Exposing “The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) EXPOSED”

It has become sport to attack the ELCA these days.  The ELCA is a flawed institution like every institution.  It is contaminated with sin just as every other human endeavor.  Martin Luther claimed that even our worship of God is tainted.  What characterizes many of these attacks is “painting with a huge brush” objections some have.  One example of this is a website that claims to “Expose” the ELCA.  Here are some of the author’s key points about why persons should leave the ELCA, and my comments.  I offer this as “pondering material”.  My statements are indented and in bold.

The ELCA is promoting a brand of “universal salvation.” The Lutheran Study Bible says, “Jesus includes in salvation people who do not believe in him or even know about him.” That is not Biblical. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

In the first printing of “The Lutheran Study Bible” the website’s author is correct.  The systematic theologian writing the study notes for Matthew 28 did include that phrase.  It is my understanding that in subsequent printings, it has been changed/removed.  It would be interesting to debate this more inclusive view of salvation.  What can we say about God’s grace as applied to those who do not know about Christ?  If indeed baptism is necessary and life begins at conception, what about stillborn persons?  Is there room for God’s grace beyond those “who believe and are baptized”?  Let’s at least raise the question and discuss it!

This denomination teaches that Jesus did not say what the Bible says He said. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

As a pastor in this denomination, I’m not aware that I do this, nor am I aware that anyone else teaches this.  The charge is very short on details.

They date the writings of scripture by seeing when “prophecies are fulfilled” and decide there is no way the writers could know what would happen before hand, so they decide scripture must have been written after the fulfillment. i.e. – God not involved. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

I think this is an attack against modern Biblical scholarship.  If so, then I’d simply reply that when prophets and others write, with God involved, it is entirely possible that the authors believe themselves to be writing about one thing, and God uses it for something in addition.  For example, in Isaiah, when the author writes that a young woman will conceive and bear a child, the immediate application was a promise that before that child was weaned certain events would occur.  It is a poetic way of describing time.  Later, others used the phrase and applied it to Jesus.  Please don’t tear away contextual meaning from scripture, because when you do that, you violate scripture.

The ELCA does not believe there is prophecy in the Bible! There are hundreds of places where the Bible says there is! Jesus says many times that it does. Some people say over 25% of the Bible is prophetic. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

It depends on what you mean by prophesy.  I understand that often prophecy is interpreting current events in light of God’s action in the world.  If prophecy only means “prediction of future events” then many Biblical scholars across the church will take issue with the definition.

This denomination has denied God’s authorship of the Holy Bible, as evidenced from the listing above. And the Bible even refers to itself as Holy (2 Timothy 3:15). Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

More inflammatory rhetoric here.  Look, in a legitimate debate, using 2 Timothy 3:15 as proof will completely fail.  It relies on circular logic.  If by “God’s authorship of the Holy Bible” means that every word is literally true and factually accurate and there are no metaphors, parables (other than that which is called a parable) or the like then I’m guilty as charged!  This Bible is a library.  It contains a wide variety of literature that is God-breathed, and that the people of God have found to speak God through.  Come on, even the genealogies of Jesus don’t agree.  I’d suggest a reading of Karen Armstrong’s books for some interesting perspectives for debate. (That reference will get me labeled a “flaming liberal”!)

The ELCA has taken a stand against Israel. They threaten to stop all financial relations with Israel. They want Jerusalem and parts of Israel given to the Arabs. God gave Israel that land. It states it clearly in the Bible. God confirmed it with Isaac and Jacob that the land was for them. This is against God’s will, and it is an action that the Bible warns about. “In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land.” Joel 3:1-2. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

The Bible also commands hospitality to the sojourner and that the laws apply equally to the people of God and to the resident alien.  Is the modern state of Israel the same as the Israel of the Bible?  Not necessarily so!  God has delivered Israel into the hands of its enemies many times in scripture when it was disobedient.  Is this a like time?  The Evangelical Christian tendency to support the nation of Israel at all costs is often disingenuous.  Many see it as a way of inviting the second coming of Jesus more quickly.  Just maybe the ELCA is serving God as a prophet to the modern nation state of Israel.  Read the prophets once again!  What does the Lord require but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.

