Below is the account of an orthodox, Bible-believing seminary student who attended the ELCA's United Lutheran Seminary. We conversed over email at couple years ago and then again last week. What follows is Joseph's letter to me and to everyone reading, about his experience attending the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America seminary.
At the time of our correspondence, I was unsure of what direction my vocation was going to take so I did not want to divulge too much information about what I was encountering at seminary, for fear of retaliation from the so-called “powers that be.“ I use quotations because the people who are in charge of the ELCA are not actually the ones who are running the show. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
The reason why I am writing today is because I feel that my personal story and experience might be of some benefit to your readers. First and foremost, I must be transparent in stating that I have since left seminary and Lutheranism altogether and returned to the Catholic Church of my roots. Recognizing that there are many Lutherans of a more traditional practice who might be skeptical of Roman Catholic theology, I want to emphasize the fact that we have far more in common with one another than those same traditional Lutherans might have with ELCA Lutherans, and the proof is in the proverbial pudding. Putting all theological differences and minutiae aside, I think I can say with certainty that traditional Lutherans and traditional Catholics are at least mutually faithful to the basic tenets of Christ’s teachings. With that said, I would like to share a little bit of what I experienced—and what I still observe from social media posts and the ongoing firsthand accounts of friends who are ELCA clergy—friends who I cherish. They are not the intended target of this expose.
It has been said, ad nauseam I might add, that the ELCA is the “whitest denomination in America.” This is a common phrase uttered by some of the loudest, most bloviating “pastors” in the ELCA. Statistically speaking this may very well be the case. But what I find most interesting about that is the fact that the individuals who are so quick to utter this phrase are the same individuals who initiate every attempt at dialogue with the preemptive notion that if you’re white, you have an obligation to “listen” and not speak and this is actually done as a means of shutting down the dialogue before it can even begin. So if the denomination is 99%+ white, what they’re saying is that only they, the small 1%—many of whom are also white, interestingly enough— should be allowed to speak. This is neither dialogue nor an attempt at equality; it is a hostage situation. And in no venue was this made clearer than in the seminary classroom.
I had a professor of New Testament studies who started the semester right out of the gate by informing the class that if you were a white, straight, “cisgender” male, you had an obligation to stay quiet and allow other people to speak before you. Understandably this put a number of us in the position of feeling like we were paying for classes that we were being discouraged from participating in. So I took the professor’s advice and decided not to say a word in class. As the semester went on, that professor started to become passive-aggressively antagonistic toward me by calling on me at random times to contribute—usually when she knew that my opinion on the topic du jour would likely lead me to say something that the “wokesters” in the class would pounce on. I chose not to give her what she was looking for, as there is no winning on their idealistic playing field, and of course she decided to dock participation points from my grade. This same professor--and others--would dock points if you referenced God as "Father." When I explained that God as my Father was the only way I knew how to encounter Him, I was told "it's not all about you."
At that time, I was still writing for a Catholic blog and I wrote a critique that was aimed at dispelling all of the nonsensical, heretical revisionist history being spewed out in her class. The fact that I wrote for this website was not, to my knowledge, known to my classmates at the time. Little did I know that the “Google sleuths” were hard at work trying to dig up material to use against me. And they succeeded, though I must say that I was not exactly hiding anything as it was all public information in plain sight. This led to almost weekly summonses to the Dean’s office where my guidance counselor and this same professor would be waiting to interrogate me and threats would be made to “call my candidacy committee.” In other words, my orthodoxy was being used against me. During one rather bizarre exchange, I was leaving class one afternoon and was blindsided by a seminarian who proceeded to scream at the top of her lungs, crying maniacally with snot bubbles and an Oscar-worthy act, calling me a racist, a sexist, a transphobe, an imperialist, a supremacist and every other “-ist” imaginable because she had come across an article I had written in defense of Western Civilization--I was, after all, a history major during undergrad. This was in a crowded hallway in front of my peers. This was supposed to be graduate school.
I was repeatedly threatened by other professors, many of whom I genuinely believe felt pressured to enforce and live up to the standards set by the loudest and most unhinged seminarians and pastors, that they were going to contact my candidacy committee about things that I wrote in assignments or said in class. I was told on a number of occasions that fellow seminarians did not “feel safe“ being in the same building as me because I identified as pro-life. I was told that I was anti-woman and unchristian for opposing abortion on the unthinkable grounds that all human life is sacred. A self-described “abortion doula” said that she did not feel her kids were safe around me because I was a homophobe and micro-aggressive mansplainer. When it was learned that I had attended Latin Mass in my early 20's at the private chapel of Mel Gibson, I was branded a white supremacist and an anti-Semite. When that young high school student, Nick Sandmann, stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March for Life while an activist banged a drum in his face, I applauded him in class for maintaining a dignified composure. I was branded a “colonizer” and anti-Native American for that.
