Letter From The Director – June 2022



For years I have been writing articles about the ELCA – often with the subtitle, “What Will It Be Next?”  The images I have chosen for those articles have often been a car or motorcycle careening out of control, a road with the pavement washed out, a road with a bridge ahead washed out, a road covered by an avalanche of rocks, or a road that goes over a cliff.  I have been certain that eventually the ELCA will crash. 

That “eventually” could very well be soon.  Last December the bishop and synod council of the ELCA’s Sierra Pacific Synod (northern California and northern Nevada) terminated the call of a Latino mission developer, and did so on December 12, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the most special days for many in the Latino community.  At first Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton did not follow the recommendations of the “Listening Team” which she had convened, but instead felt that the words and actions of Bishop Megan Rohrer of the Sierra Pacific Synod did not rise to the level of initiating disciplinary procedures.  Instead she merely asked Bishop Rohrer to resign because they (Bishop Rohrer’s chosen pronoun) no longer had the trust and confidence of the synod.  A resolution proposed at the June 2-4 synod assembly that Bishop Rohrer resign by the end of the assembly and that they be dismissed from their position if they do not resign failed to pass by a vote of about 56% to 44%.  A two-thirds majority vote would have been required.  The synod assembly ended with Megan Rohrer still serving as bishop, but the fallout continues across the ELCA.  Congregations within that synod have said that they will leave the ELCA and at least one other synod has said that they will stop sending financial support to the ELCA as long as Megan Rohrer continues as bishop.  In addition I read of plans for demonstrations during the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August.

Here is a link to a website that contains the most complete list that I am aware of to articles and videos related to the crisis.

I have been reading about the situation and watching it unfold for months, but I certainly do not claim to fully understand it.  Nor is it my role or my responsibility to make a statement about the rightness and/or wrongness of the actions and words of the people involved.  But I would want to make it abundantly clear.  Racism is wrong.  Abuse of power is wrong.  Discrimination and unequal treatment of people are wrong.   

In this article I want to explore two things.  First, Why has this whole situation been so explosive within and damaging to the entire ELCA? (For shock waves have been reverberating not just in one synod, but throughout the entire church body.)  And second, What does this whole situation say about the ELCA? 

First, Why has this situation been so explosive within and damaging to the entire ELCA?  I can think of six reasons. 

First, because the ELCA already was a weakened and injured church body.  The ELCA is painfully aware of the fact that it is significantly diminished from what it was when it was formed in 1988.  The number of members has decreased from over five million to less than 3.3 million in thirty-four years.  The number of congregations has dropped from over 11,000 to under 9,000.  And the congregations that remain are significantly diminished.  Smaller congregations mean less income to congregations, which means less income to synods, which means less money to churchwide.  The ELCA is obsessed with the fact that it has been labelled “the whitest denomination in the United States” (and this in spite of all of its efforts to be inclusive and multi-ethnic).  And the ELCA is constantly apologizing for everything and for all of the ways in which it has been complicit in the mistreatment of all disadvantaged peoples.  How could any organization – or any person – who is significantly diminished, failing to meet goals, and constantly apologizing be healthy and strong?

Second, the ELCA promotes a culture of victimization.  Throughout this whole situation – including at the recent Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly – people have been talking about how victimized they and other people are.  Now, I fully agree that it is wrong to victimize people.  I do not want to deny, minimize, or disregard the pain of those who have been victimized.  But I believe that any organization where such a high percentage of the people see themselves as and will frequently talk about themselves as being victimized will not be healthy and strong.

Third, in the ELCA there is competition for who is the most oppressed, marginalized, abused, and powerless.  For the person or group who is the most oppressed, marginalized, abused, and powerless actually has the most power.  They are the ones who are most to be listened to because that they are the ones who have the most accurate insight into the way things “really are.” 

