Category Archives: Spirited Action

BROADENING INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE IN WORSHIP by Thomas Schattauer, WTS Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel

Comment at Morning Prayer, Loehe Chapel
Feast of Michael and All Angels
September 29, 2015

“I want to address briefly a matter of concern about inclusivity in our community and in our worship. It has to do with the booklet we have been using for our singing of morning prayer the last few weeks [Marty Haugen’s Come Let Us Sing for Joy]. As you know, there are a couple places where it divides the singing between “women” and “men.” We need to think about that language as we seek to become ever more inclusive—for two reasons. First, it does not accurately describe what we are trying to do, which is to divide ourselves into “higher” and “lower” voices in our singing. When we use the labels “women” and “men” to accomplish that, where do young children fit into that picture, or women who sing low and men who sing high? Second, not everyone lives in a world that divides so neatly into men and women. Where, for example, will people among us who are transgender as well as transgender friends, colleagues, and neighbors find themselves in these binary categories? Where do they fit into the picture?

So, let’s try to shift our thinking a bit and start to use labels that more accurately describe what we are trying to accomplish and include the full range of gender identity among us. When we wish to divide into higher and lower voices, let’s say it exactly like that. As long as we continue to use this resource, we can at least make that shift in our minds and together translate it with a meaning that seeks to include each and every one.”

SIGNS OF THE TIMES – Dubuque Prays for Racial Reconciliation

Members of the Wartburg Community took part in the  Dubuque Community Prayer Event Sunday night October 18th. This was a significant and united witness of the Christian community in Dubuque for repentance in the face of racism and the need for racial reconciliation. The event included an extraordinarily diverse representation of the Christian community here in Dubuque. There were people from the great variety of Dubuque congregations: evangelical, Pentecostal, Reformed, Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Orthodox—white, black, Latino/a, and Marshallese. And the offerings of song and prayer, reading and proclamation were equally diverse.

Thomas Schattauer, WTS Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel, offered this prayer at the event.

Almighty and ever-living God,
you are the the source of all life, and all things find their unity in you;
you gather a people from every tribe and nation, from every race and station in life;
by your word you call them into the one body of our Lord Jesus to show forth your love and mercy for all people;
you pour out your Spirit to empower and unify your people and renew the face of the earth.
Give us your life.
Gather us in the name of Jesus to be your people.
Send us in your Spirit to renew this weary world with your forgiveness, life and salvation.
And especially here in this place—Dubuque, Iowa—this day and in the days to come,
enliven the witness of your people gathered in every community of faith;
make us one in the service of your life-giving purpose;
in the light of your truth and righteous judgment, heal the wounds of prejudice and the divisions of race and place within our community;
in the promise of your reign of justice and peace, unite us in all our efforts for the common good.
Most high and holy God, pour out upon us your one and unifying Spirit, and awaken in every part of your church a holy hunger and thirst for unity in you; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.


The Sunday before the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, Wartburg Seminary joined with Loras College, Clarke University and the University of Dubuque for a march and rally at UD. “Life is irreplaceable. End gun violence” was the theme. Dr. Jeremy Brigham, who had been at the University of Iowa during the mass shooting on that campus in 1991 and is now the Executive Director for Iowans for Gun Safety, was the main speaker saying that “Guns create a climate of fear.”

Professor David C Cochran of Loras College was one of the local professors to introduce the main speaker. Here are some of his opening remarks: “Human violence is complex. Innate aggression, brain development and impulse control, peer groups, cultural, and economic forces make it more or less likely. And that is why it can be difficult to address and make sense of showing violent acts. Gun violence shares these underlying complexities. Guns make it much easier to kill. They amplify violence and make it far more deadly.”

Cochran went on to say that gun violence is primarily a function of access to guns. “The United States with 4.5% of the world’s population has almost half of all civilian-owned guns so we shouldn’t be surprised when people use them to kill each other. Our rate of violent incidents is similar to other countries. We are not any more violent. What is different is the number of dead bodies that result. Homicide is much higher than comparable countries. Suicide is much greater; the success rate of guns (96%) is much higher than other methods (8% for poison). Mass shootings now has risen to an average of around one a day in 2015.” For more information, click here.

