Letter From The Director – August 2022



The ELCA held its Churchwide Assembly August 8-12 in Columbus, Ohio.  The gathering sent a strong message to confessional Lutherans with traditional views – You are not welcome.  In this article I will list several ways in which the decisions that were made and the events that took place communicate that message loud and clear.    

First, the resolution concerning human sexuality that came from the Memorials Committee early on in the gathering was bad enough.  The assembly voted overwhelmingly, without discussion, and with no concerns expressed “to authorize a social statement reconsideration to revise Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009) so that its wording reflects current church understanding, church policy, civil law, and public acceptance of marriage of same-gender and gender non-confirming couples.”  It was obvious where this was headed, and it took only two days to get there.  Towards the end of the week a resolution came through the Reference and Counsel Committee “to authorize a possible revision of the social statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” which “reconsiders the church’s current concept of the four positions of bound conscience.”  At least there were a few people who spoke against this resolution, and 12% voted against it, but still the days of the ELCA’s claiming to honor bound conscience and to provide a place for those who hold traditional views are over. 

I am certain that the ELCA never intended to honor traditional views.  The language regarding bound conscience and the four positions was placed within the 2009 social statement only to obtain enough votes to get the social statement approved.  One needs to look no further than the ELCA’s total embrace of ReconcilingWorks and its choice of keynote speakers for the 2018 youth gathering to realize that confessional Lutherans with traditional views are not welcome. 

David Charlton, vice president of our board, has done a powerful analysis of the possible (even probable) implications of this action. 

  • Candidacy committees and seminaries will no longer need to pretend to work with traditional candidates.  They can reject them outright.
  • Seminaries will be able to openly purge any traditional professors who remain, in the name of ELCA policy.
  • Synods will no longer need to work with congregations who do not want to call LGBTQIA+ pastors.  These congregations can be told, “Either call an LGBTQIA+ person or you will get no pastor at all.”
  • It will be difficult for a pastor who holds traditional views to move to a new synod or a new call.  A bishop will be able to refuse to recommend a pastor for a new call if that pastor is unwilling to do same sex weddings.
  • It will be easier to sue congregations for not doing same sex weddings.

Second, during the days leading up to the assembly there was much conversation about calling for a restructure of the governance of the ELCA.  I read comments from many people who believed that the Memorials Committee’s original recommendation to refer the memorials from synods to the Church Council was an act of deliberately stonewalling their efforts.  Some even talked about a showdown at the assembly.  By the time of the assembly the Memorials Committee had changed its recommendation – to one 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 would “present its findings and recommendations to the 2025 Churchwide Assembly in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention.” 

One could hope, when this new church is reconstituted, that congregations will be given an opportunity for an “easy exit” because the new church will not be what they had signed up for in 1988.   There is even talk about removing the word Evangelical from the name of this new church.  The claim is that the word evangelical is associated in the minds of many people with right-wing, racist, white-supremacy fundamentalists.   

Prior to the assembly I read much criticism of Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton – some of it even very severe.  Some were calling for her resignation or a vote of no confidence because of the way she initially handled the situation with Meghan Rohrer and Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Peregrina.  Bishop Eaton survived the assembly (though she did test positive for COVID on the morning of the final day – we pray for her quick and full recovery) and she demonstrated throughout the week her great giftedness for presiding over a large and complex gathering.  But I definitely got the impression that she was not setting the course.  The relentless revisionists were, and they have completely taken over.

Third, the whole assembly was a powerful example of the amount of damage that can be done to and the depth of embarrassment that can be created for a large organization by the foolish and self-centered actions of just one person.  It felt like the specter of former bishop Meghan Rohrer and their termination of Nelson Rabell on the Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe hung over the entire week.

Fourth, Bishop Eaton’s apology to Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Peregrina was deep and thorough, and the response of the representatives of the congregation was incredibly gracious, but it should be noted that Bishop Eaton apologized only on behalf of the ELCA.  She did not apologize for herself.  It is a whole lot easier – and a whole lot less painful – to apologize on behalf of a large group of people rather than on behalf of yourself.

During the apology she said, “Part of the body was disconnected; the body was not whole.”  She also promised to be “committed to listen to voices that have traditionally been marginalized.”  But what about another part of the body that is disconnected?  What about other voices that are being marginalized – the voices of those who hold traditional views?  During and after the 2009 Churchwide Assembly Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson reached out to those who were feeling alienated by the actions that were taken (even if it was only for the self-serving reason to preserve the organization).  I have not heard of any effort – nor do I expect to hear of any effort – to reach out to those who feel disconnected and marginalized, even more so now because of the vote on the human sexuality resolution.  We are just too few in number and we are seen as insignificant.  Unlike Pastor Rabell and Iglesia Luterana Santa Maria Peregrina, pastors and congregations who hold traditional views do not have well-positioned, powerful, and credible people to advocate for them – and to do so relentlessly – until finally something is done.

