Category: ELCA


…or keep it up, you’re proving what I don’t like about organized religion.

I’ve been planning to do make a post about this all week, but alas, packing for vacation and tying up loose ends at work has pushed this post back a few days. As usual, some spectacular bloggers Obie and Brant have already weighed in on it.  I don’t want to rehash their wonderful thinky thoughts, but I would like to expand on the concepts of the proverbial big tent and–on the flipside– the intolerance of exclusivity.

Like many early Christians, Martin Luther took the concept of priesthood of all believers and ran with it. And this is one of the concepts that keeps me a Lutheran despite my skepticism of man-made constructs that annoy me in organized religion. Luther didn’t coin the phrase, but he definitely embraced it:

That the pope or bishop anoints, makes tonsures, ordains, consecrates, or dresses differently from the laity, may make a hypocrite or an idolatrous oil-painted icon, but it in no way makes a Christian or spiritual human being. In fact, we are all consecrated priests through Baptism, as St. Peter in 1 Peter 2[:9] says, “You are a royal priesthood and a priestly kingdom,” and Revelation [5:10], “Through your blood you have made us into priests and kings.” (An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation.)

The passage reminds me of an illustration from my grandmother’s children’s bible where all of the believers surrounded Christ in white robes and crowns.  It’s an image that has stuck with me for nearly forty years–we aren’t born into nobility. It is through our service to Christ that we become royalty.  It isn’t something bestowed by a priest, bishop or church body. It something offered freely to all through Grace. Believe and it shall be yours.

Yet there is still that pesky man-made judgment that tries to narrow down that royal court. You know, the sanctimonious WE that has declared themselves worthy, and the rest of us lowlife apostates are lucky if we get the paper cups and folding chair version of Heaven.

It’s just another form of bullying to push the agenda of I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big, you’re small. If you think it has anything remotely to do with Christ, then I want no part of your “Christian” agenda.

We all know there are now volumes of criticism of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for its decisions to become a Church that welcomes an uncloseted and noncelibate GLBTQ community at all levels including ordination and rostering. And there is no doubt that there is now v. 2.bazillion of finger pointing, name calling and judging that is circulating after the recent ELCA Rite of Reception when it welcomed seven openly GLBTQ ministers into the roster of the ELCA where they had been banned prior to the 2009 CWA decision on sexuality.

No surprise CORE pounced on it. And the Missouri Synod blogosphere is up in arms. Obie linked to the Brothers of John the Steadfast, one of the ultraconservative blogs of the Missouri Synod. I don’t know why I clicked on it. Maybe my blood pressure wasn’t high enough for the day. I knew the blog itself would bash and/or mock the ELCA press release. But what shocked me was the tone in the comments that were nothing short of hate-filled, homophobic and downright elitist complete the I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big, you’re small attitude.

And many of these hate-filled comments are coming from pastors and leaders:

Yes, I do point out the homophobia. One poster goes as far to mock Rev. Megan Roher, a transgendered Lutheran pastor:

/scratches head

Hmm…

/more head scratching

I need a “plumbing” diagram I think. On second thought… not a good idea.


Then there are the accusations that we ELCA Lutherans aren’t Christian enough, aren’t Christians at all, and are definitely not Lutheran. I’m sorry, but I not have time such juvenile name calling such as ELC-Gay, unrepentant heretical ELCA,

And then there is this gem of a comment,because hide your babies and beadwork. The ELCA defectors, conservative as they may be are NOT conservative enough to meet LCMS muster:

apostate is as apostate does. ELCA is no longer Christian, period, let alone Lutheran. So if one leaves the ELCA do they come over to the LCMS which is fast becoming an american evangelical church?

Careful kids, the ELCA defectors may destroy the moral fabric of the Missouri Synod of they should join:

What really concerns me in all of this, apart from the ELCA continuing its drift away from any notion of what it is to be ‘Lutheran,’ is the possibility of those fed up leaving for the LCMS, or other more confessional Lutheran church body.

