Letter from the Director – Summer 2023


There have been many occasions when someone who is a member of a congregation that is still in the ELCA has shared with me, “I have told my pastor about my concerns, but the pastor tells me that all those things happening in the ELCA will not affect us.”  I tell them that it is only a matter of time until your beloved orthodox or more moderate pastor will retire or resign and take another call.  And even if you are among the congregations that are fortunate enough to be able to find another orthodox pastor, what about the next time you will be looking for a pastor?  There are only a limited number of orthodox pastors remaining in the ELCA – and we thank God for every single one of them – and that number will only continue to decline.  Plus we know of situations where a synod used a change of pastors as an opportune time to move in and bring the congregation in line with ELCA beliefs, values, and priorities.  Every orthodox congregation still in the ELCA is potentially only one pastor change away from disaster.

And now we have in the ELCA’s Metropolitan Chicago Synod a striking example of the alarming fact that every orthodox congregation still in the ELCA is potentially only one synodical bishop election away from being swooped in on, becoming the victim of a hostile takeover, and being shut down.  Such was the case with the former (now closed by synodical action) St. Timothy Lutheran Church in the Hermosa neighborhood of northwest Chicago.


For several years St. Timothy was the location for our annual, fall, Spanish language and bi-lingual ministries Encuentro.  These Encuentros had been Lutheran CORE’s best way of reaching out to and providing a valuable resource for the ELCA.  It was hosted by an ELCA congregation, a majority of those attending were ELCA, and a majority of the presenters were ELCA.  Over the years presenters have included ELCA pastors, theologians, and even a national ELCA staff person.  While drawing primarily ELCA congregations and presenters, the Encuentros were an inter Lutheran offering to congregations and church leaders.  We were delighted a few years ago when newly elected Bishop Yehiel Curry of the Metro Chicago Synod attended a portion of one of our Encuentros.  We warmly welcomed him and we were highly encouraged when he said that he saw himself as bishop for the entire synod.  We never expected what would eventually happen.

The Awes brothers – Joel, David, and Tom – are sons of the former pastor, Robert Awes, who served the congregation from 1981 until the time of his death in 2015.  His widow and three sons continued to live in the parsonage after he died.  His wife died in 2017.  One of his sons, Joel, was serving as president of the congregation.  He and his brothers were maintaining the property and leading the congregation.  Once the site of a vibrant English-speaking ministry, the congregation pre-COVID was making significant progress in reaching out to the Latino community.  COVID brought all that to a halt, but during the last several months the congregation had been able to resume their outreach to the neighborhood.  Among their ministries is the Uncle Charlie program, a monthly social and devotional gathering for adults with special needs, most of whom live in urban group homes on Chicago’s north and west sides. 

After the death of their father, the Awes brothers contacted the Metro Chicago Synod about their need for pastoral leadership.  The only person the synod could provide did not speak Spanish.  The Awes brothers knew that that would not work because they wanted to reach out to their primarily bi-lingual and Spanish speaking neighborhood, so they contacted a bi-lingual ELCA pastor whom they knew from other associations.  Pastor Keith Forni is now retired, but at the time he was pastor of First/Santa Cruz Lutheran Church in Joliet, Illinois.  He began providing bi-lingual pulpit supply at St. Timothy with the awareness and implicit encouragement of the former bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod.  He drove ninety miles round trip on most Sundays to lead an afternoon worship service at St. Timothy after leading bi-lingual and English-speaking services in Joliet in the morning.  Former Bishop Wayne Miller would often ask regarding a ministry site, “Is there green in the stem?”  There definitely was green in the St. Timothy stem.  The leaders of St. Timothy were open to being coached in bilingual neighborhood ministry.  They found in Pastor Forni the needed skill set, given his forty-plus years of experience in such contexts. 

In addition to frequently preaching and presiding at bilingual services of Holy Communion, Pastor Forni –

  • Expanded the Uncle Charlie devotional experiences.
  • Curated and gathered needed resources for bilingual Lutheran worship, outreach and Christian education.
  • Initiated sidewalk outreach to the dozens of parents and students going to and from nearby Nixon Elementary School.
  • Led the development of the Thursday Together / “Jueves Juntos” Family Bible Study themed events.
  • Provided pastoral leadership for the community at a prayer vigil following the murder of a two-year-old boy by a gang member’s stray bullet a few blocks from the church.
  • Arranged for a VBS & Service team visit by an Ohio ELCA mission partner congregation.
  • Built up cooperative relationships with area organizations including the Walt Disney birthplace, where some after school events could take place.

