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Lutherans and the Southern Civil Rights Movement

 
 
[1] One of the most important events in United States history is the southern Civil Rights Movement. Although the Civil Rights Movement involved religious leaders and communities of many denominations, this paper focuses on how Lutheranism interacted with the movement. Lutheran involvement in the movement is a milestone in Lutheran history that will possibly be forgotten, or at a minimum regulated to a few Lutherans who are curious enough to seek out this area of Lutheran political engagement. This paper demonstrates what caused two pastors to develop a Lutheran theology of resistance. Martin Luther did not encourage active political resistance on the part of the church. The traditional Lutheran view, which is shared with other religious denominations, is that there is a distinct separation between religion and politics. Only when laws or orders conflict with Church laws is active disobedience of laws and orders allowed for. Luther expresses this general position in a treatise called Temporal Authority, to What Extent It Should Be Obeyed, in which he presented a view of the sacred character of all temporal rule.

[1] Men are to obey the prince, because, as St. Paul stated, the ruler(s) were appointed by God to correct evil and to encourage good.

[2] In so far as Lutheranism continues to stress obedience, it inhibits Lutherans who desire to involve themselves in political action. This is why Lutheran involvement in the Civil Rights Movement is so extraordinary.

[2] Luther's theology of the cross, which relates the suffering of Christ on the cross with the suffering of everyday citizens, provides some explanation for Lutheran political engagement in the Civil Rights Movement.

[3] The whole of the black experience in Jim Crow southern United States can be understood by identifying with what happened to Jesus, notes John Nunes, because the theology of the cross has been central to the Christian African American experience.

[4] It is here that the status of African Americans in the south would fit into Luther's realm of Christianity. If the pastor, for example, knows that his congregation is suffering because of prejudice, racism, hatred, and violence, he could consider this an area for engagement, because the individual, including the pastor, has to suffer to eventually see and feel Christ and to see God, so that all the suffering will be rewarded with grace. This privileging of obedience and suffering created a dilemma for Lutheran pastors in the southern United States during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. They had to consider seriously the differences between material and spiritual well-being. The southern Civil Rights Movement involved Christian action in a pluralistic democratic culture, and for many segments of the movement, Christianity provided not only the philosophical grounds for action but also the sustaining force for facing the dangers associated with action. Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his strong activist position against the German National Socialist state, believed that to refrain from taking any part in the attempt to overcome a repressive government conflicted deeply with the fact that Christian principles must be translated into human life.

[5] For Bonhoeffer, casting aside religious and moral obligations to God and subordinating the laws of justice and morality to the State were incompatible with his conception of life. The Civil Rights Movement tested the church-state relationship and the role of Christian political action profoundly questioned whether obedience or engagement is appropriate.

[3] Additionally, examining Lutheran involvement in the Civil Rights Movement presents an opportunity for observers of the Lutheran tradition to reflect back on particular periods of history to inform their contemporary decisions and Church perceptions. For example, to say that Lutherans are without position, burdened with political quietism, or only comfortable with indirect engagement would be to ignore the Lutherans' and Lutheran Church's clearly positional and direct engagement in the Civil Rights Movement.

[6] This historical fact indicates that given particular circumstances Lutherans will take the activist positions and oppose to the typical characterizations of passive positions. History

[4] The primary Lutheran pastor used here to demonstrate Lutheran involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was affiliated with the American Lutheran Church (ALC), which was one of the predecessor church bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ECLA). Lutheran involvement with the African American situation did not begin with the southern Civil Rights Movement. The Lutheran Church has a long history of concern for African Americans going back to slavery in the United States and the Danish colonies in the Virgin Islands. The primary interests then related to education and indoctrination into the church. Several African American churches were organized including the Church of the Redeemer in Washington, D. C. (1885), the Church of the Transfiguration (1923) and the Church of St. Paul's in New York City (1942). In 1890, a Lutheran layman started a Sunday school for African Americans in Baltimore, Maryland and this type of work spread to the south, usually starting with a Christian Day School and developing into a church.

[7] The Lutheran Bible Institute was established in Montgomery, Alabama for training African American ministers and teachers. In 1951, the Board of Social Missions, which the United Lutheran Church created to carry out its work for African Americans, drew up a statement of Human Relations to guide Lutheran churches on racial issues. This statement declares that since the Church is the body of Christ, it must free itself from those cultural patterns of prejudices and discriminations which persist in society and the Church must seek to be true to its own nature as a community of Children of God that includes every race, nation, and class of people who confess Christ as Lord.

[8] Several synods of the Lutheran church took action in 1954, including the Virginia Synod, which advocated the integration of Negroes into the full church life as soon as possible, and the Maryland Synod, which called on pastors and lay delegates to encourage their congregations to move toward racial integration in congregational life and called upon its pastors and congregations to exercise constructive community leadership in the transition to racial integration in public schools. One study in the early 1950s found that the National Lutheran Council and synodical conference bodies had 170 congregations of predominantly Negro membership, with a total of more than 20,000 members.

[9] Lutheran Engagement, Robert Graetz, and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

[5] The Montgomery bus boycott and one Lutheran Pastor's story illustrates the development of a Lutheran theology of resistance. Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Alabama, constitutes the primary example employed here to illustrate Lutheran involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

[10] During an intense period of Montgomery racial politics from 1955-1958, Trinity Lutheran, an African American church, was led by Robert Graetz, a white pastor whose presence also exemplifies the obedience or engagement choice faced by Lutheran pastors and Lutherans in general.

[11] Reverend Graetz's assignment to Trinity Lutheran was a logical one, because he had been active in human rights as a student at Capitol University in the late 1940s when he organized a race relations club. In addition, from 1952-1954 Reverend Graetz served an internship as a lay pastor at Community Lutheran Church, which was located in a predominantly African American community between Los Angeles and Compton, California. Living in this primarily African American community was excellent preparation for Reverend Graetz's eventual move to Trinity Lutheran, where he succeeded Reverend Nelson Trout, an African American pastor who like Reverend Graetz had graduated from Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. Reverend Trout was assigned to serve at Community Lutheran. ALC church officials, upon informing Reverend Graetz of his assignment, took the occasion to remind him that his job was to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and not to crusade for racial equality.

[6] It became clear from the beginning of Reverend Graetz's tenure at Trinity Lutheran that remaining aloof from racial politics would be difficult, if not impossible. Reverend Graetz acknowledged that black Lutherans were a minority community in Montgomery, but an active part of all Christians in the black community who put an emphasis on the love of Jesus Christ.

[12] Knowing that it was not right to practice segregated customs, he felt compelled to follow southern political and cultural rules on some level. Some cultural mores, such as cutting the grass, gave Reverend Graetz pause for thought. Upstanding whites did not cut the grass in the south, leaving theses tasks for black men.

[13] Rather than challenge the status quo he preferred not to cut the grass. Add the cultural pressure to the fact that he had also promised Lutheran Church officials that he would concentrate on being a pastor and would not start trouble and Reverend Graetz's decision is understandable. Trouble, however, came looking for Reverend Graetz--it was only a matter of time before he decided that cultural challenge and political engagement were the strategies to take. The one event that precipitated his political involvement was Rosa Parks' arrest for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus. Following her arrest Reverend Graetz began participating in political events, such as mass meetings at churches, and joining thousands of blacks outside the court hearing Parks' case, which constituted a direct challenge to the southern civic rules and social norms. Whites did not mix with blacks under any circumstances except retail exchanges or work related communications. A major part of Reverend Graetz's decision-making process in this situation was the expressed desires of his congregation to respond to the daily insults and slights they experienced. The choices between obedience, both in terms of Church doctrine and state laws, and engagement were becoming commonplace in Reverend Graetz's life. Only a choice between one or the other would answer the question of whether to remain obedient to the Lutheran officials and not cause trouble or challenge Lutheran authority and court trouble by disobeying state political leadership and established cultural norms. When asked about his decision, Graetz replied that the oppression of African Americans was so blatant in Montgomery, and done in the name of Christ, that Luther might have sided with the oppressed Christians rather than the oppressing Christians.

[14] Reverend Graetz also stated that he had been politically active as a student at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, so the move into political action was not too difficult, and additionally, he had support from the African American community, who were also deeply concerned with his health and safety.

[15]

[7] One of Graetz's radical challenges occurred when he proposed a joint worship service to the white Montgomery Ministerial Association and the black Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance in 1956. These two groups formed an informal, ecumenical, and based on segregationist policies, illegal fellowship that covered the entire state. For his activities, Graetz was the target of numerous abusive phone calls, bombings of his house, and vandalism to his car. Letters to the Editor of the local newspapers also expressed dissatisfaction with his political activities. One letter to the Alabama Journal-Montgomery Advertiser on January 15, 1956, noted that Graetz was from Charleston, West Virginia where just ninety-six years earlier another activist by the name of John Brown was hanged.

