Who Counts and Who Does Not

In my letter from the director for December 2022 I wrote about several concerns that arose in my mind as I read a November 16 news release from the ELCA about the November 10-13 meeting of the ELCA Church Council.  A link to that letter can be found hereIn that letter I said that I would be writing to Imran Siddiqui, vice president of the ELCA, who also serves as chair of the church council.  I would be asking him how it was decided that a representative from ReconcilingWorks would become an advisory member of the church council and whether any consideration would or had been given to having a representative from a group with traditional views as an advisory member of the church council.  Here is the letter which I sent him the morning of December 13.  Please note that I also expressed my concern that the ELCA would be committing a massive breach of trust if in the revised human sexuality social statement traditional views on same sex relationships were no longer seen as valid and legitimate and having a place of respect within the ELCA.  

Dear Mr. Siddiqui –

Congratulations on your election and thank you for your ministry of leadership within the ELCA. I believe that Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was absolutely correct – as was described in the November 16 ELCA news release – when she drew attention to the “substantial work charged to the (ELCA Church Council) by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly” and when she said that the work done by the Council now will “have a significant effect on this church.”

I am writing because of my deep concern over two of the bullet points under the section entitled “In other actions” in the November 16 news release regarding the recent meeting of the Church Council.

Under the second bullet point it says that the Church Council has “scheduled for 2024 the initiation of a task force for reconsideration of the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.

I know that this process, as directed by the 2022 Churchwide Assembly, will include a reconsideration of the whole concept of bound conscience.  I realize that those who all along have been driving for the elimination of bound conscience were correct in determining that the time had come when they would have more than enough support to pass this kind of a motion, but still, if this action is taken and the provision for bound conscience is eliminated, it will be nothing less than a massive breach of trust on the part of the ELCA against those within its community who hold traditional views.  It will call into question whether the ELCA can be trusted on anything if it cannot be trusted to keep this promise to honor traditional views and those who hold them.  This is a promise the ELCA made in order to gather enough support to get the social statement approved.  Eliminating bound conscience will call into question the ELCA’s claim to have the moral integrity and authority to criticize other organizational entities for not keeping their promises – such as the way the ELCA criticizes the U. S. government for not keeping its promises to Indigenous persons – if the ELCA does not keep its promises. 

And then under the sixth bullet point it says that the Council “adopted a continuing resolution establishing council advisory members to include . . . a representative of Reconciling Works.”

As I understand it, until and unless it is revised and/or replaced, the 2009 Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust social statement still represents the ELCA’s official position and policy on same sex relationships.  This document describes four positions, which people within the ELCA hold “with conviction and integrity” (p. 20).  It states, “This church, on the basis of ‘the bound conscience,’ will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world” (p. 19).

At this time traditional views on same sex relationships are still recognized as legitimate and valid and having a place within the ELCA.  Therefore, why is there not also consideration being given to having a representative from a group with traditional views as one of the advisory members of the Church Council?

If the Church Council were to say that there are just too few people remaining within the ELCA who hold traditional views to have an advisory member with traditional views, then I would see the Council as doing two things.  First, it is totally discounting a significant percentage of the actual membership of ELCA congregations.  Second, it is ignoring, dismissing, and marginalizing those whom it sees as too small and/or too weak and insignificant a minority, and it is doing so even as the ELCA is constantly and sharply criticizing those whom it accuses of ignoring, dismissing, and marginalizing vulnerable, oppressed minorities.   

I also wonder how it was decided that the Church Council would have advisory members, what will be the role and limitations of the role of advisory members, and how it was decided that a representative of Reconciling Works would be one of the advisory members. 

I deeply appreciated the response you gave in the ELCA Clergy Facebook group when someone claimed that you had said that Robert’s Rules are oppressive and racist.  Because of your response in that situation, I have great hope that you will be a voice for fairness, reason, good sense, and balance.

I look forward to your response.