The ELCA supports abortions in their medical coverage. They also actively promote and lobby for the use of public funds for abortions. Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

I hear this pretty consistently and I don’t have any factual information to say about this.  Abortion is tragic and undesirable … but I know that if it is to occur, I’d rather it be done by medical personnel.

The ELCA and others supporting homosexuality try every kind of theological gymnastic move to make the the Bible mean something other than what it says. They even try this when God so clearly says homosexuality is a sin. They also try to say Revelation is not about prophecy, even when the biblical author writes “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw–that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev. 1:1-2) In reality, what the ELCA is doing is calling the Biblical authors and God, LIERS! Is this the denomination we want to have ties to?

Homosexuality is the issue that seems to be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  The Bible says a lot of things that are difficult and require interpretation.  Sometimes we’ve gotten that right.  Sometimes we’ve gotten that wrong.  Each generation must wrestle with the text in a way to be faithful to it.  Many serious and faithful scholars disagree about what the texts that seem to be about homosexuality say and don’t say.  I say, let’s engage in the conversation without resorting to “slander” (which is also listed in scripture as something we should not do … within a few verses of one of the most commonly quoted passages about homosexuality).  Likewise, serious scholars have discovered contemporary meaning to the time it was written in the apocalyptic writings of The Revelation.  In the text itself it says, “what must soon take place”.  Is 2000 years your idea of soon?  (And don’t give me the thousand years is but a day to God quote.)


That is enough.  At least I’ve got that off my chest.

Pondering Pastor


24 responses to “Exposing “The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) EXPOSED”

  1. I’m grateful for people like you that take people to task for their misguided, uninformed bashing of our imperfect denomination. There are plenty of things to criticize about the ELCA without having to manufacture lies about our polity and beliefs.

    Regarding the ponderous notes made in the Lutheran Study Bible on the Great Commission, the author of those notes (Dr. Duane Priebe) offered a lengthy explanation of what he wrote. http://erikullestad.blogspot.com/2009/06/great-commission.html

    (I’m truly not trying to promote my own blog on yours…I just thought Dr. Priebe’s reflections might be of value in the conversation that is sure to follow.)

  2. I too would like to thank you for addressing these things that I deal with myself. Often they come when I mention what church I go to (“oh, you go to THAT church). Thanks for you loving insight and thoughtful invitation to discuss rather than yell.

  3. Since finding your blog, I have enjoyed reading your posts, especially since you allow room for folks to wrap their minds around interesting concepts. We don’t agree on every issue, but listening to many points of view is what helps us all round out sound thinking.

    If you don’t mind, I have placed a link on the sidebar of my blog to yours so that those who visit might perhaps find their way here as well.

    Again, thanks for your insight.

    • ponderingpastor

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, listening to one another is key. We tend not to do enough of that.

      Pondering Pastor

  4. I also thank you for the insightful comments. The narrow minded and bigoted lack of acceptance of the differences between people and their many beliefs is to me inhumane, unacceptable and unchristian. I am interested in now in Bible prophesy, especially in The Revelation. A study bible i use says that the John who wrote the 4th gospel is probably not the John who is the writer of the last book of the Bible. Another study guide says he is. Where could one go to get the most up to date Biblical scholarship on this? Thank you so much!

  5. After growing up in the Missouri Synod and attending one year of college there as a potential church worker….all I can say is that: THIS SOUNDS SO FAMILIAR! Are they sure they belonged in the ELCA in the first place?? Because it is exactly that lack of Biblical hermenuetic that made me walk from LCMS in the first place.