Fourth, in the ELCA racism and white supremacy are the worst of sins.  A synodical bishop, who a few short months ago was the greatest of celebrities, has become the worst of sinners.  Even the presiding bishop is now being seen as having committed the unforgiveable sin.  Because Bishop Eaton at first did not follow the recommendations of the “Listening Team” and did not see racism as sufficient reason to initiate disciplinary procedures against a synodical bishop, she is being accused of being what she has been speaking most strongly against.    

Fifth, in the ELCA there is an absence of grace.  Oh, the ELCA talks about grace.  But it is the grace of being inclusive.  According to the ELCA, God is inclusive; therefore I need to be inclusive.  And anyone who is not as inclusive as God and me has committed the worst of sins.  If grace is all about being inclusive, then there is no grace for anyone who is not inclusive.  Not being inclusive is the unforgiveable sin.   

I wrote about this in my article, “Did Jesus Die for Our Sins?” which appeared in the May issue of our newsletter, CORE Voice.  A link to that article can be found here.  For many within the ELCA the reason Jesus died on the cross was not to pay the price for our sins (for if He needed to do that, then God the Father would be a Cosmic Child Abuser).  Instead Jesus was killed because His being inclusive was a threat to the Roman empire.  But the problem with that view is that without the blood of Jesus the only resource I have to deal with my own sins and the sins of those who sin against me is my being inclusive and following the example of Jesus who was inclusive and who resisted oppressive, non-inclusive power structures. 

Towards the end of the second day of the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly there was talk about wanting to be able to find reconciliation and healing.  But without the blood of Jesus to cover over sin – without grace – how would you ever hope to be able to find reconciliation and healing when someone has committed the worst of sins?  

Sixth, there is a real zeal for works righteousness within the whole “woke” movement.  People need to show that they are just as woke as, if not more woke than, everyone else.  Therefore, if someone has committed the worst of sins, I must jump in and show myself to be totally woke.   

Those are six reasons why I believe the whole situation has been so explosive within and damaging to the entire ELCA.

Now I would like to turn our attention to my second question – What does this whole situation say about the ELCA?  I can think of eight things.

First, just being part of a so-called “marginalized” people group does not qualify someone to be bishop.  Enough said.

Second, Bishop Eaton has a habit of being very quick to issue statements and make judgments regarding issues outside the ELCA.  And yet she was very slow – it took her three weeks – to make a statement about and to become involved in this issue within her areas of responsibility.   She has plenty to deal with within her own arena of oversight.  She needs to focus her energy and attention on her areas of responsibility.   

Third, at the Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly Bishop Eaton made a very strong statement against racism and white supremacy.  A similarly strong statement was made by the interim vice president of the ELCA, Carlos Pena, who presided over much of the proceedings.  I wonder whether Bishop Eaton will ever be able to regain full credibility.

Fourth, the vote on the resolution to call for Bishop Rohrer’s resignation or dismissal if they do not resign failed by a margin of 56% to 44%.   (A two-thirds majority vote would have been required.)  A majority voted to dismiss, but not a two-thirds majority.  That alone is a recipe for a disaster.  I think of congregations where the vote to leave the ELCA failed.  A majority voted to leave, but not a two-thirds majority.  There are many tragic examples of what happened next.

Fifth, before the formation of the ELCA, I was a part of the ALC (American Lutheran Church).  The ALC was much more congregational, much less hierarchical, than the ELCA was designed to be.  In the ELCA synodical bishops have been given a great deal of power and authority.

But recently there has been much discussion that there needs to be a curbing of the power and authority of synodical bishops and synod councils, because the bishop and synod council of the Sierra Pacific Synod are seen as abusing that power and authority.  I wonder how many synod assemblies will be working to have that issue come to the floor of the Churchwide Assembly.

Sixth, another dynamic that I have heard mentioned is what has been called the “Purple Code” – the at least unwritten agreement that the Conference of Bishops will circle the wagons whenever there is controversy and no synodical bishop will ever speak against another synodical bishop.  But several synodical bishops have been calling for the need to bring charges against Bishop Rohrer.  The wagons are no longer circled.  Will they ever circle again?  The Purple Code has been broken.  Will it ever be intact again?