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

Retired ELCA Pastor – rostered in the Grand Canyon Synod

That evening I received his response.

Pastor Nelson,

Thank you for your email and expressing your views and concerns. Please allow me to respond to each of your two concerns in order. Regarding the reconsideration of the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. The vote of the 2022 Churchwide Assembly was overwhelmingly in support of reconsideration of the social statement. The Church Council is the interim legislative body of the Church between Churchwide Assemblies and is mandated to carry out the wishes of the Churchwide Assembly. The task force would be charged with bringing recommendations on the basis of the approved assembly actions to a future Churchwide Assembly. At that time, that Churchwide Assembly may approve or reject those recommendations. At the November 2022 meeting, the Church Council received the proposal for an editorial reconsideration to be considered first for the human sexuality social statement and then the task force would consider the bound conscience question.

Regarding Church Council Advisory Members, the advisory members were intended to give voice to those who have been historically marginalized within the Church. This allows those groups to have voice, but not vote, in Church Council decisions. This is especially necessary in actions that affect those who have been historically marginalized in our Church. For that reason representatives from ELCA Ethnic Specific Associations and a representative from Reconciling Works were named as Advisory Members to Church Council. 

Thank you again for sharing your concerns,

Imran Siddiqui

Vice President

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America  

* * * * * * * *    

I can think of four things to say in response to his response.

First, I did receive a response, and in a very timely way – within just few hours.

Second, the ELCA feels totally empowered to do what it is doing. 

Third, the ELCA sees itself as having no reason to do anything other than what it is doing and no reason to consider any other views.

Fourth, the ELCA is only concerned for those whom it describes as “historically marginalized.”  It has absolutely no concern for those who are currently being marginalized.  And that total lack of concern is in spite of all that the “currently marginalized” have done in the life of the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies.   

Letter From the Director – December 2022


Editor’s Note: This Lightstock image used for this post is described as a “Fresco painting of the Nativity, from the chapel of the Shepherd’s Field in Beit Sahour (a suburb of Bethlehem), the traditional site of the angelic annunciation to the shepherds.”

Are you ready for Christmas?  By that I do not mean, Do you have the tree up, all your shopping done, the presents wrapped, and the cards sent?  Rather I am asking, Are you really ready for Christmas?  Are you prepared for the arrival of God’s Son? 

Luke 1:  5-7 tell about an old Jewish priest by the name of Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth. It says that they were “righteous before God, but they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.”  They had no children, and the days for their hoping for a child were long gone.

In those days people believed that God would close the womb of a woman if He was mad at her.  So a barren woman was a disgraced woman.  Elizabeth was forced to live her life as though she had a sign hung around her neck that said, “God is mad at me.”  And even though Zechariah did not have quite the same kind of social stigma to have to deal with, still he had to live with the deep disappointment of having no child to carry on the family name. 

Do you feel like Elizabeth?  Is there something in your life that makes you feel ashamed or inadequate?  Do you feel like Zechariah?  Are you facing some deep sorrow or disappointment?

Well Luke tells us that while Zechariah was performing his priestly service in Jerusalem, he was chosen by lot to enter into the Holy Place in the Temple and burn incense there.  This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  While he was in the Holy Place, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and said, “Your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John.” (verse 13) 

What do you mean, “Your prayer has been heard?”  What prayer?  If it was a prayer for a son, Zechariah had probably stopped praying that prayer a long time ago.  Zechariah might have even forgotten about that prayer.  But God had not forgotten.  What prayer were you praying a long time ago?  Maybe you have even forgotten about that prayer, but God has not forgotten.

In verse 18 Zechariah responds, “How will I know this is so?  For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.”  Well the angel Gabriel did not like that response, and so he said, “Because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” (verse 20)  Zechariah comes out of the Temple unable to speak.  A few days later he returns home.

Verses 24-25 tell us, “After those days Elizabeth conceived and for five months remained in seclusion.”  She said, “This is what the Lord has done for me when He looked favorably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.” 

