Resentful Faith

While visiting another Lutheran church in the area as the gathered worshipped the LORD through the prayers and praised God through the songs, across the pews I saw a man, arms folded, a closed lip face saying, “I dare you.”

How can you be resentful in worship when we should be joining the angels in singing and celebrating the glorious grace of God?

If you say to yourself that you won’t sing louder; if you argue within your spirit against the invitation to give yourself to worship – Right there! Right in that thought of your rebellion dwells your sinful resistance.  If you hear the Word in a sermon and you are whispering in your mind, “Pastor, you can pound sand!”; just perhaps you have a resentful, rebellious faith.

Is your resistance because the call to worship is unbiblical or contrary to faith? No. Is being resentful and stubborn to the invitation of God unbiblical?  No. Unfortunately we see a lot of stubborn resistance in the Bible.

After people fled from the Babylonian siege in Judah into Egypt, the wives gave themselves over to worshipping a goddess. Even though idolatry and false values were the reason for all their previous troubles, still they traded the LORD for gods and priorities that have no power to give life. When the prophet Jeremiah warns them, they resent the prophet for meddling (Jer 44:1-30).  Is that your attitude?  “Don’t tell us how to be faithful to God.”  Do you have a resentful faith where you want Jesus, but don’t want him “telling me what to do!” 

In worship, we gather not for our amusement. We gather to celebrate the glory of God. When your pride and your resistance to worship gets your hackles up, you are not worshiping or faith-filled to God. When you are offended for being called to worship regularly, your stubborn nature is resisting God’s grace.        

As redeemed sinners we need to recognize that the very act of worship is spiritual warfare. That the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God and the Gospel of our Crucified Savior are doing battle with the false gods and values embedded and bonded to our human nature. Worship is about the very act of being called, exorcised, out of darkness and brought into God’s marvelous light by the Spirit.

How can we resent the Lord who loves us stubborn folks so much, that not only does he give us the blessing of each breath and each day, but gives his own beloved Son to die on the cross for our stiff-necked sin to release us into the joy of faith?  Rather than stubborn resistance, we have been reconciled to God through Christ so we may bask in God’s grace, love and forgiveness. Rather than arm folded resentment we are called to angel flying joy of praising the One who loves us.

Since Jesus endured the cross and its shame so that we may gather in the joyful assembly, we have something to be joyful and excited about. In the presence of God we glory in the hope and joy we have received through Christ. As God’s people we are celebrating the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit. 

Christ wants you to have the full measure of his joy. Faith replaces resentment. Be filled with faith.

May the proven genuineness of your faith result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:7)

Pastor Douglas 

Video Ministry – January 2024


Many thanks to Aaron Heilman for this review.  Aaron is Worship Leader for Pointe of Hope Church in Blue Springs, Missouri (LCMS).  A link to Aaron’s video can be found here.  A link to our You Tube channel, which contains nearly four dozen videos, can be found here.

Pastoral Helmsmanship is a collaborative effort between three well credentialed authors.

In summary, a large part of administrative work is preparing and planning for storms. A ship’s helmsman is second-in command to the captain. In a church, the pastor is the helmsman. The captain is Jesus. The helmsman’s primary role is to help navigate the ship through transitions.

There are several critical areas of a pastor’s call and life. First is the call to be the main vision caster of the church. Second is good time management. Third is balancing family and ministry. Fourth is a sober look at the occupational hazards of being a pastor. Lastly is a chapter on how to identify and handle troublemakers in the congregation.

The next section identifies key areas the pastor must tend to as an administrator. This book includes risk management and mitigation as well as approaches to working with and leading people. The final section provides resources and book recommendations.

Based on Kenneth Haugk’s book, Antagonists in the Church, there are 21 different behaviors that are red flags to look for in church members, leaders, and oneself. The authors added two additional categories, unregenerate members and those who declined their call to ministry.

The only real criticism to offer is that the book is probably due for an update due to technological changes. Overall, this book is a great one-stop shop for ideas on church administration that can help a pastor see the scope and complexity of the call to administrate and then develop a plan to do that well.