St. Timothy became the host site for the annual Spanish language ministry Encuentros which Pastor Forni coordinated.  Lutheran CORE began sponsoring the Encuentros after Pastor Forni became a member of the board of Lutheran CORE.   


But all that changed in January 2023 when Bishop Curry invited Pastor Forni to his office “regarding St. Timothy.”  When he arrived Pastor Forni was presented with an as yet unseen agenda critical of his service as supply pastor.  Bishop Stacie Fidlar of the ELCA’s Northern Illinois Synod (the synod in which Pastor Forni was rostered) also appeared at the meeting, having made no contact with Pastor Forni prior to that moment.  Pastor Forni felt totally ambushed.  There was absolutely no expression of appreciation for his thirty-six years of faithful ministry in the ELCA plus six prior years in the LCA – all years in Hispanic Latino bilingual contexts.  Rather he was threatened with discipline and possible removal from the ELCA roster if he were to stay any longer than two more weeks with the congregation where he, along with other available bilingual clergy and lay worship leaders, had been providing pulpit supply over a course of seven years.    

Pastor Forni quickly concluded his ministry, as he had been ordered to do.  On his final Sunday there were a couple representatives from the Metro Chicago Synod present who offered a few perfunctory words of thanks for his ministry as supply pastor.  But they spoke in English only in the presence of the predominately Spanish speaking assembly. 

Bishop Curry did not need to be nasty.  He could have thanked Pastor Forni for his years of faithful service and then told him that the synod council had decided to move that ministry in another direction.  If the bishop had taken that approach, Pastor Forni certainly would have been totally cooperative.  But Bishop Curry does not function that way.  He operates by threats, bullying, and intimidation.  Equally disappointing was the fact that Bishop Stacie Fidlar of the Northern Illinois Synod was not willing to tell Bishop Curry to back off and not threaten someone rostered in her synod.  No resistance was given to a bishop who operates by threats, bullying, and intimidation. 

After the absolute fiasco that occurred in the Sierra Pacific Synod, when former bishop Meghan Rohrer removed Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez as mission developer of a Latino ministry on Our Lady of Guadalupe Day, an action which caused major uproar throughout the ELCA, it was absolutely astounding to me that another synodical bishop would commit such a grievous act of abuse of power.


I read with great interest an ELCA news release dated March 10, 2023 about the February 28-March 4 meeting of the Conference of Bishops.  In that publication it said that the bishops “received a report from the task force addressing the disciplinary concerns of leaders of color.”  It also said that “the task force is expected to make recommendations regarding the current process for discipline, consider a process for community healing and grief, and make recommendations for an office to receive complaints of harassment and discrimination.”  I wrote to the two people who made the presentation, Judith Roberts, senior director for ELCA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and co-convenor of the task force, and Bishop Paul Erickson of the ELCA’s Greater Milwaukee Synod and a member of the task force.  Here in part is what I wrote:  

“The events that transpired in the Sierra Pacific Synod over a year ago certainly sounded the alarm as it brought to our attention the fact that there are times and situations where leaders of color are not treated fairly.

“I am also very aware of another situation in another synod where the synodical bishop, who is a person of color, has been bullying, intimidating, and threatening to discipline a rostered leader who is not a person of color and who is rostered in another synod.  This same synodical bishop is also bullying congregational leaders who are not persons of color.

“As you and your task force do your work, I would hope you would remember and make provision for the fact that –

Leaders who are not people of color can also be the victims of harassment and discrimination 

Leaders of color can be the perpetrators rather than the victims of harassment and discrimination.”

I never heard from Bishop Erickson.  The next day I heard from Ms. Roberts, who wrote –

“Thank you for sharing your concerns, and we will certainly take them into account.  The Churchwide Organization takes misconduct complaints against synod bishops seriously; if you believe that a synod bishop has engaged in misconduct, please direct that concern to the Presiding Bishop.”