The reason this concerns me is how many of these people have been members since the ELCA ordained female clergy and not had a problem with it…. or at least not enough of a problem to do anything about it. These ‘conservatives’ leaving the ELCA could become the new ‘liberals’ in the LCMS.

And then, if that is not enough to push my buttons, the giant brush of Better than You, the critics toss Valparaiso University into the list of apostates for 1) open communion for all who gather at the Chapel of the Resurrection 2) Allowing not only an ELCA minister to serve beside the other two LCMS ministers as University Pastors but allowing that pastor to be a woman! (quick, faint of heart, clutch those pearls in horror!) and 3) Allowing that ELCA minister to have a ministry reach specifically to the campus’ GLBTQ community:

My question is: Why is LCMS teaming with ELCA pastors who ” extended hospitality and care to many in the university community, including international students, women and Alliance, a community of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students” ? (according to LCMS Pastor Cunningham) Where is the LCMS care/warning to parents who send their children to such Lutheran Campus Ministries? Better a millstone…..

That’s right, folks. Don’t let those evil liberal quasi-Lutherans in Indiana corrupt your children! For the record, as a proud alumna of Valparaiso and its honors college Christ College, I really take offense at such histrionics. Sure, you might want to warn your kids if you don’t want their eyes opened to a broader exposure than what the MS wants you to see. Then by all means, warn them. Hide them and protect them from inclusive practices.

And then it gets better. There IS a pastor that warns his congregation about Valpo. It’s an evil place that lets gays attend its classes side by side with hetersexuals!! Better yet, he condemns it because it is more than a preacher/teacher college (read: it teaches evils like science and such heretical concepts such as evolution, round-earth geography, and women’s studies!)

Valpo ceased being Lutheran many years ago in every way except in its name. With the ever increasing number of non church worker related course being offered at our own Universities, I have the same concern about them. They give out more and better scholarships to those not in the church worker programs. I know because two of my chidlren attended one of the Concordias. I warn children as much as a pastor is able. Please note that many of the things that effect Valpo also effect our Concordias! I know of at least four where there is open communion practices in the campus chapel and such things. I am confident that our campuses also have their share of homosexuals attending classes. Whether they are open or not I would not know. I know that our seminaries while they do a great job, must not convince some people because I had the unfortunate obligation as a circuit counselor to preach in a congregation whose pastor admitted he was a homosexual and had been since early in his college days. This is not a condemnation of what the seminaries are doing but I am simply pointing out a fact of how well they are able to disguise themselves as being non homosexuals.

That’s great. Fear and guilt disguised as college counseling! For the record, I entered Valpo as a Missouri Synod Lutheran like half of the population that attends VU. I was one of those heretics that majored in two sciences: biology and chemistry. While Valpo has its fair share of pre-seminary and deaconess students, I’ll admit it’s not a preacher mill. It never will be a preacher/teacher institution like the Concordias. But area where it proudly succeeds is being a top notch, nationally recognized university that, year after year, promotes tolerance and acceptance while at the same time fostering future leaders in science, business, medicine, academics and religion that never forget the Christian-based education that they received.

This type of intolerance is exactly why I left the Missouri Synod and never looked back. Want to know why I was so disillusioned with organized religion for a decade and didn’t claim any affiliation? Read those hate-filled comments and you will have an answer. Fear, guilt and judgment of those who dare to question the heteronormative, patriarchal power structure of the Missouri Synod that promotes an We are better than you mentality.

Ann Rice, an author that irritates me on most days, really echoes many of my thoughts when it comes to this type of judgmental Christianity. As you all know, she very publicly turned her back on organized religion, finally fed up with the intolerance once and for all:

Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.

I think she’s telling the intolerant factions, “Quit it, you’re making our side look horrible.” And it’s true, Christianity as whole carries the reputation of its most repugnant. Those who scream loudest tend to get the most attention. And like many bloggers, I agree that her comments are a bookend to that famous quote by Ghandi:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

A few weeks ago, a more conservative poster over at Obie’s blog brought up the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, and using the predictable anvil, tried to use it as a cudgel to beat us over the head that the unworthy goats will be cast into damnation. Nothing like adding some de rigueur brimstone intimidation to beat home the I’m right, you’re wrong mentality.

