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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Justice Rehnquist dies

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 80, a member of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, McLean, Va., died Sept. 3 of thyroid cancer at his home in Arlington, Va.

“[He] never took his faith for granted. It was strong, central and, like him, without pretense,” said his pastor, George W. Evans Jr., who led the funeral service Sept. 7 at St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington, D.C. “He managed to keep his Sundays free for activities like the church. He was a student in Redeemer’s Evening Forum series on Lutheran faith and teachings, participating in that alongside his high-school age granddaughter. He was a fabulous grandfather.”

“During his 33-year career ... 19 as chief justice—[Rehnquist] streamlined the court’s operation,” said Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop. “He will be remembered for presiding over the court during historic events in our nation’s history. Among them, he presided over an impeachment trial and as the court made the final decisions of the 2000 presidential campaign. During his tenure his opinions reflected his convictions as well as his commitment to the judiciary ....”

Rehnquist was appointed assistant attorney general, Office of Legal Counsel, in 1969 and to the Supreme Court in 1972. In 1986 he was named the nation’s 16th chief justice. Diagnosed with cancer in 2004, he dismissed questions of retirement.

In 1998 he told a gathering of Lutheran bishops in Washington, D.C.: “God put you on earth to do a job. Every day is a gift of God. You plow into the work. You may have problems—physical, emotional—but you have the sense that God is looking after you.”


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