I deeply appreciate the fact that she would write back, and in such a timely way, but after the inexcusably long time that Bishop Eaton took before she responded to the disaster in the Sierra Pacific Synod – and even then, I am certain she responded only because she absolutely was forced to – it did not all blow over and go away as she had hoped – I wondered what chance did I have of ever being heard – let alone responded to – about the situation at St. Timothy.

But to get back to the story at St. Timothy.


The next two Sundays the people of St. Timothy were deeply disturbed that the person who had been bringing them God’s Word and providing pastoral leadership and care had been so abruptly removed – and without consulting them.  Several of them wrote to Bishop Curry, advocating for Pastor Forni.  When they were told that the synod would be bringing in a couple Spanish speaking Latina pastors they asked for more time to grieve and process their emotions before the synod would replace Pastor Forni.  They were assured by an assistant to the bishop that they would be given more time.  But it did not turn out that way.  The following Sunday Bishop Curry and around a dozen people from the synod came in, took over the service from the elected leadership of the congregation, and held a congregational meeting afterwards.  At that meeting Bishop Curry said that he had visited a couple times during the meetings of the Uncle Charlie program (which simply is not true) and, in order to discredit and undermine the Awes brothers, he suggested that there may be charges brought against the Awes brothers from former members, but he would not say from whom or what those charges might be about.  Again, threats, bullying, and intimidation – this time combined with not telling the truth.  Certainly not the behavior that one would expect and hope for from a bishop.

Over the next several weeks the engaging and personable Latina pastors endeared themselves to the Spanish-speaking and bi-lingual congregation.  Then they went around the Awes brothers to recruit some of the people to serve on an advisory council for the congregation.


The next step came on May 4, when the Awes brothers received a “Demand for Possession and Notice of Termination – 30 Day Notice” from an attorney representing the synod.  They were informed that their tenancy of the parsonage would be terminated on June 30, 2023.  Again, absolutely no concern for them, no expression of appreciation for what they had been doing for many years to maintain the property and keep the congregation and its ministries going.  Just an abrupt eviction notice.  We were wondering about challenging the legality of that notice, in light of tenants’ rights in the city of Chicago and the fact that the letter stated that the synod was “the owner of the manse and church” and it gave the wrong address for the parsonage.  But the following day, on Sunday, May 5, the congregation was given a letter from Bishop Curry.  That letter told of a decision that had been made by the Synod Council to “exercise the power of S13.24 of the synod constitution to ‘take charge and control of the property of a congregation of this synod to hold, manage, and convey the same on behalf of this synod’” if “the Synod Council determines that the membership of a congregation has become so scattered or so diminished in numbers that it cannot provide required governance or that it has become impractical for the congregation to fulfill the purposes for which it was organized” and if “the Synod Council determines that it is necessary for this synod to protect and preserve the congregation’s property from waste and deterioration.”

Therefore, the letter continued, “St. Timothy Lutheran Church is now closed” and will be replaced by a “new Synodically Authorized Worshipping Community, San Timoteo.”  (It is interesting that the name San Timoteo had been used interchangeably with St. Timothy in neighborhood outreach for six-plus years.)  The letter said that the congregation had the right to appeal this decision to the next Synod Assembly.  But with the way in which the Awes brothers had been undermined and circumvented, what chance would they have?

Joel Awes, former president of the congregation and son of the man who had been pastor for thirty-four years, was telling me what it felt like on that Sunday.  There was absolutely no recognition and expression of appreciation for the thirty-four-year ministry of his father.  There was no celebration of the work of that congregation over the previous one hundred nineteen years.  There was no sense that anything of value had been done by anyone since the congregation was founded in 1904.  There was just a blunt statement from the bishop, “St. Timothy Lutheran Church is now closed.” 

Any ministry that does not line up with ELCA beliefs, values, and priorities should realize that it may be only a matter of time – perhaps only one bishop election away – before the synod will come in with a wrecking ball, knock them over, and shut them down – all while showing absolutely no respect, consideration, or valuing of anything done by the people of previous decades.

Just think about it.  Let this sink in.

A synod that claims to be on the side of the oppressed has become the oppressor.

A synod that claims to be concerned for the homeless has thrown three brothers out on the street.

And what is scary is that we are all vulnerable.


