William Lazareth, Former ELCA Synod Bishop, Author, Professor, Dies

2/26/2008 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. William H. Lazareth, former
bishop of the Metropolitan New York Synod of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) died of cancer Feb. 23 in Bar
Harbor, Maine.  Lazareth, 79, had a distinguished career as a
college and seminary professor, author and leader with the ELCA,
the former Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the World Council
of Churches (WCC), Geneva.
     At the time of his death, Lazareth was a faculty member at
Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis., serving as Jerald C. Brauer
Distinguished Professor of Lutheran Studies.  He was also
founding co-director of the online Augustine Institute at
     A memorial service is planned for April 26 at 3 p.m. at St.
Matthew Lutheran Church, White Plains, N.Y., where he was a
member.  A second memorial service will be held in Bar Harbor at
a date to be determined.
     "A most eloquent voice in witness to the gospel is now
silent," said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, in
a statement. "With people throughout the whole Church on earth, I
mourn (his) death. At the same time, I convey to his dear wife,
Jacqueline, and his children, the sympathy of a grateful church."
     "Dr. Lazareth was a teacher of the Church.  The ecclesial,
theological and ecumenical legacy that he leaves will bless the
people of the Church for generations to come," he said.
     Hanson noted that Lazareth oversaw the drafting "of one of
the most influential documents of the 20th century" in his role
as director of the WCC Faith and Order Secretariat from 1980 to
1983.  The document, "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry," emerged
from a half century of theological endeavor and consensus-
building concerning issues that have separated churches, he said.
"That document now exists in about 40 languages and continues to
shape theological dialogue in the quest for deeper church-to-
church relationships," Hanson said.
     Hanson said Lazareth "had a special gift for using
comparisons and contrasts in his patterns of preaching and
teaching.  He employed vivid phrases and well-crafted sentences
to convey abiding truths.  Those who had the privilege of hearing
him always gained memorable insights into the witness of
Scripture and the tradition of the Church."
     The Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, who served as bishop of the ELCA
Metropolitan New York Synod from 1996 to 2007, said Lazareth was
"a giant among us."  Bouman is now executive director, ELCA
Evangelical Outreach and Congregational Mission.
     "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" is a document that will be
a legacy for the whole Church, Bouman said. "It helped me in my
understanding of the ministry of the diaconate in the
Metropolitan New York Synod, as well as an enduring way in which
to think, work and pray for the unity of Christ's Body," he said.
     "As bishop he (Lazareth) was an outstanding missional
leader.  Many remember his clear and passionate call for justice
among the urban poor on the streets of the Bronx as he helped
launch Nehemiah affordable housing.  His leadership as bishop, in
so many ways, made our synod proud and public," Bouman said,
adding that he was grateful for Lazareth's counsel while Bouman
was serving as bishop.
     Born in New York, Lazareth earned a bachelor's degree in
history in 1948 from Princeton University, Princeton, N.J.  In
1953 he earned a master of divinity degree from the Lutheran
Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), one of eight ELCA
seminaries.  Lazareth earned a doctorate in doctrinal theology
from Columbia University- Union Theological Seminary, New York,
in 1958.  Seven honorary doctorates were awarded to Lazareth.
     Following his ordination in 1956 in the former United
Lutheran Church, Lazareth was a faculty member for nearly 20
years at LTSP, serving as Hagan Professor of Systematic Theology
and dean of the faculty.  After he left the faculty, Lazareth
became a distinguished visiting professor at LTSP. In 1976 he
became director of the Department for Church in Society, LCA
Division for Mission in North America.
     After serving three years as years as director of the WCC
Faith and Order Secretariat, he became pastor of Holy Trinity
Lutheran Church, New York, where he served from 1983 to 1987.  He
was visiting professor, Union Theological Seminary, New York,
from 1987 to 1996.  From 1991 to 2002, he was co-president of the
Lutheran-Eastern Orthodox International Doctrinal Dialogues,
Lutheran World Federation, Geneva.
     In 1988 Lazareth was elected bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan
New York Synod and served in that role until 1992 when he retired
from active ministry. From 1996 to 2003, he was a member of the
executive staff, Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton, and
was a visiting professor at Princeton University before he joined
the faculty at Carthage College in 2003.
     Lazareth authored 13 books, edited 15 books and wrote at
least 45 essays.  In 1995 he was named "Lutheran Pastor of the
Year USA" by the Luther Institute, Washington, D.C.
     Lazareth is survived by Jacqueline, his wife of 53 years,
daughters Karen and Victoria, and a son, Paul.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog


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