Introduction to an Interview with George Forell, September 6, 2001
 George W. Forell has been one of the theological giants of
the Lutheran churches in America for over half a century. During
this time, he has been a major figure in helping to interpret
Luther, and particularly a Lutheran understanding of Ethics, to
generations of students and scholars alike. His influence on the
self-understanding of Lutheran churches in this country has been
 Forell's influence on Lutheran churches is particularly
remarkable given the fact that his teaching career has been
primarily within the context of a secular state university - the
University of Iowa. Here he has faithfully maintained his integrity
as a Christian theologian, while at the same time being open to and
respectful of all the points of view that comprise the pluralistic
culture of a major university. Enormously popular as a teacher, as
well as a prolific author of books and articles, Forell was awarded
the prestigious Carver Distinguished Professorship at the
University of Iowa.
 Forell is passionate about the contribution to be made by a
distinctively Lutheran understanding of theology and ethics. In an
autobiographical article, first published in dialog [33/2 (1994)
129-134] and later re-published in Word and World [Supplement
Series 2 (1994) 1-9], Forell claimed that "while a Lutheran church
without a Lutheran theology may be sociologically viable in Germany
or Scandinavia, it is doomed in America. Without a distinctive
theology there is no reason to maintain a separate Lutheran church;
its disappearance within the mainstream of culture-protestantism of
the right or the left is unavoidable and by no means deplorable.
There is no need for another version of the UCC or the Episcopal
church. For that matter a Southern Baptist church with a slightly
German accent is redundant.
 "That raises the question as to the nature of Lutheran
theological identity and its significance for the life of the
Christian church in this country. For years I have claimed, in
season and out of season - in Lutheran theological journals and
Funk and Wagnall's supermarket encyclopedia - that there are
certain distinctive aspects of Lutheran theology which if lost
would weaken and impoverish the Christian message in our world.
Here I shall mention them only as slogans: (1) the distinction of
law and gospel; (2) the Christian as righteous and sinner at the
same time; (3) the finite as the bearer of the infinite (with its
implications for sacrament, scripture, and vocation); and (4) the
theology of the cross vs. the theology of glory.
 "Everything I have ever written has been an attempt to
elucidate one or the other aspect of this message, convinced that
it might help all Christians to understand their election and the
resulting obligation. This proclamation is a debt Lutherans owe to
the ecumenical church. It is not a sign of superiority or a reason
for isolation, but rather a vocation which should contribute to the
wholeness of the people of God."
 On September 6, 2001, three representatives of the Journal
of Lutheran Ethics - Kaari Reierson, Ed Schneider, and John Stumme
- interviewed George Forell at his home in Iowa City, Iowa.