“‘Guns don’t kill people, people do’ is correct. People do kill people, which is why the more available guns are to people, the more we kill each other with them. The United States has made a choice. We have plentiful and accessible guns. By choosing this, we pay the price of more people dead than would be otherwise. In other countries people sometimes behave violently. We are unique in making it much more likely that there will be a gun around when doing so.”

Dr. Cochran is author of Catholic Realism and the Abolition of War (Orbis Books).

The students and professors marched with townspeople. Sponsoring organizations were Dubuque Coalition for Non-Violence, Dubuque Area Congregations United, Children of Abraham, and Dubuque International Day of Peace. They did not know that a few days later their contemporaries would be gunned down in Roseburg, Oregon. But they knew that in rural areas, small cities and urban metropolises everywhere, we are not safe from one another.  My taking a gun to class and students having a permit to carry a concealed weapon will not make our campuses safer.  Together we marched.  Together we talked, and listened, and planned and took action.  We can be dangerous to one another.  Or together we can act and change things in this country.


Wartburg Seminary held a community-wide conversation on “Confronting Racism” during the first week of fall semester classes. Faculty, staff, and students were invited to attend this conversation to further engage in the complexity and implications of racism, to share stories, and to continue in this dialogue for the sake of change.

The community viewed the ELCA webinar featuring Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in conversation with ELCA church wide council member William B. Horne II about racial justice in the United States. This webinar was created in response to the massacre of nine people, including two pastors, at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC, as well as in response to other racially-motivated violence that has been taking place all through the history of the United States, but particularly over the past year.

After viewing the webinar, members of the Wartburg community shared stories of witnessing and experiencing racism first-hand, even within the walls of Wartburg Seminary.

How will we, as a seminary, as a gathering of faithful people who worship the God who breaks down barriers, continue to contemplate and take action when it comes to the evil of racism in our world and in our midst? This conversation must be continued, and this conversation must result in change.

Click here to view the webcast, or for resources to assist in beginning conversations about confronting racism on the ELCA website.



Steward of Stories: Reflecting on Tensions in Daily Discipleship by JoAnn A. Post

JoAnn Post has been a Lutheran pastor and writer for three decades. She attended Wartburg College and Wartburg Theological Seminary before serving diverse congregations and settings. Her ministry has been committed to strong preaching and worship leadership, pastoral care, and community outreach. (See more about JoAnn and Steward of Stories at

As shared in her introduction JoAnn was dubbed “Steward of Stories” by her husband in recognition of how both strangers and friends entrusted her with their stories. The stories, many written while JoAnn underwent cancer treatments, presents meaningful reflection and insights into the rich and paradoxical world of a pastor. The thoughtful discussion questions at the end of each chapter encourage dialogue on the important topics brought to life in the stories shared in the book.



 Cover-_LauraNotes on the Journey: Living with Sarcoma & Hope by Laura A. Koppenhoefer

This book is a compellation of Laura’s “posts” from the journaling               she has done through the first years of her illness, a rare cancer diagnosis – “sarcoma”– changed   a lot in her life. Originally thinking that she was writing to inform the congregation she co-pastored of her treatment,          she found that she learned through writing as well. Insights are found in everyday things – gardens and baking and re-discovering knitting and quilting –        and the extreme circumstances of her medical care, the challenges of facing disability, and severe pain starting at age 49. However, all are instances for discovering the Spirit at work in her life whether in times of lament or joy. The proceeds of this book are all going to fund sarcoma  research at the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more about Laura and the Living in Hope foundation, see

A reflection from Tammy Barthels, Final Year M.Div. Student:

As I finish reading Laura’s book, two entries stick with me. 1) “Be strong and of good courage, be neither afraid or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (p 332). And 2) “With thanks to …God – For your presence. Though I may feel lonely from time to time, I am never alone. For the gift of incredible people in my life – They are your hands and feet in the world” (p 333). Laura assures me, God assures me that God’s presence is always with us. God allows us to be lonely at times, but God never leaves as alone. God provides wonderful people in our lives to walk this journey with us.



Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking by R.K. Kline and Daniel D. Maurer

Daniel D. Maurer was an ELCA pastor for 11 years, serving parishes in western North Dakota. He is now a freelance writer and writes under the “Dan the Story Man,” his non-fiction brand.  R.Kevin Kline is an ELCA pastor who has served in Kansas and Hawaii. Having recently moved back to the mainland and received approval as a mission developer, he plans to foster relationships with other organizations to raise awareness about the ongoing issues of justice in the LGBTQ community. Maurer and Kline collaborated on the book after realizing that Kevin’s story had the power to help others.

Faraway: A Suburban Boy’s Story as a Victim of Sex Trafficking breaks new ground in the problem of sex trafficking in that it also affects boys. Set in 1975, Kevin’s true story shows how a young boy can find himself in a difficult and unsustainable life. Yet even in darkness, there is a light of grace —Kevin found two friends during that summer of ’75. With them, he would come to see a loving God in ways that the world would only begin to see in more recent years. For more, see

A reflection from Tami Groth, Final Year Diaconal Ministry Student:

I first heard Rev. Kevin Kline speak in the Spring of 2013 when he spoke to students at Wartburg Seminary, and shared his story with us. I encourage others to both read the book, and if possible hear Kevin speak. His story is powerful and an important one for us to hear. I am thankful for Kevin’s courage and the authentic telling of his story.



Sobriety A graphic novel by Daniel D Maurer. Illustrated by Spencer Amundson

Through rich illustration and narrative, Sobriety: A Graphic Novel offers an inside look into recovery from the perspectives of five Twelve Step group members, each with a unique set of additions, philosophies, struggles, and successes while working the Steps. Readers gain an intimate look at the challenges faced by those in recovery–and at the boundless power of working the Steps in helping people find strength in one another as they reach for a clean-and-sober life. For more, see

NO GREATER LOVE by David Tielbar, Final Year M.Div

When I think of my time in the service John 15:13 always comes to my mind No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” there is bond that is created between Soldiers when they are placed in a situation where humanity is at the peak of its brokenness, and that is war.

I have had the honor of serving with a very mixed company of people who come from different backgrounds, colors, and religions; the list could go on. Differences have caused divisions in our nation and in our world, yet there was something different about this diversity, something special, something I will forever hold close to my heart.

When the rockets, mortars and bullets come in, it is no longer about flag and country; it is no longer the color of your skin, or where you came from. It is about your buddy on the right and on your left. Some of the most profound moments of faith, some of the deepest theological thoughts I have had in my life have occurred when people were willing to risk their own lives for me and I for them. It’s a bond that is hard to find when you are out of uniform.

It is that bond that I miss the most even after being out of the service for almost 4 years. It is that bond that has brought back many memories for me as I was writing this. These are memories that I will cherish forever and some that I wish I could bury and never come back to again. Yet they are a part of who I am and in many ways have affirmed what I am called to do today as a pastoral ministry candidate.


FAILURE AS AN UNDERLYING NARRATIVE by Christa Fisher, 3rd year M.Div. Student

“Your son is at a high risk for failure.” The school principal’s words settled on my chest like a leaden mantle. Unprepared for this phone call, I stammered a confused response. “What? Why? You must be mistaken.” My three-year old son was sitting at the kitchen island coloring, his small fingers gripping a fat red crayon. The principal assured me the call was not an error – she was speaking about my son, about Jacob. A week prior Jacob had participated in a 60-minute early-childhood education readiness assessment and according to the principal, Jacob’s test results warranted the phone call.

In the days following the call I was consumed with the need to understand how Jacob could be at a “high-risk for failure.” After Jacob was born I left my career to stay home and care for him. Needing order and predictability in my life, I created a schedule of activities to fill our days. We attended play groups, visited museums, hiked in the woods, baked cookies, made blanket forts, painted self-portraits, learned the alphabet, numbers, shapes and colors, and spent hours upon hours reading. As Jacob became older and craved more time with other children I enrolled him in a highly respected preschool program. His preschool teachers were perplexed by the school district’s assessment. Not only was Jacob doing fine in preschool, they assured me his skills were age appropriate, he came from a safe, loving home, with two devoted parents, who were both college educated. I shared my confusion with a neighbor, a professor of early childhood education. According to her, there was nothing about Jacob which suggested he was at a “high risk for failure.” My husband and I did not enroll Jacob in the specialized program the school district had created for “kids like him.” Instead, we continued to do what we were already doing and hoped this label would not follow him into kindergarten.