So here is Zechariah, a priest, a righteous man who knows God and who serves God.  But Zechariah has some spiritual growing to do.  When God gave him a wonderful promise, he did not believe that promise.  He doubted and underestimated God.  Zechariah is a prime example of a person who has known God for a long, long time.  He goes to church.  He is involved in church.  He does all the right things at all the right times in all the right ways.  But when God comes along and challenges him to grow to a new level of faith, he is not ready.

In contrast there is Elizabeth.  Zechariah cannot speak.  Elizabeth can speak, and when she does speak, she speaks about God’s grace and mercy to her and of how He has taken away her shame and disgrace.  She did not become bitter.  Rather she kept on serving and praising God.  Elizabeth was far more ready for Christmas than Zechariah. 

Zechariah was not ready for Christmas because he did not believe that God could step into his life and answer some long-forgotten prayer in a totally unexpected way.  How many of us are like Zechariah?  If we were to be honest, we would have to admit that deep down inside we are deeply disappointed with God.  And so, like old Zechariah, we keep on doing what we are supposed to be doing, but we really do not believe that God could and would step into our lives and do something that would bless us in unimaginable ways. 

If that is you – if you no longer believe that God could and would step into your life and work in your life in an amazing way to bless you, then like Zechariah you are not ready for Christmas. 

But the same God who sent an angel to Zechariah.  The same God who sent a heavenly host to startle some shepherds and tell them about the birth of a Savior.  And the same God who put a wonder in the sky to catch the attention of some star gazers, that same God has some very interesting and wonderful and amazing ways of getting through to you. 

God has a way of sending you a word of hope to remind you that life is stronger than death, light is more powerful than darkness, good will prevail over evil, and joy is deeper than disappointment.  All of which is at the heart of the message of Christmas. 

The question is, Are we prepared for all that?  Do you believe that God can work in your life in ways that you would never imagine to take away everything that is negative and disappointing in your life?  If you do, then you are ready for Christmas. 

* * * * * * *



In my August 2022 letter from the director, which I entitled “The Revisionists Have Completely Taken Over,” I wrote an evaluation of the ELCA’s 2022 Churchwide Assembly.  A link to that letter can be found here.  Among the most significant of the actions taken was a resolution which 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 which would “present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention.”  We noted that the resolution seemed to make dismantling racism the main mission of the church.  We also observed that once you know the makeup of the commission, you will know the outcome.

In light of that fact, we have been watching carefully for any official word from the ELCA regarding progress in creating that commission.  The official word came in a November 16 news release reporting on the November 10-13 meeting of the Church Council.  A link to that news release can be found here

Before I comment on the makeup of the commission, which is the subject of the third paragraph of the news release, I would like to make a few comments regarding a very interesting statement from Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in the second paragraph.  There Bishop Eaton is quoted as challenging the ELCA to “try as best as we can and as faithfully as we can to remain true to the gospel, but somehow find a way to speak and act in the cultural vernacular.”  If you cannot do both equally well, which one prevails – remaining true to the gospel or speaking and acting in the cultural vernacular?  With the way Bishop Eaton phrases it, speaking and acting in the cultural vernacular seems to prevail.  She then makes reference to Martin Luther’s translating the Bible into German so that “people could receive it in their own language.”  I cannot imagine that for Martin Luther speaking and acting in the cultural vernacular would take precedence over remaining true to the gospel. 

In the third paragraph it states that “the commission will consist of up to 35 voting members, to include at least 25 % people of color or whose primary language is other than English and a goal of at least 20 % youth or young adults.”  At least that is better than the position of many who had been driving this process and who did not want this whole matter to be minimized or buried by being referred to the Church Council.  Those people have made it very clear that they do not want any white male over the age of sixty to be allowed to have anything to do with the process.

