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I am very grateful for the recent invitation to have a zoom conversation with the director and associate director of the ELCA’s Reconsiderations process.  This is the task force that has been appointed by the ELCA Church Council to review the 2009 human sexuality social statement and reconsider the provision for “bound conscience.”  I am glad that I was able to share very openly and that they listened respectfully. 

I appreciate the fact that they had read quite a number of articles on our website.  One of their initial questions was what hopes I had for the process.  I told them that I have no hopes for the process.  My understanding is that the concept of bound conscience was first used to justify and defend revisionist views, but over time it came to be used in an effort to calm down and reassure those with traditional views in an attempt to minimize the number of pastors and congregations that would leave.  However, there have been many loud and prominent voices that have been intent all along on eliminating bound conscience.  They sensed at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly that the time had come.  They had enough votes to begin the process that would eventually lead to the elimination of bound conscience.  And they were right. 

They then asked me what concerns I had for the process.  I told them that what is at stake is the question of whether the ELCA can be trusted.  If the ELCA cannot be trusted to keep its promise here – to continue to honor bound conscience – then it cannot be trusted to keep any promise anywhere.  I also said that we all should know that no matter what is stated, included, decided, and approved in a reconsidered social statement now, the ELCA is not going to stay there.

I then went through a history of specific times and ways in which ELCA leaders have ignored communication from traditional voices, not remained within the boundaries of what was actually voted on and approved in 2009, and favored revisionist views, such as in the makeup of the Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church and ReconcilingWorks’ being given a non-voting position on the ELCA Church Council.

They asked me to communicate to our constituency (and I said I would) the fact that the vote on the social statement will actually occur in two phases.  The first vote, which they call Reconsideration # 1, will take place in 2025.  They describe the matters that will be voted on then as “editorial” – “small, clarifying word changes only” – brought about by the fact that “civil law governing same-sex marriages, public acceptance of such marriages, and diversity of family configurations have changed dramatically since 2009.”

The second vote, which they call Reconsideration # 2, will take place in 2028.  They describe the matters that will be voted on then as “substantive,” namely “examining the coexistence in the 2009 statement of four different but valid convictions that Lutherans can faithfully hold about same-gender relationships.” 

They are still saying that the resolution at the 2022 Churchwide Assembly set in motion a process – “a reconsideration of these ideas but does not determine the outcome.”  But we all know that the empowered and preferred voices will work relentlessly until they have achieved their goal of eliminating bound conscience.  We will keep you posted. 

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Jack Richards says:

    Dennis…I hope you were greeted as more than a relic or speed bump that needs to be noticed for a bit in order to give greater credibility to “the process.” Perhaps the strategy of a slow walk in the preferred direction might be meant to be a way to outlast any opposition to the desired outcome. (“We listened to you–but your position will not have a place moving forward. Deal with it.”) Your witness continues to amaze and inspire, Dennis….even if it is bewildering to those of us who departed the ELCA a decade and a half ago.

    • Thank you for your good words. Yes, I am certain that the relentless left will outlast any opposition in the ELCA. But in the meantime people need to be alerted. I was glad that they had read so many of my articles. I hope they saw that it is possible to have another point of view that can be credible.

  • Ryan Cordle says:


    I was able to meet via Zoom with the same person a couple months ago. The conversation was amicable and the director was gracious with his time and honest answers. I left the conversation with serious doubts that there can be editorial changes in 2025 to the 2009 Statement that are not substantial changes. It seems to me that even conceding the legal language of “marriage” in the statement puts into question the good faith understanding asserted by those who passed the Social Statement. Of course the 2028 outcomes is not determined, but what blinders must we put on to believe that over 90% of the Churchwide Assembly voted to pass this reconsideration without expecting a complete reversal of the positions?

  • Thank you for your clear and faithful witness to the leaders of the Reconsiderations task force. I am glad you had the opportunity to talk with them. I completely agree that the most powerful, preferred, and prevailing voices within the ELCA and the vast majority of people who attend ELCA Churchwide Assemblies will work relentlessly until the provision for bound conscience has been eliminated.

  • David Keck says:

    Thank you for this update and your time and effort to have that discussion. I am surprised they agreed to it. I did sign up for participation in the committee that will be chosen to discuss and make these recommendations. I recently received a follow-up, asking me a series of questions about my thought process and “attitude” going into such service. It became abundantly clear to me that they do not want a discussion of all the possibilities, or even what is right: what they want is basically a rubber stamp to what ELCA leaders already think and want. I do not think I am being harsh or judgmental or crazy in my thinking. It is pretty obvious by the questions they ask. I do not have the time to invest in something like this if it is a foregone conclusion about what even might be the outcome. There are clearly orthodox things they will not tolerate in the result, and it will not be a problem because they will pick people that think just like they do.

  • Thank you for having been willing to talk to the task force. I am certain the final outcome is pre-determined. They will keep on working on this until the provision for bound conscience is eliminated.

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