November 2023 Newsletter

Training Disciple-Makers

“…take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan…” Joshua 4:3

We wish God’s blessings upon Dean Rostad, president, and the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute.  This is the third of a series of three articles about various residential discipleship ministries for young adults.   We began in January by featuring Faith Greenhouse, connected with Faith Lutheran Church (LCMC) in Hutchinson, Minnesota.  We continued in March with the Awaken Project (TAP). TAP is a non-profit organization housed on the campus of Mt. Carmel Ministries in Alexandria, Minnesota.  We thank God for these ministries and pray for them as they work to raise up a whole new generation of followers of Jesus and leaders in the Church. 

After 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites were about to experience God’s saving work in a profound way – walking through the parted (piled-up) Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. So that this God event would never be forgotten, God instructed them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan. These rocks of remembrance were to become physical pointers to God’s saving action in their lives. God never wants us to forget how He has moved in our lives.

My name is Dean Rostad and I have the privilege of serving as the President of the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute (CLBI) in Camrose, Alberta. CLBI is a campus-based Bible college through which 1000s of young adults have been trained to become disciple-makers in their churches, neighborhoods, and professions. In 2023, CLBI’s vibrant discipling community comprises 45 students, staff and committed volunteers. Just as Jesus discipled along the road, around the table and in the community, we also do.  Our students experience a different Bible class each week taught by high-caliber instructors from all over North America and beyond. Some weeks learning is off campus through inner-city ministry experiences, canoeing/hiking in the mountains, or serving cross-culturally. Each student is discipled one-on-one and is part of a rich weekly discipleship group that meets in a staff home. All of this is done to help CLBI achieve its mission of discipling young adults in the way of Jesus and equipping them for a life of mission in their vocations (be that as a pastor, baker or candlestick maker). I never know how Jesus is going to make a profound impact in our students’ lives, but I am completely confident that He always will.

When I ask alumni how God impacted their life while they were at CLBI (aka their rock of remembrance from the Jordan), the answers are incredibly varied: their faith took three steps deeper in Romans class, while being discipled by a staff member, they realized that they needed to stop trying to prove themselves to God and others and simply rest in the gospel,  a late-night conversation in the dorm led them to finally forgive someone, a cross-cultural ministry experience awakened a calling within them to bring the gospel to those who have never heard it, when they discovered they had found the spiritual family they had longed for. These are all significant transformational rocks of remembrance.

Currently, two members of the CLBI community are in online seminary studies with the Institute of Lutheran Theology. Both had no intention of going into pastoral ministry when they first came to CLBI. Once again, I love watching how Jesus changes the trajectory of people’s lives.

Since 1932 Jesus has been changing lives through this school. Please pray with me that God will continue to raise up all of the students and donors needed to ensure that current and future generations will have the opportunity to encounter Jesus in this holy place. For American students, the complete cost for eight months is just over $10,000 USD. That even includes a January trip to San Pedro, California for our students to connect with another Lutheran discipling community. To learn more about this incredible jewel of a school, visit

What is your “rock of remembrance”? What is your significant God experience that marked a new trajectory for your life?

Sincerely Pastor Dean Rostad

CLBI President

Rest, Inc.

Part 1: A Gift of Restoration, Resilience, and Prophetic Perspective

Dear Friends—

We were in the middle of our first vacation ‘Out West’, somewhere between Colorado Springs, CO, and Yellowstone Park, WY, when my wife asked in a surprisingly calm voice, “So, what does happen when the pop-up mechanism of a pop-up trailer doesn’t pop?” Just minutes before I had explained that there was a high degree of probability that the lifting system on our trailer had broken. All I can say is that it was a most fascinating time with five kids. I only wish we had brought the dog and a couple of cats to make it more magical! Anyway, it was wonderful but not necessarily restful. You’ve probably had at least one of those vacations in your lifetime; you return home in desperate need of rest.

