The following letter was sent by Pastor John Nelson, a son of the congregation. Pastor John
Nelson is the son of the late Pastor Phil Nelson, a former pastor of Faith Lutheran Church
(1969-1981). Pastor John Nelson is pastor of Hosanna Lutheran Church in St. Charles, IL.
What would Pastor Phil Nelson think?
Faith Lutheran Church,
I understand that my father's name has come up in conversation, and with it
my mother's name. I can tell that people are drawing on people, my parents,
who have made a spiritual influence upon them. For this I give thanks that my
parents made as much of a difference in others as they have on me.
It is ridiculous though that people would decide what someone in heaven
would do. Would my father be pro-ELCA even when the ELCA has changed
their doctrine of sin and forgiveness? Would my father be pro-ELCA when
Bishops and Bishop staff members are so cruel and unjust to the very people
that they are called to love and shepherd? Would my father turn the other way
when the ELCA is redrafting Scripture to achieve their own agendas which do
not reflect the will of God?
I do not know what my father would do because he is not here to talk with,
he is living the rewards of grace in heaven. I do know from the many deep
theological conversations that I had with him that the many doctrinal changes
that have taken place would be troubling to him. My father was a systematic
theologian, and I believe that he had the brain power to see through "bound
conscience" and how it affects systematic theology of the Lutheran Church. I
doubt, very much, if he would have liked it.
Many people think, as the ELCA wants you to believe, that the vote in
August had more to do with the homosexuality issue and very little with
doctrine. But the fact of the matter is, it is the reverse.
But I can understand why my mother, looking at the decision from the
homosexuality view, versus the bigger issue, why she would support the
ELCA's decision. She is doing so as a loving mother, as my brother Paul has
decided to live out his life as a person who is gay. Is there compassion in the
ELCA, yes. Is there compassion in the LCMC, yes. Is there grace, yes. And if
one only looks at the ELCA issue from this point of view, then they may be
determined to remain ELCA.
But the real issue at hand is theological and doctrinal.
Hosanna! has gays and lesbians who worship on a regular basis. I am
compassionate to them, caring, and leading. We dare not to not love them. We
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dare not love them and leave them. But Scripture is clear, that we love them and lead them as we do others, as
we all fall short of the glory of God. And Luther is clear about how we know the will of God, it is through the
law. Yes, preach the Gospel, but also direct people with the law. Yes, be compassionate, but also be loving by
directing people in life. Otherwise forget about having Confession and Forgiveness as a part of the worship
Though in bound conscience, people who believe that what they are doing is okay and they believe God
thinks what they are doing is okay, they don't need forgiveness. WHAT! How in the world are we smarter than
God? Bound conscience says that we are.
Bound conscience, a new theological word. Even Luther said that our conscience is sinful. So we are
bonding our sinful decisions over the wisdom of God. This is heavy stuff, and so it seems easier to
argue the homosexuality issue. But it is this heavy stuff that my father and I would discuss. And so you
ask the question, would Pastor Philip Nelson want to stay in the ELCA or not? That is a question we
can ask when we get to heaven and see him there. And if the only thing we look at is the pebble in the
lake, the drop in the bucket of the homosexuality issue from the August decision, there will be many
split hairs over the answer to that as it is an emotional answer due to the relationships that people have
with those whom are homosexual.
As for me and the house where I serve Jesus, we have voted by an 89% to leave the ELCA and a 90% to
join the LCMC because we did not discuss the homosexuality issue, but instead addressed the larger issue and
that is of the changes in doctrines of sin and forgiveness. We do not believe that we are smarter than God and
we refuse to agree with the ELCA who says that we are. We do not see ourselves as gods, we have only the
Lord God. What the ELCA has done is to remove the 1st Commandment. Remember according to our historic
understanding is that we shall have no other gods before our Lord God. Yet, the ELCA has said that it is okay
to be a god when you have bound conscience.
It is a hornets nest that the ELCA vote has gotten us into. Every ELCA congregation now has to vote
whether or not they will follow the ELCA into a new age religion. Just as the rudder determines the direction
and destination of a ship, so does the doctrine determine the same for a church. At Hosanna! we have voted to
remain Lutheran, which meant that we had to leave the ELCA.
I admit there is a sadness in leaving behind something that one thought was so good. But the 21 year
experiment called the ELCA has changed, and we voted to remain the same. Hosanna! has remained the same
in our worship, teaching, outreach, and the like. The only thing that has changed is our church affiliation.
What would my father do? No one knows, not me or even my mother. I believe my mother will stay
ELCA as a gesture of support of my brother Paul. Me, I have left the ELCA because I believe that God is the
Lord God and we are not gods. May God go with you as you discuss this very significant and important issue.
Do not take it lightly. Do not tread on God's grace, but instead live by His laws.
Blessings to you,
Pastor John P. Nelson
Hosanna Lutheran Church