Category Archives: Signs of the Times

SIGNS OF THE TIMES

Paula Carlson Elected President of Luther College

Dr. Paula Carlson has just been elected President of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Her husband, Dr. Thomas Schattauer, is Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel at Wartburg Seminary. Thomas and Paula have long been a part of Wartburg.  Paula will assume the office of president July 1. She is currently in her 6th year serving as Vice President of Mission at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Previously she was Associate Dean and then Director of the Wendt Center at the University of Dubuque.

Paula is a graduate of St. Olaf College. She earned her Ph.D. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in New York City. She has taught in many positions at various institutions through the years.

Karen Bloomquist Begins Her Leadership of PLTS

The Rev. Dr. Karen Bloomquist is the new dean and Chief Administrative Officer of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, having begun January 1.  She replaces Rev. Dr. Phyllis Anderson who was president of PLTS and is a Wartburg Seminary graduate. Karen taught Ethics at Wartburg Seminary before spending 11 years as the director of the department for theology and studies at the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland.  She served in a similar position for the ELCA before and while teaching at Wartburg.

Karen is a graduate of St. Olaf College, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and earned her doctorate in theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

TOWARDS FULL PARTNERSHIP: ELIZABETH EATON ELECTED PRESIDING BISHOP OF ELCA by Norma Cook Everist, WTS Professor of Church and Ministry

In January, 1990, The Persistent Voice began publication. At that time, just two years after the formation of the “New” Lutheran church in January of 1988, there were no women Lutheran bishops. Through the years, The Persistent Voice traced the progress not only of the full inclusion of women in public ministry but also towards the full partnership of women and men in the church. (PV Mission Statement for many years)

The ELCA saw a fulfillment of that mission statement August 14, 2013 at the biennial churchwide assembly with the presence together of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and Presiding Bishop Elect Elizabeth Eaton after her election and in their statements immediately following and when Bishop Hanson introduced Bishop Eaton at her news conference later that day.

Wartburg is represented at the churchwide assembly by President Stan Olson, faculty member Prof. Sam Giere and by a significant number of students who are voting members as well as by alumni and friends.  President Olson immediately informed the Wartburg community electronically of the election: “Pr. Elizabeth Eaton, Bishop of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, is the Presiding Bishop Elect for the ELCA. Let us give thanks for her servant leadership to come and give thanks for the servant leadership of Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson.”

Elected on the fifth ballot, Eaton received 600 votes, Hanson 287; 445 votes were needed of the 889 cast. Dr. Giere commented: “The final ballot went decidedly in her favor (approx. 2/3) It hasn’t gone unobserved among us at the seminary representatives’ table that the theme ‘Always Being Made New’ is being blown into reality by the Spirit.  In her acceptance she acknowledged the witness and work of those women who came before her including in particular April Ulring Larson as the first female bishop in the ELCA. . . . It is important to note the image of the assembly’s work since the preparation for the third ballot when candidates began to address the gathering: three women and one man.  Not to suggest that all things are equal in this church, but there is a profound symbolism in the final four candidates for presiding bishop standing together with the names Ann, Mark, Jessica, and Elizabeth.  Last (for now) but not least, ELCA vice-president, Carlos Peña, announced the election of our new presiding bishop.”

Presiding Bishop Elect Elizabeth A. Eaton said, “We are a church that is overwhelmingly European in a culture that is increasingly pluralistic. We need to welcome the gifts of those who come from different places, that is a conversation we need to have as a church.”

Prior to becoming a bishop. Eaton served as pastor in Ohio. She has a M.Div. degree from Harvard Divinity School.

When The Persistent Voice began publishing in 1990, the ELCA was celebrating the 20th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA and predecessor bodies. Representational principles adopted at the time the ELCA began in 1988 (25 years ago) assured equal representation of women and men on boards and commissions and at synodical and churchwide assemblies, changing the nature of such gatherings tremendously. But the conference of bishops began as an all-male group.

Things had already changed at Wartburg Seminary. In the first issue of The Persistent Voice there was an article about Professor Elizabeth Leeper being installed as Assistant Professor of Church History, bringing the number of women professors at Wartburg to four (the other three being Norma Cook Everist, Anne Marie Neuchterlein, and Patti Jung), plus two more serving as instructors in biblical language (May Persaud and Cindy Smith).

Spring 1992 The Persistent Voice (PV): “Marie Jesper, 47-year-old minister in Hamburg, Germany has become the first woman ever elected a Lutheran bishop. When she was consecrated as spiritual leader of the 950,000 Lutherans who make up 60% of the population of Hamburg and more than 90% of the Protestants, she said, “I read and interpret the Bible with my experience as a woman. I want to be a sister among sisters and brothers.”