Fifth, the overwhelmingly positive vote on the Land Back Memorial is another example of ELCA inconsistency and hypocrisy.  The assembly fully supported a resolution which, among other things, called upon the ELCA to “support creative programs of restorative justice in partnership with Indigenous people, including, but not limited to, whenever considering a transfer or sale of real property, including returning land (and any structures built on it) after satisfying any financial obligations, to the appropriate Native nations, and when direct return is not feasible or not desired by the Indigenous people, to return the proceeds from the sale of the land to the ELCA Native American Ministry Fund or other local Indigenous led ministries or organizations.” 

Several months ago I wrote a letter to the bishop of the synod in which I was rostered before I retired.  In that letter I said that if that synod truly believes that the land now occupied by the synod offices and all of the congregations of that synod is stolen land, then they are morally obligated – whenever they close a congregation and sell the property – to return at least the value of the land to indigenous persons, and if they do not do so, then they would be complicit in the stealing of land.  The problem is that the number of congregations in that synod and the size and vitality of the remaining congregations are so diminished.  Therefore, that synod needs considerable funds from the sale of buildings and land of closed congregations to balance the budget. 

Will the ELCA truly want to return land and structures to Native nations if the ELCA is struggling financially, or is virtue signaling something the ELCA does only when it does not cost too much?  Also, will the ELCA be willing to return the land and structures of congregations that had to pay a very high price to leave the ELCA?  And if those congregations no longer exist, will the ELCA be willing to give the land and structures (or the value of that land and those structures) to other church bodies which better reflect the beliefs and values of those congregations that paid a very high price to leave and/or were decimated by the persons whom the synod sent in?

Sixth, those who hold a pro-life position should be deeply disturbed by the action that was taken to archive a number of social policy resolutions. In the ELCA social statements cover broad frameworks and are intended to help God’s people think about their faith in the context of social life.  Social policy resolutions are a much narrower and more focused category of social teaching.   

The idea behind archiving a social policy resolution or social statement is to say that that document is no longer relevant to the ELCA’s mission, does not have continued significance for society, and is no longer congruent with ELCA social teaching.  The ELCA’s abortion social policy resolution states essentially the same thing as the ELCA’s 1991 abortion social statement, and it has now been archived.  It has been ruled as not relevant, not still significant, and not still congruent with ELCA social teaching.  It is only a matter of time – perhaps at the 2025 churchwide assembly – until the ELCA’s abortion social statement also will be ruled as not relevant, not still significant, and not still congruent.  After all, as one person said recently, “The ELCA’s abortion social statement was written in the 1900’s.”  I do not remember any explanation of the meaning and significance of archiving prior to the vote to archive.  If anyone who holds a pro-life position happened to be present, there is a good chance that that person would not have understood what just happened. 

Seventh, there was a lot of strange spirituality and even the worship of other gods during the assembly.  The opening focused more on the original inhabitants of the land than on Jesus, and the welcome from the bishop of the host synod focused more on the rivers that flow through that synod than on Jesus.  And the prayer from a member of the prayer team during the vote on the human sexuality resolution was particularly strange.  First, Bishop Eaton needed to be reminded of the importance of having a prayer even though voting had already begun.  And the wording of the prayer was completely irrelevant. A member of the assembly prayer team read from her i-phone an invocation to Mother Earth and Father Sky, concern for all the creatures of the earth, and repentance for our not recycling enough.  The only possibly relevant phrase was, “Help us to dance together,” but even considering that phrase relevant is a stretch.  The thinking seems to be that if we pray prior to a vote, then the outcome of the vote must be within the will of God. 

Eighth, one might wonder how so much groveling, repenting, and apologizing by the assembly could possibly be uplifting for the voting members.  The reason is that they were groveling over, repenting of, and apologizing for what other people have done and not for anything that they have done or ever would do.  A definite characteristic of the whole Woke Movement is an arrogant self-righteousness.

Ninth, in an article entitled “Major Disaster on Its Way,” published prior to the assembly, I wrote of my concern regarding two constitutional amendments that would be considered.  A link to that article can be found here.  The first amendment, which removed proclaiming God’s love for the world from the role of rostered leaders and essentially made them social justice advocates, was originally voted on in 2019.  This amendment was part of a block of amendments that were ratified overwhelmingly.  A motion to ratify previously approved amendments is not open to debate.  ELCA parishioners should not be surprised if their pastors do not preach about Jesus, but instead are only social justice warriors.   