If I had the chance to talk with Bishop Curry, there are several questions I would like to ask him – 

  1. You said at a meeting with the congregation of St. Timothy on February 19 that it is against ELCA policy for a pastor to be able to serve as interim pastor, transition pastor, or do pulpit supply outside their own synod.  Where is that policy in writing?
  2. If that is ELCA policy, why would Bishop Miller (former bishop of the Metro Chicago Synod) have allowed Pastor Forni to be transition pastor at St. Timothy? What about other situations where ELCA pastors have been interims and/or provided pulpit supply outside the synod where they are rostered? 
  3. Since Bishop Miller allowed Pastor Forni to be transition pastor at St. Timothy, why did you threaten to bring charges against Pastor Forni for merely doing what he had been allowed to do?
  4. What ELCA policy or provision empowers you to threaten to bring disciplinary charges against a pastor who is rostered in another synod – especially when the bishop of that synod says that she has no charges to bring against Pastor Forni?
  5. Since you see what Pastor Forni and the Awes brothers had been doing as so grievous, out of line, and inappropriate, why did you wait so long to take action and why are you taking action now? If Pastor Forni’s serving as pulpit supply had been acceptable to you for several years after you were elected bishop, how did it become unacceptable?
  6. On Saturday, February 18 the congregation was told by your assistant, Pastor Kathy Nolte, that she would honor their request for time to process their shock and grief over the abrupt removal of Pastor Forni before scheduling any meeting with the synod regarding interim pastoral leadership.  And yet the next day you and around a dozen other people from the synod showed up and took over the proceedings of the congregation.  Why the change, and why were they not told ahead of time? How is the congregation now to trust and have confidence in any communication from the synod?
  7. On Sunday, February 19 you said that you had attended two Encuentros, including the entirety of one of them, and a couple sessions of the congregation’s Uncle Charlie program.  That simply is not true. You did attend a portion of one of our Encuentros, and you were warmly welcomed, but the director of the Uncle Charlie program does not remember a time when you attended one of their sessions.  When you attended a portion of one of the Encuentros, you said that you were bishop of the entire synod.  We were very grateful for and greatly encouraged by your comment.
  8. On Sunday, February 19 you said that there are a couple former members of the congregation who may bring charges against the Awes brothers, but you could not say who those former members are and what those charges might be.  Making a statement like that is manipulative, bullying, unfair, and inappropriate for a leader in Christ’s Church. 
  9. Paragraph C9.06 of the ELCA’s Model Constitution for Congregations states that an interim pastor is appointed by the bishop of the synod with the consent of the congregation or the congregation council. You did not have the consent of either the congregation or the council to appoint an interim pastor. You removed the congregation’s pulpit supply pastor without even consulting with the congregation and/or its leadership. Paragraph 9.31 of the ELCA Constitution for Churchwide says that congregations have authority in all matters not assigned by the ELCA Constitution and Bylaws to synods and the churchwide organization. By your words and actions you have completely dismissed, discounted, disregarded, and ignored the integrity of a congregation. 
  10. Through this whole process you have shown absolutely no regard or respect for and you have expressed absolutely no appreciation to Pastor Forni for his ministry at St. Timothy, and to the Awes brothers for their maintaining the property and ministry of the congregation. Is that typical of how you fulfill your role as Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod?
  11. On the day that a letter from you announced that St. Timothy is now closed, you showed and expressed absolutely no appreciation, respect, or regard for anything that anyone at St. Timothy had done during its life as a congregation.  You expressed no appreciation for the ministry of Robert Awes, who served the congregation faithfully for thirty-four years.  Does that complete disregard, ingratitude, and insensitivity reflect your attitude, opinion, and feelings about everything and everyone that pre-dates you?   
  12. After former bishop Meghan Rohrer was pressured to resign when their overstepping of authority was exposed after their removal of a Latinx clergy person from his congregation and the ELCA clergy roster without due process, we were surprised that yet another ELCA synodical bishop would negatively impact another bi-lingual ministry without notice. Knowing that the ELCA is 96-97% white, ELCA church leadership wishes to encourage ethnic ministries.  How do your actions support rather than work against this goal and priority?   

What is scary about this whole situation is the fact that something like this could happen to any orthodox congregation still in the ELCA.  Potentially it is only one synodical bishop election away. 

In the ELCA we are all vulnerable. 

