Lutheran Magazine

The Lutheran

The Lutheran magazine belongs to the people of the ELCA in all our diversity. The magazine nurtures awareness of Christ's presence in our lives and the world, shares stories of God's people living their faith, connects us with the global Christian community, provides an open forum for discussion and challenges us to bring God's grace and care to all.
  • Full fellowship between Lutherans in the ELCA and Episcopalians was declared in 1999 and has resulted in many cooperative ministries and the sharing of pastors. In the last few years, that cooperation in the Southeastern Synod has blossomed like magnolias in May.  A retired ELCA pastor serves an Episcopal congregation in Tybee Island, Ga., and an ELCA pastor is now vicar of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Woodbine, Ga.  Another ELCA pastor, John Pearce, serves St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, a mission in Columbus, Ga. The Southeastern Synod now works closely with the Episcopal church in campus ministry. It’s a relationship that reaches back many years, even before the formal agreement, said H. Julian Gordy, synod bishop. “The biggest obstacle at the beginning was our different polity,” he said, referring to the decision-making processes of both churches.  But the ecumenical commitment in the synod is strong, said Randy Jones, pastor ofMessiah Lutheran Church, Montgomery, Ala., and the synod’s ecumenical officer. Seven synod pastors are serving in congregations of ELCA ecumenical partners, he said, and nine pastors from those denominations lead ELCA congregations. Jones credits David Yeago who taught at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C., for instilling “a strong ecumenical spirit” in its graduates. In a region where Episcopalians outnumber them, Gordy said he has found that Lutherans are ready to cooperate. At times there was hesitancy, he said, but “we work closely with congregations to prepare them for these kind of ministries.” One of the most unusual partnerships took another step forward last February when St. Patrick’s Episcopal and Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Albany, Ga., dedicated a sanctuary for both parishes.  The new building has both a Lutheran and Episcopalian cornerstone. A smaller room in the building is named the “Our Saviour Chapel” for the Lutheran congregation. And an outside altar was built in honor of Bill Diamond, the ELCA pastor who until his death was key in forming the alliance between the two parishes and had been designated “Lutheran-pastor-in-residence” for the congregations. But it’s more than just sharing a new building, said Joy Davis, an Episcopal deacon at St. Patrick’s. Jay Weldon, St. Patrick’s rector, leads a Lutheran service at 9 a.m. and an Episcopalian one at 10:45 a.m. People are encouraged to attend whichever service is convenient for them, and there is much crossover, Davis said. Davis also said that she and Weldon can now provide pastoral care to people in both congregations.  In addition to sharing worship, she said the two congregations have several meals together each month and run a vacation Bible school. “The congregations have complemented each other very much,” the deacon said.

  • The rummage sale at St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church, Davenport, Iowa, provides more than an opportunity to buy a 25-cent vase. It supports those in need, makes neighbors aware of the church, and has resulted in more than $37,000 for church renovation and tuition for seminarians from the congregation. The three-day event, which is held every October in the church gymnasium, takes a year to plan ( Throughout the year, donations are stored as they arrive: sporting goods and electronics; clothing and shoes; tools, garden and household items; antiques and collectibles; linens, including handmade quilts and crocheted items; books, DVDs and CDs; baby items; and toys. This year the sale, which raises more than $5,000 each year, is set for Oct. 15-17. Erica Cunningham and Emily Martin have been beneficiaries of the sale’s efforts. They are the 16th and 17th seminarians from the congregation. “The church needs to sponsor our seminary students, but our church doesn’t have money in a general fund to pull out tuition,” said Pat Thode, one of the sale’s coordinators. “Some churches might, but not ours.” Coordinator Sue Nelson added, “Our customers tell us they look forward to coming each year. It’s a ton of work, but we have great fun and fellowship.” A cadre of volunteers works behind the scenes. In a recent year when Nelson paused on the first day of the sale, she counted 30, not all of them members. A steady parade of food keeps the volunteers strong, and baked goods and candy are sold.  Where there is candy, there are also young people. “The teenagers — they’re our muscle,” Thode said. The sale is planned around days off from school so young people can help. Not only is the sale good fellowship for all ages, it serves those who may not be able to afford to buy elsewhere. Additionally, Grace United Methodist Church members, who also donate to the St. Mark sale, get what they need for their Clothing Closet for those in need.