In my Congregational Education (I think that was the title) course, I gave a presentation in class on Martin Luther‘s devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and I was told that I was trying to infuse patriarchal Catholicism into the seminary environment. I’m not really sure how that conclusion was reached based on the presentation I gave but then again logic and reason were probably considered “white supremacist“ on campus. Simply using the word “civility“ was considered racist. If that does not exemplify the soft bigotry of low expectations, I don’t know what does. And I suppose the part that amuses me the most is the fact that throughout this entire fiasco, my mentor and closest advisor on campus was a black Baptist professor—who I am still close with today—who was, at every stage of the game, flabbergasted by the charges lobbed against me. Of course the “wokesters” would call me racist for mentioning that, because in their world everything that they say is racist is de facto racist but this brings me back to my main point which is that the hierarchy of the ELCA, flawed as they may be theologically, is being held hostage. They no longer have any power because the small minority of individuals who openly brag about the fact that they are looking to dismantle everything, including orthodox theology, controls the narrative. If the presiding Bishop or other bishops say anything that the “wokesters” disagree with, they are swarmed upon and branded every negative thing under the sun. If those same bishops say nothing on an issue, they are charged with being complicit in bureaucratic and systemic white supremacy. So either way, the well-meaning bishops lose and the “wokesters” win at their own rigged game. By appealing to the court of secular public opinion, this small minority of heretical activist "pastors" are actively destroying the church from within and with great success.
During my time as a vicar at a rather conservative Long Island parish, I was repeatedly told that the needs of my parishioners, many of them law enforcement officers and firefighters, didn’t matter because they were part of the “systemic white oppressiveness” that the “wokesters” were trying to dismantle. It was my obligation, they would say, to “challenge” them and oppose their “racism.” I never saw any racism at this parish. I simply saw people who loved God and loved their neighbors. This was a parish that routinely filled the church for all three Sunday services—unlike the first parish I was initially assigned to in Philadelphia where we averaged around 11 people for the one service they held every Sunday, but hey, at least they were “woke” and “relevant.” I lasted for three weeks at that parish until a parishioner said he would no longer attend the parish if I was there because he saw something I wrote on social media about the possible connection between mental illness and gender dysphoria. No conversation took place about it, I was simply told that I needed to find a new placement because this individual “didn’t feel safe” around me. I never realized what a menacing, imposing individual I was. Nevertheless, the fact that the parish that is attracting hundreds of people every Sunday with their orthodoxy is viewed as a threat to these individuals—and the fact that this same parish has to largely insulate itself from the rest of the ELCA for fear of retaliation—is all you need to know about who is running the show.
Students who lean conservative or are at least moderate tend to stay silent and keep their heads down, which is shameful because these individuals are paying for the same education as everyone else and deserve to be able to participate in their own pastoral formation just like everyone else. The fact that they have to be afraid that anything they say which might be perceived as "offensive" (which in almost every case means they're upholding orthodox Christian teaching) is a disgrace. I know that the "woke" individuals read your blog, Dan, because it serves as conversational fodder fairly often on campus so I'm sure if any of my former classmates or their crony gurus read this, they'll have all kinds of snarky responses and defenses for their actions. They'll say I'm bitter and jaded and racist and all kinds of other things, but the fact is that they engage in deflection at every turn because they know exactly what they're doing. They are actively destroying the ELCA from within and they don't even try to hide it. These narcissistic activists are perfectly fine with seeing 3 million baptized Lutherans without a church in order to push their narrow-minded, heretical agenda of fabricating a Church of Christ without Christ, to reference Flannery O'Connor. They look to burn it all down yet they offer nothing of substance to replace it with, other than idealistic pipe dreams of egalitarian utopianism and yet, in reality, what they're really trying to do is seize power in order to become the oppressors that they seem to see in everyone else. They don't want equality; they simply want to control the narrative. I could go on and on but these are some of the highlights from my year at ULS.
Joseph M. Di Marius
The ELCA's Embrace of Lenny Duncan
Lenny Duncan is a highly controversial pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It should surprise no one that he and his radical message have been embrace by the denomination's leadership and pastors, who are paid by conservative, Bible-believing membership.
A recent article talks about Rev. Duncan and his former church, Jehu's Table, saying, "At Jehu’s Table church in Brooklyn, New York, Duncan proclaims his gratitude during Communion for African American role models ranging from transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson to Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X to civil rights minister Martin Luther King Jr." (See here)
Below you can read what Pastor Duncan is about and what he is saying. You will also see that the ELCA has embraced Rev. Lenny Duncan all the way up to the highest of ELCA leaders.
- The official ELCA magazine published an article written by Rev. Duncan where he says,
"I believe that the call of the church in the 21st century is to dismantle white supremacy; that the way of the cross for the entire church is to lay down our lives, resources, buildings and endowments to this cause. That our entire future as a church and as a credible, viable Lutheran witness in the 21st century and beyond is balanced on this alone."
"Our church is the place to have hard and loving conversations that call us to repentance and reparations..." (See Living Lutheran article here)
Rev. Duncan then says implementing his vision for the ELCA will bring about church vitality, that sanctuaries will swell.