Summer 1992 PV: “Bishop-Elect April Ulring Larson will be installed October 11 in LaCrosse, WI, as bishop of the LaCrosse Area Synod of the ELCA. Rev. Larson, a 1977 graduate of Wartburg Seminary, was elected June 12 on the fifth ballot, the first woman elected bishop in the ELCA.” PV: “She will bring to the office a quiet wisdom, compassion and ability to listen. She has a strong commitment to justice and good skills in helping congregations resolve conflict.”

Summer 1995 PV: “The Rev. Andrea DeGroot-Nesdahl will be installed as bishop of the South Dakota Synod of the ELCA Sept. 24 on the campus of Augustana College. She was elected June 2 on the third ballot. In a phone interview she said, ‘God has worked such a miracle in my heart and life by this experience.’” Although she had been a candidate in Western North Dakota before, this was the first time South Dakota had a woman as a candidate. She is a 1977 graduate of Wartburg Seminary.

One might have thought the rate of change would then increase; however according to The Lutheran (August 2013) from 1988-2012, the total number of female bishops among all the 65 synods over the 25 years had been only 12.

Spring, 2008 PV covered the story of the election of Rev. Susan Johnson as the new National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), September 29, 2007, in Winnipeg. Because two of the five synodical bishops at that time were women, that brought the total to ½ male and ½ female. Bishop Johnson said in an interview with PV, “I think we take a fair amount of pride in that accomplishment.  Does it mean we have conquered all gender issues? No, but it’s a visible witness to people that we are committed to full equality in the church.”

(One thing National Bishop Johnson and Bishop Eaton have in common, besides their gender? Susan was a high school music teacher before she entered seminary and Elizabeth’s undergraduate degree is in music education.)

At the press conference, following the churchwide election August 14 Bishop Hanson introduced Bishop Eaton as “My Colleague,” and Bishop Eaton said that all of Bishop Hanson’s work toward making the ELCA a more inclusive church had led to this moment of her election. She gave thanks for his leadership over the past 12 tumultuous years in the ELCA, referring in part to the 2009 churchwide decision on sexuality, noting also that no bishop resigned after that decision.

Bishop Eaton emphasized that the ELCA is a place where people hear the Gospel, “upon which we can all agree,” which has made this an inclusive church.

Ann Rogers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked, “During your remarks you stated the importance of including the voices of those who had difficulty with 2009 decisions. How do you propose going about this?” Bp. Eaton: “This is one of the geniuses of the Lutheran movement—we thrive on paradox. As long as we agree on the cross of Christ, we can live together. If people believe they are being heard and there is a place for them, we will be OK.”

She was questioned by another reporter about the relationship going forward with the two break-away new Lutheran church groups. (NALC and LCMC) Bishop Eaton responded, “In baptism we are brothers and sisters in Christ,” but added that much work will need to be done before we can have a dialog because there has been much pain. “We will do what we can through God’s grace.”

With wisdom and wit, Bishop Eaton gave brief, clear answers to the questions of reporters both in the room in Pittsburgh and connected on the web. A reporter from the Chicago Tribune, who had covered the papal election, posed a question relating Eaton’s election to the election of the new pope in Rome, asking if she had a “room of tears” as the new pope had. Eaton said with a slight smile on her face, “Oh, this was just like that.”  She went on, “We have nothing like that, no frescoes. I did weep at worship this morning.” The reporter had asked about her family. Bishop Eaton noted the presence of her husband, the Rev. Conrad Selnick, an Episcopalian priest, and spoke of their two daughters, now in their 20’s.

Asked what she thought the ELCA would look like in 5 or 6 years, she answered, “God only knows,” adding that we need to make space for those coming in while continuing to honor our heritage. She ended the press conference eloquently speaking about the need for the distinctive voice of the ELCA and Lutheranism in the current American religious landscape, not to be subsumed under Christian Protestantism or deism or the religion of popular culture, but a faith of the cross and resurrection in which true joy and freedom can be found.

 

MALAYA’S PERSISTENT VOICE AT THE UNITED NATIONS

by Norma Cook Everist, WTS Professor of Church and Ministry

The Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for attending classes, July 12 addressed hundreds of young people at the United Nations, urging them and world leaders to work towards free education for all girls and boys in every nation in the world.  She spoke in the name of the world’s religions calling for peace, education, and equality.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world,” Ms. Yousafzai said, in an impassioned address.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had named July 12 – Ms. Yousafzai’s 16th birthday – ‘Malala Day’ in honor of her heroic stand to ensure education for all. The meeting, which featured nearly 1,000 youth leaders, was addressed by former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in his capacity as UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

 One teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.