After much thought I deduced the school district’s assessment was colored by racism. You see, Jacob is biracial. My husband is black and I am white.

I should not have been surprised by the school district’s assumptions about Jacob. I grew up in a community of people who showcased their racism with pride and am therefore keenly aware of the assumptions we white people make about people of color. As a young mother I worked hard to ensure people had no reason to make such assumptions about our family.  As I focused on maintaining our image, however, I worried my efforts to shield my children from racism were actually depriving them the opportunity to claim their true character. I also worried that my actions were born, at some level, out of my own racism.

My mother-in-law once told me that by marrying her son I was black by association. At the time I didn’t take her seriously. Andre, my soon to be husband, and I were in our early 20’s and living in Berkeley, California. As a biracial couple in the San Francisco Bay Area we were in the norm. Surrounded by the appearance of racial unity I speculated within a generation or two racism would cease to exist. It was easy for me to be so hopeful. I had not yet experienced racism.

When Andre and I moved to Wisconsin I became acutely aware of the differences between the ways people treated us as compared to my previous relationships with white men. When the waitress escorted Andre to one table and me to another, we pitied her for her ignorance. When the mechanic refused to service our vehicle, we moved our business elsewhere. When Andre was defamed at work and offered no recourse, we swallowed our anger and bemoaned small town life. But when our children were born we could no longer simply joke about ignorant behaviors or tolerate inequality at work. Our precious children deserve better than that.

Shortly after Jacob started kindergarten we began receiving notes from his teacher, all assuming parental incompetence. In addition to urging us to read to Jacob for “just 5 minutes each night,” we were also cautioned to limit Jacob’s exposure to television, and to provide him a healthy diet, among other things. Though she did not know us, the teacher assumed our parenting skills were inadequate.

I met with the school principal to discuss the notes, which she quickly dismissed. The teacher was acting out of concern, the principal insisted, and I was over-reacting. In retrospect I should not have expected her to understand – she was the one who informed us Jacob was at a “high risk for failure.” Unprepared to fight this battle, we chose to ignore the teacher’s notes and continue parenting Jacob as we always had.

Andre and I are now more proactive regarding our children’s educations. At the start of the year we meet each of our children’s teachers to tell our story, beginning in the Bay Area where we received our educations and continuing to our present situation in Madison, Wisconsin. By the time we finish, the teachers know us well enough to refrain from applying stereotypical ideologies to our children or making uninformed assumptions about us as parents. Thankfully, both of our children are thriving in school – academically and socially.

Though I am concerned our children will suffer for having a white mother, I recognize that my race can work to their advantage. We are welcomed into places and conversations and afforded greater choices and opportunities due to my whiteness. Teachers and doctors, people who hold critical information, are generally more comfortable communicating with me than with my black husband. I am the primary driver in our family and do not fear racial profiling on the road. As long as our children are with me, I do not worry they will be attacked, physically or verbally.

Yet my whiteness will only benefit our children as long as they are dependent upon and near me. Eventually they will be functionally independent. Then when people look at Jacob with suspicion, whether a police officer, a college professor, or a vigilante citizen, Jacob will have to fend for himself. Under great pressure and amidst intense emotions, Jacob will be responsible for diffusing their anger by demonstrating that he does not warrant fear and is someone worth befriending rather than attacking.

While I still disagree with the school district’s assessment of Jacob, I now recognize a truth in their conclusion. Jacob is at a “high risk for failure” though not for anything he or we have done or failed to do. Jacob will likely experience failure in his life – we all do. Unlike Jacob’s white peers, however, his failure will be inseparable from an underlying narrative of antagonistic racial bias. This insidious evil, which began sabotaging Jacob’s potential before he could even write his entire name, will never just disappear. It is embedded in our institutions and communities, increasing peoples’ risk of failure by limiting their opportunities and choices. Racism, the underlying cause of racial disparities in incarceration, unemployment, poverty, and serious health conditions, justifies racial profiling and minimizes hate crimes. Whether or not Jacob recognizes it, he is in an abusive relationship with racism, from which there is no escape. Unprepared to battle this exhausting, humiliating, and dangerous intruder, we can only hope we are providing him the skills he needs to manage this relationship, so it is unable to consume his life, robbing him his true character and potential and ultimately rendering him a failure.