Dan Skogen maintains a web site, Exposing the ELCA, exclusively focused on exposing the heterodoxy (from his perspective) of my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
I’ve never quite understood how someone could sustain such concern and disdain over such a long period of time, but clearly one of Dan’s spiritual gifts is tenacity.
I would mostly leave Dan to his own project, if it weren’t for the fact that quite frequently I get messages from colleagues in my denomination seeking resources they can use to respond to the concern some of their parishioners raise when they read Dan’s site.
For this reason, and also in an attempt to as charitably and carefully respond to Dan as I can, I offer this post.
The Three Problems With Exposing the ELCA
His Main Mode Is Deception and Distortion
Over the years, Dan Skogen has acquired multiple web sites with titles similar to the web sites of synods, churches, and individuals in the ELCA. He uses these web sites to redirect people to his own page. The list of web sites Dan maintains deceitfully is really, really long.
Second, one of Dan’s favorite activities is to enter into social media spaces of ELCA folks, and then take screen shots of their posts. You can see how obsessively this is the center of his “reporting” by simply visiting his blog. Finally, Dan chooses to take almost everything out of its wider context, and he never posts anything positive about the ELCA, even though I’m sure there are many things done in our congregations and ministries with which he agrees or would support.
He’s A Fundamentalist Who Thinks He’s a Lutheran
Dan Skogen loves Ken Ham. Like, really loves him. And apparently the feeling is mutual, as Ken Ham sometimes re-posts articles by Dan. Now, I don’t really have a lot directly to say about Ken Ham, but I would point out that Ken Ham isn’t a Lutheran. He’s not even close to being a Lutheran. So Ken Ham as a litmus test for the relative Lutheran-ness of the ELCA is kind of a problem.
Dan’s also really into the whole evangelical Zionist thing. Again, I don’t have a huge dog in this fight, as I’m not an evangelical. But you can hardly expect a Lutheran denomination to use Evangelical Zionism as a central category. And since a sister synod of the ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, is located in Palestinian lands, it makes much sense that the ELCA would accompany their brothers and sisters in Christ in their advocacy and work.
He’s Over-Focused on SexualityOkay, I get it. He doesn’t like it that the ELCA is inclusive. He’s hot and bothered that same-gender couples get married in our denomination, LGBTQ+ people serve in our leadership, and that trans youth speak at our national youth gatherings. And we’re proud, very proud, of our inclusion and welcome.
But sexuality is not a core doctrinal issue. It certainly has not historically (over the long history of Christianity) been a high enough issue to be church dividing. In fact historically, if you think theologically, a greater sin is schism. Leaving the church for non-essentials is more sinful than sins centered in sexuality. Yet Dan calls for schism in almost every post.
The Three Blessings Of Skogen’s Project
His Blog Functions Like An ELCA Newsletter
Confession: Probably at least once a month I visit Dan’s web site to see what’s bugging him lately. Often, I discover tweets from leaders I love, or news about ministries in my denomination worth celebrating. He’s actually an excellent news sources for us, because he scrutinizes the ELCA so intensely and regularly.
He Helps Me Understand How We Are Faithful and Edgy
Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got, or what you’re doing that is innovative or good, until it bothers someone. So Dan serves a little bit like a canary in the coal mine. He lets me know more about us as a denomination, how we are being perceived. So thank you, Dan, for offering a glimpse back at us, even if the mirror we’re seeing is somewhat distorted by your reactionary ire.
It’s a Product of Iowa
Dan lives in Iowa. I’m from Iowa. Sometimes I feel like a blog like Dan’s could only be a product of a Midwesterner. Some day I’d like to go walk around the Iowa State Fair with Dan, and talk and get to know him. To date I have been unable to do so, as he doesn’t respond to messages. He also doesn’t re-post comments on his blog from anyone who disagrees with or challenges him, so fair warning, there are many comments on his posts on his blog you can’t see, because they scare him and he won’t release them. Recently, and lately, the ones from me simply say, “Dan, I love you.”