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Here is a link to our You Tube channel.  In the top row you will find both our Video Book Reviews as well as our CORE Convictions Videos on various topics related to Biblical teaching, Lutheran theology, and Christian living.  You will find these 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.  This month we want to feature two videos.     


by Pastor Tom

Many thanks to Dr. Tom for his video discussion of Missio Dei – the Mission of God.  Here is a link to his video.  Pastor Tom has been active in global mission for many years.  In addition to being pastor of an NALC congregation in Illinois, he works with the organization Awakening Lives to World Mission as Director of their Heart for Mission Ministries.  In that capacity, he focuses on the countries of Laos and Thailand, which is a part of the world where he served for many years before returning to the United States.  In addition, he works as co-director of the Global Lutheran House of Study at the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, where he also teaches a number of courses on Lutheran Theology.

Pastor Tom from Northern Illinois emphasizes that Missio Dei is God’s mission.  It is not my mission or my church’s mission.  God is the initiator.  He sends us on mission.  He entrusts us with His mission.  He created the Church to do His mission.  We have the privilege of participating in God’s mission.  We are called to embody His Kingdom and to reflect His character to those around us.

Unfortunately, we can distort God’s mission.  We can lose sight of God’s purpose of mission.  We can try to make it our church rather than Christ’s church.  We want to do our mission, not Christ’s mission.  If a church focuses on internal matters, it loses sight of God’s mission.  We must begin with a big mindset.  A church that has a real heart for global mission will also be more involved in local mission.  As a congregation, when we focus on God’s mission rather than our own mission, we see the fruit of our faith. 




by the Rev. Dr. Douglas Schoelles

Many thanks to NALC pastor Doug Schoelles for his review of this book by Steven D. Smith, Professor of Law at the University of San Diego.  Here is a link to his review.  A longer summary of his video can be found here.

In this book Smith argues that the current societal and legal conflicts are a renewal struggle of Paganism to “reverse the revolution Christianity achieved in late antiquity” that brought an end to “the merry dance of paganism.” Smith makes the distinction between the immanent religion of paganism and the transcendent religion of Christianity. Modern pagans resent the all-encompassing Christian standard of truth and morality as an oppressive limitation to the desire to live as one pleases. Pagans want to remove the accommodation of religion as practiced by our secular government and courts and banish any reference or preference for transcendent religion. Ultimately, he asserts the Pagan City, aka the State, must have people’s allegiance above all other powers or influences. Ultimately this means that people devoted to a transcendent religion must be marginalized and excluded from public life, by force if necessary. 

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May the Lord continue to bless you, keep you, watch over you, be gracious to you, and give you peace. 

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE


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




In Luke’s account of Easter Sunday morning the Gospel writer records four responses to the empty tomb.  First, being perplexed.  The women found the stone rolled away, and when they went in, they did not find the body.  (Luke 24:1-4)

Second, being terrified.  Suddenly two men in dazzling cloths stood beside them.  (24: 4-5)

Third, disbelief.  The women told the eleven disciples what they had seen, but the men did not believe them.  It seemed to them like “an idle tale.”  (24: 5-11)

Fourth, being amazed.  Peter gets up and runs to the tomb.  He looks inside and then goes home.  He does not stick around long enough to see the risen Lord.  At this point he is just “amazed at what had happened.”  (24: 12)

Fortunately, the Gospel writer John tells of a fifth response – belief.  Peter and John go running to the tomb.  John gets there first, but does not go in.  After Peter arrives and runs right in, John also enters, sees the grave clothes, and believes.  (John 20: 8)

I am certain that there are people who attended Easter services this year who had each of these five different responses.  Some are perplexed as to what it is all about.  Many are terrified, and there is much in our world to be afraid of.  Some do not believe.  The whole story of a God who loves them so much as to die for their sins, and the whole account of someone’s returning from the dead, seem too good to be true.  Some are amazed.  They sense from the power of the music and the power of the proclamation that there might be something to all of this, but at this point they are not sure what to make of it all.  And some will hear and believe. 

My hope and prayer for you is that you were strengthened and encouraged in your faith during this Holy Week season, and that many people were strengthened in their faith and some also came to faith through your ministry and the ministry of your congregation. 

