Letter from the Director – October 2023


I am a Phoenix Symphony groupee. I feel very fortunate to live in a metropolitan area that has a symphony orchestra of the quality of the Phoenix Symphony. On September 30 I went to a performance which featured Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” HERE is a link to a video of that composition.

Even if you are not a fan of classical music, I am sure you recognize its dramatic opening, entitled “O Fortuna.” It has been used dozens of times in movies, TV shows, commercials, and even football games. The major theme of this mighty work is the unpredictability of life. The Roman goddess Fortuna and her “wheel of fortune” make sure that the outcome is always outside of our control. The text is based upon a manuscript by the same name that was compiled between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The concert notes for the evening said that the theme “clearly resonated with the medieval authors who lived in a violent, disease-ridden world over which they had so little control, just as it resonated in Orff’s Germany in the grips of the Nazi regime on the march toward war, and still resonates amid today’s disorienting turbulence.” The piece ends with the same pounding timpani and spine-chilling choral harmonies as it began. “O Fortuna” – the fateful wheel of fortune is still spinning recklessly and out of control. It is a profoundly moving and disturbing musical composition.

My wife often accuses me of anticipating the “worst possible scenario.” I told her that “Carmina Burana” is worst possible scenario on steroids. But then, because I am a Lutheran pastor, it got me to thinking of the way that Martin Luther viewed God and the world before he discovered the Gospel. If God is an angry judge whom I am completely unable to satisfy, then how could I have a view of life and the world that is any less frightening and any more hopeless than the perspective of “Carmina Burana”?

But fortunately Martin Luther found in the writings of the apostle Paul the Good News that we can be “justified by (God’s) grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3: 24). Instead of feeling and fearing that the world is against me, God is angry with me, and life is out of control, I can say with the apostle Paul, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8: 31). None of the powers of this world “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 39). Therefore, we can be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” because we can know for sure that our labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15: 58).

I am thankful to God for the Reformation. Because of the Gospel and Martin Luther’s rediscovery of the Gospel I do not have to approach life with the attitude of “Carmina Burana.”

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In my Summer Letter from the Director I gave a very detailed account of how Bishop Yehiel Curry of the ELCA’s Metropolitan Chicago Synod committed egregious acts of abuse of power, threatening, bullying, and intimidating against a retired pastor rostered in another synod and lay leaders of a congregation in that synod. A link to that letter can be found HERE.

As I communicated in my August Letter from the Director, on March 15 I wrote to Ms. Judith Roberts, senior director for ELCA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and co-convenor of a task force for addressing the disciplinary concerns of leaders of color. A press release dated March 10 had told of how her task force had made a presentation to the February 28-March 4 meeting of the ELCA’s Conference of Bishops. I told her about the situation with Bishop Curry and St. Timothy Lutheran Church. I described how leaders who are not people of color had been bullied by a synodical bishop, who is a person of color. A leader of color had been the perpetrator rather than the victim of harassment and discrimination.

The next day she wrote back. She said, “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 knew that I could not write to Bishop Eaton right away. I had to wait until after the three sons of the former pastor who had been maintaining the property and providing leadership and stability for the congregation were safely out of the parsonage. When they were safe, I sent an account of the events at St. Timothy to five ELCA leaders – Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton; Imran Siddiqui, vice president of the ELCA; Tracie Bartholomew, chairperson (at the time) of the Conference of Bishops; and the two members of the task force who made the presentation – Judith Roberts and Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod. I never heard from any of them.

After an October 4 news release told about a follow up report from the task force to the September 26-30 meeting of the Conference of Bishops, I again wrote to Ms. Judith Roberts. I told her why I had not written right away and then said, “I never heard from anyone, even though you said that ‘the Churchwide Organization takes misconduct complaints against synod bishops seriously.’ And now that Bishop Curry has been elected chairperson of the Conference of Bishops, I doubt that there is any chance that I will be heard.”

I then added, “The only conclusion I can come to is this. Even though the ELCA claims to be an organization that pursues justice, it does not wish to hear and will not hear anything other than the preferred narrative. Even though the ELCA says that it wants to reach out to those on the margins, it will not reach out to those whom it has marginalized. Even though the ELCA desires the role of speaking truth to power, it refuses to realize where it is the power that truth needs to be spoken to.”

I concluded, “The October 4 news release said that your task force has ‘considered a process for community healing and grief.’ The ELCA has caused great grief. It does not seem to have any concern or interest in helping to bring about healing. The recent events in the Sierra Pacific Synod give the impression that it is only if enough people are able to create a big enough groundswell for long enough that the ELCA will stop and take notice and deal with where it has caused great grief, pain, offence, and damage.” I then thanked her for hearing my concerns.

I am very glad to be able to share that on October 12 I received a very cordial response from Ms. Roberts. She said again, “Any concerns related to a synod bishop and issues of abuse are to be directed to Bishop Eaton.” Therefore I will write – again – to Bishop Eaton. Stay tuned.

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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. Many thanks to Pastor Nathan Hoff for his CORE Convictions Video, which we are featuring this month. A link to his video can be found HERE.



Martin Luther described a simple way to pray in a letter to his barber, Peter. It is a spiritual treasure: https://ms.fortresspress.com/dow…/R2R_ASimpleWaytoPray.pdf.

In this video Pastor Nathan Hoff gives us a tutorial in the Way of Word and Prayer, which is part of the spiritual practices at his congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in San Pedro, California. As very young children we learned to speak by listening to our parents. In the same way Pastor Hoff and the people of Trinity Lutheran use the Moravian Daily Text to respond to God’s Word in prayer. In this video he shows us how he used the Scriptures passages for September 20 as an example of first hearing the Word of God and then praying. The Moravian Daily Text can be found at www.groundupgrace.com.

Eugene Peterson encouraged this form of praying when he said, “Prayer is answering speech.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer agreed when he added, “We do not pray from the poverty of our own hearts, but from the riches of God’s Word.”

In addition to serving as pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church, Nathan has taught extensively at such places as Mount Carmel Ministries in Alexandria, MN, Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute, Master’s Institute Seminary, The Awaken Project, and the World Mission Prayer League.

More information regarding Trinity’s Rule of Life, which includes a commitment to the Way of Word and Prayer, can be found at www.trinitysanpedroorg/rule of life.

Grateful for the Gospel,

Dennis D. Nelson

Executive Director of Lutheran CORE