[16]

[8] When Reverend Graetz was in Montgomery, it was often times difficult to merge white and black Lutheran interests on the question of segregation. When in early 1961, executive Secretary of the Southern District, Reverend Oscar Reinboth, brought together the pastors of white churches and African American congregations, one of the pastors remarked that if the church of the South took an unequivocal position of the question of desegregation, it would suffer a great deal. It was felt that the backlash from the dominant white southern power structure could result in lost prestige for the Lutheran church, loss of white members, and physical retaliation from racist factions. Others felt the risks were worth it, because integration of the races was a humane and just position take. From these types of debates occurring since the early 1950s, there also came an awareness that the Church has been called on to suffer, that participating in the movement and taking the risk of fighting for desegregation is another way of suffering that therefore, can bring good. Here is an example of the connection between real life events and the faith metaphor. For Lutherans, this is what it means to prove the will of God, not to form judgments on the basis of what we feel and experience, but to walk in darkness, and there was much darkness in the South for years, but then there would be light, when God's will was done.

[17] With a sturdy bridge between real life experience and faith, a Lutheran pastor or devotee can feel strength in assuming positions that seemingly clash with his or her beliefs.

[9] Graetz made no attempt to hide his involvement in challenging local authorities by protesting segregationist policies and becoming an active participant in the Montgomery bus protests. Graetz's involvement was highlighted in a newspaper article in the Montgomery Advertiser announced the news in a feature story on the editorial page; a white minister serving a Negro congregation was helping Negroes boycott the city buses.

[18] Graetz was the only white man among 5,000 African Americans who rallied to protest the arrest of Rosa Parks. He was said to ferry up to 40-50 passengers a day during the Montgomery bus boycott. The newspaper story led to an intense focus on Graetz that brought fear and uncertainty to him and his family. He was detained by the county sheriff on charges of running a taxi service without a license. The Sheriff, Mac Sim Butler told him that no white man in Alabama would have Negro friends and that he didn't understand how he could claim to a Christian and a minister and believe the things that he believed.

[19] In addition, a deputy sheriff argued to Graetz that the Bible supports segregation. Graetz also made national headlines. On January 16, he received a letter from the news bureau chief of the National Lutheran Council, Erik Modean, congratulating him on applying his faith to practical issues after seeing a photo story about him in the New York Times. Graetz was one of few white defense witnesses appearing at the trial of Martin Luther King, Jr., who was found guilty of leading the movement against the Montgomery bus system.

[10] Graetz's participation does not mean that another pastor of Trinity Lutheran would have been up to the challenge. Another might have preferred passive obedience and left the legitimized state to ruthlessly carry out its response to African American political demands, either because the state has been appointed by God to correct the wicked and encourage the good, or because suffering is the only way for individuals to realize God and acquire the faith. Graetz did say that the pastor of the only white Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Russell Boggs, was very supportive of his activities, but because his congregation was white and not overwhelmingly in favor of desegregation activities, he did not have to act on any conflicts between obedience and radical engagement in terms of encouraging his congregation to support integration.

[20] Reverend Boggs dealt with the conflict between obedience and engagement by individual acts, such as, inviting Reverend Trout and family for dinner and inviting Reverend Graetz to preach at Our Redeemer Lutheran.

[11] Reverend Graetz continued his civil rights activities and in 1957 the Montgomery Improvement Association appointed him chairman of the Second Annual Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change. For Reverend Graetz, the pivotal year was 1958 when he received an official call to become pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church in Columbus, Ohio. Initially he was inclined to refuse the call, but Trinity Lutheran was considering a transfer to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), which would not be as tolerant to pastors actively engaged in political action. Reverend Graetz did not believe that his political engagement would fit with the theology of LCMS, which would place more emphasis on obedience. Even though LCMS was known for its missionary work among African Americans in the South, political controversy was one area their Board of Colloquy would not tolerate. Given this situation Reverend Graetz accepted the official call to become pastor of St. Philip, which also officially ended his civil rights activism in the South. Though the Montgomery bus boycott was successful, the struggle for equal rights in Montgomery and throughout the south was far from over. Lutherans and Lutheranism's Increase in Civil Rights Activism

