The ELCA’s Commission for a Renewed Lutheran Church (CRLC) was formed in response to action taken by the ELCA’s 2022 Churchwide Assembly. The assembly 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.”  

As I wrote in my February 2024 Letter from the Director (LINK), the phrase “dismantle racism” is very significant. It reflects the position that racism is not just something that some people think and do. Rather imbedded into the very nature of our society are structures that privilege and empower certain races (white people) and disempower, victimize, and marginalize all other races (BIPOC people). The ELCA is therefore saying that it is not enough to just be non-racist – to not use racist language. We must be anti-racist. We must break down the structures that empower some and dis-empower everyone else. As I also wrote in the February 2024 letter, the report of the “Dismantling Racism” internal committee during the Commission’s November 30-December 2 meeting took the concept even further. According to that committee, it is important that all of the work of the Commission “is completed through an intersectional lens of dismantling racism.” Those also are very significant words. According to the concept of intersectionality, the various systems that privilege and empower some and victimize and disempower everyone else are so intertwined and interconnected that all of these systems need to be dismantled, whether they be white supremacy, male dominance, agism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, heteronormativity, or whatever.

Because of all that is involved with the concepts of dismantling racism and intersectionality, I was alarmed when I listened to a video on the Commission’s Facebook page from the two co-chairpersons, Carla Christopher and Leon Schwartz. A link to that Facebook page can be found HERE.  In that video Pastor Christopher said, “The language of the memorial and the commitment from each of the members of the CRLC also named dismantling oppression and ensuring equity wherever possible throughout our governing documents and the structure of the church.” 

Concerned enough about the full and actual meaning of “dismantling racism,” and then being even more concerned by her changing the language from “dismantling racism” to “dismantling oppression,” I wrote to her. Among my questions were the following –

·      What is the difference between dismantling racism and dismantling oppression?

·      Is the focus of the Commission going to be on “dismantling racism” (which I would interpret as more narrowly defined) or “dismantling oppression” (which I would interpret as more broadly defined)? 

·      If the focus is on “dismantling oppression,” how did that change come about and what will it mean? 

·      How will it be determined who is experiencing oppression? 

·      Will the working assumption be that if anyone feels oppressed, claims to be oppressed, and/or identifies as someone who is oppressed, that person is oppressed?

I then concluded by asking – since all the members of the ELCA with traditional views who speak up will probably be among the oppressed (even though they represent the majority of the people in the pews) – what will the Commission be doing to address that anticipated oppression?

I also responded to her saying that each of the members of the Commission is committed to “ensuring equity wherever possible throughout our governing documents and the structure of the church.” As glaring examples of inequity within the ELCA I mentioned the complete lack of speakers with traditional views at youth gatherings and Reconciling Works’ having a voice but no vote position on the ELCA Church Council while no organization with traditional views is in the same favored, privileged position.

Within less than two hours I received a response which I considered to be very dismissive and sloppy. In her email she backpedaled from dismantling oppression to dismantling racism. She also mentioned the “limited time and finite resources” of the Commission, insisted that the focus of the Commission “is specifically about structure and governance and constitutional language that may be more helpfully updated or clarified,” mentioned the “diversity of views” among the members of the Commission “regarding institutional structures and the relationships between the current three expressions of church,” and stated the desire of the Commission not to “duplicate or interrupt the work of other task forces,” such as the task force that is working on the statement on human sexuality.

In my response to her response, I did not bring up her mentioning the “limited time and finite resources” of the Commission. But I would say that twenty-two months have passed since the 2022 Churchwide Assembly, which directed the ELCA Church Council to form the Commission, while only fourteen months remain until the 2025 Churchwide Assembly, to whom the Commission is to “present its findings and recommendations . . . in preparation for a possible reconstituting convention.” Unless the Commission does far more in the next fourteen months than it has done in the past twenty-two months, I do not see it as having a report that will satisfy those who were instrumental in the passing of the resolution to form the Commission.    

However, I did respond – in order – to several other things she said in her email.

First, in regard to her backpedaling from “dismantling oppression” to “dismantling racism,” I reminded her of the significance of the “intersectionality” language from the “Dismantling Racism” internal committee (which I discussed in the second paragraph of this letter). I told her that I interpreted her mentioning “dismantling oppression” in light of that statement from that committee.

