Alton Zenker, Former Lutheran Bishop, Dies

11/17/2008 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Alton Zenker, former bishop
of the Central/Southern Illinois Synod of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died Nov. 12 at his home
in Hot Springs Village, Ark.  He was 75.
     A funeral service is planned for Nov. 19 at Immanuel
Lutheran Church, (Flatville) Thomasboro, Ill.  Christ Lutheran
Church, Hot Springs Village, will hold a memorial service
on Nov. 24.
     "He was a significant example of faithful ministry, an
articulate mentor on proper Lutheran theology and an incredibly
patient golf partner the few times we were able to get together
on the greens.  I will miss him, but I will always be grateful
for his influence in my life and ministry," said the Rev.
Warren D. Freiheit, bishop, ELCA Central/Southern Illinois
Synod, Springfield.
     "I grieve the loss of Pastor Al Zenker," said the Rev.
Allan C. Bjornberg, bishop, ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod, Denver,
and chair, ELCA Conference of Bishops.  "His strong sense of
the church and his persistent witness to the gospel were gifts
to all of us," he said.
     Born in Gackle, N.D., Zenker earned a bachelor of arts
degree in 1955 from Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, one of
28 ELCA colleges and universities.  In 1959 he earned a master
of divinity degree from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque,
Iowa, one of eight ELCA seminaries.  In 1995 Zenker received a
doctor of divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary, and
Wartburg College awarded Zenker an honorary doctor of divinity
in 2001.
     Following his ordination in 1959 by the former American
Lutheran Church (ALC), Zenker was pastor of American Lutheran
Church, Flasher, N.D.; St. John Lutheran Church, Carson, N.D.;
Peace Lutheran Church, Linton, N.D.; and Immanuel Lutheran
Church, Thomasboro.  He was assistant to the bishop of the ALC
Illinois District and was an assistant to the Rev. John P.
Kaitschuk, whom Zenker succeeded as bishop of the ELCA
Central/Southern Illinois Synod following Kaitschuk's death
in 1994.
     Freiheit succeeded Zenker as bishop upon Zenker's
retirement in 2000.
     Following his retirement, Zenker was interim pastor at
Christ Lutheran Church, Hot Springs Village.  In 2006 he
served as interim bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod. Zenker
served on the board of regents of Wartburg College and the
board of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, another
ELCA seminary.
     Zenker is survived by his wife Marlene and two sons,
Steven and Mark, both of whom are physicians.
-- -- --
     The home page for the ELCA Central/Southern Illinois
Synod is at on the Web.

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