  6. If you don’t like ELCA then don’t go there, but why bash it. Do you think Jesus would do that?

  7. Thank you, sir, for posting this. I have been interested in the ELCA Lutheran Church (and been somewhat involved in it) since at least early 2009, and have several or more Lutheran ancestors. So far, the foundational documents and socio-theological statements from the denomination that I have seen are far from unorthodox. Granted, I have only been in two congregations (about 200 miles apart from each other; I lived in different areas between college and my home city), but, additionally, I also heard nothing in either place which is contradictory to the Gospel or the essential doctrines. In my opinion and in my experiences, the people of the ELCA also seem to be more Christ-like (loving, peaceful, reasonable) on average than many other denominations I’ve had interactions with.

    It just irritates me that so many of the splinter groups and other people attacking the ELCA seem to be like the “one-issue voters” in the realm of religion matters. Even if it were sinful, isn’t homosexuality on par with any other sin? In other words, isn’t sin in any form equally sin? What is so special and incriminating about homosexuality?

    Anyways, great post, and God Bless you.

  8. In reading some of the responses to this article, it seems they are missing the point. Those who are disappointed in the ELCA are worried about the direction the denomination is taking. For example look at the seminaries and lutheran colleges that are promoting open sexuality and condoning premarital sex, as well as offering skits on how to respect others who are having sex in your dorm room if there is a hat on the door. Or the lutheran college in Ia that has an annual gay and lesbian drag night. How about the fact that the ELCA health insurance covers abortions no matter what the reason. Lets also look at the California church called Her Church that has changed the Lord’s Prayer to begin ” Our mother who art within us…”
    And yes we are all sinners in the need of Gods forgiveness , but the issue is condoning the sin and accepting it instead of helping us as sinners to recognize and turn away from the sin.
    Rewarding the sin is what the ELCA is doing, and it is not what God intended for us.

    • ponderingpastor

      Every congregation which leaves the ELCA makes this church poorer and pushes the church to the left. You see, the matter is that the ELCA is what the congregations determine it to be. It is not some monolithic entity. The polarization that is taking place, especially from those who are determined to leave the ELCA is inherently unhealthy. Grace and obedience are both necessary. The moment we think of one as more important than the other … is the moment we have been unfaithful.

      [Tongue in cheek comment follows.] I’m glad that all members of those congregations that are leaving the ELCA are 100% orthodox, and there is no heresy in any of those individual members.

      The abortion thing gets carted out pretty often. Anyone in the congregation you are a member of ever have an abortion?

      Nothing new about sexual activity in colleges of the ELCA. I was in a Lutheran college in the 1970s. Sex was a pretty frequent occurrence then, even before the ELCA! I promise you, illicit sexual activity is taking place among some of the people in the congregation also.

