Gerhard O. Forde, 77, ELCA theologian, pastor and retired seminary professor, died of pneumonia Aug. 9 in St. Paul, Minn., after a long struggle with Parkinson’s disease.
“One can’t overestimate the power and impact of Gerhard Forde’s theology across the Lutheran church and the wider ecumenical community,” said Richard H. Bliese, president of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, where Forde taught for 30 years. “His students heard proclamation in his classroom, not just lectures. Forde encouraged us to reclaim [Martin] Luther’s theology of the cross and, upon this confession, to be radical disciples of our Lord.”
A graduate of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, and Luther Seminary, Forde began teaching religion in 1955 at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. He taught at both of his alma maters, eventually becoming a professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary. He earned a doctorate in theology from Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass., in 1967, and was ordained in 1968.
Forde was a member of the American Academy of Religion; the board of dialog, a journal of theology; the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue; and the Commission for a New Lutheran Church, which merged three church bodies to form the ELCA.
He authored numerous articles and books, including The Law-Gospel Debate (1969), On Being a Theologian of the Cross (1997), and The Captivation of the Will: Luther vs. Erasmus on Freedom and Bondage (2005).
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