At least this is better than that, but think about it.  At least 25% of thirty-five would be nine, and at least 20% of thirty-five would be seven.  Nine plus seven is sixteen.  At least sixteen out of the thirty-five members of the commission (just two short of a majority) will be people of color, people whose language is other than English, or people under the age of twenty-five or thirty (depending upon how you define young adults).    How representative of the ELCA is that?  There is no concern expressed for Biblical and theological awareness and no concern for whether these people would understand what it takes to create and run an organization the size and complexity of the ELCA. 

What would happen if your congregation’s council were to decide that a commission that would develop recommendations for totally redoing the structure and mission of your congregation were to be at least 45% people who do not represent the vast majority of your congregation?

As one member of our board said, What would have happened if the Council of Nicaea had been made up according to the requirements of these quotas?  Would we have had such a profound theological decision that defined and preserved orthodoxy?  Or what would have happened if the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 had been comprised according to these quotas?  Would we have had a decision which resolved the issue at hand and advanced the mission of the church? 

The third paragraph states that “nominations will be received from synod councils or synod executive committees as well as through an open nomination process” and “the Church Council’s executive committee will present a slate of nominees at the council’s April 2023 meeting.”  But I have a feeling that a lot of the decision has already been made in regard to who will be the people of color and people whose language is other than English who will be on this commission.

The third paragraph ends by stating, “The council also referred to the commission the question of changing the denomination’s name.”   There are many who would like to see the word “Evangelical” removed from the name of this newly reconstituted church.  The claim is that the word “evangelical” is associated in the minds of many people with right-wing, racist, white-supremacy fundamentalists.  

We will keep you posted.  One can only hope, when this new church is reconstituted, that congregations will be given an opportunity for an “easy exit” because this new church will not be what they had signed up for in 1988.  

I also want to comment on two of the bullet points in the section which begins, “In other actions.”  Under the second bullet point it says that the ELCA Church Council “scheduled for 2024 the initiation of a task force for reconsideration of the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.  Ever since that social statement was approved in 2009 we have known what would eventually happen.  Sooner or later the ELCA would renounce its promise to recognize as legitimate and valid traditional views of human sexuality.  It would only be a matter of time until the ELCA would renounce its commitment to provide a place of dignity and respect for those who hold traditional views.  No one should be surprised.  What is interesting is that the ELCA is minimizing the significance of this massive breach of trust by not even beginning the process of creating a task force until 2024, one year before the next Churchwide Assembly.  What the ELCA values it gives abundant time and energy to.  For something it considers to be of minimal significance, it does the opposite.

And then under the sixth bullet point it says that the Church Council “adopted a continuing resolution establishing council advisory members to include . . . a representative of Reconciling Works.”  The use of the word “include” as well as the fact that the Church Council “also approved revisions to the ELCA Church Council Governance Policy Manual to include reference to advisory members,” would seem to allow for the possibility of additional “advisory members.”  I will be writing to the Vice President of the ELCA to ask how it was decided that a representative from Reconciling Works would be an advisory member and whether there will be any consideration given to a provision for a representative from a group with traditional views, such as Lutheran CORE, to be one of the advisory members.  In the January 2023 issue of our newsletter CORE Voice I will give a copy of my letter to the vice president and let you know whether I have heard anything. 

 * * * * * * *


Each month we feature two videos – the most recent addition to our video book reviews, and a recent addition to our CORE Convictions videos.  The CORE Convictions series is designed particularly for those who wish to grow in their knowledge of Biblical teaching and Christian living as well as for those who want to know more about how Lutherans understand the Bible. We also want to provide this resource for those who do not have the opportunity or the option of attending a church where the preaching and teaching is Biblical, orthodox, and confessional.

Here is a link to our You Tube channel.  In the top row you will find recordings from both sets of videos – in the order in which they were posted, beginning with the most recent.  In the second row you will find links to the Playlists for both sets of videos.  We now have seven videos in our CORE Convictions series.  Many thanks to Dr. Robert Benne for his video on “Martin Luther on Vocation.”  His video will be featured in February 2023.

