This series is intended to be a public conversation among teaching theologians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day. It invites readers to engage and dialogue with the ELCA's teaching theologians. The series is edited by Philip D.W. Krey, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries.
Mark W. Oldenburg: Surprisingly and unfortunately, Mary doesn't seem to be among the top 10 topics for conversation among American Lutherans. Yes, we mention her every time we confess the creeds. But, compared to many of our Christian sisters and brothers, we don't pay much attention to her otherwise.
Only three ELCA congregations seem to be named for her, while Paul gets 521 and even James gets 95. We even seem afraid of including her in our prayers.
When the Service Book and Hymnal was introduced in 1958, the only criticism I could find of its hymns related to "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones," in which we call on the "bearer of the eternal Word" to magnify the Lord. People were concerned that we were praying to Mary. Yet no one seemed to mind it 20 years later when, in "Earth and All Stars," we did the same thing for test tubes and dry leaves.
Sarah S. Henrich: I was a little surprised, too, when the topic for this conversation came our way. I don't hear much about Mary in my church or other churches I visit. We certainly don't make much of any of the "Mary holy-days," like the Annunciation or Visitation, and her story is just a little part of the Christmas story when we read Luke's Gospel.
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