Monthly Archives: October 2013

THE BROKEN BODY by Daniel Morris, WTS Final Year, M.Div

For some, Reformation Sunday is the Christian equivalent of the Fourth of July, a day to celebrate freedom from an oppressive overlord. For others, Reformation Sunday is a day to remember that the Church is called to read the times and respond faithfully in every generation. For some, Reformation Sunday is simply a Sunday to commemorate events lost to the past, the memory of which does little more than make Lutherans feel good about “beating” the Roman Catholics.

During this Reformation week and as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we should question practices of exclusion at the Eucharistic table where Christ intended to unite us. We should wonder at our treatment of children when we in effect teach them they can partake of Holy Communion only when they have reached a certain level of intellectual agreement and assent. We should wonder how we can ever hope to overcome the much greater forms of segregation (ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.) if we cannot even come together around the table of our one Lord, Jesus Christ.

When in practice we teach justification through right belief, we return to pre-Reformation thought. The practice of excluding children from the Sacrament of the Altar reinforces the notion that God draws an invisible line between those who believe rightly, and are therefore worthy to receive Christ, and those whose lack of acceptable understanding makes them unworthy to receive God’s good gifts.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther says that “a person who has faith in these words, ‘given for you and ‘shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,’ is really worthy and well prepared [to partake of the sacrament].” Trust, not understanding, makes one worthy to receive. Yet we teach our children through our communion practice and through Reformation history in confirmation that only those with understanding and right belief are acceptable to God.

When Jesus’ disciples squabbled over who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus placed a child in their midst and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” (Mt 18.3, 5) He also told them, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Mt 18.6) When Jesus’ disciples prevented children from coming to him, Jesus scolded them saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Mt. 19:14)

I WANT A HOSTA LIKE FAITH by Amanda Christensen, WTS 1st Year DL Student

i want a hosta like faith

I want a hosta like faith.
I want a faith that can’t be killed no matter how hard others try.
I want a faith that accentuates every other plant in the garden.
I want a faith that can handle the sun, but prefers the shade.
I want a faith that can move mountains or at least the walkway gravel.
I want a faith that dares to keep growing.

I want a hosta like faith.
I want a faith that someone can say, ‘Friends don’t let friends buy faith.”
I want a faith that connects neighbors over the good, bad and ugly.
I want a faith that can’t be boxed in or walled in or containerize, but grows so abundantly that it needs to be split and transplanted every few years and then split and transplanted again.
I want a faith that shoots up really ugly flowers so everyone knows that under the ground I’m growing deep powerful roots.
I want a faith that comes in over 400 varieties because every day and every moment I am experiencing an amazingly different aspect of God.

REFLECTIONS ON “OF COURSE” REGARDING BISHOP EATON’S INSTALLATION by Donna Runge, final year M.Div., with comments from across the globe

‘Of course’ — Reflections on the Elizabeth Eaton installation

My first reaction to Norma Cook Everist’s article in the “Living Lutheran” on Bishop Elizabeth Eaton’s installation as Presiding Bishop of the ELCA was the journey that has brought the ELCA to this historic and significant moment in time.  As I read the story the second time through, Norma’s words and reflections took on a deeper meaning for me.  As a woman and as a final year seminary student I paused and took time to reflect on my own journey of faith towards ordination.

The first steps for me began when the ELCA was yet a dream.  It was in 1963 and I was a seventh grade student attending a fall confirmation retreat.  I remember the inside of the church and the pew I was sitting in with many of the other students.  Our intern pastor was standing on the chancel floor in front of us by the communion rail and talking with us about listening to God’s voice and answering God’s call to ministry.  Intern Hullett told us that God had spoken to him as a teenager; and that God might also be talking to one or more of us during this retreat.  As he ended his discussion, Intern Hullett asked if any of us felt God’s calling, and if so, he would like to pray with us about it.  As I sat in that pew, I felt a voice calling me.  I wanted to go up to talk with him.  Instead, I felt confused, and scared, glued to my seat in the pew – praying God would show me what to do.