Since I’m feeling a little lazy and need to not only pack but can several quarts of pickles before the sun comes up tomorrow, I’ll just quote my response that I posted there:

Unfortunatetly the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is often used as a cudgel to silence dissenting voices. It is used as a fire and brimstone cautionary tale about the “proper way” to live, act lest you be damned for all times. In other words, it is too frequently used as a weapon to assert, I’m right, you’re wrong. I’m big, you’re small. And quite frankly I don’t like how it is used as an eschatology hammer to push an agenda or maintain the status quo.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really like the parable. It’s an edict to provide shelter and comfort to our fellow man where there is none. It is a reminder that if we ignore one, we ignore God, because he is reflected in each of our faces. And it does’t codify any one person into more godly than the next. The charge is to accept and comfort each other. Sounds a lot like love each other as I have loved you.

Ann brings up a great companion to the parable: Galatians 3:28. We are all one in Christ. And it is because of these premises that I left the LCMS in college. How can a church body refuse to raise up half of its population because of the man-made construct of patriarchal bureaucracy? And on the flipside, it is why I stand proudly as a supporter of the ELCA’s 2009 CWA decisions. We are all one in Christ regardless of age, gender, nationality, socioeconomic status or sexual identity or orientation.

Too often people forget that humanity does not decide who sheep and goats are, but those hammering the parable like a mallet tend to think they get to make that decision.

Yes, I like that parable, and I am going to go one step further and point out that shepherds find worth in both the sheep and the goats. A sheep provides wool that clothes him, it can provide meat that feeds him. But a goat has an equal worth as well. Its milk will nourish the shepherd and family and its meal will feed them as well. And while the parable was meant to point out that how we treat each other reflects how we treat God, I think we need to remember that a good shepherd would not kill or cast out his goats. He has other uses for them yet still appreciates their worth.

Declaring one’s self a better or more worthy Christian is what makes me hate organized religion. Creating a Frozen Chosen that claims moral superiority, or worse yet Biblical Authority (see previous rant) over others is nothing more than something humanity created to make one group feel better and superior to others. It’s a weapon to oppress, intimidate and wound. This is how we end up with the blonde-haired, blue eyed Christ, which in my opinion, represents centuries of creating Jesus to be something we want him to be(ie, like Us)  instead of what he truly was (the fear that he was like Them.)

Let’s go back to Galatians. There is neither slave nor free. There is neither Greek nor Jew. There is no male nor female. We are all one in Christ. We are taught early in our Sunday School years that humanity was made in God’s likeness. So if you take that concept to heart, then God is not only our Father, he is our Mother. God is straight and God is gay. God is male, and God is female. God is black, God is white, and God is every color in between. That sense of belonging is what brings me closer to God. Strip away the high church of Old School Lutheranism. Get rid of the patriarchal hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Toss out the snake handling and tongue speaking of the Deep South and we are all on the same path: searching for Christ, trying to see our selves in Him and reaching for his Grace that comes without the caveats and speed bumps that humanity has put it the way of those goals.



Sharing the Love

A couple of bloggers have pointed out that the ELCA leadership has had its share of bellyaching and complaining about the 2009 CWA statement’s on sexuality and the rostering of partnered GLBT clergy. I’m guilty of this. It’s really easy to vent one’s spleen when things don’t go your way and it is far to easy to say nothing when you agree.

So Justin over at DarthJedi and Brant over at Both a Saint and a Cynic want to change things. For those of us who have fully supported these bold decisions, we have decided to share the love.

And for $0.44 you can do the same thing. Let’s face it, there has been a good quantity of gnashing teeth and rending of garments over these decisions to last a lifetime. But how have we expressed our happiness in these measures? So Justin and Brant have proposed a letter writing/blogging campaign.