[12] After the desegregation of Montgomery buses there was a decline in the direct political civil rights activity of Greatz and other Civil Rights Movement activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., in the movement after the Montgomery bus movement in 1956 and the Little Rock school integration struggle in 1957 until 1960. But there was much discussion about rights for the African American in synods, Lutheran colleges/universities, and Lutheran literature in between 1957 and 1960. Beginning in 1960 with the sit-ins, freedom rides, and other direct challenges to the segregationist south, Lutherans began to act on the discussions, meetings, and readings and entered into a more radical engagement. Lutherans began traveling to southern sites of confrontation. Until 1960 Lutherans who were involved in passive or active support for the movement did so in their local settings. It was in 1960 that more whites, especially young college students, began to become active in response to violent confrontations seen on television in which southern whites were attacking nonviolent blacks. Lutheran college students and Lutheran pastors were also influenced by these events and headed south or became active in their local communities. For this reason Lutheran pastors faced the wrath of racists and often of other Lutherans who opposed direct challenges to authority. On March 16, 1961, a white seminarian, James Fackler, was beaten by men who objected to his having sponsored and participated in an interracial student meeting at University Lutheran Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and on January 2, 1962, Reverend Robert Faga, a white pastor serving a congregation of African American constituency in Montgomery, Alabama, was beaten because he was ministering to them. One example of Lutheran response to this is the Alabama-Upper Florida Lutheran Pastors Conference. This group of black and white pastors drew up a statement indicating that in areas of extreme racial tension, they, as Lutheran pastors, should be ready to suffer for the sake of Christ as an honor, not a disgrace.

[13] Lutherans were prominent in terms of participants and supporters for the 1963 March on Washington, and they increased their activities in the succeeding months and years. Reverend Joseph Ellwanger, pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Birmingham, Alabama, on March 8, 1965, led seventy-two white Alabamans in a 12 block march in Selma, Alabama, to back the civil rights demonstrations going on there. However, an encounter between two Lutheran pastors illustrates that Lutheran participation in political civil rights action was not universal. Reverend Ellwanger was met at the beginning of the march by Reverend James Rongstad of St. John's Lutheran Church in Selma, who protested his interference in Selma's problems. Reverend Ellwanger was compelled to explain himself. In support of Reverend Rongstad's position Reverend Edgar Homrighausen, President of the Southern District of LCMS, sent a telegram stating that LCMS did not sanction or support Reverend Ellwanger's efforts in support of the march. Reverend Homrighausen's telegram stated that the LCMS supported the goal of freedom under just legislation, but could not support the demonstration, presumably because the demonstration was an act of resistance to legal authority, which should not be challenged. In this show of differences within the church, Reverend Ellwanger commented that his decision to become involved in the politics of racial segregation in Selma was based on a conviction that this kind of demonstration was a clear witness to his Lord and to his love for all people.

[21] While Reverend Ellwanger was aware that his participation in this march could stir up divisions within the church, he felt a deeper responsibility to work toward the removal of injustices. He felt no Christian could honestly denounce what he was doing as being un-Christian. Reverend Ellwanger also felt a moral responsibility to identify with African Americans; struggles for justice and felt personally that it was in the spirit of the Incarnation to identify with African Americans and their struggle for freedom.

[14] On March 9, 1965 several hundred white clergy from across the country went to Selma to protest the use of violence against civil rights demonstrators two days earlier. One of the pastors, Dr. Martin Marty, a clergyman of the LCMS and a professor of modern church history at the University of Chicago Divinity School, stated that as a Christian he could not be an outsider and as a Lutheran he was intensely interested in the freedom of all people.

[22] The Southeastern District President of LCMS, William Kohn, responded in a letter to pastors in his district that "when Christians see others suffer, their concern deepens, because when clubs and whips strike others, our bodies wince, and when tear gas is used on others, our lungs smart, and above all our consciences are seared."

[23] The response to suffering of African Americans, even within church bodies, was not by any means uniform. Conclusion

[15] This paper lists and discusses only a small number of the political activities, resources, and policies that Lutherans and the Lutheran church committed to the Civil Rights Movement.

[24] More research and study of the decade of Lutheran involvement in the Civil Rights Movement needs to be done, especially considering that many Lutherans that have first hand knowledge of this activity are at advanced stages of aging. From the political point of view, the significance of Lutheranism for the Civil Rights Movement lies in its connection of individual pastors and churches which blended their inward spirituality and outward social ethic to deal with the problems of racial inequalities. Not all Lutheran pastors or Lutherans in general participated in the Movement, and in fact, some remained silent, while others openly objected to any engagement in political affairs. But the Lutherans who did participate made a significant difference.