I was glad to hear considerable concern expressed regarding the role of the ELCA’s colleges and universities as described in the other amendment.  Many felt that the deletion of a certain paragraph from the constitution weakened the church’s connection with those institutions and diminished their Christian witness.  A slight majority voted to approve, but it did not receive the required 2/3rds, so the amendment failed.

Tenth, it was good to see certain issues addressed – such as the evils of racism and abuse of power, the need for fair and adequate compensation for all rostered leaders, and the issue of seminarian debt.  And there were four times when the proceedings made me chuckle.

  • When Bishop Matthew Riegel of the West Virginia-Western Maryland Synod responded in the words of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to a motion to eliminate the breaks in order to give more time to the consideration of the memorials.  He said, “If we do not satisfy the lower level needs, we will never be able to self-actualize.”
  • When a voting member who made a motion to table the Land Back Resolution was told that a better way to go would be a motion to postpone debate until a fixed time or when certain conditions have been met.  His response was, “I have no idea how these rules of whatever work.”
  • When Bishop Eaton said to Bishop Riegel, “I have learned not to doubt you.”
  • When a voting member spoke to a certain resolution, using all the right woke phrases but not making any sense.  Bishop Eaton had a very pained and confused look on her face as the voting member was speaking and then said, “Thank you.”

The “Embody the Word” Bible studies prior to the assembly culminated on the second day with a theological presentation by Anthony Bateza, associate professor of religion at St. Olaf College.  He talked about the importance of trust, the lack of trust today, and the question of how do and can we become people who can be trusted.  He told of his having to undergo surgery and physical therapy after tearing his ACL in a skiing accident.  He said that he needed to learn to trust his own body again.

Even more so than ever before – with the motion “to authorize a possible revision of the social statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” and reconsider “the church’s current concept of the four positions of bound conscience” – the ELCA has totally obliterated any reason why anyone with traditional views would ever trust the ELCA.  The damage to the body is irreparable.  Far more than an ACL has been torn. 

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Lutheran CORE is always looking for ways to take our ministry to the next level and expand our work of being a Voice for Biblical Truth and a Network for Confessing Lutherans.  Our most recent new effort is to expand our video ministry.

For about two years we have been posting on our You Tube channel a new video book review on the first day of every month.  Many thanks to the Lutheran pastors and theologians who have been recording these reviews of books of interest and importance. 

We are calling our new video ministry CORE Convictions.   This new video series is being planned particularly for those who are looking to strengthen and renew their Christian faith. We believe that these videos will be a valuable resource 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 – Book Reviews and CORE Convictions.  Here is some more information about two of the most recent videos. 

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Many thanks to Dr. Paul Hinlicky, professor emeritus at Roanoke College in Roanoke, Virginia, for giving us a review of Simeon Zahl’s book, The Holy Spirit and Christian Experience.  Here is a link to his review. 

Prior to the rationalism of the Enlightenment, during the early years of Reformation theology, part of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer was seen to be the giving of a new heart, new emotions, a change in one’s desires.  This book helps regain that emphasis.  Faith is not just a matter of intellectual conviction.  It is also something that strikes home for us personally.  It changes us and what we love. 

Grace can be an abstraction – simply the idea that God is merciful and loving.  Instead grace needs to be and can be a concrete experience of the merciful Jesus Christ, who finds His way into our hearts through the extraordinary work of the Holy Spirit.  


We now have four videos posted in our CORE Convictions series –

  • “Defending Christian faith and morality without being a nasty jerk or a defensive Bible thumper” by NALC pastor Cathy Ammlung
  • “Jesus is the only way to salvation” by Russell Lackey, campus pastor at Grand View University (ELCA)
  • “Teaching the faith to children of all ages” by NALC pastor Jim Lehmann
  • “What does it mean to be Confessional?” by NALC pastor Jeffray Greene

More videos will be posted as they become available.  Here is a summary of Cathy’s video.



Many thanks to NALC pastor Cathy Ammlung for this video on how to share the Christian faith and moral values in a hostile environment.  Here is a link to her video.

In this video she discusses what Christians can do to prepare for and engage in conversations on difficult topics like abortion.  Cathy does not give answers or talking points.  Instead she counsels the viewer on leading with the love of Jesus and doing the hard work that provides solid information, insight, and confidence.  Finally, she walks the viewer through some of the tactics for argumentation and activism that were formulated by Saul Alinsky and that are being used by many people today who oppose Christian faith and moral values.  It’s less threatening when you know what’s going on!

