The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Are crucifixes Lutheran?

Many churches display them, and they are helpful

I never saw a crucifix in a Lutheran church until I joined my current church. Don't we have empty crosses because Christ is risen?

The good news of the gospel is that the crucified one is risen. But there is no Easter without Lent, no empty tomb without the crucifixion. Martin Luther warned against using the crucifix and other images superstitiously but affirmed, "For the sake of the memorial and the witness they are praiseworthy."

Many Lutheran churches display crucifixes. No single image can portray the fullness of Jesus. We need the entire message of Christ's incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost to proclaim a meaningful message. Art, words and music offer glimpses into the fathomless story of God's love in Christ. Sanctuaries may focus on different aspects of the story. In fact, each worship service emphasizes a different portion of the whole story.

Useful committee?

The ELCA model constitution includes a mutual ministry committee. In our church, this could be useful for resolving conflict, discussing salary matters and evaluating pastor and staff. But it can also be misused by the pastor to air grudges against individual members. Does this committee have a legitimate place?

Yes, the committee (described in the ELCA Model Constitution for Congregations, C13.04) has a significant role. But it shouldn't be the first place to air struggles or pain. It is no substitute for first taking the struggle to God. The pastor and staff also need their own pastor, counselor or spiritual guide so they can honestly share their feelings to be clear in heart, head and spirit before bringing issues to this committee.

Choose committee members who are wise, candid and fair. The committee can deal with potentially difficult situations before they escalate. Confidentiality is essential. But the committee should not just talk. It should also help the pastor or staff member to act. Direct conversation is needed among those who have concerns with each other, as Jesus calls for in Matthew 18.


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February issue


Embracing diversity