I’d like to address the topic of ‘rest’ in light of Jesus’ gracious appeal in Matthew 11 and how we can more fluidly incorporate rest into our lives. Why is rest (aside from sleeping) an essential but often missing ingredient in our daily schedules? I would say that without it—REST—we are much less effective in how we go about the work of ministry.

Are you presently resting from a place of work, or working from a place of rest? Perhaps we are relying more on our own efforts, programs, and plans than spending much-needed and regular time in the quiet place of abiding and rest. Clearly, Jesus’ ministry was rooted in and flowed from a place of silence and solitude, thus being still in seeking His Father’s directive (cf. Matthew 4:1-11, 14:23, 16:36-46, 17:1-9; Mark 6:31; Luke 5:16,6:12; and many more scriptural references). Jesus’ daily ‘schedule’ reflected a pattern of rest/retreat … and then an advance with the work of ministry/the Kingdom. I know there have been many occasions when, thankfully, dear ones (i.e., my wife, etc.) have lovingly challenged me to stop striving with my own agenda and energy and just rest.   

Jesus provides interesting insight on this topic of rest and the power it holds: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30) Although this is one of the most familiar texts in the New Testament and there are two references to rest in these verses alone, it seems that we are hesitant to embrace Jesus’ very tender and attractive words! We all know that statistics will clearly expose this reality, but who needs statistics when we experience it first-hand?

Yet, ironically, rest may be the very thing that Jesus desires for His listeners—and that through rest many blessings will come. It is a gift. But, like Paul, we find ourselves torn and often caught in our own humanity, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

Part of the blessings of rest, and what I desire to leave with you, is both invitation and challenge. Please know that I do this as a sometimes weary but hopeful brother and colleague in Christ. The invitation is to simply embrace Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 … and rest … knowing that His rest will bring you many unexpected graces, including the gift of restoration of your soul, resilience for the long-haul, and prophetic perspective in discerning the ‘spirit of the age’ (Ephesians 2:1-3). The challenge is to incorporate a regular pattern of rest—and Sabbath-taking—in our restless, relentless, and demanding worlds!

If we can integrate daily encounters with rest into our schedules, and thereby establish rest as a predictable pattern in our daily routine, then will we not hear God more easily and trust His leading more readily? Doesn’t this become an intentional act of resting our faith on His Grace, being released of so much work (which can become works/law; Romans 4:16 & 5:2)?

Out of this wellspring of Rest, Inc., may you experience an early springtime of the soul! When the care of your own life is established in rest, then the privileged work of ministry (i.e., disciple-making, missional outreach, etc.) will flourish. I hope to address this in Part II of Rest, Inc.

In Christ,

K. Craig Moorman

Stand With Israel

Certainly one of the most complex, difficult, and volatile situations in the world today is the
relationship between Israel and its neighbors. The Jewish people suffered horribly during the
Holocaust. After World War II they needed a homeland – a place to live where they would be
safe. The problem is that there were people who were already living there and had been for
hundreds of years.

I do not agree with everything that the Israeli government has done over the years, just as I do
not agree with everything that the U. S. government has done over the years. There are many
ways in which the Palestinian people have been suffering and we need to be deeply concerned for our fellow Palestinian Christians. But the Israeli government needs to be able to protect its people, just like every government needs to be able to protect its people. The Israeli government and the Israeli people need our prayers and support as they fight off the most violent and deadly incursion in decades.

I believe that the promises of God were fulfilled in Jesus, not in the creation of the modern state
of Israel in 1948. I do not agree with those who believe that the Kingdom of God would be
advanced if the Dome of the Rock were to be torn down and a Temple were to be built in its
place. But still, as I read the Bible, the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob
played a major role in God’s plan for our salvation. The Lord said to Abraham, “I will bless
those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the
earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12: 3). And the apostle Paul wrote about his people, the Hebrew
people, “To them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the
worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh,
comes the Messiah” (Romans 9: 4-5).

The best article I have found regarding how we American Christians should view and why we
should stand with Israel under attack was written by Russell Moore, editor in chief of
“Christianity Today” magazine. Here is a link.