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Thank you for letting me share regarding these issues.  May the Lord continue to bless you.

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE


Letter From the Director – October 2021


There are two things we know for sure about the ELCA.  First, they will always give us plenty to write about.  And second, they will always leave us wondering what will it be next.  Such was the case during the past couple months.

On August 23 the Religious News Service released the story that Nadia Bolz-Weber, the ELCA’s most famous pastor, has been installed as pastor of public witness by the Rocky Mountain Synod.  This is the Nadia Bolz-Weber who was one of the keynote speakers at the 2018 ELCA youth gathering.  She led 31,000 young people in a chant rejecting traditional views of human sexuality as a lie.  (See CORE Voice July 2018).  This is the Nadia Bolz-Weber who is known for her profanity and her bragging about the sex she is having outside of marriage.  I assume it was to accommodate Nadia Bolz-Weber that the ELCA Conference of Bishops recommended and the ELCA Church Council approved a wording in the recently revised document, “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” which no longer describes abstinence from sexual intercourse until marriage as an expectation and requirement for pastors and other rostered leaders, but instead only as “the aspirational teaching of this church.”

In the past, when I have expressed concern about the pagan goddess worship at Ebenezer HerChurch in San Francisco, I was told that they do not represent the ELCA.  When I wrote to ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton regarding the “We Are Naked and Unashamed” movement, which wants to eliminate the requirement that pastors be married (by any definition) in order to be sexually active, I was told by her that they are outside of the teachings of “this church” and she does not want to give them attention and credence by commenting on them.

The news story said that the entire Conference of Bishops had to sign off on at least the creation of that position, if not also choosing Nadia Bolz-Weber for that position.  In addition, she was called to that position by the Rocky Mountain Synod and installed in that position by the bishop of that synod, Jim Gonia.  All that tells me that there is no way that the ELCA can say that this is action that does not represent and reflect on the ELCA.

Well, if that is what happened in August, what happened in September?  The ELCA again made the news.  That must be one of their greatest goals – to make the news.  This time they made the news by installing Protestantism’s first transgender bishop, Meghan Rohrer of the Sierra Pacific Synod.  There is much to be said about that action.

Of course there is much that could be said about the ELCA’s even having a transgender pastor who could be elected bishop.  The ELCA fully embraces the LGBTQIA+ agenda, even though the ELCA has never officially taken action to approve the BTQIA+ portion of LGBTQIA+.  (Transgender is the “T” portion of LGBTQIA+.)  The actions taken by the 2009 churchwide assembly only approved the ordination of a certain group of L and G persons – those that are in (PALMS) publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same sex relationships.  Even the recently approved document, “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” which I have referenced above, affirms that “this church’s understanding of human sexuality is stated in its authorized social teachings” – the most recent of which is the 2009 “Social Statement on Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.”       

Not too long ago I received an email from an ELCA synodical staff person, who is now an ELCA synodical bishop.  She agreed that in 2009 the ELCA did not act to approve the ordination of BTQIA+ persons.  She also said that if the ordination of BTQIA+ persons had been part of the vote, it probably would not have been approved at that time.  But, she said, the Holy Spirit has revealed new things to the church.  What good timing on the part of the Holy Spirit!  To reveal new things to the church after and only after enough traditionally minded people have left that church so that these new things will not only be accepted, but welcomed and embraced.

But there is much more that can be said about the installation service for Bishop Rohrer.  I will start with the wording of the invocation given by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.  The news story said that “congregants were invited to stand as clergy gathered around the orchid-festooned baptismal font, giving thanks as decanters poured water from the Sacramento and Garcia Rivers, Lake Tahoe and the San Francisco Bay as acolytes waved blue streamers overhead.”  And then Bishop Eaton said, “You, oh God: Parent, Child, and Holy Breath.  You are the water we crave. . . .  You, oh God: Rain, Estuary, and Sea.  You are life for us all, now and forever.  Amen.”

I assume all this is intended to be some kind of creative reference to baptism, but what is it actually?  Idolatry.  Notice the parallel sentence structure.  The first “You, oh God:” is followed by five words that identify God – “Parent, Child, and Holy Breath.”  Not Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as per the ecumenical creeds and the Lutheran Confessions.  (Interestingly enough, at the ELCA service of ordination for a minister of word and sacrament – the new term for pastor – the candidate is asked, “Will you therefore preach and teach in accordance with the holy scriptures and these creeds and confessions?”  At the ELCA service of installation of a bishop, the bishop is asked, “Will you carry out this ministry in accordance with the holy scriptures and with the confessions of the Lutheran church?”  But why would we expect the ELCA to expect one of its own pastors and/or bishops to actually do what they said they would do?)

