"The wise screen writer is he who wears his second-best suit, artistically speaking, and doesn’t take things too much to heart."

- Raymond Chandler
I am the reconciler

Any author, if he can’t claim to be a commercial success, will find comfort in discovering that he’s got what they call a “cult following.” I’m bemused to discover that I seem to be developing a cult following of my own in an area where I’d never have looked for it—pastors and theologians of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Professor Gene Edward Veith and Concordia Publishing House publisher Paul T. McCain were early boosters, for whose support I’m extremely grateful. More recently I’ve added “Aardvark” of Aardvark Alley and Pastor Charles Lehman, who posted the following measured evaluation of Troll Valley on Facebook last night:

Lars Walker is a genius. This is indisputable fact and not up for debate. If you disagree with me then one or more of the following are true:

1. You've never read any of his books.
2. You're an idiot.
3. You are a vampire or some other variety of mythical being that lacks a soul.
4. You are Kristin Cashore or Stephanie Meyer.*

*Yes, I do realize that after writing #3 that #4 is redundant.

A recent addition is theologian Dr. Jack Kilcrease, who blogs at Theologia Crucis.

“And this surprises you, how?” you ask. “They’re Lutherans. You’re Lutheran. Sounds more like incest than Romeo and Juliet.”

Ah, but that’s because you don’t know the history of Lutheranism in America. Between Missouri Lutherans and Free Lutherans like me, a great gulf has historically been fixed.

As it happens, I’m just now editing this year’s issue of the Journal of the Georg Sverdrup Society, and the subject is “Sverdrup and Lay Activity.” This was the rock on which Lutheran unity in America foundered for generations, and it formed a solid barrier between Them and Us.

You see, there’s an article in The Augsburg Confession that says, “It is taught among us that nobody should publicly teach or preach or administer the sacraments without a regular call.” This was traditionally interpreted to mean that no lay person, except in the greatest emergency (maybe) would be allowed to teach in any way or to administer the sacraments. In its full-blown form, it actually delayed the development of Lutheran foreign missions for some time, because a pastor could only be “regularly called” by an existing congregation in a particular area. In heathen lands there were no existing congregations, and so there could not be a regular call at all. Tough luck, lost souls.

My people, the pietists, held to a looser view of this article (it must be admitted that, at the time, we were the crazy liberals, since the liberal/conservative divide was drawn along the lines of the rights of the laity, rather than the authority of Scripture). The Haugean movement, my tradition, was born in the preaching of a laymen who eventually suffered years in prison for usurping the preaching and teaching powers of a pastor.

In America, the two great Lutheran factions (speaking very broadly; there were numerous sub-factions) were those who favored lay activity and those who desired to recreate, as much as possible, the state churches of Europe with their pastoral privileges.

And the Missouri Synod was the rock of the conservatives. The fact that the “high church” Norwegian pastors got their training at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, was a great offense to the folks on my side (there was even one faction known as “The Anti-Missourian Brotherhood”).

And so it amuses me to find, after a century and more, that I’m now allied with Missouri Synod people. The fight is different today. Old enemies are now allies, in the face of opposition that makes our differences seem slight in proportion.

Also, I think both sides have mellowed a little. I doubt that the average Missouri Synod pastor today is terribly distressed by news that a layman is leading a Bible study. And I think it must be admitted that very few of our Free Lutheran congregations come close to Georg Sverdrup’s ideal model, where the church is a great beehive of lay activity, with the pastor acting as choreographer and cheerleader (aside from his sacramental duties, which we never denied).

Anyway, I greatly admire the faithful of the Missouri Synod, and am tickled to find that some of them like my Haugeaner tales.


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Comments on "I am the reconciler":
1. Rev. Charles Lehmann - 04/13/2012 2:05 pm EDT

I appreciate your work because you are a good artist. You are able to work a number of parallel but distinct themes in your work and have them cross and weave in beautiful ways.

As a writer, I appreciate good writing. I don't always agree with your theological points, but I love your characters and your stories. I also enjoy the fact that even your own tradition gets its lumps when you write about it.

That means that you are a measured and thoughtful man who happens to also spin a great yarn.

There's nothing about any of that to not rejoice in.

2. Jasini - 04/13/2012 2:29 pm EDT

Even so, at worst it was a family squabble. Not that some family squabbles can't turn out horrendous.

3. Phil - 04/13/2012 4:04 pm EDT

And Presbyterians are the noisy neighbors down the street.

4. Loren Eaton - 04/13/2012 7:52 pm EDT

Yeah, those crazy Presbyterians. Gotta watch out for them. I hear even some of them like your work.

Course, they were predestined to do so ...

5. Phil - 04/13/2012 8:56 pm EDT

Haha! That's right.

6. Ori Pomerantz - 04/14/2012 5:33 pm EDT

What Rev. Charles Lehmann said. I'm Jewish, I believe your theology is way off the mark. So what? You write wonderful fiction, and show things from a perspective no Jewish author would have seen.

7. Frank Luke - 04/16/2012 9:42 am EDT

I'm a licensed minister with the Assemblies of God, but three of my seminary professors (Assemblies of God Theological Seminary) graduated from Concordia. You know I love your work.

My brother-in-law and his wife were Missouri Synod before he died. She did have views on those who were not Missouri Synod, but we have other issues for her.

8. Robert Treskillard - 04/16/2012 7:04 pm EDT

This post is very funny and historically enlightening. As a "former" Minnesotan, and now a resident of Missouri, this sheds some light on the why's and wherefore's of the split.

And based on the other religions and denominations in the comments here, I'd say, Lars, that you're bringing together more than just the Lutherans in enjoyment of your fiction!


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