I urge you to join with me in praying for Israel under attack – for its government, its people, the
wounded, the dying, those who have lost loved ones, those who live in fear and constant great

September 2023 Giving Appeal

“He will command his angels to guard you in all your ways.  They will bear you up in their hands so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”  (Psalm 91: 11-12) 

Dear Friends:

I experienced the truth and power of that promise last month.  I do not have a good sense of balance so I take precautions.  For example, I do not ride escalators, especially in airports when I have luggage and my carry on.  But after I arrived at the Oklahoma City airport on my way to the NALC Convocation, as I left the gate area the escalator down to baggage claim was straight ahead and I did not know where the elevator was, so I foolishly did what normally I no longer do.  I took the escalator. 

As I remember, a little way down the step jerked.  I lost my balance, fell to the side, and badly cut my upper left arm – I believe on the metal edge of the step.  People were so concerned and so kind.  They brought paper towels to wrap up the blood and called the airport fire department triage team, who retrieved my luggage, called an ambulance, and I was taken to the emergency room of a hospital not too far from where the convocation was taking place.  My laceration was treated and I was released. 

Afterwards I was thinking about how fortunate I was that I did not fall forward or fall down the escalator and how much more serious the injury could have been (though the escalator did leave tread marks on my upper left arm).  I was also very glad when I heard the announcement that first aid was available during the convocation at the volunteer central room.  There I found kind people who would change the dressing.  It is hard to change the dressing on your own upper left arm. 

And then I got to thinking about what people can do – show concern, wipe up the blood, retrieve luggage, get me to emergency, treat the wound, and change the dressing – but what only God can do – command His angels to watch over us and give our bodies the amazing ability to heal. 

I am very sad whenever I hear preachers and Bible study leaders reduce the Christian message to what we do – whether it is doing works of compassion, advocating for justice, or what is now the dominating emphasis in some church circles – dismantling systemic racism, white supremacy, and male dominance.  I think of the account of the raising of Lazarus in John 11.  The people could move the stone and unwrap the grave clothes, but only Jesus could raise the dead.  We of Lutheran CORE are committed to preserving and proclaiming the full and pure Gospel message – not of the far-left political agenda but of the gifts that God gives as He forgives our sins, makes us new creations, calls us to service, and commands His angels to watch over us. 

We have promised to keep you posted regarding the work of the commission that will be developing the plan to remake and reconstitute the ELCA.  The thirty-five members of the commission have been appointed and have held their first meeting.  Biographical paragraphs of the members are now available.  We will be analyzing the makeup of the commission and will share our analysis in the September issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice.  The makeup of the commission should be cause for great concern.  As they say, When you know the makeup, you know the outcome.

Also in the September issue of our newsletter a couple members of our young adult group – both of whom are students at the North American Lutheran Seminary – will be writing about their experiences serving as mentors at NEXUS this past summer.  A ministry of Grand View University in Des Moines, NEXUS is a week of Bible study, theological reflection, and fellowship for high schoolers, where they are challenged to become involved in Christian ministry and consider attending seminary.  Thank you for your gifts, which make it possible for Lutheran CORE to be one of the sponsors of NEXUS.  Ethan Zimmerman, one of the seminarians who again served as a mentor this past summer, wrote about his experiences –

“This summer’s NEXUS Institute was the best NEXUS I’ve been to in my five years of being involved!  The Holy Spirit was moving in and amidst everyone, from the high school student participants, to the young adult mentors, all the way to the adult chaperones!  Everyone’s faith was deepened and broadened in such a fantastic way, and speaking for myself, I will forever be changed for the better because of my involvement as a mentor.  The NEXUS Institute is one of the premier places for high school students to grow and learn more about their faith, and to see what a calling and vocation from God truly looks like!”

I am writing this letter the week after the devastating fires on the island of Maui.  Having visited that beautiful island, I have a hard time imagining what it must be like now.  We are continually reminded of tragedies and natural disasters that are happening to people.  But the greatest tragedy of all is what sin, death, and the devil have done to God’s creation.  People need to know and be in right relationship with a God who loves, forgives, calls, empowers, and is with them, and who commands His angels to watch over them.

