SEEKING MINISTRY PARTNERS
Lutheran CORE is in the process of asking faithful, orthodox ELCA pastors how we can be of help and support to them. Many thanks to those who have already responded. If you have not yet received a survey, or would like another copy of the survey, please contact me at
One of the ELCA pastors who is most worthy of our prayers and financial support is Pastor Samuel Nieva, who serves Pueblo de Dios Lutheran Church in Compton, California. During his final days in seminary Samuel Nieva heard that a Lutheran church had closed in Compton, which he describes as "one of the poorest and most violent cities in California." Upon hearing that news his heart became desperate to open again the doors of that church to receive a new, Latino immigrant community along with the few African American families who also live in the city. His response reminds me of the overwhelming grief and pain that Nehemiah experienced when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins (Nehemiah 1: 2-4).
I remember attending the worship service where Pueblo de Dios was recognized and received as a congregation of the ELCA's Southwest California Synod. The bishop mentioned that of all the mission starts that had been initiated during his term of office Pueblo de Dios was the first one to develop to the point where it was able to organize and be recognized as a congregation.
Because of the reputation of the community, I drove our older car, a Toyota Camry, to the service. When I got home there was being shown on television an episode of the program, "Bait Car." The idea is that law enforcement officers intentionally leave the keys in the ignition and the windows of a car rolled down in order to catch a would-be thief. The episode took place in Compton, just a few blocks from Pueblo de Dios. And what do you think the police officers used as the bait car? That's right. A Toyota Camry.
Pastor Nieva shares, "Pueblo de Dios is a Lutheran congregation who loves and respects the Word of God intensely." In a synod which is probably one of the most revisionist in the entire ELCA - Southwest California - Samuel Nieva and Pueblo de Dios boldly and unapologetically align themselves with and identify with Lutheran CORE. Theirs is a holistic ministry, sharing spiritual bread (the Word of God) along with material bread. During the past fifteen years they have distributed $960,000 worth of food. I remember a video which Samuel Nieva shared during his presentation last fall at the Encuentro, our annual Spanish language and bi-lingual ministries festival in the Chicago area. In that video a woman mentioned how much she values that the food they distribute includes vegetables, not just rice and beans, since so many of them are diabetic. Also part of their mission strategy is being involved with a Spanish language expression of Lutheran Cursillo and a discipleship ministry called 3DM.
According to Pastor Nieva, Pueblo de Dios is building hope "in the midst of the most adverse conditions that a human being can live in." In addition to their food distribution ministries they teach sewing and jewelry making, to help people start small family businesses. They work with community organizations like Compton Initiative to periodically clean up the city and paint homes and public buildings. They also participate in peace awareness events that work to curb gang violence. Pueblo de Dios is a model urban Lutheran church - bilingual and serving in a very prophetic and effective way in a very poor community.
All of this work is being done supported by an annual budget of only $75,000. The people who are a part of the congregation give as much as they are able out of their extremely limited resources. The goal for congregational receipts is $25,000, plus the congregation does have a few ministry partners, who are giving a total of $11,000.
Our goal is to help Pastor Nieva and Pueblo de Dios raise the amount received per year from ministry partners to $50,000. At the current time Pueblo de Dios is receiving $24,000 a year from the ELCA Churchwide and $5,000 per year from the Southwest California Synod. These amounts are at risk of being reduced, plus Pastor Nieva does not want to be financially dependent upon the ELCA. If you feel that God is speaking to you and/or your congregation about the needs of this most effective, faithful, and powerful orthodox ministry, please contact me at
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WHAT WILL IT BE NEXT?
I have often wondered - with their fully embracing and constantly promoting and empowering the entire LGBTQIA+ agenda - whether the leaders of the ELCA actually know that what they are doing is outside of, beyond, and in violation of what was actually approved at the 2009 Churchwide Assembly.
