizational change 
  • Someone who conducted discussions about race and diversity at the 2015 and 2018 ELCA youth gatherings 
  • A person who is vice president of diversity and inclusion at one college after being director of diversity and inclusion at another college  

This final person shows the great extent of her passion for and experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion as she writes that she has “facilitated several workshops on privilege and identity, creating inclusive learning environments, and the basics of diversity and inclusion.”  In addition she has “served as a keynote speaker on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and has “completed a year-long fellowship with the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.”

Following the principle that “once you know the makeup, you know the outcome,” it should be painfully obvious and clear what this group is going to come up with for the shape and mission of a fully reconstituted Lutheran church.  We will keep you posted.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Glenn Tarris says:

    Pastor Nelson,
    Thank you so much for your diligence in this mission as your report demonstrates how much the endeavor has progressed (or digressed!) since before the 2009 convocation. Could this have a positive result for Orthodox Lutheranism? Could there be an exodus of clergy and lay to seek the true Law and Gospel that we have to offer? May God direct you to maintain your attentive focus and lead us to follow through with His Word and ways! .

  • Dennis Nelson says:

    We will keep people posted as more information becomes available. I shudder to think of what will come from this Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church.

  • Pastor L.J.Wylie says:

    Once again, 5 Star award to Pastor Nelson for his excellent report of re-org events on Higgins Rd. It is helpful to have the facts with the personal information and
    social identification of the appointees. Further, the protective analysis based accepted theoretical findings tends to confirm the supposition mentioned as the predictable outcome.

    “Houston…We have a problem”

  • Dennis Nelson says:

    Thanks for your good words. People need to know about the makeup of the commission. They need to know what is coming.

  • Wally Mees says:

    Dennis, my heart bleeds for you still in the ELCA. As you must have noticed lately, there is biblical faithfulness to be found among the leadership and members of both LCMC and NALC. And joy and Gospel found in their gatherings. You have been courageously documenting this slide in ELCA for many years during which a token or two of faithful people were included for whatever purpose. Your description of this new group shows that those days are gone. The ELCA is no longer pretending to be a big tent. Perhaps such honesty is a good thing.

  • Dennis Nelson says:

    Thanks for your good words. Yes, people need to know that the ELCA has absolutely no interest in being a big tent. They do not want or care about anything other than their own preferred narrative.

  • Mike Lubas says:

    Hi Dennis,
    I’m finding myself no longer lamenting or resenting what is happening to and within the elca. Many of us, after working many years within the Word Alone movement, hoping and sweating to achieve some manner of true renewal within the elca, not some faux re-formation of the elca, realized all the pieces of the puzzle were being shaped and cut for the latter. Now the pieces are being assembled…(with emphasis on the first 3 letters of the previous word). As you rightly identify, the list of names is quite impressive yet their collective DEI/DNA assures precisely what they wiil birth. By their fruits, not their credentials, shall we know them. I take my Shalom, reluctantly yet needfully, from Acts 5:38-39.

  • Dennis Dean Nelson says:

    Thank you for the reminder of those verses from Acts 5. I cannot imagine that what this commission comes up with will be something that God will bless.

  • Michael Smith says:

    I find myself weeping and at a loss for words. Which unusual for me. I cannot even work up any outrage, I pray that God will have mercy on the souls of these people.

  • Dennis Nelson says:

    I share in your grief and sorrow over where the leaders of the ELCA are taking the church and all the faithful people in the pews who have no idea what is happening.

  • Phillip Schrader says:

    I have been a ELCA member since inception. My family due to my mother is comprised of 5 living generations of Lutherans. NOT ALL elca.My decision to remain elca was and is the exclusion of female pastors. I DO NOT tithe to the elca. I tithe to my church. This move by the elca , has me rethinking thru prayer my continued elca membership.Like ALL main stream Christian churchs WE have failed our youth. The qoute of 2nd Timothy 2-4 comes to my mind. DEI_CRT-and AI is NOT going to save us from damnation.If anything, it is going to fast track it. Iam and remain Lutheran until I reach Heaven thrue the Grace of God a Christian.

  • Dennis Nelson says:

    Thank you for your love for Jesus, your bold witness, and your concern that we pass on the Christian faith to younger people. We all need to be deeply concerned about what this commission is going to come up with.

  • John says:

    What the ELCA doesn’t understand is that there will always be racists. Whites hating blacks, blacks hating whites, etc. There’s nothing they can do to get rid of the immature, prejudiced attitudes some people have. I’m okay with the church picking social causes to fight for… helping the poor, helping the (legal) immigrant, creation stewardship, etc, but their fixation on “systemic racism,” LGBTQ ministry, and abortion rights is not truly out of love for the neighbor… it’s about a relentless, selfish desire of theirs to weed out all members of the congregation that don’t believe in Marxist identity politics championed by the likes of Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, AOC, etc. Just look at some of the selfish things ELCA pastors have said about more moderate and conservative members in their own congregations. The one Living Lutheran article that really scared me was of some pastor saying “every church should become Reconciling in Christ,” “bound conscience should be repealed,” and that that’s just the “tip of the iceberg” — that churches should have specific queer ministries. I’m still a member of the ELCA. I still love my congregation. But if “ending racism” becomes the main focus rather than preaching the gospel, I may have to look elsewhere.

  • Thank you for your concern that the church focus on preaching the Gospel rather than pursuing all of these other agenda items that other organizations are pursuing.
    If the church does not do what it has uniquely been called to do, no one else will do it.