The letter from President Matthew Harrison of the Missouri Synod says the denomination categorically rejects the "horrible and racist teachings of the so-called 'alt-right' in toto," which includes white supremacy, Nazism, pro-slavery, anti-interracial marriage, woman as property, death for homosexuals, and genocide.
The letter, dated February 21, notes some social media posts that contain "radical and unchristian" views, as well as some "serious online threats" against denominational leaders.
But according to Mark Tooley of The Institute on Religion & Democracy (The IRD), it does not appear to be a widespread problem.
"These people may be smaller number, but often they're very zealous and educated and articulate, and so they may seem to have more influence than they actually have," he submits.
Harrison's letter does not provide specific examples of the social media posts, but it does warn that the radicals are subject to excommunication if they do not repent.
"The president of The Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod seems to be responding to them without naming them directly or describing to what extent they have influence in the Church," Tooley observes, adding that some of the posts he has seen are indeed racist and threatening.
"The several I saw online would tend to be racialist and seem to like German language services at their churches because they think that the original German-speaking Lutheran folk were a sacred people who knew how to protect themselves from other ethnicities and other races," The IRD president relays.
Religion News Service reports that the letter comes in the wake of an article antifascist group Machaira Action posted recently alleging the "rise of a white supremacist faction within the Lutheran faith." Corey Mahler, a self-identified Christian nationalist who has reportedly been active in far-right circles for years and has posted about whiteness and "white genocide" on Twitter, was mentioned in the piece.
Also, earlier this year, President Harrison asked the denomination's publishing partner, Concordia Publishing House, to pause distribution of the new "Luther's Large Catechism with Annotations and Contemporary Applications." An "online disturbance" was cited as the reason for his request.