  • Editor’s note: This year The Lutheran asked synod communicators to share a  highlight from assemblies, which ended in June. What made a difference to participants? What was the most important part of the assembly? Responses received by presstime are included on these pages. When provided, there is a Web address for more information. Assembly reports also appeared in the July issue (page 38).   North Carolina, May 28-30, Greensboro, N.C. The assembly met under the theme “Forward Together.” Voting members elected a new leader (see page 40) and conferred emeritus status on Bishop Leonard Bolick. A mission strategy was adopted. Home Mission Foundation presented $375,000 to help Joy of Discovery Lutheran Church, Raleigh, N.C., secure a site. Chad Rimmer (Senegal) and Kari Eller (Argentina) shared information about their service as ELCA missionaries. —Bob Shoffner   Nebraska, May 28-30, Kearney, Neb. Under the theme “Formed by Faith: The Work of God’s Hand,” the assembly focused on faith formation strategies in the 21st century. It endorsed a five-year strategic mission and vision plan for the synod, and adopted a resolution supporting vocational development in congregations.  —Mitch McCartney   Delaware-Maryland, May 28-30,  Ocean City, Md. The theme was “Walking Together: For the Sake of the World.” Voting members approved supporting Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA and the Vision 2018 plan, which seeks to strengthen the synod in the ways of discipleship, communication, connectedness and leadership. —Julie Stecker   South Carolina, May 28-30, Spartanburg, S.C. Public education and poverty issues were a main focus. Voting members resolved to pray for school leaders and students; find ways for congregations to partner with local schools; and called on their bishop and those appointed by that office to advocate with legislative and education officials the commitment of the state’s Lutherans to help meet the needs of the education system. Tammy Pawloski, director of the Center of Excellence to Prepare Teachers of Children of Poverty at Francis Marion University, Florence, S.C., spoke to the connection between poverty and childhood learning. —Neal Fischer    Upstate New York, May 28-30, Rochester, N.Y. Service abounded as participants gathered around the theme “God’s Story, Our Voices,” telling the story of God’s creative, redeeming and sustaining love. Brenda Smith, ELCA program director for faith practices, and David Lose, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, encouraged participants to go out and tell God’s story in the world. Volunteers prepared 19,008 rice and bean meals for the hungry;  $53,000 was raised for ELCA World Hunger with the theme “Join the Disciple Ship”; and 300 pounds of can tabs were recycled for Walk for Water. —Patsy Glista   Southeastern Iowa, May 29-30, West Des Moines, Iowa. Gathered under the theme “In the Name of Jesus,” the assembly was joined by guest artist Paul Oman and the Heartland Youth Choir. Voting members passed three resolutions, updated compensation guidelines for rostered leaders, and elected voting members to the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The assembly was challenged to encourage others in ministry through a special appearance by Kid Bishop (Watch the video here).—Valerie Harlynn   Northeastern Pennsylvania, May 29-30, Reading, Pa. Participants were “UNLEASHED” to follow Jesus Christ, to live out their baptismal callings, and to do big, bold things for the gospel. Keynote speaker Karl Krueger, director of the Krauth Memorial Library and a professor at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, showed how Martin Luther was unleashed to proclaim that the righteousness from God is given as a free gift. He also noted that Luther’s use of cutting-edge technology of the time allowed his message to spread throughout Europe.—Paul Braden   Greater Milwaukee, May 29-30, Kenosha, Wis. Green Bay Packer running back Eddie Lacy shared stories about his experience with Hurricane Katrina and how his faith helped him through the disaster. Members celebrated the 20th anniversary of Outreach for Hope, which supports ministries for the poor in the synod’s communities. —Sarah Christiaansen   Western Iowa, May 29-30, Spencer, Iowa. The assembly theme was “We are Church … Growing in Faith” and featured speaker Jim LaDoux of Vibrant Faith Ministries. Discussion topics included what it means to be church and how, as church, we can grow in faith. Attendees were invited to participate in forums about advocacy, companion synod relationships, faith formation and more. They also painted boards to be used in service projects during the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit.—Angie Lawson   South Dakota,  May 29-30, Rapid City, S.D. Members voted to raise funds for a roof at Woyatan Lutheran Church, Rapid City, S.D., and to encourage the state governor to expand health-care coverage to the poor. The assembly launched the “Listen God Is Calling!” Appeal to raise $2.5 million to provide future leaders for the ELCA, go where God is leading and support its partners. Nearly $8,000 was raised in offerings for its companion synod in Nicaragua and for South Dakota campus ministries, more than $2,000 for a disaster relief trailer, and $3,000 plus for the ELCA Malaria Campaignthrough a bike ride across South Dakota. —Kevin Stillson   Metropolitan New York, May 29-30, Tarrytown, N.Y. Over the past year the synod has used the theme of mutual conversation and consolation to anchor events. Leaders and congregations learned to practice indaba, an adaptable model for engaging one another in purposeful discussion. Opportunities for indaba were threaded throughout the assembly, leading to conversations at meals and microphones. Participants voted to urge the ELCA to divest from fossil fuels, require regular antiracism training, recommit to the churchwide strategy for engaging in Israel and Palestine, adopt a disaster plan and adjust synodical communion practices.  —Sarah Gioe   Metropolitan Chicago, May 29-30, Tinley Park, Ill. The assembly met under the theme “… and a little child shall lead them.” Participants focused on how the church responds to the needs of children, youth and families. Partner and churchwide ministries that focus on children gave reports highlighting their work. The assembly also explored how to share the good news in ways that will reach all generations.  —Jeff Drake   Northwest of Wisconsin, May 30-31, Eau Claire, Wis. “The Generosity Project” was the theme for the assembly. Participants heard from Nathan Dungan, founder and president of Share, Save, Spend. He engaged the audience in conversation about their values and ideals with regard to their personal finances and then encouraged them to open up an intergenerational conversation in their faith communities.  —Elizabeth Bartsch     Central/Southern Illinois, June 4-6, Springfield, Ill. The synod received almost $28,900 in offerings for the Malagasy Lutheran Church, Madagascar (its companion synod)—$7,025.69 was received at the synod festival worship service and $21,834.30 in conjunction with Pedal for a Purpose, a 300-mile bicycle fundraiser. Increasing support for the Malagasy Lutheran Church and for synod students in the candidacy process generated lively discussion.  —Bob Dealey   Western North Dakota, June 4-6, Minot, N.D. Under the theme “Living in God’s Abundance,”  the assembly focused on the many ways God has blessed its communities, how people become more aware of the abundance around them and answer God’s call to share that abundance with others. The assembly launched the “Living in God’s Abundance Bible Study,” a resource written by synod clergy featuring video stories of parishioners living in God’s abundance as they share time, talents and treasures with others.  —Beth Anderson      New England, June 5-6, Springfield, Mass. The synod celebrated the theme of “Holy Experiment in Progress.” Keynote speaker Molly Phinney Baskette, pastor of First Church Somerville United Church of Christ, and author of Real Good Church: How our church came back from the dead, and yours can too, gave a stirring and entertaining address that included confessionals from a synod youth member and pastor. The assembly saw videos featuring different experimental ministries in the region and closed by welcoming two new congregations: Grace (Naugatuck, Conn.) and Sanctuary (Marshfield, Mass.).  —Andrew Merritt   West Virginia-Western Maryland, June 5-6, Flatwood, W.Va. The assembly elected a new leader (page 40) and named Ralph Dunkin as bishop emeritus. Dunkin celebrated the 45th anniversary of the ordination of women and recognized all of the synod’s female pastors. —Barbara Higgins

  • Recent revelations about abuse in the Duggar family, known for TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, and the ensuing public discourse, has motivated me to write about my experience as an adult survivor of childhood sexual abuse.   With the help of many years of therapy, particularly EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), and the tender companionship of a husband who both gave me space and held me close when I tried to run or self-harm, I am where I am. Supportive friends, survivor networks and most certainly the grace of God also have made me strong. I’m a survivor. I haven’t had nightmares or flashbacks in nine years. Still, the Duggar story both triggered a lot of feelings and made me profoundly numb to emotion. Then there are those who cause further emotional and spiritual harm to incest victims by insisting on the need for forgiveness. My story Between the ages of 8 and 16, I was molested frequently by a family member who lived nearby. The setting was rural and remote. There were no neighbors to run to for help. If there had been the opportunity to break the silence, I likely wouldn’t have taken it. He threatened me. I was ashamed. When I finally told a few people, I minimized the abuse and the damage. I had no idea, then, that the impact of the abuse would follow me around like a hungry dog for so many years. Each time my abuser was finished with me, he expressed remorse and told me I needed to forgive him. Coming from a churchgoing family, I felt the burden to forgive. I believed unforgiveness was sinful. So I tried, even praying with the few people I had told, asking that I might more sincerely forgive.   