It was a time when there were no women pastors in the Lutheran Church in America.   There were no role models for me to follow in my church body.  In fact, when I found the courage to talk with my pastor about becoming a pastor, he laughed at me and said, “Are you crazy?  This is not a job for a woman.  Only men become pastors.”  I felt alone, without strength, without courage, and without support from anyone to go forward.  This view was further reinforced by my sophomore English teacher when she gave me a failing grade on my term paper.   The assignment had been to write on what career path we would take after completing high school.  I had written on becoming a pastor.  The teacher’s rationale for failing me was that becoming a pastor was not considered a viable career for a woman at that time.  I was then sent to our high school guidance counselor and told to consider the more appropriate careers of teacher, nurse, secretary, or wife and mother.

How the world has changed.  How I have changed.  The seeds of God’s calling which were planted over forty years have grown, matured, and blossomed.  That young girl is no longer confused and scared.  That young woman has walked out in faith.  Today I have found the strength and courage to answer God’s calling to Word and sacrament ministry.   Today I have found those role models and a support system that were lacking so many years ago.  Today I have a pastor who believes in me, encourages me, supports me, and mentors me as I travel on the journey God placed in my heart so many years ago.

“Of Course,” doors have been opened.  Hearts have been changed.  Women are now embraced as they begin seminary.  “Of Course” there is still work to do.  As I remember the paths along my journey, I appreciate the “Of Course” moments along the way and embrace my final year of seminary, anticipating my ordination next year.

Donna Runge, final year M.Div.


People from across the country and from as far away as Jamaica, South Africa and Australia responded on facebook and by e-mail to the “Living Lutheran” article. Here are a few of their comments:

While the decades roll on, I look forward to the day when even those opposed to the ordination of women in the Lutheran Church of Australia will look at each other and say, “Of course.”

Tanya Wittwer, Adelaide, Australia, WTS graduate

Leigh Newton also wrote from Australia: Thanks so much Norma. Yes, this is significant across the world. Some of us are far behind. We have been functioning in fear for so long. I used your article as inspiration this afternoon for our congregation’s motion on calling suitably qualified women or men when we need to call pastors. “Can’t you wait just a few more years?”  The motion was carried, 21 to 7! Significant in a church that doesn’t ordain women. Let’s see what this means for the broader church down the road.

Leigh Newton,  Adelaide, Australia

I loved the article!  Of course, of course I did! I had no idea all of the pain women must have gone through to pave the way for future women of the church.  I had no idea at all and I appreciate you sharing it with everyone.

Terese Touvelle, 2nd year WTS diaconal ministry student

Paula wrote: The Spirit of God, RUAH, herself was present though out the millennium, bringing wisdom (Sophia) and Shekinah (glory) to each corner of our world and lives, Of Course! Thank you for being in the vanguard with us from our corner of Lutheranism (LCMS) to the ecumenical and interfaith days to which we now proclaim the Gospel that God has said, “Yes, I love you all, always.”

Rev. Paula Hepola Anderson, WTS graduate

This past weekend I performed a wedding for one of my college roommates, and yesterday I had to take the marriage license to the post office. The clerk saw the envelope and congratulated me on my marriage. I explained that I did not get married but instead that I was the pastor at the wedding. My heart dropped just a little as I saw the look on the clerk’s face, not fully understanding what I had tried to explain.

“Of course…” “Of course…”  Your words reminded me of the long way we have to go, but yet how far we have come and that gender does not define the Good News proclaimed from my own lips or anyone’s lips.

Rev. Shannon Arnold, WTS graduate

I just read your article about the installation. I cried while reading it. For the first time in my life, I’ve been experiencing what it is to be a “woman” in ministry. A man stopped me on the street because he had never seen a woman in a collar before, and he had “questions.” Another man purposely neglected asking me to participate in a community event as a religious leader because I was a woman. I’ve always shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’ve never been treated differently than anyone else,” whenever anyone has asked me about my being in ministry, but I forget that the very act of being asked that question is telling. I am newly inspired and energized by the article.

Jen Dahle, WTS Intern

I remember when I wanted to be a Lutheran minister years ago.  I was told, “Women aren’t ministers.” And before that I was told, “Girls aren’t altar boys.” Your extremely important narrative about the history of women in the Lutheran church brought chills to my skin.  I remember.  Let us not forget the sisters who went before.”