Malala, who was shot in the forehead and face, told the gathering that the Taliban’s attack on her nine months ago changed nothing in her life, except that “weakness, fear and hopelessness died.”

“The extremists were, and they are, afraid of books and pens,” she said. “The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women.” She urged worldwide action against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.

This call to action was delivered just as the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural organization (UNESCO) Education for All Global Monitoring Report, launched a new policy paper spotlighting that globally, the number of children not allowed or able to attend school has fallen from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011. However, 28 million children out of school live in the world’s conflict zones, and more than half of those are women and girls.

Prayers for Sexual Assault Awareness at Wartburg Seminary by Mary Wiggins, 2nd Year M.Div

The community of Wartburg Seminary, during the week of April 25th 2013, prayed for those impacted by Sexual Assault. April is Sexual Assault Awareness month. This effort was coordinated by the Global Concerns Committee and the Chapel Staff and planning groups. Although Sexual Assault and Abuse primarily affect women, it does not discriminate for men and women, young and old from all over the world are survivors of rape, incest, and abuse. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men are impacted by sexual assault in their life time.  

What makes sexual abuse so vile? Its power to isolate and to silence.

Fifty-eight candles were lit in the chapel to represent how sexual abuse statistics would look in a community of Wartburg’s size. These candles were accompanied by prayers for victims–survivors and those who did not survive, supporters, advocates and perpetrators. With sighs too deep for words to express these candles were a visual prayer for all the people whose voices were silenced by abuse.

Image of candles on the Table in Loehe Chapel.

Holy One, you do not distance yourself from the pain of your people, but in Jesus you bear that pain with all who suffer at other’s hands. With your cleansing love bring healing and strength to victims of sexual assault and by your justice, lift them up, that in body, mind, spirit they may again rejoice. In Jesus name, Amen.” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, p. 84)

Photo credit: Mary Wiggins

PIPELINED by Mary Wiggins, M.Div. Middler

One of my mentors, someone very dear to me, my campus pastor, holds the theory that we aren’t fully adults until we are thirty; that young adulthood is a decade phase of liminality between the threshold of youth-hood and adulthood. In many ways I agree, considering I feel I have a lot of growing up to do and often I feel like I am constantly in-between. At twenty-three years old, a few months shy of my college graduation I felt a calling to pastoral ministry and by twenty-nine, I hope to be an ordained pastor. I am a part of the group of seminarians that used to be much larger, those that will be ordained or consecrated before the age of 30. I am going to be a young clergy person. So I ask the question “Is someone too young to go to seminary?”

There were several reasons why I began to explore this question, but none of them matter nearly as much as the question itself. Today, there are far fewer pipeliners in seminary than there used to be. Maybe part of it has to do with the times. Or it could be the encouragement of more second-career seminarians. Or maybe it is the strong persuasion to do anything else you possibly can, such as an old trend in some denominations to encourage candidates to live a little bit first.

So my answer, unsurprisingly, is, “No. I don’t think, within reason, that anyone is too young to go to seminary.” Yes, I still agree that most candidates should have a Bachelor’s degree first, even though many pipeliners feel called much earlier. And yes, I believe some pipeliners are developmentally less mature than others and are obliviously less developmentally mature than our older classmates. And yes, we have many challenges ahead of us, including amount of growth, issues in establishing our authority (both with parishioners and colleagues), and finding a witty yet tactful comeback to being questioned on our age on a regular basis.

But you see, despite all of this, we are called. God calls all types of people. And some of us may actually end up being called “the pastor that looks like she’s twelve.” We may grow beards, cut our hair short, buy more “grown up clothes” to establish authority, but we are called none-the-less. You see because it’s not entirely ourselves and the things we do that give us authority to pursue this calling and to be pastors. It is also the people to whom we minster. It is the college student taking to her mom on her cell phone on the way to a retreat who calls the Wartburg intern, her pastor. Or it’s the woman who called the CPE student, the chaplain. Or it is the man who asks the very green 25 year-old seminarian, “How long have you been in ministry?” and then pours out his heart. It is these people who recognize who we are and prove that no one is too young to go to seminary.