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Speaking of the Gospel of John, there is a movement afoot to “cancel” the passion narrative in John 18-19 and remove it from the readings for Holy Week.  The claim is that these chapters foster anti-Semitism.  Dr. Amy-Jill Levine, a Jewish New Testament scholar, is a leader in this movement.  Here is a link to a presentation she gave recently to the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of the U. S. Episcopal Church. 

I am concerned as I read and hear of her growing influence within the ELCA. 

Even worse is the movement not just to “cancel” the passion narrative in John, but to “cancel” the passion.  There are many within the ELCA who reject the teaching that Christ died for our sins.  Instead they make Good Friday into the supreme example of Jesus’ bold political protest against the Roman empire, even unto death.  And now we need to join in the work of dismantling our empires.  According to this approach there is no way that I am in need of a Savior who will forgive my sins and defeat the great enemy death.  Rather I need to join in the effort to oppose all oppressive power structures. 

But let’s take a look at Dr. Levine’s “more moderate” approach of not “cancelling” the passion, but instead merely “cancelling” the passion narrative in John.  There are many problems with what she is saying.

First, John 18-19 are not “anti-Semitic” in the way in which Dr. Levine is accusing them of being.  These chapters were written by a Jew, who had no intention of spawning the anti-Semitism which Dr. Levine is blaming on his writing.  This anti-Semitism came after him and would have harmed and even killed him and his family had he lived in a different place and time.  The responsibility for any anti-Semitism rests on those who have misused these texts, not on the texts – or on the author – themselves.

Second, the scripture texts which Dr. Levine wants to have cancelled are not insignificant texts.  Rather they are part of the Holy Week narrative.  Their stories and teachings are central to the Christian faith and the Gospel message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  If there are any texts which should not be cancelled, it is these texts.  And it is not acceptable to say that we can “cancel” John because we will still have the passion narrative in three other Gospels.  Each of the Gospels makes its own unique contribution to our understanding of what took place and the meaning of what took place.  We are missing something vitally important if we do not have all four.

Third, Dr. Levine freely acknowledges the existence of difficult texts in the Torah, but she does not make the same demand of the Jewish faith community that she makes of the Christians.  Jewish people follow the custom of reading the entirety of the Torah, beginning to end, within the context of worship.  It would be unthinkable for them to “cancel” any part of the Torah.  So why is Dr. Levine asking Christians to do what she would never ask her own people to do?  The reason that Dr. Levine gives in her testimony as to why no part of the Torah is to be cancelled is because the Torah came down “directly from Mount Sinai.”  Her statement is nothing less than a direct devaluing and demeaning of the Gospels and their significance in the Christian faith.  Christians believe that these texts, also, were given to us by God.  The Gospels are no less sacred to Christians than the Torah is sacred to Jews.  The Gospels hold in the Christian lectionary the same place that the Torah holds in the Jewish lectionary. 

What Dr. Levine is asking of us is not merely the causal swapping of one insignificant text for another.  Rather she is asking of us both the cancellation of sacred texts which are of prime importance to our faith – something she would never ask of her own people – as well as a major change in how Christians view the Scriptures.

As we said earlier, we are very concerned about the influence that Dr. Levine is having in the ELCA and will continue to monitor the situation. 

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Last September the ELCA celebrated the election and installation of its first transgender bishop,

Meghan Rohrer of the Sierra Pacific Synod.  ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton served as the lead consecrator and preacher at the service.  Bishop Eaton had a very interesting and typically ELCA way of twisting the Bible and distorting theology in order to justify what her presence and actions were legitimizing.   In her sermon message, Bishop Eaton noted that Jesus Christ’s identity as both fully human and fully divine were not an “either/or” but a “both/and”.  It is absolutely astounding to me to think that a church leader would believe that the two natures of Christ – His being both fully divine and fully human – are somehow support for transgender and non-binary ideology.     

It gets even worse.  Bishop Eaton went on to challenge those attending – both in person and remotely – to continue watching in the months ahead.  “You’re going to see a grace-filled, Gospel preaching, Jesus-loving servant of the Word serving everyone, all people. You’re going to see someone and a synod being transformed in order to invite people into the complete, the infinite, and the intimate love of God.  We’ll continue to work for those on the margins.  We do it surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses and we do it by a God who was not either/or but both divine and human.”