Thank you for your ongoing prayers and gifts to Lutheran CORE, which enable us to continue our work of being a Voice for Biblical Truth and a Network for Confessing Lutherans.  Thank you for your prayers for us.  Please click here to print a form that you can use to let us know how we can be praying for you.

Blessings in Christ,   

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

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Jim Nestingen Tribute

Pr. Jim Nestingen

I first got to know the name James Nestingen through what I still believe is the best confirmation text ever produced — the first edition of Free to Be co-written with Gerhard Førde. (Jim was unhappy with the later revision of it by AugsburgFortress.)

But while I heard him speak from time to time, the first occasion I spent at length with him was the Lutheran CORE Conference at Lindenhurst, Illinois, on September 28, 2007. Many of Jim’s friends and students describe him with the word “prophet,” and he was certainly in full prophetic mode at that event regarding the directions the ELCA was taking. The event gathered those of us who would lead the response to the sexuality decisions that would be made a few years later, leading to the change in strategy of Lutheran CORE and the formation of the North American Lutheran Church.

Jim represented a somewhat different version of Lutheranism than I had grown up with in my eastern LCA context, and I found it enlightening and refreshing, not to replace but to supplement the ways I had come to understand the faith. I learned from him to say with regularity, “we sinners,” as I would preach and teach. Jim would tell us that we should always listen for a confession in conversations with people. He understood the brokenness of our fallen world, and exulted in the Word of absolution that we dare to speak on the authority of the Son of God Himself.

Not that Jim ever claimed to be anything other than one of “us sinners.” And he could sin boldly from time to time. For him, theology was not an abstract intellectual enterprise, but God’s life-saving intervention in the world with the Word of Life we are empowered to speak through Jesus. He stood on “grace alone,” knowing that even our repentance is God’s gift through the Holy Spirit, channeled through the Word and the Sacraments.

Jim was not given to moderation, because his life was a huge love affair with Jesus. He and I had one difficult time when he demanded that Lutheran CORE rescind our invitation to a speaker with whom he had personal and theological conflicts. When we refused, our relationship was tense for a while, but we both moved beyond it. Lovers sometimes over-react, and Jim threw his whole being into the service of the Lord he loved. He was indeed a jealous lover of the Lord who he knew loved him with the same intensity.

As a speaker, nobody could hold the attention of an audience, lay or clergy, as well as Jim could. His repertoire of Sven, Ole, and Lena jokes along with often-scatological humor (which prevented most preachers from stealing his material) interfaced well with his profound theological insights, always centering on the Word of forgiveness Jesus proclaims through us. His North Dakota Scandinavian farmer persona helped humanize his brilliant teaching, and he could share personal stories of his encounters with real people and how the Word of forgiveness encountered them. Often he and all his hearers were in tears as he recounted these stories, even stoic Germans like me.

I still remember his story of visiting a dying friend, whispering in his ears as he was leaving this life, “The next voice you hear will be Jesus.” That is how real and concrete Jim’s faith was, and I know I became a better pastor because of my contacts with him.

Jim has been bothered these last years by painful ailments, and while he limited his travel he still managed to make it to NALC conferences and events, and to serve on our Commission on Theology and Doctrine (CTD). He arrived early in Dallas for the CTD meeting in November as my deans’ meeting was ending, so we got to spend a little time conversing together. While he was in obvious pain, somehow he found a way to fly there and continue to offer his guidance to the church body he helped bring into existence. I remember with thanksgiving these last conversations I had with him until we two redeemed sinners meet again around the Throne.

His death was sudden, and there was evidently nobody to whisper in his ear, “The next voice you hear will be Jesus.” But Jim already knew the voice of the Good Shepherd whom he loved and served so faithfully, and he surely knew Who was welcoming him into his heavenly home.