Let’s get back to that $0.44 stamp. It doesn’t take much to zip a letter to the ELCA leadership and give share our opinions as well. Because, seriously, how many Your Going to Hell letters or outright death threats (yes, there have been a few) do they need?  Isn’t it time to temper those nastigrams with a little gratitude?

Pr. Brant suggested three targets for a letter writing campaign: you synod bishop, ELCA Vice President Carlos Peña (FYI, Brant if your screen has an Omega, that’s where you find the symbols for the squiggly) as well as Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson. But he didn’t just suggest sending them a letter. Go on the record and post your copies of your letter on your blog.

I’ll admit, I didn’t send my Synod Bishop a letter. But then again, I’m working with him and the Assistant to the Bishop on a pretty regular basis as we get our SAWC up and running. He knows where I stand on this.

So let me share my thanks to the ELCA Leadership. First is my letter to PB Hanson.

Bishop Mark Hanson
Office of the Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, Illinois  60631

Dear Presiding Bishop Hanson,
I am writing to thank you for your hard work and dedication during this difficult time in our Church’s history. There is no doubt that the 2009 Churchwide Assembly’s decisions regarding human sexuality and the rostering of same-sex partnered clergy has been challenging and far-reaching.

Though I am a member of a congregation that has been split in two by this decision, this step forward to guarantee that all are welcomed at God’s table has definitely affirmed that I am where I need to be.

Needless to say, it is also an exciting time as a significant number of us refuse to let this destroy the ELCA’s presence in [Edge of the Prairie Town.]  We have already started the process of reorganizing as a Synodically Authorized Worship Center as the first site in once again  becoming an independent ELCA congregation. I cannot thank Bishop Jim Arends and his assistant Pastor Libby Howe enough as they have been such an invaluable source of not only pastoral care but also assistance as we move forward and rebulid.

I will am also grateful to [Local Communion Partner Congregation] who has opened its doors to us, not only providing a safe harbor during a time of heated debate but also also worship space to maintain our ELCA identity and the possiblity of a mutually beneficial partnership that could forge bonds  between the two communities for years to come.

I fully support the ELCA’s inclusive policies and commend the Assembly’s bold actions. I firmly believe that we have made the right decision, and I have never been prouder to be raising my daughters to be strong members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

I apologize that this letter is long overdue and can never truly express my deep gratitude toward our Church and its unwavering stand to welcome all regardless of age, gender, nationality, socioeconomic class or sexual identity.

My prayers continue for you and the Churchwide leadership as we move foward in this exciting and promising chapter of the ELCA’s history.

In Christ,

Kelly

And my letter to Vice President Peña:

Carlos E. Peña
Vice President
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, Illinois  60631

Dear Mr. Peña,

I am writing to thank you for your hard work and dedication during this trying time in our Chuch’s history. There is no doubt the 2009 Churchwide Assembly’s decisions regarding human sexuality and the rostering of partnerned GLBT clergy has been challenging and far-reaching. Though I am a member of a congregation that has been split in two over regarding these policies, this step forward to guarantee that all are welcomed at God’s table has definitely affirmed that I am where I need to be.

I fully support the ELCA’s inclusive policies and commend the Assembly’s bold decisions. I firmly believe that we have made the right decision, and I have never been prouder to be raising my daughters to be strong members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

I apologize that htis letter is long overdue and can never express my deep gratitude toward the Church and its unwavering stand to welcome all regardless of age, gender, nationality, socioeconomic status or sexual identity.

Please know that you and the ELCA leadership remain in my prayers as we move foward in this exciting and promising chapter of the ELCA’s history.

In Christ,

Kelly

When a Theologian Enters the Fray

I’ve noticed that a lot of Lutheran bloggers have commented and linked to Jon Pahl’s (Professor of History of Christiantity, Luther Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and Fellow in the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University) article in the Journal of Lutheran Ethics where he weighs in on what he views as the bottom line of the CORE/NALC movement.

Granted, I had to look terms like Docetism, Donatism, and Pelagianism (what can I say, I was a biology and chemistry major, not a theologian by training) to see what they meant.  And I don’t intend to rehash this journal article as there are great blog posts already already analyzing it.

