The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Leaders 'back then' left their marks

Twenty-five years ago we wondered what kind of church the ELCA would be. We could have learned by looking at those who led us into the merger and the man we chose to lead the "new" church.

David Preus, last presiding bishop of the American Lutheran Church, and Herbert Chilstrom, first presiding bishop of the ELCA, have both written memoirs. Preus wrote Pastor and President: Reflections of a Lutheran Churchman (Lutheran University Press, 2011). Chilstrom's autobiography is A Journey of Grace: The Formation of a Leader and a Church (Lutheran University Press, 2011).

Preus' parish ministry led him into struggles to combat urban blight and a term on the Minneapolis school board as schools integrated. He joined the civil rights struggle, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.'s call for freedom, justice and courage.

As ALC president, his main concern was for congregations and their ministry. At the same time, he took the ALC's concerns into the corridors of Washington, D.C., carrying pastoral messages on the Middle East, anti-Semitism, justice for Native Americans, apartheid in southern Africa and ecology.

Preus' commitment to the centrality of the congregation and its pastor led him, he says, to regret supporting the change to use "bishop" rather than "president" for district and national leaders, fearing the subtle suggestion of a hierarchy undercuts the importance of the congregation.

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