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.
  • Service to others is a key practice of discipleship. Many churches organize service (or mission) trips as an eye-opening way to put faith into action. These independently organized “volunteer vacations” are growing in popularity. How can we make sure our efforts are effective? I was 13 when I traveled to eastern Washington with my church youth group on a service trip for Habitat for Humanity. Joining up with 100 or so other youth, we built both homes and friendships.  The experience was transformative, opening my eyes to realities beyond my own. Economic injustice now had faces — and those faces had become my friends. The youth leaders I got to know during that week became role models of faith in action. The week had a major impact on my eventual education and career in international development. When I reflect on why my first service trip had such an impact, there are four key aspects. Doing vs. donating Would it be better just to send the money? The truth is, we aren’t usually choosing between a service trip and a donation. We want to travel, and we’re choosing what kind of experience we want for ourselves (or for our youth). As the adage says: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”  How can we have compassion for others if we don’t know their situation? It’s wonderful to assist at home, but traveling to serve presents another experience beyond our upbringings and surroundings. Putting effort into addressing an issue, we better understand the challenges.  Learning and exchange A key component of an effective service trip is learning and exchange. By reading and watching videos about the destination and its people while still at home, volunteers become better equipped to understand and process the reality they encounter when they arrive. Education about the destination’s culture, concerns and context should be integrated into the trip. Understanding can’t occur if we keep people at arm’s length. Yes, getting to know someone different from ourselves isn’t always easy or comfortable. It’s tempting to fall into the trap of socializing only with those in our service group. But how then will we get to know and understand cultural assumptions and worldviews that differ from our own? How will we learn which concerns and joys we share? Sometimes it takes a conscious effort to strike up conversations and friendships with the community in which we serve. A family our youth group served had teenagers who became my friends. The experience was richer because of this. Which brings me to my next point. Accompaniment The organization I first volunteered with, Habitat for Humanity, treats its housing beneficiaries as equals and requires their involvement (they call it “sweat equity”) into the construction of a home. It’s truly a shoulder-to-shoulder experience, a partnership between volunteer and beneficiary. The idea of accompaniment rather than sponsorship is an important ELCA method expressed in the values of mutuality, inclusiveness, etc.  “As the ELCA, we find that it’s not that one partner has the resources and one partner has the need. We come together in mutual need,” said Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger education with the ELCA. It’s a method of mission practiced by ELCA missionaries and is a good model to follow for any type of service work.

  • Imagine going 10 years without a shower or bath. That was the story of one homeless man who recently had his first shower in a decade thanks to Christ Lutheran Church, Goleta, Calif. Before the church’s mobile shower, the man could only get clean by using the cold-water beach showers for washing off sand or bathroom sinks at fast food restaurants. The idea for “Showers of Blessing” was put into action last fall but had been brewing for some time, said Ron Cox, pastor. The church was already a designated “safe parking” site for people forced to sleep in their cars and a sponsor of a food pantry.  At a church stewardship dinner, folks started discussing what more they could do. Parishioners, one of whom is a clinical social worker, talked about the hygiene needs of the homeless. Meanwhile, the ecumenical group Health, Empowerment and Love (HEAL) was meeting at Christ Lutheran. HEAL, which operates under the Interfaith Initiative of Santa Barbara County to help the homeless in Goleta and Isla Vista, had identified the two greatest needs of its neighbors without homes: a safe place to sleep and a warm shower. Out of these two discussions, the portable shower became a solution. When Cox and Doug Miller, another pastor from HEAL, went to the public health office to ask about regulations, they found an open door and people open to possibilities. “They had nothing like this and had never seen anything like this before. This was a huge health issue that affects the community,” Cox said. When the University Religious Center in Isla Vista had to close, the ELCA’s portion of the profits from the sale of its building were returned to Christ Lutheran, whose pastor also serves in campus ministry. The proceeds could only be used for local social justice efforts.  The congregation agreed to use part of the money for a portable shower. HEAL raised operational money, a truck was donated to move the trailer and Christ Lutheran went shopping for a two-shower/toilet/sink mobile trailer, which cost $32,561. Each week the trailer is parked at two churches; once a month it’s at the community center. As an act of stewardship, the wastewater is used to water shrubs. Cox introduced the ministry at the community Good Friday service: “The apparent death of a ministry, that sale of a building, planted the seed for the concrete, physical message of God’s love, of God’s grace to be proclaimed in a new way. People on the streets, our neighbors without houses, had heard talk about a God, but had not come face-to-face with the reality of God’s love and grace. The shower trailer ministry is doing that.” One person told Cox he felt human after taking a hot shower. Another said, “Seeing this and getting to know you, maybe there is something to this story about a God who loves you after all.” Watch this video to learn more:

  • The account of the Ascension in Acts has two great questions. The disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (1:6). Then, as the disciples watch the Lord ascending to heaven, the angels ask the disciples, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” (1:11). The disciples had walked with Jesus, they had experienced the crushing defeat of his crucifixion, they had seen the risen Christ, and yet they seem to be afflicted by nearsightedness and farsightedness at the same time. They are looking for a restored kingdom and a vanishing Messiah. I wonder what we as the church want to have restored. Do we get a little nearsighted or shortsighted about the church and about the earth-shattering, life-changing power of the death and resurrection of Christ? When we long for some remembered golden age are we blind to this new thing that God is doing in the church? We are in the middle of a seismic shift in the church. In her book The Great Emergence(Baker Books, 2012), author and lecturer Phyllis Tickle points out that every 500 years or so the church goes through a major upheaval. I think that’s where we are now. And while it is interesting to read of church upheavals in the past, living through one can be pretty uncomfortable. What is emerging? What is falling away? When will we know that the new thing has come into being? What is going to happen to us? But hey, take heart, I don’t think anyone woke up on June 7, 1518, and said, “How’s the Reformation going today?” When we ask that the kingdom be restored to the church, we are really asking for the kind of certainty that arises from human need. We want clear, measurable, tangible signs that our world will be ordered to our specifications. That certainty will never be achieved this side of heaven. That is not the certainty we really need and it is not the certainty God has given us in our new life in Christ. Which leads to the second question, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” Or more to the point, “People of God, why do we stand looking up toward heaven?” Maybe because a vision of glory is a lot more appealing than what we have facing us right now. But that is not what we are called to do. We are not called to be the church of the past nor the church of some distant future, but to be the church right now. For whatever reason, we are the ones God is using at this time, in this messiness. We are not going to get it right all of the time. We are broken and sinful creatures, but we are also redeemed creatures. In baptism we have already died the only death that really matters. Can we start to live like we believe that?