Rebecca Crystal, Unitarian Universalist Seminarian

From South Africa: [My wife] Solveig printed out your piece, “Of course,” and I read it slowly—grinning and often at the point of tears, not sure nor really caring whether they were tears of joy or sorrow. And all the way through, your words pulled up memories of Connie Kleingartner.  She was one of our first. We saw her move from tentative decisions about whether she should really try to do “regular” ministry or perhaps a “special ministry,”. . .  to her decision to be part of Wartburg’s first House of Studies in Denver. . . [Connie was ordained in 1977 and served in many places, including as a professor at LSTC] to the news of her battle with cancer, to the quiet report of her death. For us, an unforgettable part of the larger narrative.

Rev. Dr. Peter Kjeseth, WTS professor emeritus, and “Dean of Women Students” at Wartburg in the early 1970’s

ANSWERING YOUR CALL by Donna Runge, WTS Final Year, M.Div

Answering Your Call

Today I’m answering Your call –
To preach Your word and tend to all;
My gifts I bring, to serve Your church,
To speak of hope to those on earth.

Give me strength my foes to meet –
Your words of truth and not defeat;
To calm my fears and hurts unknown,
Both through Your peace and mercy shown.

Show me Your will through truth and love –
Blessed by Your Spirit from above;
Help me to serve with courage Lord,
With mind and heart in one accord.

I seek Your guidance in my task –
Through counsel, prayers, and tears I ask;
Grant me Your grace each day to lead,
Those who gather, those in need.

With joy I come, my life outpour –
A broken vessel, open door;
Grant me Your grace to walk each day,
Each through Your words, Your truth, Your Way.

ELCA CHURCHWIDE ASSEMBLY GREETING by Jennifer Michael, WELCA President, 1st Year MDiv

WELCA President Jennifer Michael gave this address to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly gathered in Pittsburg, PA this past August. (Beginning at 03:23:00 in Plenary Nine)

Hello everyone… My name is Jenny Michael and as president of Women of the ELCA, I bring you greetings on behalf of our churchwide executive board, our executive director, Linda Post-Bushkofsky, our churchwide staff and the over 250,000 active participants of Women of the ELCA.

Some of you may be familiar with who we are as an organization… but I think that there are also a number of you who are unaware of what a valuable partner that Women of the ELCA continues to be for this church.  I heard from a friend this week who said that one of the voting members from her synod posted a remark about the gift you received from the Women of the ELCA… saying that he didn’t even know who we were… Well, I am here to answer that very question!

If you read our Purpose Statement, then you will know that we are a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship through Jesus Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  And each day we strive to make connections with women that will strengthen their gifts for leadership and service.

As an independent and totally self-funded organization, Women of the ELCA publishes many free downloadable faith resources each year used by small groups and congregations; we provide training and support for racial justice advocacy and we support many ecumenical efforts to eliminate poverty and hunger; and as an organization we sponsor special events that provide fellowship, renewal and spiritual growth for women.

And before I go on… I need one minute to give you a little infomercial about one of the events that is just on the horizon for Women of the ELCA… It is our 9th Triennial Convention and Gathering in Charlotte, NC in July 2014.  If you have never experienced this event, then you will just have to trust me!  It is without question the absolute best place for a Lutheran woman to be… There are enriching workshops and bible study and there are soul-stirring worship moments where you can listen to the collective voices of over 2000 Lutheran women singing their praises to God!  And the speakers… well, let me just say that in 2011, we hosted Leymah Gbowee just before she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  And in 2008, a certain female bishop from Northeastern Ohio gave such a rousing sermon during closing worship that brought us all to a standing ovation!  With that kind of track record, I imagine that our upcoming speakers are wondering just what God has in store for them after they speak at the Triennial Gathering!

So, please mark your calendars and make plans to join us from Thursday, July 24th through Sunday, July 27th in Charlotte, North Carolina for the 9th Triennial Gathering of Women of the ELCA.

Okay, so that was the infomercial part… and a good one… but still, back to that question of just who are we as Women of the ELCA?