But all that changed, and it changed dramatically and rapidly within three months.  On December 12, 2021 – the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a very special day within the Latino community – the synod council of the Sierra Pacific Synod took action to remove Pastor Nelson Rabell-Gonzalez from his position as mission developer of Mision Latina Luterana in Stockton, California.

Lutheran CORE very intentionally and deliberately takes no position on these actions.  It is not our place, nor would we make any claim to know all the facts.  Rather what we want to do is to point out the significance of this entire event.  For those who would like to know more, here is a link to an article written by a friend of Pastor Rabell.  At the end of the article you will find links to more articles.  It is obviously written by a person who strongly favors one side in the struggle. 

For the first several weeks it appeared that Bishop Eaton was hoping that the whole thing would just blow over and go away.  As presiding bishop she claimed that she has no authority to interfere in the actions of a synod council.  But as the turmoil continued to spread and as the crisis continued to escalate, she eventually took action to appoint a three-person listening team, which would help her in determining what to do.  In the first link she tells about forming the team.  In the second link she gives an update. 

What was supposed to be so wonderful very quickly became not wonderful.  What was supposed to be continuing to work for those on the margins became accusations of severe discrimination against those on the margins. 

What is the significance of what is going on here?   The ELCA is experiencing the consequences of what it has been enabling, encouraging, and empowering.  Or, to put it another way – in terms of Galatians 6: 7 – the ELCA is reaping what it has been sowing. 

What else would you expect to result from the ELCA’s full embrace of critical theory?  What else would you anticipate when everything is viewed in terms of power/abuse of power, oppressor/oppressed, victim/victimizer, and privileged/marginalized.  It is only a matter of time until something blows and/or a single spark sets the whole forest aflame.  Please see below the review by Dr. Robert Benne of the book by Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.  This seems like a most appropriate time to have a review of a book like that.     

One of the things that is interesting here is that ELCA congregations in the Sierra Pacific Synod are taking action against the synodical bishop and synod council.  I am aware of congregation councils that are passing resolutions to have no dealings with the synod until and unless the synodical bishop and synod council all resign or are terminated.  And if they do not resign or are not terminated, these congregations will initiate the process to leave the ELCA.  One such resolution can be found on the website of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Fresno.  

There are a couple very interesting things going on here.  First, it is not – as in the past – orthodox, confessing congregations that are leaving the ELCA.  Instead it is among the most actively, aggressively, and outspokenly progressive congregations that are threatening to leave the ELCA.

Second, the recently approved version of the ELCA’s document, “Definitions and Guidelines for Discipline,” provides for the discipline of rostered ministers who “actively and affirmatively incite, initiate, or encourage a congregation to leave the ELCA” (page 11).  Since the ELCA is saying that it could discipline an orthodox, confessing pastor for encouraging a congregation to leave the ELCA, should not the same standard apply to a progressive pastor?  And if it does not, then is the ELCA not guilty of discrimination and “discipline inequity”?  (Which is one of the things that the ELCA is being accused of because of the Sierra Pacific synod council’s removal of a Latino mission developer.) 

If progressive congregations in the Sierra Pacific Synod are “able to get away with” no longer functioning as part of the synod, then should not the same standard apply to confessing congregations that no longer function as part of their synod?  (Which is the approach that some confessing congregations are taking because they are not able to “get enough votes” to leave the ELCA.) 

And if the Sierra Pacific synod council disciplines a pastor for inciting a congregation to leave the ELCA because the bishop and synod council have neither resigned nor been removed from their positions, how will all that play out?

I also am aware of confessing congregations that were forced to repay their synods large sums of money in order to receive permission to leave (which is required of ELCA mission starts and was demanded of some former LCA congregations before they received the required permission to leave).  Will the Sierra Pacific Synod congregations that leave the ELCA if the bishop and synod council neither resign nor are terminated be treated in the same way?  And if they are not, would that not be another example of discrimination and “ELCA inequity”?  Oh, what a mess!

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Speaking of “oh, what a mess,” here is the latest from Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Awhile back the board of Luther voted to continue to not be RIC.  RIC stands for Reconciled in Christ, which means that a synod, congregation, seminary, or other organization fully embraces the beliefs, values, agenda, and priorities of ReconcilingWorks.