Australian Women Continue to Press for Ordination

The Women’s Ministry Network, a partnership of women and men has been working for the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church in Australia for many years. The Persistent Voice has followed their struggle and been a partner with them in this challenge. Here is recent word from them: 

“St Stephen’s Lutheran Church [Australia] is organising a conference aimed at moving the issue of Women’s Ordination forward within the LCA, which will be held in Adelaide 13-14th July, 2012. It has been described as the ‘ultimate women’s ordination conference’ – not that it will be the greatest, but we aim for it to be the last.  By our assessment, membership of the LCA will no longer tolerate the tactics of endless talkfests, national Bible-studies, think-tanks, discussions and committees.  It is time for change!

“Please prayerfully consider participating in this conference, and planning what we need to do around Australia to ensure that women’s ordination quickly becomes a reality in the LCA.   Please be a part of bringing new life to the LCA in the form of bringing women’s gifts into pastoral leadership. 

This information has been sent to all LCA pastors and congregational chairpersons.  We encourage you ask that notices about the conference be put in your bulletins and newsletters over the coming weeks.  Any way that you can help to promote this event to those who need to hear would be most helpful.”

 Conference website  www.sslc.org.au/woc2012

 Peace and blessings”

Although most readers The Persistent Voice will be unable go to Australia to attend, prayers and support would be most encouraged.

 

TWO MEN TO CHAIR FELLOWSHIP OF WARTBURG SPOUSES by Mary Wiggins, M.Div. Junior

For the 2012-2013 school year at Wartburg Theological Seminary, the Fellowship of Wartburg Spouses will be co-chaired by two awesome fellas. That’s right fellas. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that for the first time two men will chair a group that years ago was comprised of mostly wives of male students, or just a sign that at Wartburg Theological Seminary both men and women are willing to step up and help represent the interests of male and female students and their spouses. Mike HarriSon and Will Van Kley were elected this Spring to co-chair the Fellowship of Wartburg Spouses, a group that has been around for quite some time and continues to be vital on campus. Mike is the husband of Master of Divinity Student Martha HarriSon and father to Michael, Christopher, Jackie, and Joey. Will is the husband of Master of Divinity Student Ann Van Kley and father to Lydia, Charlotte, and Nicholas. Congratulations, Mike and Will. We all know you will do great!

WARTBURG WOMAN NEW BISHOP OF ALASKA SYNOD

The Rev. Shelley Wickstrom, WTS, 1986, was elected bishop of the Alaska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Friday, April 27. Shelley currently serves as Co-ordinator of Region 1 of the ELCA. She has served congregations in Alaska and Montana.

Shelley, a woman with gentle strength and wisdom, brings years of experience in parish ministry, and service in the broader ELCA. She lived in Alaska before her studies at Wartburg Seminary and served bi-vocationally in her first call in Alaska. She will be a blessing in the church in Alaska and bring a clear voice to the public world as bishop on behalf of the church.

The Alaska Synod is 64th out of the 65 synods of the ELCA in membership, but the largest in geographic size. It stretches from the congregation in Shismaref to the congregation in Ketchikan 1400 air miles away. They have the largest and only Inupiat (Alaskan Eskimo) population of the ELCA who make up almost 20% of their baptized membership.

http://www.elcaalaska.net

FIRST WOMAN BISHOP IN ICELAND

 The Reverand Agnes Sigurðardóttir, pastor at Bolungarvík and dean of the Westfjord region (far Northwest Iceland), will be the first woman to serve as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland.  She was elected after the second round of ballots this past week.  She will succeed Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson, who has served as Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Iceland since 1998. Wartburg Seminary has a number of significant relationships with the Church of IceIand, particularly through Professor Sam Giere who regularly takes students there on J-Terms. He invites holding in prayer  sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland, Bishop Karl, and Bishop-elect Agnes as they continue to walk forward in faith. 

  http://www.ruv.is/frett/agnes-nyr-biskup-yfir-islandi

 

PV AUTHOR CONTINUES TO WRITE

Sandi Olson DeckerThe Rev. Sandi Olson Decker, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Salinas, California, WTS, 2006, has been chosen for one of Collegeville  (Collegeville, MN) Institute’s, week-long writing experiences. Sandi was an avid writer and editor of The Persistent Voice while a student at Wartburg Seminary.

How many students have served on the staff of The Persistent Voice over the past 23 years?  Over 175! Many, having gained writing and editing experience, have gone on to publish other things. They have come to Wartburg, served, and gone forth to all kinds of service in the church and world.

WE INVITE you to contribute your writing. The subject matter can be as broad as the lives, experiences and vision of our readers. News, reviews, poetry, challenges, features and more should in some way relate to the mission statement: addressing issues of gender and justice across the globe and working towards the full partnership of women and men in ministry.  Send submissions to ncookeverist@wartburgseminary.edu.  We will edit (so don’t worry about your writing form). We will make sure you see the edited version before it is posted under your name.