[16] What can Lutherans presently learn from Lutheran engagements in the Civil Rights Movement? A primary lesson to be learned is that definitions of obedience need to be taken to a deeper level where civil disobedience becomes divine/biblical obedience. It becomes obedience in similar ways that darkness can become lightness and suffering can become wholeness in the Lutheran tradition, particularly within the theology of the cross. Lutheran involvement in the Civil Rights Movement provides a concrete example of active engagement, which is a partial answer to critics who view Lutherans and Lutheranism as being unduly locked in passive obedience.

[25] The implications of Lutheran involvement in the Movement are favorable to a growth of political and social freedom, as well as an acknowledgement of inner religious liberty. How Luther's sharp distinction between the kingdom of grace and the realm of earthly power can be interpreted is also illustrated in Lutheran political engagement in the Civil Rights Movement. In addition, Lutheran political action demonstrates how the consequent division between private and public morality can be modified to become welded together as one. The Lutheran political stance in the southern United States between 1955 and 1965 can give Lutherans a positive example that unjust politics can be taken on to yield positive outcomes. Lutherans such as Robert Graetz exemplify what Ronald Thiemann identifies as a connected critic, in that Graetz was characterized by both the commitment characteristic of the loyal participant in the Civil Rights Movement and the critique characteristic of the disillusioned dissenter by challenging Luther's statements concerning duty to obey the Prince.

[26] The Lutheran presence in the Civil Rights Movement indicates that the Lutheran principle of passive obedience can be easily overstated, and Lutheranism is not monolithic when it comes to political and social involvement. Lutheran engagement in the Southern Civil Rights Movement is important and deserves to be considered a crucial part of Lutheran history.

End Notes

[1] Luther, Martin. "Temporal Authority: To What Extent It should be Obeyed." Luther's Works, v. 45. Philadelphia. Fortress Press. 1957. pp. 76-130.

[2] Luther, Martin. "Heidelberg Disputation, Thesis 21." Luther's Works. Philadelphia. Fortress Press. 1957. 

[3] Luther, Martin. "Heidelberg Disputation, Theses 16-21."Luther's Works. Philadelphia. Fortress Press. 1957. Also see Douglas John Hall's discussion of the Theology of the Cross in Lighten Our Darkness: Toward an Indigenous Theology of the Cross. Philadelphia. Westminister Press. 1976. Pp.116-123.

[4] Nunes, John. "The African American Experience and the Theology of the Cross," in The Theology of the Cross for the 21st Century edited by Alberto Garcia and A. R. Victor Raj. St. Louis. Concordia Publishing House. 2002. p. 218. Nunes also suggests that the Civil Rights Movement was activated by faith in Christ. P. 231.

[5] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York, New York. The Macmillan Company.1963. p. 31. Bonhoeffer states that "For the Christian no earthly obligation is absolutely bining, and any oath which makes an unconditional demand on him will for mim be a lie whch proceeds from 'the evil one'." p. 154.

[6] Lutherans and Lutheranism have been subjected to critique from numerous sources concerning their political quietism. Ernst Troeltsch, a noted critic of Lutheranism, argues that Lutheranism docilely adapts to any political system (cited by Robert Benne in The Paradoxical Vision, p.61). DeAne Lagerquist in "Being Lutheran in Public," Anglican and Episcopal History, v. LXXIV, n. 1. (March 2005), pp. 94-116, in response to Lutheran passivity list along with political quietism characteristics, such as, ethnic clannishness, orthodox obsession with pure teaching, and pietistic moralism among public images of Lutheranism. P. 96. Robert Benne in The Paradoxical Vision describes Lutheran theology as reluctant to assert the church's competence on worldly matters based on the belief that the state, not the church, under the law of God has the primary responsibility to just policy. p. 61.

[7] Weatherford, W. D. American Churches and the Negro: An Historical Study from Early Slave Days to the Present. Boston. The Christopher Publishing House. 1957. pp. 271-272. One of Weatherford's critiques was directed at the church,  which disturbs him for their passive acceptance of the cultural pattern of segregation.

[8] Ibid. Weatherford, p. 273.

[9] Ibid. Weatherford, p. 274.