The first “You, oh God:” is followed by five words that identify that God – “Parent, Child, and Holy Breath.”  So we should be able to assume that the words that follow the second “You, oh God:” also identify God.  And what are those words?  “Rain, Estuary, and Sea.”  What is this?  Idolatry.  Invoking God as Rain, Estuary and Sea, and invoking Rain, Estuary, and Sea as God.  Worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.

And who is this said by?  No one less than the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA.  The ELCA could argue that Ebenezer HerChurch does not represent the ELCA, and the agenda and goals of “We Are Naked and Unashamed” are outside the teachings of “this church,” but I assume that what the Presiding Bishop says represents the ELCA and is within the teachings of “this church.”  Does Bishop Eaton actually believe that God is “Rain, Estuary, and Sea” and “Rain, Estuary, and Sea” are God, or is she so careless about saying what she is handed to say at the service for the installation of a synodical bishop? 

What if the prophets of Baal were right and Elijah was wrong and the gods are merely forces of nature?  Certainly rain is a gift, and water is essential for life.  I live in Arizona.  I give thanks for the monsoon rains which fell this past July and August.  The danger of fires is now listed as low or moderate, rather than extreme, and most of Arizona is no longer suffering from extreme or exceptional drought.  But if God were only the forces of nature, and the forces of nature were God, then what do I do about the fact that the forces that can make life possible can also destroy?  If God were only the forces of nature – Rain, Estuary, and Sea – then I would know nothing of a God who loves me as well as created me and who went to great lengths and paid a high price to save me.

Yes, it does matter what we believe.  It does matter how we witness.  It does matter what we say within the context of a worship service – especially one that is so publicly visible.

The final thing that I would want to comment on from the installation service for Bishop Rohrer is the way in which the service began with a “land acknowledgement” – a declaration that “the land where we live and worship in this place is stolen land.”  Participants in the ceremony, which was held in Grace Cathedral – in a historically wealthy neighborhood in San Francisco – were encouraged to “find concrete ways to make reparations to the original stewards of these places and their descendants.”

It is interesting.  For the ELCA the worst of sins are the ones that they are proud that they are not guilty of – white supremacy, racism, male dominance, and sexism.  They feel free to blast and criticize those awful white settlers who stole the land from indigenous persons, not realizing that they are doing the very same thing when they send in “woke” pastors who decimate congregations.  These congregations then close, their buildings are sold, and from the proceeds synods and ELCA churchwide finance their agenda. 

For example, I wrote in my June letter from the director about the online synod assembly for the ELCA synod in which I was rostered before I retired.   The proposed spending plan for the 2022-2023 fiscal year included income of $899,000, but expenses of over $1.2 million.  The assembly rejected the budget, not because it was not balanced, but instead because it did not provide funding for all of the favored ministries.  The attitude of the assembly was, We need to sell more buildings from closed congregations, and we need to use more of the dollars already obtained from already selling buildings from closed congregations.

The hypocrisy is amazing.  Encouraging the participants in the installation service of an ELCA synodical bishop to “find concrete ways to make reparations to the original stewards of these places and their descendants” while showing neither respect, consideration, appreciation, nor regard for the people who built and paid for the buildings which they are now selling in order to fund their agendas, values, and priorities.  

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In sharp contrast was the LCMC gathering in early October, which I had the privilege of attending on behalf of Lutheran CORE.  In the second reading for October 10 – in Hebrews 4:14 – the author of this letter urges his readers, “Let us hold fast to our confession.”  The people at this gathering were not afraid to hold fast to their confession.  They were not afraid to call God Father, believe in the authority of the Bible, see the Lutheran Confessions as an accurate statement of Scriptural teachings and relevant for us today (even though they were written by white males), and view the mission of the Church as proclaiming Christ and helping people grow as disciples of Christ.

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Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to Bill Decker for giving us a review of Erwin Lutzer’s book, We Will Not Be Silenced: Responding Courageously to Our Culture’s Assault on Christianity.  This is a book for all who are concerned about how they can and will live out their Christian convictions against a growing tide of hostility in our contemporary culture.  Picking up on the words of Jesus to the church in Sardis in Revelation 3: 2 to “strengthen what remains,” this book is written with the ardent hope that the U. S. church will wake up and “strengthen what remains.” 

Mr. Decker is an ELCA rostered lay leader who has done editorial and grant writing work for the ELCA.  Erwin Lutzer is a student of Martin Luther and pastor emeritus of Moody Church in Chicago. 

This review, as well as ten others, have been posted on our YouTube channel.  A link to the channel can be found here.

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE