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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Our grandparent's story

New history tells of ELCA's largest ancestor church

Many Lutheran congregations today are becoming increasingly diverse — welcoming new members from various racial, ethnic and denominational backgrounds. A real challenge is developing a sense of history that enriches identity and a sense of shared community. A recent book is a helpful resource: The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962 by E. Theodore Bachmann with Mercia Brenne Bachmann, edited by Paul Rorem (Fortress, 1997; paperback, $25).

This comprehensive work tells the story of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's largest "grandparent" body.

This is just what a history should be: a combination of encyclopedic knowledge with an abundance of personal experience. The late Ted Bachmann, one of the church's well-loved and respected elder statesmen scholars, lived much of the history recorded here. A ULCA pastor, he was a seminary professor and held various administrative positions in the church.

From its beginnings in the heady days just after World War I to its 1962 merger into the former Lutheran Church in America, the ULCA's story is in many ways the tale of North American Protestantism in the 20th century. Bachmann amassed an amazing amount of detail: every important meeting, every charismatic leader, every debate over subtle theological issues. The result is an enormous contribution to the history of Lutheranism in the United States.

The writing of this book is another fascinating story. Begun when Bachmann was already 75, it was only one of the major projects he pursued in his later years.When he died in 1995 at 84, it was incomplete.

But Mercia Bachmann, his widow, always had been his closest collaborator. She completed the history with the help of Rorem, professor of church history at Princeton [N.J.] Seminary.


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