Year End Giving Appeal Letter 2022

Year End 2022

Dear Friends –

I have been enjoying doing a weekly Bible study based upon the lectionary readings for the following Sunday.  A couple churches post them on their websites and Facebook pages as part of their adult education ministry, and I know of several people who use them either for their personal devotions or as resources for a small group Bible study that they lead.

This past week I was preparing a study on the Scriptures for Reformation Sunday.  In the third chapter of his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul makes a brilliant argument showing that God is both righteous and the one who justifies the person who has faith in Jesus (verse 26).  Paul says that we are “now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood effective through faith” (verses 24-25).  I read that verse and I thought of the movement that calls itself Progressive Christianity, which rejects the teaching that Christ died for our sins.

According to this movement, Jesus did not die for our sins.  Instead he died because he opposed the oppressive political power structures of his day.  But God raised him from the dead, showing that love wins, and now we need to join in his struggle against all the oppressive political and social power structures of our day. 

I know of a congregation where the new pastor, shortly after coming, took all the Sunday School material and with a black marker crossed off any reference to Jesus’ dying for our sins.  Then he returned the material to the teachers and told them that they were to use the amended curriculum and make no mention of Jesus’ dying for our sins.  All the teachers quit.  Good for them.

According to so-called Progressive Christianity (which I would say is not Christianity), sin, death, and the power of the devil are not three forces that hold us in bondage and we need someone to deliver us from.  And the main mission of the church is not to tell people of the Savior who loves them and who has broken the power of the forces that enslave them.  Rather, according to this view, the main message and mission of the church is to challenge people and rally people to work against all oppressive political and social power structures.

According to this view, Jesus is not a Savior.  Rather he is just an example and someone who wants to rally us to his cause.

I read the Second Reading for Reformation Sunday, and I contrast it with the main message of so-called Progressive Christianity, and I realize how much is at stake.  With what is going on in the Christian church today, everything is at stake.

I am very grateful for all the people who have told me of how they have read and deeply appreciate my analysis of the recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly.  People have shared that they also are in grief and horror over the way in which –

  • The ELCA’s own description of the Highlights and its account of the Summary of Actions from the assembly make no mention of God and Jesus.  There is discussion of greenhouse gases, D. C. statehood, non-disclosure agreements, LGBTQ+ rights, and talk of dismantling racism and white supremacy, but no mention of God and Jesus.

  • The Assembly took action to approve a resolution that called for a review of the 2009 human sexuality social statement and reconsideration of the four positions of bound conscience.  What could very likely occur at the next churchwide assembly in 2025 would be a massive breach of trust, as the ELCA breaks its promise to provide a place of respect for traditional views and those who hold them, all while harshly criticizing the U. S. government for breaking its promises to indigenous persons.

  • The Assembly also took action to call for a commission for a renewed Lutheran church.  I shudder to think of what this reconstituted Lutheran church will have as a statement of faith and a statement of the mission of the church and the role of rostered leaders.

Yes, everything is at stake.  I am certain that the majority of the members sitting in the pews in most ELCA churches would be horrified if they knew what actually is going on.

The apostle Paul told his young friend Timothy, “Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable” (2 Timothy 4: 2).  It is your prayers, words of encouragement, friendship, and faithful financial support that enable us to do that.  Thank you for joining with us in doing what the apostle Paul also wrote to Timothy – fighting the good fight, finishing the race, and keeping the faith (2 Timothy 4: 7).

Please find enclosed a form which you can use to designate a year-end gift towards our regular operating expenses as we work to be a Voice for Biblical Truth and a Network for Confessing Lutherans.  Please also let us know how we can be praying for you.  Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel, especially at this critical time when everything is at stake.    

In Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

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No Acceptance of Confessional Faith at My ELCA Seminary

Note from CORE’s Executive Director: Many thanks to a seminarian, who wishes to remain anonymous, for writing about what it was like to attend an ELCA seminary.  Students considering enrolling in an ELCA seminary, as well as members of orthodox congregations still in the ELCA, need to know what is being taught and what they can expect from their future pastor.  Will this kind of woke educational experience train someone who will provide good pastoral care and leadership for your congregation?  Those who believe that theologically solid pastors are and will continue to be available within the ELCA should know that there are some (Thanks be to God!) but the number is decreasingly rapidly.   

I attended United Lutheran Seminary (United), in Gettysburg, for 3 semesters. My time there led me to realize that there was no place for a confessional Lutheran faith within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Growing up in central Pennsylvania, I knew nothing of the other Lutheran denominations. Every Lutheran church within an hour of my house was ELCA and that was all I knew. Upon entering seminary, I was assured by my synod’s bishop that there was a place for a confessional Lutheran in the “big-tent,” that is the ELCA.

United did not share this view and I realized this in my first semester, when I began questioning the “sacred doctrines” of the ELCA that were invented in the last 10 years. My first semester I took the class Systematic Theology 1: Creation, Sin, and New Creation, which I thought would provide me with a greater understanding of the ELCA’s newly held positions as well as a basic overview of theological concepts and systematics. I hoped that it would answer some of my questions and strengthen my ability to conduct ministry faithfully. I was disappointed to find that much of the class was heavily focused on womanist, feminist, and other niche and modern theological interpretation rather than core or confessional concepts. This was the only theology class that I was required to take. This lack of true theological instruction allows seminarians to believe they understood yet have made strawmen of a Biblical Christianity. Much of what the Church held for the last 2000 years could be dismissed as “privileged,” “racist,” or “sexist.”

My first (and only) sermon I gave at United was for my homiletics class. I was assigned to preach on the first week of Lent, which includes the Gospel reading of Christ being tempted in the wilderness. In my sermon I mentioned, not as the message of the sermon but to highlight the goodness of Christ, that hell was real. I felt relatively proud of my sermon while giving it. Given that it was my first sermon, it could have been better, but I stand by my message today. It shocked me when my homiletics professor opened my sermon up for critique and she implied that I shared a heretical message. I did not realize that the acknowledgement of hell was such a faux pas. After my professor shared that I was a heretic, much of my peers’ remarks echoed her idea. I called my parents as well as a mentor that evening and shared that I wanted to leave seminary because apparently, I did not understand anything about the faith.

Getting raked over the coals for believing that Christ was not lying when He spoke of hell was the straw that broke me. I realized that I could not stay at United, and I would not be welcome in the ELCA, if this is where the publicly acceptable discourse is.

Some of the common talking points that the professors would push in a variety of their classes include: using non-masculine pronouns for God, the merits of a variety of sexual relationships, how the church has been a force for bad in the world, and leftist political talking points.  It is a shame that there could not be serious theological discussions concerning these topics as to disagree with any point carried with it accusations of being “not-loving,” among other unflattering titles, and being shut down by the professor.

When I told my synod’s bishop about leaving the ELCA, I told her how I felt betrayed by a church that I grew up in and how I was lied to when I was told that there was a place for me. She was sorry and could not defend the actions of the ELCA from polygamy to the disbelief in hell. There is no Biblical defense, and she couldn’t spin one. When I went to my home congregation to tell my pastor, whom I grew up with, he was not nearly as cordial. He tried to challenge me as misinformed when I pointed to the ELCA’s radical direction. He accused me of being political for not agreeing with the ELCA.

Although the gospel is not preached there anymore, it is sad to know I am no longer welcome in my home congregation.

Since coming to the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), I have appreciated the professionalism of the professors in the North American Lutheran Seminary (NALS), the comradery among clergy, and general support from congregations. It is refreshing to be able to read the Bible and confessions in a seminary setting and have genuine discussions about the application and use of the concepts. There is a fellowship among the students as members of Christ’s Church, here for Christ, unlike what I have known within the ELCA.

I write this because this is my story. I could have shared more anecdotes about the inability of United to form its students, the unprofessionalism of the professors and ignorance of those who followed the party line, but these examples make my point. I do not want to slander the ELCA or any pastors or congregations in it. I only want to bring light to what is going on in the once great Lutheran seminary of Gettysburg, PA, United Lutheran Seminary.

It breaks my heart to have had to leave but I have found a home in the NALC.