[10] Kathryn Galchutt examined Andrew Schulze, a white Lutheran pastor, who spent his early ministry serving African American mission churches in Illinois and Missouri between 1924 and 1954. Schulze assisted in ending the mission status of black Lutheran churches and schools and was instrumental in creating the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America in 1953, in addition to being active in the Civil Rights Movement. See The Career of Andrew Schulze, 1924-1968: Lutherans and Race in the Civil Rights Era by Kathryn Galchutt, Macon, Georgia, Mercer University Press, 2005. 

[11] Trinity Lutheran Church, founded in 1915, was established as a mission of the Lutheran Synod of Ohio and other states. This was a period when several African American Lutheran congregations were established in Alabama and Mississippi and because there were few African American pastors, white German pastors went south to serve them. Reverend Robert Graetz was from Ohio. Robert Graetz, A White Preacher's Memoir: The Montgomery Bus Boycott. Montgomery, Alabama. Black Belt Press. 1998. pp. 32-33.

[12] Pastor Robert Graetz in lecture at Capitol University on October 19, 2005.

[13] Ibid. Graetz. Pp. 31-32.

[14] Interview through email with Robert Graetz. July 12, 2005.

[15] Reverend Robert Graetz lecture at Capitol University on October 19, 2005.

[16] This letter was printed in the Alabama Journal-Montgomery Advertiser on Sunday, January 15, 1956. Op. cit. Graetz. P. 92.

[17] Scharlemann, Martin. "A Look Around." The Vanguard. V. 8, #6, July, 1961. p. 3.

[18] On January 10, 1956, the Montgomery Advertiser published the first story about Reverend Graetz's participation in the movement with a feature story on the editorial page about a "white minister" of a Negro church that was helping Negroes in their attempts to boycott the Montgomery bus system. P.29. Robert Graetz. "The Montgomery Bus Boycott-My Part in It." Proceedings of the 1956 Valparaiso University Institute on Human Relations. July 26-28, 1956. pp.23-33.

[19] Ibid. p. 28. Also, Graetz, A White Preacher's Memoir, pp. 73-74.

[20] Interview through email with Reverend Robert Graetz on July12, 2005. Contrast this observation with Charles Marsh's statement on the first week of December 1956 when the Montgomery Improvement Association held a Institute on Nonviolence and Social Change at the Holt Street Baptist Church. Marsh notes that aside from Robert Graetz, not a single white minister in Montgomery had accepted Martin Luther King, Jr.'s invitation to attend the Holt Street service. According to Marsh, in the early days of the boycott King had held out hope that white ministers would respond to his hand written letters inviting them to participate. Most of the white ministers wanted to maintain the status quo. Charles Marsh. The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today. New York. Basic Books. 2005. p. 47.

[21] The Vanguard. V. 12, #2, March-April, 1965. p. 1. Leadership in the Lutheran hierarchy were not so willing to support the march. For example, the Dallas County Deputy Sheriff stopped Reverend Ellwanger and read him a telegram from Edgar Homrighausen, President of the Southern district, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod which said that, while he personally supported Reverend Ellwanger's goal of freedom for all under just legislation, the demonstration does not have the official sanction or endorsement of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Ibid. p.1.

[22] Ibid. p.1. Dr. Marty said it would have been good to see his bishops and overseers there to represent them. Numerous other Lutheran clergy participated in this march.

[23] Ibid. p.1.

[24] For example, there were African American Lutheran pastors who were active in the Civil Rights Movement, such as, William Griffin and Will Herzfeld, who were more radical in their political stance through their active support of Black Power positions.

[25] Luther in "Whither Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved" is clear when he says that as far as the body and property are concerned, they are subject to worldly rulers and owe them obedience. And he goes on to state that if worldly rulers call upon them to fight then they ought to and must fight and be obedient, not as Christians, but as members of the state and obedient subjects. Martin Luther. Luther's Works, v. 46. p. 93. The south had their laws and based on this Lutherans and Lutheran leadership should have been involved in helping maintain those laws or reminded out of state-subject confrontations altogether. Although Luther's attitude to the problem of obedience changed slightly in his latter years, he did not stray to far from his position that the Christian should remain with the state in spite of state methods for political life.

[26] Thiemann, "Faith and the Public Intellectual," (p. 93) in Walk in the ways of Wisdom: Essays in Honor of Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenze, edited by Shelly Matthews, et. al. New York. Trinity Press International.
 
 

 
© November 2006
Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 6, Issue 11