Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's Being Done at ELC

I returned a few minutes ago from Cokato Manor where I was able to share the gospel with our elders. What a wondrous thing to delve into the Word of God. We were reminded that none of us comes to our Lord as anything other than a sinner desperate for grace.

But I need to let you know what's going on--there have been many conversations--I am thankful for all who have called, emailed or spoken with me in person...

On the whiteboard in my office, and in my planning with our church council leadership, the following plan is taking shape as regards issues and relationship with the ELCA:
  1. Meet with other local ELCA pastors (has been done and is ongoing)
  2. Distribute "Questionnaire about denominational issues" (was in the Pulse newsletter and is available at church and by pdf by clicking here)
  3. Adopt the "Common Confession" (see letter below)
  4. Other actions as we decide (the church council and congregation will act)
  5. Focus on ongoing mission.
I hope everyone will fill out the questionnaire on denominational issues (available as a pdf by clicking here). It's not a perfect questionnaire. Some things could have been worded differently. Still, what you write will be important as we move forward.

The following letter and attachments were given to our church council president on August 24, about 10 days ago, immediately after the churchwide assembly. Our church council received copies via their church mailboxes on August 30. Copies will be placed in our Sunday bulletin this week.
August 24, 2009

Mr. _______, Congregation President
Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cokato, Minnesota

Dear _______:

Last week I attended the Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

At the assembly the ELCA adopted a Social Statement that lifts up ones personal conscience over the Word of God in matters related to morality and sexual conduct. Though our church says that it “accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life” the statement claims not to find clear truth about God’s purpose for sexuality in the Bible. Instead, the statement calls us to respect a variety of positions, especially in regard to homosexuality (see lines 809 -858). Furthermore, it says that our church “will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.”

Then, based on that social statement, the ELCA went on to endorse gay/lesbian sexual unions and will “find a way for people in such publically accountable, lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationships to serve as rostered leaders of this church.” I am not “anti-gay” but I am bound to the Word of God which, together with creation itself, testifies to the goodness of the male-female bond of marriage as the only God-blessed place for sexual intimacy. See my recent blog posts for more rationale.

For ten years I have been a member of WordAlone, a “network of congregations and individuals committed to the authority of the Word manifest in Jesus the Christ as proclaimed in Scripture and safeguarded through the work of the Holy Spirit. WordAlone advocates reform and renewal of the church, representative governance, theological integrity, and freedom from a mandated historic episcopate.” At a convention in 2004, WordAlone affirmed the “Biblical teaching about sexual life and its vision for marriage,” and rejects “any proposed change in standards and definitions for sexual life or marriage which contradicts this Biblical teaching.” The 2005 WordAlone annual convention called for an association of confessing congregations joined together by the Common Confession (click this link). That association became known as Lutheran CORE, the Coalition for Reform.

Lutheran CORE was an active presence at the just completed churchwide assembly. The Lutheran CORE website has more information on this group. I ask that our congregation approve the common confession and state its intent to join Lutheran CORE as a sign of solidarity with the many who are dismayed at the ELCA’s recent move away from Biblical teachings. I would like to meet with the church council about this as soon as possible. Please see [copy of CORE connection newsletter - click here for pdf) and the Lutheran Core website.


Pastor Steve Thorson
Attached to that letter was the Common Confession and a copy of a Lutheran CORE newsletter.

The next thing that happened was that our congregation president called a special "informal" council meeting. We met in the early morning (7 a.m.). People are busy and only 5 council members and 3 staff members attended. The council leadership will be providing information on Sunday. Our church council received copies of this last Sunday. Copies of this material will be in our church bulletin this Sunday, September 6.

None of this is trivial. All of this is important. We need to pray, speak honestly and with love, and listen carefully to one another. We will be providing an opportunity for our congregation members and friends to learn more at some sort of open forum--stay tuned for details.

In the midst of all of this don't forget about tonight's worship and praise event at the Dassel-Cokato High School PAC. I will have discount tickets available for tonight's EVENT. Just find me during the day or at the event. If you want to make out a check, make payable to Evangelical Lutheran Church for whatever you can afford.
  • 4:30 - Conversation & Bible study w/ Robin Mark (ticket required)
  • 6:00 - Food avail. from vendors - also conversation & prayer for our communities (no ticket required)
  • 7:30 - Praise & Worship in the PAC (ticket required)


  1. Hi Pastor Steve
    If our congregation joins Lutheran Core, does it mean that we would be no longer a part of the ELCA?

  2. That's a very good question and I'm sure others are asking it too. The short answer is that joining CORE does not remove us from the ELCA in any way. If the congregation at some time in the future would want to make a change of denomination, changing from ELCA to something else, there would need to be a significant process of discernment and conversation. Even if the congregation were entirely sure that is that it should do, it is NOT a change that could or should happen quickly. Joining Lutheran CORE would be a way to help those who are distressed over the change in church teachings feel as though they are understood and supported and provide an alliance for future action so our local church isn't acting alone.

    Here is a quote from the Lutheran CORE website:

    "The over-arching goal of Lutheran CORE is to be a voice for the Word of God within the church. We are, therefore, a confessing and confessional movement within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We seek the reform of our church according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, and we endorse the Common Confession as a summary of Lutheran convictions for our time and place. Lutheran CORE is open to all who share our commitment for reform — congregations, lay people, pastors, and other reform movements within the ELCA.

    "We (Lutheran CORE members) are committed to prayer for the ELCA and its leaders and to remain within the ELCA. We seek for ways to dialog with both synodical and churchwide leaders. We will continue to support our church, when its decisions and actions conform with the Word of God. We will provide criticism and serve as a loyal opposition, when our church diverges from the Word of God."

    That's from

    There will be a Lutheran CORE convocation in Indianapolis later this month (September 25-26)in the Indianapolis, Indiana area that will respond to the actions of the recent churchwide assembly, celebrate future shared ministry and mission, and adopt a constitution for Lutheran CORE. (See convocation brochure on the Lutheran CORE website.) What will happen in future months as a response takes form is not something any of us can pre-program or pre-arrange. We will need to take some time for learning and discussion and prayer.

    Is that helpful?

  3. Yes that was helpful. Thanks!

  4. It would be helpful and informative for our council members, staff and any other interested people to keep abreast of what is going on at Lutheran CORE. The CORE convocation approved a constitution and did some other work. They are now the "Coalition for Renewal." It is good to look at and at to keep informed.

    A meeting associated with CORE was held in Willmar on Sat., Oct. 5. Speak with the council members who attended (Gary Lankki and Bob Morris) to learn more about that. A helpful "What Do We Do Now" was presented. It gives at least three options as to how CORE can be helpful (pages 11, 12 & 13). Of course, local churches that are free to adopt or reject any of the CORE recommendations whether or not they are a part of CORE.