According to its website, ReconcilingWorks advocates “for the full welcome, inclusion, and equity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual/aromantic (LGBTQIA+) Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church, congregations, and community.”

They define their mission in this way.  “ReconcilingWorks advocates for the acceptance, full participation, and liberation of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions within the Lutheran Church.”

At this time Luther is the only ELCA seminary that is not RIC.  The board feels that their current welcome statement is sufficient. 

Immediately there was an uproar.  Students threatened to boycott the school.  There was conversation that the president should be removed from her position.  Please remember that it was not that long ago that the students at another ELCA seminary, United Seminary in Philadelphia and Gettysburg, were able to force the firing of the president because someone discovered that twenty years before she had been director of an organization that held and advocated for traditional views on human sexuality.  She was fired even though she is totally LGBTQ+ affirming now.

Members of the non-faculty staff wrote and signed a letter in support of the student movement to cause the seminary to become RIC.  Now a letter has been written and signed by most of the faculty members, again supporting the movement.  Here is a link to the letter.

Talk about groveling. Talk about one more example of the ELCA’s encouraging, enabling, and empowering extreme progressive elements.  Do the seminary faculty really think that good will come from their talking, acting, and handling a situation in that way?  Do they really think that it will stop there – with the seminary’s becoming RIC – and the students – thus emboldened – will not go on and demand something far more? 

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Lutheran CORE continues to provide monthly video reviews of books of interest and importance.  Many thanks to Robert Benne for his review of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution by Carl Trueman.  Dr. Benne has retired from his position as professor at Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, and currently teaches Christian ethics at the Institute of Lutheran Theology.  One of the founders of Lutheran CORE, he has been a friend of Lutheran CORE from the beginning.

In this book Carl Trueman, whom Benne identifies as one of America’s most important rising Christian public intellectuals, starts with the assessment of the modern self by two major theorists, who see expressive individualism as the essence of the modern self.  The modern self is no longer guided by the sacred order of great religions, obligations to others in the given stations of life, or virtues that solid traditions have formed in their adherents.  Rather the modern self aims at authenticity.  Highest value is placed upon the untrampled expression of whatever inner definitions or inclinations the modern self wants to express.  Such expressive individualism is not only to be tolerated, it is to be affirmed and embraced.  Any resistance or criticism amounts to hate speech.

Knowing that ideas have consequences, Trueman asks what are the ideas that have brought us to our current state.  Benne feels that Trueman has made a compelling case for understanding our current situation in light of thinkers in the past.  In this book the author reflects on what the future might be like for a society that has been so de-established by rampant individualism, and also what this means for the church.

The final section of the book, entitled “The Triumph of the Erotic,” deals with all the incongruities and contradictions of the powerful LGBTQ+ movement.  Trueman shows how all the various sorts of expressive individualism do not necessarily fit together easily.

According to Dr. Benne this is a formidable work which will lead the reader to greater understanding of our current chaos and polarization.  Dr. Benne has notes on every chapter and offers to share those notes with anyone who wants to teach this book in Sunday School.  

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


If you would like to watch Lutheran CORE’s playlist of all of our video book reviews, click here, then scroll down and start the video by selecting the play button or click on the three vertical lines near the top right of the first video to select a new video from the list that will pop up. 

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One of the goals and purposes of Lutheran CORE is to provide resources for confessing Lutherans.  On our website we have daily devotionals as well as suggestions for hymns, Scriptures, and prayers related to the themes for each Sunday.  Here are links to these resources.

Daily devotionals

Scriptures and hymns suggestions  

Prayers of the church

A new resource that is now available is a Bible study that I am doing each week based upon the lectionary readings for the following Sunday.  The resource includes a twenty-five-to-thirty-minute video and a two-page study guide.  A new one is available each Tuesday and is dated on Wednesday, because that is when the church where they are recorded posts them.

Many thanks to Living Water, an ELCA congregation in Scottsdale, Arizona, where my wife and I are members and where the studies are recorded.  Many thanks also to Shepherd of the Hills, an LCMC congregation in Fountain Hills, Arizona, for permission to provide a link to their website where the videos and study guides are posted.

It is a great joy and privilege for me to be able to provide these studies, and I am very happy whenever anyone finds them helpful.

Wishing you the joy, power, love, and hope of Easter,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE