This is the 660th — and last — time my name will appear on the masthead of The Lutheran. And the 378th — and last — editorial on its back page.
Those numbers are almost embarrassing. But for 34 years this church has asked me to do what I always wanted to do — to be a pastor and journalist with The Lutheran. Some of my seminary classmates tell me that when I was in school, I said that I hoped someday to edit The Lutheran. I probably did say that.
ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson was my history professor in those days. One of the manifestations of justice that I have experienced in the church is that after all those marks he once put on my papers, I edited his column for several years.
During the last third of this century, I was privileged to report on this church finding its way among the many social struggles of the 1960s, the ordination of the first woman in 1970, firsthand reports of apartheid in Africa, anguish in the Middle East and religious oppression in eastern Europe and Russia. I was part of the first Lutheran group to visit China when it opened in 1979.
As I look back over the years, I have tried to lift up three things. The first is the corporate nature of the church because our life together in congregations and synods and as a churchwide organization produces marvelous stories about how people are served and Christ is personified. The second is the global nature of the church, raising our horizons about our mission partners and international Lutheranism. The third is the ecumenical scene where cooperation and partnership are God's visible and vital gifts to the church.
I pay tribute to a procession of able staff who have worked with me, including my successor, David Miller. This church will be well-served by him. I also lift up my wife, Emily, and my children, David, Mark and Karen, whose love allowed a lifestyle in which deadlines and the church's calendar controlled our family life. We have fulfilled a dream by building a home in the North Carolina mountains. Retiring obviously is a career change, but the primary motivation was for a different lifestyle.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers