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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Lazareth, ELCA theologian & former bishop, dies

William H. Lazareth, 79, an ELCA pastor, professor, ecumenist and former Metropolitan New York Synod bishop, died Feb. 23 of cancer.

“The ecclesial, theological and ecumenical legacy that he leaves will bless the people of the church for generations to come,” said Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop.

Lazareth oversaw the drafting of “Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry ,” a 1982 World Council of Churches document that expressed points of agreement around three main doctrinal issues that divide churches. Hanson called it “one of the most influential documents of the 20th century,” saying it “continues to shape theological dialogue in the quest for deeper church-to-church relationships.”

Lazareth was born in New York in 1928 to German immigrant parents. His father worked in a paper bag factory and his mother had been an indentured servant. His family later opened an ice cream parlor in Brooklyn, where Lazareth and his siblings served their father’s ice cream and their mother’s sandwiches. While volunteering with World War II refugees, Lazareth heard a call to ministry.


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