But there are a few things that really stood out in the article:

Lutheran CORE represents, in its demographic and historical contours, a largely white, heterosexual, male backlash against the supposedly evil changes in gender roles, sexual mores, and participatory democracy that marked the 1960s. At the same time, the leaders of the movement also ironically embrace many of the least savory aspects of the sixties rhetoric of adolescent resentment and entitlement. Most fundamentally, the leaders of Lutheran CORE have come to the brink of dividing the church in an attempt to hold onto (or to carve out) some power.

If you look at American Lutherans as a whole–ELCA, Missouri Synod, WELS, LCMC, CORE, etc, the status quo for leadership and rostered clergy is the heterosexual white male. You can’t argue that. There is a paucity of clergy of color, and women still make up the minority in denominations that ordain and roster them. That isn’t a political statement. That’s pure statistics. I hardly think Professor Pahl is labeling CORE/NALC a group of racists, homophobes or misogynists with this statement. But he is breaking down their mulitutudes of criticism toward the ELCA and their driving force to a simple concept: CORE/NALC does not want to yield leadership or Scriptural Authority. It strives to maintain the status quo of white male heteronormative privilege.

And I think I have to agree with Professor Pahl.

On the surface wants to sound like something else, stating that they acknowledge the ordination of women, but there is this one statement that stands out in their article regarding the formation of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC):

The NALC and Lutheran CORE will recognize both women and men in the office of ordained clergy, while acknowledging the diversity of opinion that exists within the Christian community on this subject.

Just wait a second. Is that a caveat that paves wiggle room to reject the role of ordained women. Would you mind elaborating on the part that says “…while acknowledging the diversity of opinion that exists within the Christian community on the subject.”

It that an acknowledging the diversity opinion as in we acknowledge that the Missouri Synod does not ordain women, but we aren’t going to rock their boat? Or is it something a little more malignant? Is that an acknowledging the divirsity of opinion to reject the ordination of women on a parish or synod level?  Is it acknowledging the differences outside of NALC, or is this an nod to differences inside NALC?  Is it nothing more than a token gesture where the unspoken intention is to maintain that status quo of heteronormative, white male control of power? Is it rights with a bunch of fine-print caveats? Does that mean ordained women will merely be grandfathered into the NALC clergy, or does this statement pave the way for a future moratorium on their ordination?

Because if it is the latter, I don’t ever want to be caught on any part of that incredibly slippery slope! That once sentence generates a lot more questions than affirm concrete facts. Now while I’ll probably never join the LCMC, at least this church body has made a true committement to lifting women up to be on equal footing in all aspects of church life.

So let’s go back to Professor Pahl. For every blog on the internet that has supported his essay, there are probably just as many on the other side that are tearing it apart. The Anti-ELCA blog Shellfish is one of those that vivisected Pahl’s jounral article.  As Professor Pahl himself is a blogger, he took the opportunity to answer the criticism directly:

Thanks for picking up on my piece, and for identifying me with Lazareth and the venerable institution I’m delighted to represent. I wrote the essay in Laz’s spirit, as I’ve been researching his earlier writing. I did check my facts, however, and since I quote Benne repeatedly, and he surely represents Lutheran CORE, I stand by the associations. Even more–I’d welcome engagement with my reasoning, which is pretty clear, closely reasoned, and hardly a screed: Lutheran CORE (and fellow travelers) do not represent orthodox Lutheranism but a Lutheranism accommodated to the American civil religion and its millennialism, individualism, moralism, and innocent domination. The movement is led (largely) by white males (and their consorts) frightened of losing privilege, with more than passing elements of the heresies of Donatism, Docetism, and Pelagianism. That’s the argument in a nutshell, with ample evidence to back it up. 

 It didn’t take long for the highlighted segment to be pounced upon with outrage (*waves to Tony*.) Sexism, misogyny, pot calling the kettle something to the right of dark grey.