To some of you, we are only that ladies knitting group that meets every Tuesday at 10AM… to some of you, we are only the hands that prepare the funeral dinners and make sure the kitchens are well stocked…

But to me, we are also the women’s circle group from Western North Dakota who decided to begin a prison quilt ministry.  Knowing that everyone can uncover a heart for service, these women go once a month to the prison with their sewing machines and donated material… and they sew quilts together with female prisoners that are then donated to Lutheran World Relief and in the process help these women to connect back a portion of their own humanity.  We are social advocates…

To me, we are the first organization in the ELCA to have a smartphone app with Daily Grace and the first in the ELCA to provide a digital tablet app of our magazine Gather … which I’ve been told you all have been enjoying on your notebooks this week.   You’re welcome!  We are visionaries…

To me, we are those delicious cookies that you have been enjoying all week… Now I know I can get an “AMEN” on that one!  You may not know this, but all of these cookies have been provided the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synodical Women’s Organization… when the call was sent out, we were there!  We are hospitality…

And then again, to me… Women of the ELCA is a sisterhood where we are in deep relationship with one another… an organization that can provide comfort and support through Facebook to a recent widow… we are that community that nurtures and empowers a young woman of color to serve on a synodical board… and to me, Women of the ELCA has been a transformational force in my own spiritual life, helping me to recognize a call to public ministry.  We are spiritual change agents…

So you ask, “Just who are the Women of the ELCA?”  I say we are ground-breaking, justice-preaching, soul-giving women who are vital partners in the ministry of this church!

In the past 25 years, we have:

  • Supported and sustained over 7,000 congregational units
  • Won over 150 awards for excellence for resources, content, programming and publications produced by Women of the ELCA.
  • Provided over $500,000 in scholarships to Lutheran women
  • Given over $3.5 million in grants to ministries both internationally and here at home
  • And in the past 25 years, as an independent and totally self-funded organization we have contributed more than $16 million toward the ongoing ministries of the ELCA.

This is who we are as Women of the ELCA… We ARE that place in the church that provides the space and opportunity for connections of purpose and faith to happen.  Please consider what your relationship to Women of the ELCA might be in the coming year… and how you can add your voice to this community to see what we can do together!

Thank you!

BUT WORDS THEY CAN DESTROY by Carter Hill, 2nd Year MDiv

One of the greatest fallacies children learn is the phrase: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Yes, at any time within our lives sticks and stones may break our bones, but the truth is that at some point, without any doubt, words will hurt us — if not destroy us.

The power of human words can be a blessing in our lives, but also they carry the great ability to cause massive destruction. We as adults must be aware of this ability to cause wounds from words, and also the many issues that can arise from each of our word choices.  The words of church leaders are particularly given weight and authority. A few careless words can rip away the beliefs of a person.

We may think  we are being understanding and accepting of all people, all races, all religions, all genders, and sexual orientations, but through our word choices we sometimes do quite the opposite of what we intend. Unknowingly (and sometimes knowingly) we may create a condemning God through our language.

Simple words can cause great pain, and we as people often use these simple words to make people feel less about themselves. We must take a stand to be sure that our words and language are used to include all people. Our words can in fact make someone feel as though they are separated from the love of God when God always intends to include us all in Christ Jesus.

A young man from North Dakota a few years ago came out to his family as gay.  After the initial shock they asked him to go speak with his Lutheran pastor. The young man told his pastor whose actions and words would be something that would haunt this young man for years. He was told that he would no longer be welcome by many members of the congregation and his homosexuality would cause a great stir among the people.  The pastor thought it would be best to ask this young Christian man to leave the congregation he had always called home. Following these harsh actions and words, the title of Christian was no longer something this man associated himself with because his pastor created a condemning and unwelcoming God for him. In a few short sentences, this man was ripped of his entire beliefs of the loving and accepting God he had always known, simply because of the words his pastor spoke.

“Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words, they can destroy.”

We are the speakers of a loving God, a God who calls us to ministry to be faithful servants of God’s message, and servants of a God who gathers us around a table of bread and wine to taste and see that through the cross we are forgiven and equal. In this equality we are continually uplifted and reminded that we are beautiful children of a loving, peaceful, and accepting God, whose words build up rather than destroy.

KINGDOM? by Craig Nessan, WTS Academic Dean


Just on the other side of the road.
Through the thin place.
Knock on the door.
Across the limen.
In the face.
Caring word.
Lending hand.
Taking time.
Interpret generously.
Choosing not to take offense.
Jesus breaking and entering.
Guilty as charged.
Alive again.