The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


A church without tradition is doomed

Civil War, tolerance, new bishop spark viewpoints, plus two oldies

Shrinking churches
My father was one of 500 German Lutheran pastors who came to America to serve immigrants. Eventually these ethnic groups spoke English and cooperated through the National Lutheran Council. They engaged in world relief and resettlement programs. Reformation rallies attracted thousands of people. Many new congregations were established, and they were liturgical. We had the respect of others. One of our leaders was on the cover of Time magazine. Then came the merger. The motto was that we are a new church and we can do new things. Winter tourists from the North would say, "The only thing Lutheran about our church is the sign out front." One of our nearby churches had 1,200 members, a school and excellent facilities. Two pastors later, it closed. It was the failure to recognize the importance of tradition as one of the foundations of the church ("The shrinking church").

The Rev. Paul F.W. Pieper
St. Petersburg, Fla.

To be clear
Just a note on Texas Lutherans before, during and after the Civil War ("Brothers and sisters at arms"). At its 1861 convention, the Texas Synod confessed loyalty to all Lutherans, North and South, resolving, "Our duty is not to preach politics but the gospel." Throughout the Civil War the Texans asserted membership in the General Synod, and expressed hope to attend meetings shortly. After the war, the Texas Synod joined the General Council in 1868, never the General Synod, South /United Synod South.

The Rev. Russell Vardell

Foundation firm
The Lutheran has been in my home all my 95 years and the May issue was the "winner." I miss the old hymns I grew up with. Some of the changes in the church disturb me, but I'm still on that "firm foundation."

Margaret Fluke
Blue Ridge, Va.

All about tolerance
I would like to respond to the woman who said people are leaving the ELCA because we've gotten away from the teachings of Jesus ("Evolution a work in progress by God"). She objects to the sexuality issue, by which I assume she means accepting gays into pastoral positions. If she wishes to follow the teachings of Jesus, she might begin by remembering how tolerant and accepting he was. Tolerance is the backbone of his teachings.

Richard Albright
Aurora, Ill.

Count me out
Upon hearing about one of our new bishops ("Bishop elections & re-elections"), I had to write. In my seven decades I have watched a lot of changes in our world. Taking the Bible out of political offices was wrong. Removing the Bible from schools was devastating. When we decide to take the Bible out of our church, that is the last straw. Please remove me from your mailing list.

Don Andersen
Wessington Springs, S.D.

More simmer the better
I just read Nelson Rivera's article on evolution ("Evolution"). What a wonderful piece. We as humans cannot begin to understand the power God possesses. The Bible says he created in seven days. But he could have created everything as quickly as the snap of a finger. I like the idea of evolution. Like a good soup or a good pasta sauce, the longer it simmers the better the taste.

Dottie Longerbeam
Colona, Ill.

Face-to-face with God
Traveling in Sweden two years ago, I was strolling through the grounds of a Lutheran church. I found these words printed (in English) on a small sign: "The Jesuit priest Gerard Hughes has reflected on what will happen when his life is over and he meets God. He does not think that God will blame him for anything at all. Not even blame him for things that he has done wrong. God will only ask him one question. With a twinkle in the eye and full of curiosity and expectations he will lean forward and ask Gerard: 'Did you enjoy my creation?'" A grace-filled vision of where God places God's emphasis.

The Rev. Avis R. Anderson
Glendive, Mont.

Blasts from the past
Editor's note: Following are letters that appeared in the first issue of The Lutheran, Jan. 6, 1988.

As a white male pastor of an ELCA congregation, I would like to express my outrage at the comments of (then) Bishop Stanley Olson (The Lutheran Standard, Nov. 6, 1987; The Lutheran, November 1987). By my rough count, 84 of the top ELCA executives are white males, two are women and two are persons of color or language other than English. These numbers may indicate discrimination, but certainly not against white males.

The Rev. Dana K. Nissen
Chicago (now Minneapolis)

I am disappointed with The Lutheran's (masthead) design. The Gothic typeface creates an archaic and Germanic ambiance that is totally out of keeping with the newness we have been trying to express through the "new" church. What the new magazine needs is not a "bow to tradition," as Jack Lund (the designer) described it in his rationale for the new (masthead), but a serious and substantial dialogue between that tradition and the contemporary world in the contents of the magazine. Romanticism about a boyhood in Iowa in a church two mergers back is no rationale at all for this unfortunate choice.

Gary Pence
Berkeley, Calif.

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