Letter to ELCA Leadership following Same-sex Marriage Decision

The following letter was sent in June 2015 to the sixty-five synodical bishops of the ELCA and to Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton after the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in favor of same-sex marriages. Of the sixty-six people who received the letter, CORE heard back from only one – the bishop of the Oregon Synod – and he basically minimized our concerns.


June 28, 2015


Thank you for the ministry of oversight which you are providing for the Church.  God has entrusted you with the enormous responsibility to care for His flock, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ gave His life.

The social statement, “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” as approved by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August 2009, describes four different positions that members of the ELCA hold “with conviction and integrity” regarding same-gender relationships.  After acknowledging that “at this time this church lacks consensus on this matter,” the social statement then continues with these words: “Regarding our life together as we live with disagreement, the people in this church will continue to accompany one another in study, prayer, discernment, pastoral care, and mutual respect.”  

I am writing as president of the board of Lutheran CORE on behalf of all the pastors and congregations of the ELCA who do not celebrate and agree with the recent Supreme Court decision regarding same-sex marriage.  Many are wondering what impact this ruling will have upon them both now and in the future.  Some are wondering whether the law will continue to allow them to marry and not marry according to their religious convictions, and what will happen if the laws were to be changed.   Some are wondering whether in the future churches will lose their tax-exempt status if they refuse to perform or host same-sex marriages.  Some are wondering what steps they should be taking now to preserve and protect their legal right to not perform same-sex marriages.  

The human sexuality social statement also states, “The ELCA recognizes that it has a pastoral responsibility to all children of God.”  I am writing to encourage you in your calling to uphold this principle and to ask how you will do so.  Since 2009, those who have supported the changes in our teaching on sexuality and marriage have seen those changes confirmed and supported in many concrete ways: the ordination of practicing homosexuals, public statements by various leaders of the ELCA, a new working group on ministry to same-gendered families, and an increased tolerance of transgenderism, to name a few examples.  Lutheran CORE and its constituents do not believe that equal confirmation and support have been afforded those of a traditional mindset.  How will you now unreservedly lend your affirmation, pastoral care, and episcopal defense to those who uphold the traditional view of marriage?     

Thank you, again, for your ministry of leadership, oversight, and pastoral care.  And thank you for your attention and response to our concern.  



Dennis D. Nelson

Retired ELCA Pastor, President of the Board of Lutheran CORE