But I can say with confidence that Jon Pahl is not a misogynist. During his time as a Christ College and theology professor at Valparaiso University he was one of the most vocal faculty that protested the ban (which have since been lifted) on women leading worship or preaching in the Chapel of the Resurrection.

So take all the ad hominem attacks from both sides apart, and let’s look at his choice of words: consort.

  Consort: (noun)
1. a husband or wife; spouse, esp. of a reigning monarch. Compare prince consort, queen consort.
2. a companion, associate, or partner: a confidant and consort of heads of state.

I’ll give you that it is a little inflammatory, but after reading the blog that criticizes Pahl, I can’t help but think it is a reflection of how Jon Pahl perceives how CORE/NALC views its own women.  Again, can’t speak for him, but in my opinion, the word choice feels deliberate.

A consort may be a Queen Consort or a Prince Consort in a monarchy. They may get to wear the robes and coronets during official business such as the opening of parliament, but have you ever noticed they always walk three steps behind? To use the British monarchy as an example. Elizabeth is Queen yet her husband is the consort. He holds no power. He doesn’t open parliament. He sits next to her.  To use a more patriarchal model, Elizabeth’s son Charles will eventually become king. When he does, he will be King Charles and his wife Camilla will be the Queen Consort. Yes, they will call her Queen Camilla, but a queen consort has no position of authority. She will not ascend to the throne if she outlives her husband.

To use a church based model, let’s look at the pastor’s spouse. A pastor can lead a worship service, can provide care during times of emergency and mortality, can baptise children and marry couples, and can preach from the pulpit. His wife is usually held in high regard. But her is very limited.  She can’t assume his responsiblities if he is taken ill or dies. The call isn’t passed to her in those cases (unless she is a rostered clergy.)

A consort, at first glance, may appear to be on equal footing as those in power. But scratch the surface and they still walking the proverbial three steps behind.

And if you read the blog where Pahl responds, the tone in the blogger reveals this tone in his comments regarding the Journal of Lutheran Ethics editor Pastor Kaari Reierson (bold emphasis once again mine):

JLE started in 2001 and editrix ELCA pastor Kaari Reierson has presided over a lively exchange on all sorts of matters over the years.

Edirix. That’s not a typographical error. Editrix as in Editress: a female editor. It has that old world charm of my Missouri Synod congregation growing up where the director of the women’s altar guild was titled the directress.

With that line of thinking, would that make me a doctress even though I have the same degree, rights and privileges as my male counterparts in the medical field? What’s next? A pastress?  Or go one step further: A pastorette?

When you start codifying roles and titles according to gender lines you either directly or indirectly start stratifying the roles along a hierarchy whether you want to or not. One half is superior and the other is relegated to a secondary role.

Which brings us back to maintaining the hierarchy of heteronormative white males.

Valparaiso University has stepped up to the plate and already has a plan to fill the void left by Rev. Darlene Grega’s death. In a press release on sites such as Facebook, University Provost and former Dean of Christ College Mark Schwehn has announced that Valpo has found a minister with strong ties to Valpo who will absorb Rev. Grega’s residential ministry as well as attending to the spiritual needs of the international students and GLBTQ community on campus:

April 19, 2010

Dear students, faculty, and staff,

I am pleased to announce that Rev. Phyllis Kersten will join the pastoral staff of the Chapel of the Resurrection beginning today, April 19, to provide additional support for our campus ministry. Rev. Kersten, a Valparaiso University alumna who most recently served as interim pastor at Luther Memorial Lutheran Church in Chicago, will support the chapel staff at least through the end of the academic year and attend to some of the areas previously served by Rev. Darlene Grega. This will include meeting with residential ministers, mentoring Fellowship House students, and working with international students and members of the GLBTQ community.

I am glad that a pastor possessing such experience, wisdom, compassion, and care for Valpo has come forward in this challenging time to join our campus community. Rev. Kersten has remained in very close touch with the University over the years, often staying on visits here with her good friend Louise Williams, former executive director of the Lutheran Deaconess Association, whom she worked with as a past president, vice president, and board member of the LDA.