      Pondering Pastor

      • Are you really a pastor or just pretending, because you make no sense at all.
        “You see, the matter is that the ELCA is what the congregations determine it to be. It is not some monolithic entity” The ELCA is what happens to a denomination when they are of the world and not in the world. Our congregation could easily vote to reject the ELCA statements
        and go with the flow and not make waves. What would the point be in belonging to the ELCA Club and paying dues to support someone elses agendas.
        “Regarding abortion, the issue is not about knowing someone who has had an abortion but supporting a denomination that offers to pay for the murder of a child.
        As far as sexuality in colleges of the ELCA, again I say, it is not about knowing that there is sexual activity but the fact that the colleges are providing avenues of acceptance of for such activity.
        I went to college in the 70’s and had a good old time, but when I grew up I knew my children would go to a Christian college because my husband and I wanted the best faith based professors to mentor them and serve as Godly examples. Well that was a waste, so why would someone choose to send their child to an ELCA school who’s attitude has nothing to do with Biblical teachings.
        And yes I dare say that we all have seen illicit sexual activity in our congregation as well as many other sins, if we didnt all sin there would be no need to go to church. We are to observe, address and repent of our sins. If all our sins are okay, I’m okay, you’re okay, he’s okay ,it’s okay, we’re all okay.,lets just all get along. Then why did Christ have to die on the cross. It is our job to love our brothers enough to steer them away from sin and each of us help each other to recognize and repent .
        “The polarization that is taking place, especially from those who are determined to leave the ELCA is inherently unhealthy. Grace and obedience are both necessary” What is unhealthy is condoning and encouraging sin . For some reason the ELCA supporters like to assume that those who do not agree with them are bigots , racists, hateful, and unwelcoming. We are people who have seen the world , we are young , old , world travelers and educated. I have lived in Europe and seen the progressive attitudes my relatives have there. I have cousins that are gay, my daughter lived with 3 gay men when she was in school. We still stay in touch with those men because we love them but dont agree with their sinful lifestyle. My husband was an alcholic and my daughter was addicted to cocaine, praise God they are clean an sober for 28 yrs and 6 yrs respectively. So you are not talking to someone who is on the outside looking in or as one person earlier wrote “a bigoted old white man”.
        Yes, like someone earlier wrote ” Even if it were sinful, isn’t homosexuality on par with any other sin? In other words, isn’t sin in any form equally sin? What is so special and incriminating about homosexuality?” The answer to this last question is the act of homosexual relations is a sin not homosexuality. We dont want our pastors to be sinless, that would be impossible, but we do ask that they know what is and what isnt a sin. If we hire a person who has commited murder but has repented and paid his debt to society , why wouldnt we take his word that he is a changed person and hire him. But if why would we hire that same person if he said he was born to kill and will keep on killing and if we dont hire him we are judging him for the way God made him. The difference is REPENTANCE.

      • ponderingpastor

        I think I’ll take some time in my blog to respond to your questions/comments. You raise some important points that I’d like to address. Thanks for writing.

  9. Sharon b,
    You have hit the nail on the head. I Thank You, and totally agree with you.

  10. Is the ELCA using the same study Bible & Catechism as LCMS or WELS?

    • ponderingpastor

      No. The LCMS produced their own study Bible. When I reviewed the promotional materials it appeared as though the study Bible produced by the LCMS discounted a century of Biblical scholarship and affirmed a literal/fundamentalist perspective while discounting any other perspectives. The ELCA published study Bible has received only criticism from LCMS. As far as WELS, I’ve had essentially no contact with clergy or members of this denomination. I understand they would even refuse to pray with me as an ELCA pastor.

      • I’m not very old, 34, and initially grew up in the KJV, a brief period of some NIV, and now use the ESV Church wide. My parents have the older study Bible, somewhere, in addition to using the current ESV that I have now. I was confirmed out of the blue Catechism and my daughters will be out of the reddish-brown one. We now use the reddish-brown hymnal too, which doesn’t compare to the bright red. The new ones are too Catholic mass in nature.

      • Well, now here is a problem we have. The old CONCORDIA BLUE CATECHISM, circa 1943. I was confirmed using this catechism, too. One day, as a member of the old American Lutheran Church I came to a RUDE discovery as a DIRECTOR OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION. Here it is: It was NOT WRITTEN BY MARTIN LUTHER. No, in fact all the extra commentary as well as those lovely BIble Passage proof texts DID NOT COME FROM LUTHER. Only the main parts of the catechism and explanation.

        —-The rub is that this was a major form of INDOCTRINATION as written by some LCMS professor or ??? that was added to the small catechism WITHOUT ANY ATTRIBUTION to a different person. Even today on the Concordia Publishing website, this catechism is SOLD as if it is in its entirety written by LUTHER without the awareness that it contains a bunch of explanation which pushes the small catechism in certain directions…most of which I have had to UNLEARN.

        —-That is why so many of us are truly still “recovering from our LCMS roots”.
        The freedom of being a Lutheran is refreshing. Being narrow in one’s uunderstandings is not. We are either SAVED BY GRACE or we are not. Anything other than grace, including your beliefs or your faith is not GRACE.
        Those are merely RESPONSES to the grace of God.

