James Burtness, 77, ELCA theologian, pastor and retired professor of systematic theology at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., died April 10 from injuries sustained from a fall in January.
Michael Rogness, a professor of homiletics at Luther Seminary, said his former teacher and colleague’s “most important contribution was opening the whole field of ethics, particularly the big post-World War II questions of the 20th century.”
“He introduced us all to [theologian Dietrich] Bonhoeffer,” Rogness said. “He made theology real for us because he combined it with what was going on in the world.”
Burtness began teaching at Luther in 1955, becoming a full professor in 1972. He retired from full-time teaching in 1998.
He served on many church committees, including the Commission for Church Cooperation and the Commission for a New Lutheran Church’s task force on church and society. He also edited two well-known theological journals, Word & World (1979 to 1981) and dialog, A journal of theology (1969 to 1971).
Ordained in 1958, Burtness published many works, including: Shaping the Future: The Ethics of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1984), Whatever You Do (1967) and his translation of Bonhoeffer’s Psalms: The Prayerbook of the Bible.
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