Before serving as interim pastor at Luther Memorial, Rev. Kersten served 12 years as associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in River Forest, Ill., was vice president for communications for Wheat Ridge Ministries in Chicago for 18 years, and served on the Board for Missions of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. She is co-author of the Women of the ELCA Bible study “Companions on Your Journey” and of “Talented, Tired, Beautiful Feet,” a Bible study for women published by Concordia Publishing House. She also is the author of “Jesus Wept,” a three-part series on grief in Lutheran Woman Today, which won an award from the Associated Church Press.

Rev. Kersten has served as keynote speaker and Bible study leader at district and synod conventions of LCMS and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America women’s organizations; pastors, teachers, and principals’ workshops; and congregational planning retreats. She was a workshop leader at the 2009 Christian Women’s Conference at Valpo, and has served as a member of the LCMS Task Force on Women.

I and Valpo’s chapel staff look forward to working with Rev. Kersten and for her assistance in ministering to the campus community. Please join me in welcoming her to the University.

Sincerely,

Mark R. Schwehn

Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

As a Valparaiso alumna, Rev. Kersten is a scholar and seasoned pastor. She is coming out of retirement to meet the needs of the university. She is an author and public speaker who has reached out to inner city youth. She bridges the gap between the LCMS and ELCA as her career is intertwined with both Lutheran Denominations. She is a strong woman who is a role model for all of the women of Valparaiso.

Rev. Kersten’s biography for 2009 Valparaiso University Guild’s annual Christian Women’s Conference lists her accomplishments and diverse career path:

Phyllis Kersten, M.Div.

The Reverend Phyllis Kersten is a Valparaiso University graduate (’61) and a 1996 graduate of the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, and following her ordination served as Associate Pastor at Grace Lutheran Church (River Forest, IL) until her recent retirement. She served as an adjunct professor at the Lutheran School of Theology and in 2006, was a recipient of Wheat Ridge Ministries’ “Seeds of Hope” award. Prior to her ordination, Phyllis served as Wheat Ridge Ministries’ Vice President for Communications, conducted research on Christian education in the inner city, and later did mission interpretation work as a staff member of the Board for Missions of the LCMS. As a new college graduate, she worked as a parish worker at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Detroit’s inner city and as an English teacher at Lutheran High School South, St. Louis, MO.

Phyllis has co-authored numerous books, including: R is for Religion, 26-session curriculum for inner-city youngsters (Morse Press, 1964); Talented, Tired, Beautiful Feet, a Bible study for women (CPH, 1985); Companions on Your Journey, Women of the ELCA 1990 Bible Study (Augsburg-Fortress); and The School as a Caring Community (Lutheran Education Association Monograph, 1986). She has authored articles for Lutheran Women Today, such as the Associated Church Press award-winning “Jesus Wept,” a 1991 three-part series on grief, and an April 2000 funeral planning article, and recently authored a chapter in a new book, Christian Education as Evangelism, (Augsburg, 2007). Phyllis has also written devotions appearing in My Devotions, Home Altar, the LCMS Youth Ministry Resources, Currents in Theology and Mission (October 1994), and Lutheran Woman Today (April 1995). She is the author of a hymn text “Wake Us, O Lord, to Human Need,” published in several hymnals; tracts for outreach in the inner city, published by the Concordia Tract Mission; and articles in a variety of church periodicals.

Phyllis has served as a volunteer in various church-related organizations, including Lutheran Mission Association (St. Louis, MO); Lutheran Deaconess Association (Valparaiso, IN); LCMS Task Force on Women; LCMS district mission and communications committees; new church design task force on communications; and women’s organization’s magazines.

There is no doubt that Rev. Kersten will be an asset to the University. What stands out to me in Provost Schwehn’s announcement is the fact that she came forward and offered her assistance to Valpo. No doubt she will play a role in the healing process. She will give many a voice that may be lost on campus.  She also sends the oh so powerful message that Valparaiso has not forgotten the young women of campus.

Kersten is a welcome addition to Valparaiso, and I look forward to hearing more about her accomplishments from the Chapel of the Resurrection.