05 January 2016

Exposing Dan Skogen

Last week I was made aware of a minor social media kerfuffle between my colleague Clint Schnekloth and Dan Skogen, the man behind the "Exposing the ELCA" blog and Twitter feed. Like Clint, I've known about Dan for quite some time, particularly because he lives in the part of Iowa we call home and has been trolling synodical staff and pastors in our neck of the woods as long as I've been here. Clint's blog does an excellent job of laying out the various options of dealing with Internet trolls, so I'll invite you to take a look if you want to see the entire backstory.
Lutheran Confessions: Exposing "Exposing the ELCA": Meet Dan Skogen. He's the voice and face behind a blog titled "Exposing the ELCA." Well, he does more than blog. He tweets, tr...
Like Clint, I'd been doing my best to mostly ignore Dan for at least six years. Usually that's the best response to trolls and others working out their pathologies through the means of social media. In fact, just this week I recommended that fellow Iowans ignore the ridiculous "halftime show" the Stanford Band performed at the Rose Bowl. It was so obnoxious and insulting that anyone with an ounce of decency wouldn't believe anything about it for a second. In the same vein, the posts at ExposingtheELCA.com are so thinly connected to reality that anyone with the ability to critically engage what he says about the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America can see his agenda for what it is - and adjust their expectations for truth and decency accordingly.

What changed matters for me this week was what Clint revealed about some of Dan's other internet work, particularly this information about domains that Dan has purchased. No longer content to post at his own blog, Dan Skogen has gone out and purchased domains that might be mistaken for genuine links to the ELCA and its synods, and they're all redirecting to his website theelcaca.com, where Dan continues his "ministry" of "exposing" the ELCA as he understands it.

Disagreements are nothing new for faith communities. Denominations are composed of sinners who sometimes feel strongly about how God is working in their church. Sometimes those disagreements can fracture relationships within churches. It's a sad reality we all face in this work. By way of example, I'll share two stories from my own career. In the early 2000s, I was part of a movement within the ELCA called the WordAlone Network, which started in protest of a full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church-USA. When I joined WordAlone I had genuine theological disagreements with some of the requirements of our full communion agreement. In fact, I still do. But over time it became clear to me that some within the network were using it as a means of continuing personal vendettas against leaders in the ELCA, vendettas that had nothing to do with theology or faithfulness to Lutheran ministry. I left the group not long after I graduated from seminary. In 2009, the ELCA adopted a policy on ministry and sexuality in which we pledged to honor "bound conscience" as individuals and congregations, and in so doing we cleared the way for some churches to bless same-gender marriages and ordain pastors in monogamous, same-gender relationships and others to choose not to do so. For some of our churches, this was a bridge too far, and they left the ELCA. It was a hard time for us as a church. You never want those disagreements to be fracturing disagreements. But it happens. All of this is part of living in a world where we are always interpreting faith and God's Word through imperfect eyes and minds.

Unfortunately, there are those who believe their eyes and minds are not imperfect. Dan Skogen is one of those unfortunate souls. Internet bullies and disaffected trolls are nothing new in the world wide web. If Dan had just kept spouting his invective at his own website I wouldn't have joined in this little melee - frankly, his misinterpretations of every single thing happening in the ELCA at present are so laughably off the mark that refuting them isn't worth my time. But it's another thing entirely to build domains and embark on a campaign to "expose" the ELCA through false pretenses.

In a disputation in Heidelberg in 1518, Martin Luther wrote "a theologian of the cross calls a thing what it is." Dan Skogen is lying to the internet about the ELCA. His pronouncements are slanted toward his own interpretation of reality, often using just a piece of data or an article as an opportunity to create straw man arguments that have no basis in fact. He rarely posts his own name on his Twitter feed, and he has purchased a number of domains for the sole purpose of continuing his campaign of propaganda against the ELCA under disguise.

This probably won't accomplish much. I have no illusions that anything I've said here can make Dan Skogen go away. But having shone what light I have to offer on him, I feel better. I don't mind that Dan and I disagree on things. I do mind that he's lying about my church and calling it truth. That's the sort of thing that needs to be exposed.

4 comments:

  1. Speaking of bullies - We were bullied out of the ELCA for simply suggesting our congregation stay with existing standards in 2010. Now I see that the Synod is publishing Anti-Israel Resolutions. Pehaps Mr Skogen was also denied the ability to speak out in the ELCA.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not the ability to speak out that's the issue with Mr. Skogen. The issue is his determination to automatically assume the worst of the other, to interpret everything in the most sinister way, and to engage in a program to "expose" something that simply doesn't exist, not to mention the deceitful practice of purchasing web domains under false pretenses.

      As to what you personally describe, I'm sorry. I don't know which ELCA congregation you attended in 2010 - some grew very conflicted after the 2009 Churchwide Assembly, while others weathered the storm with little to no damage.

      I can tell you that while there may be resolutions calling us to pay attention to the ongoing conflict in the state of Israel, no Synod would publish anti-Israel resolutions. Here's how our resolution process works:
      1. Any group of ELCA members may bring a resolution to a Synod Assembly, provided it is properly written, submitted prior to the deadline for resolutions, and signed by its sponsors, all of whom must be duly certified ELCA members.
      2. After submission, most Synods (I believe all of them, but I can't say that with 100% confidence) have a Resolutions Committee which will read the resolution, correct spelling errors and other syntactical difficulties, and offer a recommendation to the Assembly which may be affirmative, negative, or possibly a neutral recommendation due to a need for further study or other questions. This is only a recommendation, however, and is in no way binding on any member of the Assembly.
      3. Resolutions are debated at the Synod Assembly in the same way that all legislation is debated. Amendments may be offered, proposals may be tabled for future consideration, and members may speak in favor or in opposition to the resolution.
      4. At some point the Assembly either elects to not even vote on a resolution, or to vote on it. Either a majority or a supermajority is required to pass a resolution (I honestly can't remember which and I don't have my rulebook in my home office).
      5. Only after a duly called and elected Synodical Assembly votes in favor is any resolution considered as reflective of the Synod, and even then there may be significant dissent on the matter.

      "The Synod" does not publish resolutions which have not been closely read and considered. While I have seen and supported some resolutions against the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and their continuing oppression of innocent Palestinians, I do not consider anything I've supported to be "anti-Israel." So, I would disagree with your assertion.

      Delete
    2. I clicked on your link in an effort to learn who is behind the website "Exposingtheelca.com" and other misleading domains regarding the ELCA. As you stated, there are no personal identifications on these sites. Thank you for exposing the name Dan Skogan. He certainly seems to be on a mission. I am an ELCA member in St. Louis County, MO. I am not in agreement with Mr. Skogan's methods. As you say, your post may not stop him. Nevertheless, it has helped me. I feel much better having some perspective. Thanks again, Kim

      Delete