This month we want to feature a video book review by Kim Smith and a CORE Convictions video by Pastor James Hoefer. 


Many thanks to Kim Smith for her review of the book, “The Awe-full Privilege: This Thing Called Parenting” by K. Craig Moorman.  Kim hails from Maryland and is completing her third and final term on the board of Lutheran CORE.  A link to her video can be found here.

Pastor K. Craig Moorman is a Lutheran pastor in the NALC and is also on the board of Lutheran CORE.  He lives in Mt. Airy, MD.  He is a mission developer and is married with five children all of whom are now adults in their 20s and 30s.  One of the most remarkable things about Craig and his wife, Nancy, is that allfive of their children are Christians and have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ.  In his book, Craig writes that in claiming a “deep and abiding relationship with Christ, we are telling the rest of the world that we will build our lives on this reality.”

This book covers parenting from soup to nuts–from marriage to the culture wars impacting our lives, to the need to stand in the gap and be the gatekeeper—protecting the hearts of our children. He has chapters on parenting, chaos, managing time and things, being wonderfully made, what home should be, and the critical components that are key to serving the Lord with integrity and faithfulness.  He also writes about wisdom and where to look for it.  And he writes of the need to persevere and hold your family together at all costs.  He boldly discusses our societal ills and how to combat them.  And he ends with challenges that will help us start a Christ-centered revolution in our own homes.

Craig’s book will go a long way in helping you raise your children to be Christians—in more than name only.


Many thanks to AALC pastor James Hoefer for his very clear and complete explanation of the work of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.  A link to his video can be found here.

Just before His ascension Jesus told His disciples, “Don’t do anything until you receive the Holy Spirit.”  There was a good reason for that.  Without the Holy Spirit we cannot believe, we cannot love as God wants us to love, we cannot experience the freedom of being the person God wants us to be, and we cannot live the abundant life God wants us to live.

James expands on the five verbs that Martin Luther uses in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles Creed to describe the work of the Holy Spirit.

First, CALLS.  The Holy Spirit calls us through the Word of God, the voice of Jesus.  We experience true freedom not when we make choices, but when we realize that we have been chosen.

Second, GATHERS.  The Holy Spirit gathers us into the church.  It is not that we join a church.  Rather it is the Holy Spirit who adds us to the Church.  The Holy Spirit gathers us into groups of believers and into the Kingdom of God, which is bigger than any one denomination. 

Third, ENLIGHTENS.  The Holy Spirit uses the means of grace to do His work in our lives – baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the Bible as the Word of God.  This is a process that goes on throughout our lives.

Fourth, SANCTIFIES.  Like a dentist who will not stop until every problem has been found and fixed, so the Holy Spirit finds and fixes everything in our lives that needs to change.  Using another image of our day, the Holy Spirit upgrades us with a whole new operating system.  We begin to see the Fruit of the Spirit develop in our lives as the natural result of being continually filled with the Holy Spirit.

Fifth, KEEPS.  The Holy Spirit guards and protects us with all the spiritual armor of Christ. 

Pastor James then concludes this video with a prayer for the Holy Spirit’s anointing power and new operating system.  He prays that God will empower our lives with His Word, His gifts, and the very life of Christ inside of us. 

* * * * * *

May God bless you with all the hope, love, joy, and peace of this Advent and Christmas season.

In Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE


Is the ELCA Church Council Out of Touch with Reality?

The official report from the November 8-11 meeting of the ELCA Church Council, dated November 19, 2018 said that “the council engaged in discussions around a ‘well-governed, connected and sustainable church.’” I do not see how the Church Council could call the ELCA well-governed, connected, and/or sustainable.