Seventh, I have heard that there has been much discussion the last few months that such things as parliamentary procedures and Roberts Rules are all rooted in systemic racism and all promote and maintain white supremacy.  They disadvantage ethnic minorities, people whose primary language is other than English, and people of color.  Therefore, they must all be dismantled.  Again, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in August should be interesting.

Eighth, for months Bishop Eaton has been talking about Future Church and her goal to reach one million “new, young, and diverse people” by the end of this decade.  If people in the ELCA are already calling for a dismantling of everything in the ELCA that fosters racism and white supremacy, what will it be like when one million “new, young, and diverse people” become a part of the equation?  I assume that most of these one million “new, young, and diverse people” will not have a history with the ELCA, will not value the ELCA, and will not have experience in being a part of church life.  Is the ELCA really ready for what it says it wants?    

How all of this will play out I do not know.  Major new developments have occurred between the time when I started writing and when I finished writing this article.  Bishop Eaton announced that she would bring charges against and would initiate a disciplinary process against Bishop Rohrer and Bishop Rohrer has resigned.  I assume that there will be further developments by the time that you read this article.  Part of the reality of writing an article like this is knowing that it will always be out of date.

Please join with me in praying for all those within the ELCA.  No matter how far they have strayed, Jesus still loves them and He shed His blood for them. 

* * * * * * * *


On May 17, a couple weeks after the news broke of a leak of a draft opinion written by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton released “A Pastoral Message on Abortion.”  A link to her letter can be found here.

Please find below my analysis of what she has written. 

Typically misleading 

It is very typical of Bishop Eaton to say a few words to make it sound like there is room for traditional views within the ELCA, but then she always comes down solidly on the revisionist side.

In the third paragraph of her communication she refers to the ELCA’s 1991 social statement on abortion and says, “This church holds both women and ‘developing life in the womb’ (page 2) as neighbors.”  She acknowledges “life in the womb” as life and seems to give the impression that that life will be valued, considered, and cherished.  She goes even further in the third paragraph when she adds, “This church longs for a future with fewer abortions every year.”

So far it sounds good.  But in the seventh paragraph, after advocating for a “more just society that cherishes and guarantees the dignity of all,” she expresses no concern for cherishing and guaranteeing the dignity (or even life) of the “developing life in the womb.”  She acknowledges the “developing life in the womb” as life, but then totally ignores any concern for the rights, preservation, and cherishing of that life. 

Lack of clarification 

In the third paragraph she states that the ELCA opposes “the total lack of regulation of abortion” (page 9 of the 1991 social statement) but does not state or affirm what kind of “regulation of abortion” the ELCA would and does support.  As is typical, Bishop Eaton is very careful to make sure that she does not say anything that would lead to her being “blasted” by liberals and progressives.  I understand that that is what happened when she said after the death of George Floyd that rioting was not peaceful protesting.  

In the fourth paragraph she says, “Abortion must be legal, regulated, and accessible,” but she says nothing about how abortion should be “regulated.”  Again, if she were to do so, she probably would be “blasted” by liberals and progressives. 

She says nothing specific and definitive about whether there are situations where abortion would not be a morally defensible decision.  She says nothing about the kinds, timing, and/or circumstances of abortions that the ELCA would not or might not support.  She says nothing about the difference between situations where abortion may be deemed “medically necessary” for the life, health, and well-being of the mother, and situations where abortion is an easy way to get rid of an inconvenience. 

One-sided concern

Her concern for protection is totally one-sided. 

In the fourth paragraph she says, “People who choose to have legal abortions should not be harassed,” but she shows no concern regarding –

  • The vandalizing of church buildings or the disruption of worship services for congregations with traditional views.
  • The picketing and protesting outside the homes of SCOTUS Justices with the intent to harass and intimidate.
  • The long-term effects of allowing people who need to make difficult decisions to be harassed and intimidated – whether at the federal or local level, or even in the church. 

Here is one more example of Bishop Eaton’s being very careful to make sure that she does not say anything that would result in her being “blasted” by liberals and progressives. 

She also does not address the whole issue of the leak of a SCOTUS document and how that kind of betrayal of trust undermines the integrity of our institutions. 


She engages in the same kind of fearmongering that has been running rampant in this situation.

In the sixth paragraph she says, “Any Supreme Court decision similar to the leaked draft. . . . has the potential to foster communities of conflict and moral policing rather than complex moral discernment.  It will likely endanger or cause the deaths of people who need an abortion.  And the legal bases (sic) established by any such decision threaten people’s access to birth control, same-sex marriage, voting rights and their right to privacy.”

Bishop Eaton makes these statements even though the draft opinion clearly states that the right to have an abortion is “fundamentally different” from “rights recognized in past decisions involving matters such as intimate sexual relations, contraception, and marriage.” (page 5)

She makes strong statements but then gives no evidence for how a change in one area (abortion) would threaten all these other areas.

Those who hold traditional views were belittled and ridiculed for their concerns leading up to 2009 regarding the slippery slope – that changing the ELCA’s position regarding same sex marriage would lead to other changes.  Here we see “the other side” having a major concern for the slippery slope.  

In the seventh paragraph she adds, “Any ruling similar to the leaked draft will . . . damage the health and well-being of many.  The prospect is daunting.”  Again, she is fearmongering. 

In the fifth paragraph Bishop Eaton says, “This church teaches that abortion and reproductive health care, including contraception, must be legal and accessible.”  By combining contraception with abortion within this sentence Bishop Eaton is again engaged in fearmongering – implying that if the Supreme Court takes away your right to an abortion, it may next take away your access to contraception. 

What the draft opinion actually says

A link to the draft opinion can be found here.

Please note these three significant sentences –    

  • “The constitution makes no mention of abortion.” (page 1)    
  • “No such right is implicitly protected by any constitution provision.” (page 5)
  • Therefore, the draft would “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” (page 6)  

Progressives/liberals say that the Supreme Court would make abortions illegal.  In actuality, the draft opinion would overturn Roe v. Wade’s holding of a federal constitutional right to an abortion.

The draft opinion would not make abortions illegal.  Instead it affirms that the constitution does not provide a basis for the right to an abortion.  The right to have an abortion – or the limitations to the right – should be based upon the action of individual states. 

In the sixth paragraph Bishop Eaton makes the statement, “I urge you to work locally to moderate any Supreme Court decision similar to the leaked draft.”  In making that statement she seems to be acknowledging what the draft opinion is actually doing – returning the decision to the states.

Bottom line

Bishop Eaton’s “Pastoral Message on Abortion” makes one wonder whether she actually read the draft opinion before writing a letter about it. 

She needs to be far more careful if she wishes to help contribute to “complex moral discernment” rather than “conflict and moral policing” (sixth paragraph).  Instead of helping to avoid conflict, she has created conflict by releasing a statement that is highly critical of a position held by many within the ELCA.  She is not serving well as presiding bishop of the whole church when she makes such strong statements that do not respect the diversity of viewpoint within the ELCA. 

Once again the ELCA communicates that in spite of all of its talk about diversity and inclusivity, traditional views and those who hold them are not welcome.  

* * * * * * *



Many thanks to NALC pastor Brett Jenkins for his review of two books which give a Biblical response to transgender ideology, a movement that is gaining predominance in our culture.  Brett writes –

Since the advent of the Renaissance, Christian orthodoxy has faced increasing challenges to its beliefs, primarily in the form of alternative spiritualities and, as the Renaissance became the Enlightenment, materialism in its various manifestations, including the Darwinian account of human origins.  The rise of transgenderism allied with postmodern assumptions presents a challenge on a new front, a front for which the Church is ill-prepared: human nature itself.  This fact makes these books worth reviewing.

When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment by Ryan T. Anderson

This book details the cut-and-thrust of academic and the politics it has influenced in bringing about a historical moment when the first question asked by new parents since the dawn of time, “Is it a boy or girl?” has become impossible—and in some cases, illegal—to answer.  It does so with evident compassion for those suffering from gender dysphoria while making clear that Christians and others sharing the conviction that culturally conditioned notions of gender have their roots in the objective fact of biological sex need to prepare themselves to be cultural pariahs.  They need to take self-consciously active steps to educate their communities in a narrative different from that being imposed by cultural elites.

Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution by Carl R. Trueman

In this book Carl Trueman provides a succinct, easy-to-read history of the ideas and thinkers that have led to the “transgender moment.”  This book was produced at the request of a thinktank for a resource for non-specialist teachers, leaders, and political staffers encapsulating the key insights of his 2020 book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution.  The book ends with some helpful suggestions for ways church leaders could contribute to the cultural conversation as well as provide pastoral responses and care for congregation members.

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

Thank you for your partnership in the Gospel. 

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. 

* * * * * * *


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. 

* * * * * * *


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!

* * * * * * *


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? 

* * * * * * *



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. 

* * * * * * *


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



I would like to tell you about two communications which I recently sent to ELCA leaders.  The first one I sent to Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.  The second one I sent to a synodical bishop.  As usual, I have heard nothing from Bishop Eaton.  I am very grateful to the synodical bishop, who I feel has very graciously and respectfully listened to and heard my concerns.

My communication to Bishop Eaton had to do with the slowness of her response to a crisis brewing within the ELCA’s Sierra Pacific Synod (SPS – northern California and northern Nevada).  Last December the SPS synod council took action to terminate the call of a Latino mission developer, and they implemented their decision on a day that is very special to the Latino community.  Please notice that I am not taking a position regarding the action taken by the SPS synod council.  What I am taking a position on is only the slowness of Bishop Eaton’s response – particularly in light of how quickly she will take a position and send out a communication on other matters that are not within her scope of authority, responsibility, and expertise.  Here is what I wrote to Bishop Eaton.

* * * * * * *

Dear Bishop Eaton –

I was astounded to learn that it took you over three weeks to send a communication to the ELCA Latino Ministries Association regarding the termination of call of the mission developer for the Mision Latina Luterana in Stockton, California. 

You have said that, as presiding bishop, you have no authority to interfere with the actions of synodical councils and synodical bishops, but I do not understand why it would take you over three weeks to reach out to the Latino community and acknowledge their confusion and pain over the loss of their pastor. 

When the verdict regarding Kyle Rittenhouse was announced, you almost immediately had a response and you spoke critically of the judicial system, as if you knew the facts of the case far better than those who were involved day after day with the case.

In your communication on the occasion of the eightieth anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, you did honor the veterans of World War II, and you did honor the memory of those who died in that conflict, including at Pearl Harbor, but you could not let it stay at that.  You also had to speak against racism.

There are plenty of issues, situations, and problems that need your attention in the organization over which you have oversight and responsibility.  I would suggest that you clean up your own house before you claim to be able to speak helpfully, insightfully, and authoritatively concerning matters over which other people have oversight and responsibility.

As one who has a deep love for Jesus,

Dennis D. Nelson

Retired ELCA Pastor

I purposefully signed the letter as “Retired ELCA Pastor” rather than “Executive Director of Lutheran CORE,” hoping that might increase the chances of my receiving a response.  So far it has not.

* * * * * * *


My letter to a synodical bishop had to do with that synod’s joining with the ELCA in making a Statement of Land Acknowledgement as a primary part of all of its communications.

First, some background information.

The February 2022 issue of ELCA Worship News contains a section entitled “Resources for Land Acknowledgement.”  A link to that section can be found here.