- “You can't have reconciliation without repentance. Until the ELCA recognizes the way that it's treated persons of color, specifically black folks, and until they realize their style of church is inherently racist and repent from that, until they talk about reparations to the children of pastors who were never paid full salaries, then I don't think there can be reconciliation.” - Lenny Duncan (See here)
- As a form of reparations, Rev. Duncan also advocates for, "..all straight white males in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to remove their names from ballots for bishop." (See here)
- Fortress Press, Rev. Lenny Duncan's publisher, describes Rev. Duncan's book saying, "It is time for the church to rise up, dust itself off, and take on forces of this world that act against God: whiteness, misogyny, nationalism, homophobia, and economic injustice. Duncan gives a blueprint for the way forward and urges us to follow in the revolutionary path of Jesus." (See here)
(See above article http://www.outsmartmagazine.com/2019/07/queer-lutheran-preacher-calls-on-church-to-end-white-supremacy/
- At this time Lenny Duncan was the pastor at Jehu's Table:
- From ELCA Bishop Patricia Davenport, of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod.
- Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton appeared in a film made by Lenny Duncan.
- Kristen Kuempel, ELCA bishop of the Eastern Washington-Idaho Synod is promoting Rev. Lenny Duncan and says about his book "I know several of our church leaders are reading" it.
- Rev. Duncan now has a new job as the Mission Developer Pastor an ELCA church, Messiah Lutheran Church and Preschool in Vancouver, Washington.
Currently, Rev. Duncan is writing blogs calling for the ELCA to pay reparations. (See the first of four, so far, here) Pastor Duncan is throwing ELCA higher ups under the bus and making things difficult for the ELCA with his anger, race baiting and demands. This should be no surprise to those who know history.
Celebrating Queerness, Transforming White Privilege, Combating Climate Change, Expanding God Language, and GLAAD at Upcoming ELCA Pastors Gathering
(The following article was written by Rev. Tom Brock of pastorsstudy.org. You can follow Pastor Brock on Facebook - here and Twitter - here.)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is inviting all of its pastors to a gathering in Phoenix this July. Many “caucuses” and workshops will be offered by the ELCA to its pastors, and much of it reads like a wish list of liberal theology.￼
One workshop will be led by Jamie Bruesehoff, an LGBTQ+ advocate and pastor’s wife and the mother of a boy who identifies as a girl. Two summers ago, when the boy was 12 years old, he spoke to 31,000 ELCA teenagers at the ELCA Teen Gathering to promote transgenderism.
Here is another workshop at the upcoming ELCA pastors gathering:
“LGBTQIA+ Identities in Ministry Caucus
...Rostered ministers who identify as LGBTQIA+ are invited to a caucus and share a time of celebration, sharing, and solidarity. We will take time for...a ritual of celebration of queerness. This caucus is for those who identify as a gender and sexual minority and not allies”.
Even the secular pro-gay group GLAAD will show up with the below workshop which seeks to teach pastors how to leverage the media in hopes of getting the “moveable middle” to become pro-gay:
“Calling for Justice in our Modern Media Landscape
Deacon Ross Murray, Senior Director, GLAAD Media Institute...Participants will learn how to leverage the media and articulate a message of God's justice. Equipped with research and best practices gleaned from 30 years of LGBTQ advocacy, the GLAAD Media Institute will work with participants to communicate their message with the movable middle while combating the often-polarizing narrative surrounding faith and social justice.”
Mary Streufert, Director for ELCA Justice for Women, will offer a workshop on expanding God language, which usually means moving beyond God the Father language and using feminine language for God.￼
Such are among the offerings at the upcoming ELCA pastors gathering. And such is the reason liberal, mainline denominations like the ELCA, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church in America, the Disciples of Christ, and the PCUSA Presbyterians continue to shrink and shrink.
In Jesus our Savior,
Pastor Tom Brock
(See ELCA workshops here)
The topic of "white privilege" is a trending liberal issue that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has decided to propagate.
The ELCA's official magazine, Living Lutheran, has a short article, that the ELCA's official Facebook page has posted, sharing the ELCA resource "Study guide: Unpacking white privilege."
The following are two quotes from the ELCA's "Study guide: Unpacking white privilege:"
“It is not enough to say, ‘We are sorry.’ We must put actions behind our words. ... We must take a moral inventory of our wrongs and make reparations for the same."
“It is not enough to feel bad or say ‘sorry.’ As an African American ELCA pastor, I am asking white folks to do the work of dismantling their privilege so that the ELCA can be a safer place for all of God’s children. … It is our prayer that predominantly European American ELCA congregations will begin to pray—and then act—to become anti-racist Jesus followers, committed to dismantling white privilege both inside and outside our churches.”
(Here is the article and here is the study guide)
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:21
Former ELCA seminary student and former ELCA member who is fed up with the ELCA's consistent mockery of God's Word.
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Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. - Ephesians 5:11