Second, the major part of my email was in response to her stating that the focus of the Commission “is specifically about structure and governance and constitutional language that may be more helpfully updated or clarified.” I shared with her how that statement reminded me of the comments made by the two members of the Commission who held a Listening Session for members of the Grand Canyon Synod, the Synod in which I am rostered. They said that the work of the Commission is focused on structure and governance and that there is no pre-determined outcome to the work of the Commission.

I wrote to Pastor Christopher, “Personally I find that very hard to believe. Everything from the makeup of the Commission – whom the ELCA Church Council chose to serve on the Commission – to the reports of the work of the Commission points to a pre-determined outcome.”

In regards to the makeup of the Commission, I pointed out that 20% – 7 out of 35 – are DEIA officers and/or leaders at their place of employment and/or influence and that the three members of the Commission who serve as assistants to a synodical bishop all work in the area of social justice activism. 

I then gave her a link to the article I wrote for the September 2023 issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice, where I discussed the makeup of the Commission – Once You Know the Makeup, You Know the Outcome – Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE)

Regarding the work of the Commission, I also gave her a link to my February 2024 Letter from the Director, where I did an analysis of their November 30-December 2 meeting. LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR – FEBRUARY 2024 – Lutheran Coalition for Renewal (CORE)

I continued by saying, “I do not see any way in which someone could claim that the Commission is merely concerned with governance and structure and its work does not have a pre-determined outcome. Rather the Commission was formed and is working hard to create a whole new church whose values and priorities will be based not upon Scripture, but upon critical race theory and DEIA ideology.”

Third, I responded to her saying that the Commission was formed so that it would have “a diversity of views regarding institutional structures and the relationships between the current three expressions of church.” I wrote, “The members of the Commission may have a diversity of views on those issues. There is certainly nothing in the reports from the meetings of the Commission that would tell me one way or the other. But the reports of your meetings certainly suggest no diversity of views in regard to the values and priorities that should shape the new Lutheran church.” 

Fourth, in response to her saying that the Commission will “stay within our scope and not duplicate or interrupt the work of other task forces,” such as the task force that is working on the statement on human sexuality, I said, “I certainly understand and would agree with that approach.” I explained that I mentioned the complete lack of speakers with traditional views at youth gatherings and ReconcilingWorks’ having a voice but no vote position on the ELCA Church Council but no organization with traditional views being in the same favored, privileged position not because I believe that these are matters that the Commission should concern itself with. Instead they are examples of how – even though each of the members of the Commission has made a commitment to “ensuring equity wherever possible throughout our governing documents and the structure of the church” – it is abundantly clear that in regard to the various positions on human sexuality, equity does not exist in the ELCA. 

I concluded by saying, “Thank you again for hearing and considering my concerns. Blessings in Christ.” I signed the letter – 

Dennis D. Nelson

Retired ELCA Pastor

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE

So far I have not received a response.


* * * * * * *




Many thanks to NALC pastors Cathy Ammlung and Tim Hubert for giving us a review of Tim’s book, “A Short Course on Prayer.” A link to their video review and be found HERE. A link to our You Tube channel, which contains reviews of around three dozen books as well as a dozen CORE Convictions videos on various topics related to the Christian faith and life, can be found HERE

This review is unusual in that it is more of an interview. Tim and Cathy have been friends for over forty years, and he was her ordination sponsor almost thirty-five years ago. Cathy has used various iterations of his manual on prayer throughout her ministry.

In this video review/interview, Cathy briefly describes the layout of the book. But mostly, she and Tim talk about his inspiration for writing it. They discuss the stumbling blocks to prayer experienced by many people. They examine some of the sixteen “prayer forms” in the first half of the book. And they reflect on some of the weightier issues about prayer: the joys and warnings, the hostility of the devil, and the spiritual warfare we are thrust into. Front and center is the insistence that prayer is a conversation, not a monologue. God himself provides words, topics, and insights for that conversation, and his Word grounds and centers every prayer form, directly or indirectly.

The interview is informal and casual, reflecting their long friendship and years of conversation on prayer as well as many other topics.

Folks interested in Tim’s book, for themselves or as a manual for an adult study group, may contact Cathy at cammlung@gmail.com. She will put you in touch with Tim!


An Unanticipated Agreement

I find that usually I can anticipate fairly accurately with whom I will agree or disagree.  However, there are times when I am caught by surprise.  Such was the case with a public letter written by a member of the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM).  

On its website this organization describes its mission in this way: “Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries organizes queer seminarians and rostered ministers, confronts barriers and systemic oppression, and activates queer ideas and movements within the Lutheran Church.”