As I have pondered the question, I have come up with five possible answers -
They do not know. They do not realize the difference. Just as in Exodus 1: 8, which tells us that "a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph," so the current leaders of the ELCA do not know what actually happened and do not know what actually was approved in 2009.
They are hoping that those who hold to traditional views do not know and will not realize the difference between what ELCA leaders are saying happened and what actually happened. They are hoping that we will think that what they are doing is merely an inevitable extension of and the logical next step after what has already been approved and what is being done.
They are so certain that what they doing is right that things like keeping promises and honoring commitments do not matter.
They are hoping that if they just say it often enough, long enough, loud enough, and strongly enough, the full LGBTQIA+ agenda will prevail - and hopefully sooner rather than later.
That as the prevailing convictions in our culture change, as a whole new generation of seminary students and pastors are being trained, and as the percentage of the membership of the ELCA who fully embrace or at least accept the full LGBTQIA+ agenda becomes high enough, they will be able to put in writing and put up for a vote what has been the agenda all along and they will get a strong enough level of support for where all of this has been heading all along.
There is a very strange, but I believe significant, ELCA News article on the "Living Lutheran" website dated May 20 and entitled "Trustworthy Servants of the People of God: Review and redraft process." A link to that article can be found here. In the first paragraph it tells of how the ELCA Church Council declined to consider "Trustworthy Servants of the People of God," which had been recommended to them by the ELCA Conference of Bishops, and instead referred it back to the Domestic Mission unit for revision. "Trustworthy Servants" is the document which had been intended to replace "Vision and Expectations" as a "guide for pastors and deacons, naming the expectations for integrity and faithfulness that the church holds for its rostered ministers." So far what the article is saying is true.
But then in the second paragraph it says that the 2009 Churchwide Assembly "adopted the social statement 'Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,' which welcomed LGBTQIA members into full participation in the ELCA as rostered leaders." That is not true. The social statement did not welcome everyone who would identify with any of the letters L, G, B, T, Q, I, or A into full participation as an ELCA rostered leader. Rather it recognized that the members of the ELCA are not in agreement regarding same-gender committed relationships, it identified four different perspectives that are held by members of the ELCA, and it acknowledged that those who hold to these four different views do so "with conviction and integrity."
It was not the social statement, but instead the ministry policies, which were adopted at that same assembly, which spoke of who would now be able to serve as rostered leaders of "this church." And it was not every variety of LGBTQIA person, as the article stated, but instead only people in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships." There is a difference - a significant difference. But what we are seeing now is a relentless effort to push the boundaries way beyond what was actually approved in 2009.
Sometimes it is very in your face, such as the loud objections to the "Trustworthy Servants" document, which forced it to be sent back to committee for review and rewriting, because it is too conservative. Another striking example is the statements from the "We Are Naked and Unashamed" movement, which arose out of an ELCA seminary and which says that requiring pastors and seminary students to be married in order to be sexually active is oppressive and culturally irrelevant.
A third example would be what is reported to be happening at ELCA seminaries. A recent graduate of an ELCA seminary told me that at the seminary where he attended, "Gay is passe. It is now transgenderism." According to this person, "Transgenderism advocacy is rampant. They want to totally eliminate marriage for sexuality."
Other times it is more subtle. For example, one of the petitions in the Sundays and Seasons prayers for May 12 began as follows: "Raise up faithful women as witnesses to your strength and compassion. Bless mothers and all who offer mothering care." So far, excellent and very appropriate petitions. After all, the day was Mothers' Day. The petition continues, "Protect victims of sexism, abuse, and gender-based violence." Again, very good. We should be concerned for, pray for, and work to protect victims of sexism, abuse, and gender-based violence.
But then, after getting us to agree so far, the petition concludes, "Restore dignity to those marginalized because of their gender identity or sexual orientation."
I have two problems with that petition. First, it is not accurate. It denies the reality that the marginalized today are not those with non-traditionally normative gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Rather the marginalized today are those who hold to a traditional view of marriage and human sexuality.
My greater objection is that that petition politicalizes prayer. Prayer is a way for me to talk with God. It is not a way for me to talk to those around me and promote my political agenda.
Another example of this incessant, unrelenting, but sometimes subtle promotion of the entire LGBTQIA+ agenda within the ELCA can be found in an article entitled "Following God to the margins" on pages 36 and 37 of the May 2019 issue of "Living Lutheran." A link to that issue can be found here. The author states, "Grounding ourselves deeply in Scripture reveals a better way - the Jesus way - that . . . makes space for people of all genders to become disciples." Not just the two genders mentioned in the Bible as the way God created us - male and female - but all genders. Presumably all genders of the LGBTQIA+ agenda. And then the author gives a most curious Scripture reference to support her concept of making space for people of all genders to become disciples. She gives Luke 10: 38-42, which tells the story of Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha. How can this account of two sisters and our Lord be a story that promotes making space for people of all genders (more than two) to become disciples unless the author is claiming that either Mary or Martha or both were people of non-normative gender identity or sexual orientation? And if she is claiming that, it makes you wonder how she ever came up with that one - and why the editor of "Living Lutheran" would allow it to be included in the magazine.
Later in the article in this ELCA publication the author writes, "We ought to respect the nonbinary bodies of intersex, transgender and gender-nonconforming children of God." Mark my word. This process within the ELCA will not stop until every single gender identity and sexual orientation of the LGBTQIA+ agenda has been accepted and marriage is no longer the norm for sexual activity. And if - within the past ten short years - the ELCA has gone so far beyond what was actually approved in 2009, it makes you wonder. Once everything that is being pushed for now becomes acceptable and accepted, what will it be next? It makes me shudder even to ask that question.
In the editor's note introducing the article it says that the author "remembers falling in love with Scripture while wrestling with the ways it has been used to exclude, traumatize and marginalize people." The reports I hear from ELCA seminaries is that the students who are being excluded, traumatized, and marginalized are not those who have nonbinary bodies or are gender-nonconforming, but instead those with traditional views of the Bible, theology, the mission of the church, and moral values, including human sexuality.
The "Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust" social statement, which was approved by the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and which was referenced earlier in this article, identified four different perspectives that members of the ELCA hold "with conviction and integrity" and it calls upon "all people to live out their faith . . . with profound respect for the conscience-bound belief of the neighbor." Can you even imagine the ELCA publication, "Living Lutheran," including an article espousing the traditional view of human sexuality? And can you even imagine the critical, negative pushback that the author of that article would suffer?
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BISHOP EATON'S SLIPPERY USE OF LANGUAGE
IN HER LETTER REGARDING ABORTION
Another example of a slippery use of language can be found in a letter on abortion from ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton dated May 30, 2019. A link to that letter can be found here.
At first Bishop Eaton gives the impression that there actually is room for both the pro-life as well as the pro-choice position within the ELCA. In the first paragraph she says, "The members of this church have divergent beliefs and opinions about whether or not abortion should be legal." In the second paragraph she says, "As a church we are made up of members who have had abortions and members who have chosen not to." She even gives cause for hope for those who hold to a pro-life position when in the third paragraph she refers to the ELCA's 1991 social statement on abortion and says, "Through this social teaching and policy statement, this church seeks to travel a moderating path."
But then she shows that she clearly is on the pro-choice side when she says in the fourth paragraph, "Amid the legislative challenges to access to abortion, we must remember that this church supports ongoing access to legal abortion as well as access to abortion services and reproductive health care that is not restricted by economic factors."
In a church which claims that there is room for a wide range of views on marriage and human sexuality, including the traditional view, but there really is only room for one view - the full LGBTQIA+ agenda - we should not be surprised that there will be statements that make it sound like there is room for both the pro-life and pro-choice views on abortion, but there really is only room for one view - the pro-choice view.