Math Doesn’t Add Up

First, sustainable. The predecessor church bodies that merged in 1988 to
form the ELCA achieved their statistical peak in 1968 when they reported a
combined total of 5.9 million members. Fifty years later, in 2018, the ELCA
reports having only about 3.5 million members. That represents a 41% loss in
fifty years.
How long can a decline like that be sustainable? The synod in
which I was rostered before I retired balances the budget by spending money
obtained by selling the buildings of closed congregations. These buildings were
built and paid for by faithful followers of Jesus whose view of the Bible,
orthodox theology, priority of evangelism, and views on such things as human
sexuality that synod rejects. How long can a synod continue to exist and how
can it be sustainable if it balances the budget by closing congregations?

Speak Louder

Second, connected. The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly said that a wide
variety of views on human sexuality, including the traditional view, would be
treated with respect. And yet a keynote speaker at last summer’s youth
gathering (who could very well be the prime spokesperson for the ELCA) led
31,000 young people in rejecting the traditional view as a lie. My letters to
synodical bishops were totally ignored when I wrote to them about the free
reign and amount of power that are being given to the LGBTQIA+ community and
about how the ELCA’s doing so is a blatant betrayal and violation of trust
because of the way in which the LGBTQIA+ agenda goes way beyond what was
approved at the 2009 assembly. How could a church that advocates for justice
but then acts so unjustly, and that claims to be inclusive and yet consistently
excludes, diminishes, and dismisses a significant part of its constituency call
itself connected?


Third, well-governed. In a recent letter to Presiding Bishop Elizabeth
Eaton I challenged her to exercise the authority of her office and hold the
organizers of the youth gathering accountable for their choice of speakers. I
also called upon her to restore sanity to the ELCA’s teachings on human
sexuality by working with the administration and faculty of the Lutheran School
of Theology in Chicago to renounce the “We Are Naked and Unashamed” movement.
That movement rejects marriage by any definition as normative for sexual
activity. It was well-represented among the keynote speakers at last summer’s
ELCA youth gathering. Bishop Eaton gave a very limp reply when she said that
she will be “speaking to the leadership team of the Youth Gathering.” She also
said that she did not want to “give more attention and credence to a movement
that is outside this church’s social teaching by speaking about it publicly.”
As Bishop Eaton refuses to speak publicly about movements within the ELCA that
are out of control, Nadia Bolz-Weber is gaining visibility and notoriety as she
is promoting her new book, Shameless: A Sexual Reformation, and as she
is calling upon women to send in their purity rings so that she can melt them
down and make a statue of a golden vagina. How could a church that refuses
to address actions and behaviors that are in direct violation of what it claims
to be its beliefs and standards call itself well-governed?

Late for Damage Control

Either the leaders of the ELCA are in agreement with Nadia Bolz-Weber or
they are not. If they are in agreement, we have a problem because they are
joining with her in calling the traditional view of human sexuality a lie. If
they are not in agreement, they have a problem because they have allowed her to
become so prominent. They did nothing about her at a time when it would have
been easier to do something about her. How would they be able to stop her now? When
a church body has allowed a situation that is doing great damage to become so
large and out of control, how could it call itself well-governed?
situation created by Nadia Bolz-Weber is doing great damage because of the
message she is communicating to young people and the turmoil she is creating in
some congregations. 

and Re-Examine

That same report said that the ELCA Church
Council formed a working group which would develop a document which would
contain “a confession of this church’s bondage to the sins of slavery, racism,
discrimination, white supremacy and quietism, and a commitment to begin the
work of repentance, which this church confesses to be ‘the chief topic of
Christian teaching.’”
The ELCA has far more that it needs to confess
besides racism, discrimination, white supremacy, and quietism. It also needs to
repent of its own acts of betrayal of trust, violation of agreements,
and marginalization and even bullying and intimidation of pastors and
congregations who hold to traditional views. It also needs to seriously
re-examine its own theology. How could it call itself confessionally
Lutheran when it says that our need to confess rather than God’s work of
salvation through Jesus Christ is “the chief topic of Christian teaching”?

January 2019 Newsletter

January 2019 Lutheran CORE Newsletter