But I eventually realized that forgiveness lifted the burden of responsibility off the man who had molested me. Yet I still carried the nightmares, flashbacks, body image issues, the self-loathing and shame of one who had been abused. Since I couldn’t blame him anymore because of that forgiveness, the only one left to blame for the horrible way I felt was myself. From adolescence through my early 40s, I wanted to commit suicide but thought I would go to hell.    When I discovered I wasn’t his only victim, I finally broke the silence with my hometown family. In doing so, I found that many of the people I was trying to protect already knew. Some told me to “get over it.” I don’t go back home anymore. There are family members there whom I love and who have nothing to do with this. But it’s difficult to tell who sides with my abuser and who just doesn’t know what to say to me. The echoes of his threats have hung over me my whole life and still do. The most difficult decision of my life was to not attend my mother’s funeral. I loved her dearly and miss her still. But I choose to remain in safe supportive places now. Wrestling with theodicy I’ve been an ELCA pastor for more than 20 years. Theodicy (the question of why God allows evil) and I are old wrestling partners. I don’t want my words to unintentionally cause harm to those who are struggling. I no longer believe suicide leads to hell, though part of me is glad I once believed that because I’m still here.  I don’t trust anyone who thinks they are holier than someone else. There are far too many evil things that many Christians keep hidden behind a facade of “moral superiority.” I detest the phrase “Everything happens for a reason.” The reason might just be selfishness, pride, greed, envy, licentiousness, sloth, lust or just stupid choices. God isn’t trying to teach little rape victims a lesson.   The church has to be careful about how it uses words. Forgiveness is a tricky word. Built into the Lord’s Prayer, it’s an unavoidable mandate of Jesus. Yet most Christians, if we are honest, have some definite double standards when it comes to who and what needs to be forgiven (or not).

  • This summer finds The Lutheran and others in Strategic Communications of the churchwide organization working to determine how we might better reach ELCAmembers with news and information that informs faith and unites us as a church. What we’re planning is a robust storytelling website that combines articles from the magazine with those of the blogging microsite Living Lutheran, plus full access to ELCA news releases and material on the denomination’s main site. It would be coupled with a regularly distributed e-news digest highlighting the best stories we have to offer. For those wanting or needing print, the paper version of The Lutheran will continue. In this iteration the magazine would include much of its current content while incorporating material from Living Lutheran. It would also mix in stories and information members tell us they want added or increased, and conversely reduced or eliminated, in both the magazine and online. We’re surveying readers and leaders, as well as those not reached by our current communications efforts. This sampling will be done in a way that the results will be statistically accurate and reliable. And you, dear reader, can help. Consider the following questions, a broad but helpful mix drafted by Forrest Meyer, director for Strategic Communications. Share your thoughts at or via mail to the magazine at the address to the right of this column. How do you currently receive communication from the ELCA? How relevant do you find the content in The Lutheran, Living Lutheran What should be added, dropped? Do you feel well-informed about the ELCA through our current content?  Does the content we offer move you to act in some way, such as volunteer, advocate, share or give? If so, why; if not, why not? Do you feel connected to the ELCA and related organizations? Do you have a sense of belonging to a wider church beyond your congregation? What are your preferences in receiving and consuming our content? This relates to frequency (daily, weekly, monthly) and format (electronic, print). Finally, should we consider a new name/brand for this revamped website, as well as the magazine, in an effort to reach more members, or use one of the existing monikers, Living Lutheran or The Lutheran?  We should be careful what we ask for, yet we need to hear from you. After 27 years as the ELCA, our communications efforts are always being made new.