This is not the kind of organization that I would expect myself to find something to agree on with.  So how did that come about?

A few months ago in celebration of Pride Month (June) the ELCA posted a link to the document, A Lutheran Introduction to SOGIE by ReconcilingWorks.  SOGIE stands for Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression.

Pastor Suzannah Porter, an ELCA pastor and member of the board of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, responded by commenting with concern that the ELCA was giving the impression that the whole church body is LGBTQ+ affirming, when in fact it is not, since there are congregations which hold to traditional sexual ethics with the church’s sanction.  Pastor Porter supported her statement by quoting the Bound Conscience policy which is a prominent part of the 2009 social statement, Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust.  That document described four different positions regarding same gender relationships, which it acknowledged that people within “this church” hold “with conviction and integrity.”  On the basis of “the bound conscience,” it said, “We . . . believe that this church . . . will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.”  In other words, traditional views of human sexuality have the full endorsement and sanction of a social statement that was approved by no less an authority than an ELCA Churchwide Assembly. 

What happened after Pastor Porter sought to expose the ELCA’s dishonesty by revealing that the ELCA actually sanctions traditional views when it tries to give the impression that it is LGBTQ+ affirming?  Several things.

First, others replied to Pastor Porter’s comment with stories of lack of LGBTQ+ acceptance at various ELCA congregations.

Second, the ELCA deleted Pastor Porter’s comment – the only one, to her knowledge, that cited the Bound Conscience policy.  

Third, Pastor Porter responded in an angry public letter condemning the ELCA’s action.  She said, “It is Pride 2021 month, and I cannot be deleted today.” 

Here is more of what she said:

“ELCA, get back here and answer for yourself. On the post listing Reconciling Works SOGI resources (found herehttp://bit.ly/elcasogipost) you deleted my comment clearly stating that projecting the image that the ELCA is welcoming and affirming of queer people without clearly stating that it is also our policy that the church can call queer people to repentance and refuse to recognize same sex marriage is misrepresentation.

“After now hundreds of people think the whole denomination is affirming, you deleted the only comment that clarified your policy. And erased the testimony of the replies of people who labored to tell their stories. But you seem to keep the reattempt when I stated my position on the board and council. This leads me to believe that misrepresentation was not just an accident, it was the goal.”

What is going on here?  A lot.

First, the ELCA sought to silence a leader in the LGBTQ+ community, in the name of being LGBTQ+ affirming.

Second, Lutheran CORE and ELM agree that honesty, integrity, and transparency are important.  What is actually done in the church needs to match what public statements say will be done and what official policy says should be done.

Third, the ELCA’s misrepresentation, as Pastor Porter calls it, is dishonest and unhelpful both to people seeking LGBTQ+ affirming communities and to those who hold to traditional sexual ethics.  It would be far better for the ELCA to be truthful and honest and consistent all across the board. 

Now, to be sure, Lutheran CORE and Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries would have totally opposite purposes for raising these issues.

Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries would want the ELCA to eliminate language that sanctions traditional views, while Lutheran CORE would want the ELCA to keep its promise and live up to its commitment to also honor and provide a place for traditional views. 

Nevertheless, Pastor Porter’s point stands, and we agree.  The ELCA’s actions were dishonest and unhelpful.    

Click here to read the ELCA’s original post.

Click here to read Pastor Porter’s original post.

Devotion for Monday, November 6, 2017

“Destruction is in her midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from her streets.  For it is not an enemy who reproaches me, then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, then I could hide myself from him.”  (Psalm 55:11-12)


All around are those who plot and seek to gain what is not theirs for their own sake.  It is hard to live in a world with so many that are deceitful.  Yet, here we are.  How can one hide from the wickedness that is on every side?  Hide in the Lord who knows all things and will not anything come upon You that will separate you from Him.  Come to the Lord and find the only rest in a world gone mad.


Lord, these are words I can hear, but they are so hard to act upon.  Guide the thoughts of my mind and the actions I make to come into conformity with what You are saying.  Lead me by Your Spirit to walk in the ways You have established in spite of all that is going on around me.  Lead me O Lord that I would follow You all the days of my life and walk in Your goodness.

Lord Jesus, for this very reason You have come that as many as turn to You would discover the peace which surpasses all understanding.  Lead me Lord Jesus in the way I should go and then through Your Spirit, give the means to walk in this way.  By Your grace alone am I not like the others who hate You.  In thankfulness, guide my heart ever upward to walk with You alone.  Amen.