Reading that section raised several questions in my mind as I realize that the ELCA Churchwide offices on Higgins Road, as well as the offices of all sixty-five of the ELCA synods, as well as all of the ELCA congregations, are all located on land formerly occupied by native Americans. 

First, the whole matter of land acknowledgement must be very important to the ELCA because its Declaration to American Indian and Alaska Native People commits the ELCA “to begin the practice of land acknowledgements at all expressions of the church.”  The importance of this practice is also displayed in the fact that the introductory letter suggests all kinds of occasions and ways in which land acknowledgement statements could be used – read aloud at the beginning of every worship service, printed at the top of worship bulletins, used to create outdoor signage and a plaque for the narthex, and used at the beginning of zoom meetings.  

Second, this practice is clearly based upon the premise that all land in the United States is stolen land.  The resource document states, “All land is Indigenous land.”  The introductory letter states, “A land acknowledgement is a ritual intended solely to show gratitude to the land and acknowledge the original and Indigenous peoples from whom the land was stolen.”  (A whole other issue is the fact that I do not know what it means to show gratitude to the land – not gratitude for the land, gratitude to God for creating the land and making it a good land, or gratitude to those who developed the land, but gratitude to the land.)

Third, both the introductory letter and the resource document clearly state that the practice of land acknowledgement is only a first step – and an easy first step.  The introductory letter says, “This is arguably one of the easier commitments.”  The resource document adds, “We understand that this protocol is only a first step and that, as we venture into the world, we must learn more, do more and realize healing and justice for the Indigenous peoples whose lands we now occupy.”

In my communication to this synodical bishop, I summed up the content of the introductory letter and resource document.  I then made the following three observations.  I believe that this issue is even more significant and poignant in light of the fact that the congregations in that synod are significantly diminished, the giving from the congregations to the synod has dropped significantly in the past decade, the annual spending plan for the synod is much greater than the anticipated income, and a significant part of the shortfall is made up from funds obtained by selling the properties of closed congregations.  Here is what I wrote to that synodical bishop.

“First, if the synod feels that the land now occupied by its offices and congregations is stolen land, then the synod is morally obligated to return to native American people at least the value of the land whenever a congregation is closed and the property is sold.  If the synod does not do that, then the synod is clearly being complicit in the stealing of land from Indigenous persons.  The word ‘complicit’ is a word that the ELCA uses often to describe those whose attitudes and actions it is critical of.  Before I accuse someone else of being complicit, I need to ask whether there is any area where I am being complicit.

“I can certainly understand the synod’s not returning also the value of the buildings, because the buildings were not present when the land was stolen.  But if the synod does not want to be complicit in the stealing of land by holding onto the value of stolen land, and for the synod to act in a way that is consistent with its values, statements, and priorities, then the synod would need to return to Indigenous persons at least the value of the land.

“Second, if the synod chooses to remain complicit in the stealing of land, how could the synod have the integrity and moral authority to have a statement of land acknowledgement as part of its communications and worship services?  Having such a statement without also returning to Indigenous people the value of stolen land gives the impression that the synod is in favor of justice only if being in favor of justice does not cost the synod anything.    

“Third, if the synod chooses to remain complicit in the stealing of land, how could the synod have the integrity and moral authority – along with the ELCA – to advocate for reparations for people of African descent?

“I am reminded of what John the Baptist said to those who came out to hear him and be baptized by him.  ‘Bear fruit that befits repentance.’ 

“When the ELCA, including the (Synod), calls upon our country to repent of past evils and injustice, then the ELCA, including the (Synod), also needs to think through whether there are any ways in which they are being complicit in perpetuating those evils and injustices.

Blessings in Christ,

Dennis D. Nelson

I am constantly amazed over how arrogant, self-righteous, ungrateful, and inconsistent the “woke” agenda actually is.  You take what they say, bring it out to its logical conclusions, apply their standards and criteria to them, and it collapses.  We hear a lot about “white fragility.”  I think instead we should hear about “woke fragility.”