      • 2,372 Pages in my LCMS study Bible and approximately 2,112 pages in the ELCA study Bible; so where is that additional “century of Biblical scholarship”?

        “ LCMS discounted a century of Biblical scholarship”
        “No, in fact all the extra commentary as well as those lovely Bible Passage proof texts DID NOT COME FROM LUTHER.”

        Martin Luther didn’t live a full century and therefore wouldn’t have produced a century’s worth of commentary. If the ELCA has this missing “century” of commentary available in their study Bible; then neither would it have been produced by Martin Luther himself.

        Could you be more specific as these comments are too vague in the accusations towards the LCMS publishing of study Bibles?

      • ponderingpastor

        Sigh … The LCMS study bible discounts the historical critical method, taking a shot at it in its opening pages. As instrumental as Luther was, he was not the end of Biblical interpretation/scholarship and he was sometimes wrong. The LCMS line of Biblical Fundamentalism or literalism is actually contrary to much of what Luther taught. But it is in these matters where LCMS and ELCA theologians disagree, and where you and I will differ also.

  11. Pleased to meet you, pondering pastor. I was brought up and confirmed at the Zebaoth Lutheran Church in Milwaukee, a Wisconsin Synod church, pastored by Arthur Tacke. I loved his catechism classes, and memorizing those scriptures. They have stood me in great stead since. In 1954, I got saved in a Pentecostal atmosphere. What a difference. Since then I have majored in “religion” at several colleges. I even tried my hand as pastor and evangelist for a year or so, and I found I wasn’t really material for that. Nevertheless, I have stayed with my pentecostal beliefs ever since, and have served in several churches as a lay person. My secular work was as a court reporter for over 40 years, and am now retired. I find a discussion like this invigorating. If you would like to, contact me at remayer34@yahoo.com. I think I have some interesting insights you might enjoy for a change.

  12. Katherine Leonore Bruno

    My concern is the perception that the ELCA is anti-Israel. Correct me if I am wrong, but we not interested in our fellow Christians in Jordan and the Holy Land? A Palestinian is the president of the LWF. Why should we not promote justice for everyone in the Holy Land? Caring about the health and safety of those in Palestine doesn’t make us anti-Israel. Let us not forget the six Lutheran congregation there.

    BTW, the church has been ordaining gays for a couple of thousand years. NOW someone noticed?

    When I was very young, I asked my dad, a ULC/LCA/ELCA pastor for 50 years, if his pinochle partner, the rabbi, would be kept out of heaven because he didn’t believe in Jesus’ divinity. “Aren’t you glad that’s not your decision?” he answered. Since then, I’ve never worried about other people’s relationships with God. It isn’t my decision (and a good thing, too!). The rabbi used to show up every year at our church on New Year’s day– the Feast of the Name and Circumcision of Jesus. He said it was a feast he could really get behind. Then he and my dad would make scrambled eggs for the ten or so people who showed up.

    Remember the poor LCMS pastor who was censured, and I think lost his pulpit, because he took part in an ecumenical memorial service right after 9/11?

    Personally, I prefer ecumenism. I think Jesus did.

    I live in Vermont, where about 85% of the population sleeps in on Sundays. If we can’t figure out a way to get along, Lutherans here will lose heart and what little identity we have and in 100 years, will all be sucked in to some generic Unitarian-looking thing. Or is this just our argument du jour that will keep us at odds until the next Franklin Clark Fry shows up? After all, we couldn’t reunite until 52 years after the Civil War, and then it took another 50 to make everyone speak English.

    Dear Dr. Fry, we could use the likes of you right now.

  13. It is very convenient you do not have any facts about ELCA’s support of abortion. Could it be that if you looked into it you would find it to be true? By definition, a Christian cannot support abortion and must abhor abortion. Your throw away comment about if they occur you’d prefer to be done by medical personnel is tantamount to saying I’d murder occurs I hope it is done by professional murderers.

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