  • It was a sacred event in a sacred space, and those who were there left convinced that they’d been joined by countless unseen others to watch history come full circle.  The Lutherans in the group spoke of the Danish immigrants who purchased a small plot of land in central Denver more than 100 years ago and consecrated it for worship and the shaping of a community. The American Indians spoke of ancestors, summoned from the four directions in the sacred pipe ceremony. Both spoke of the pain and brokenness that has marked so much of the history between indigenous people and those whose ancestors immigrated to this land.  But the two cultures came together March 28 to recognize the value both place on sacred space and to acknowledge the role it plays in our connection to the divine and each other.  Legally speaking, what happened was a transfer of ownership of property from theRocky Mountain Synod to the Four Winds American Indian Council. Spiritually speaking, what happened was much more profound. It was, in the words of George Tinker, founder and elder of Four Winds, a “stunning and remarkable ceremonial moment.” Purchased by Danes The property in question — at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Bannock Street in a part of Denver that until recently verged on the seedy — was purchased by Danish immigrants in 1912 for $2,150. On it they built a sturdy brick church: Bethany Danish Lutheran. For the next 60 years the building housed this community of faith, where generations of Lutherans came to be baptized, married, nurtured in the faith and inspired by the holy. But by 1973 membership had dwindled to the point of no return. The congregation was dissolved, with ownership of the building and neighboring parsonage turned over to the American Lutheran Church, an ELCA predecessor. In 1988 it passed to the Rocky Mountain Synod.  The building didn’t sit empty. From 1973 to 1986 it housed Lutheran Social Services of Colorado. In 1986 an Episcopal/Lutheran community, Living Waters Indian Ministry, moved in and called Tinker as its pastor.  “Tink,” as he is widely known, was a Lutheran pastor who had earned a master of divinity degree from Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and a doctorate in biblical studies at Graduate Theological Union, both in Berkeley, Calif. The son of an Osage Nation father, he joined the faculty of the Iliff School of Theology in Denver in 1985. Today, as the Clifford Baldridge Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at Iliff, he has opened the eyes of thousands of students to the atrocities committed against native people and the church’s complicity in them. Living Waters gradually evolved into the Four Winds American Indian Council in 1989, of which Tinker was a founding member. Four Winds continued to use the buildings at Fifth and Bannock — rent-free — for ceremonial and spiritual purposes and as a community center for urban American Indians.  “Our families had wakes and funerals there. People were married. Babies were welcomed into our world. Indian organizations met and held meetings or classes over the years. Our young ones grew into adulthood here at Fifth and Bannock,” Tinker said. “This was a place where all Indian folk could feel comfortable coming to pray, each in their own traditional way.”

  • James R. Crumley Jr., who as leader of the former Lutheran Church in America (LCA) saw himself as a “pastor with a larger parish,” died April 7. He was 90 years old. Throughout his ministry Crumley always saw his role as a pastor. “The highest privilege and the greatest responsibility any person can have is the care of souls,” he told reporters after his election as LCA president. “To hear him tell the story of his life, the Rev. Dr. James R. Crumley was convinced that God always was full of gracious surprises,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton. “One surprise unfolded into another for him. Each one prepared the way for new responsibilities. As he said upon his election in 1974 as secretary of the [LCA], ‘I believe that when God calls us, God also gives us the resources to fulfill our responsibilities.’ ” Born March 30, 1925, in Bluff  City, Tenn., Crumley earned degrees from Roanoke College, Salem, Va., and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, S.C. Prior to his election as LCA secretary, Crumley served congregations in Tennessee and Georgia. He was elected LCA president in 1978 and as bishop in 1980. (See page 45.)  Known for his commitment to ecumenical relationships and church unity, Crumley was a member of the Executive Committee of the Lutheran World Federation, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, and the Governing Board of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. He was also Lutheran chair of the International Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission. As a member of the Commission for a New Lutheran Church, Crumley helped unite the LCA, American Lutheran Church and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, which formed the ELCA in 1987. His tenure as bishop involved a great deal of travel, including several trips to the Soviet Union, Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and visits to many churches in Africa and Asia. He visited all seven historic patriarchates of the Orthodox Churches and the Vatican, including four private audiences with Pope John Paul II. “His understanding and vision of the church was not confined only to the Lutheran context,” Eaton said. “In a historic development, he exchanged letters with Pope John Paul II in 1985. The letters affirmed the greater mutual understanding that already had emerged from U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue. At the same time, the letters urged deeper commitment to further ecumenical endeavors.  “As the years passed and the honors accumulated, Dr. Crumley remained that same gracious gentleman who had been raised in the mountains of Tennessee but was called by the church to ministry throughout this nation and the world.” Crumley was married to Annette Bodie Crumley and they had three children: Frances Holman, James Crumley III and Jeanne Lindemann (deceased).