Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Ordained Lutheran brothers labor in parallel vineyards

Davin in Minnetonka is LCMS, while sibling Jonathan serves an ELCA congregation nearby

Given the significant differences that separate the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), one might expect two brothers who are pastors — one in each of these, the two largest Lutheran synods in the U.S. — to experience at least some tensions in their personal relations.

That, however, is not the case with the Rev. David Buuck, pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran (LCMS) in Minne-tonka, and the Rev. Jonathan Buuck, senior pastor at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (ELCA) on France Avenue in south Minneapolis. (The name Buuck is pronounced “booook.”)

“When people ask us about being in different synods, I say we’re David and Jonathan — we’re friends,” David explained, referring to the classic friendship be-tween two Old Testament comrades (refer to 1 Samuel, chapter 19).

Says David Buuck, “We’ll talk about issues. Each church has its issues, we recognize that and re-spect that but we don’t dwell on those. We focus on what we share, which is an awful lot.”

Jonathan puts it this way: “We both love the church. We want the church to be vibrant, to grow, to get the message out, to be the hands and feet of Christ.”

The brothers trace this attitude to their up-bringing as the older and younger sons — 16 years apart in age — of an LCMS pastor and his organist wife.

Devotion to the church marked their home life in a way that was characterized more by warmth than strictness, they say.
“We were raised with a concern for missions and a love of music, and that is the legacy we both carry forward,” Jonathan said.

The Buuck family roots are deep in the Missouri Synod, linked to ancestors who immigrated to America from Germany. David and Jonathan’s two grandfathers, as well as their father, were LCMS pastors.

The Buuck brothers’ father served most of his career as a parish pastor in churches in Michigan, which is where both boys and their sister, Kathleen, three years younger than David, were born.

David graduated from Lutheran High School in Detroit, took his first two years of college at a fledgling LCMS junior college in Ann Arbor (now part of the Concordia University System), finished college at Concordia in Fort Wayne, Indiana (in those days, a school providing the junior and senior years of study), and went on to do his seminary work at Concordia in St. Louis, graduating in 1971.

David’s first parish was St. Paul Luther-an in Hinckley, Minnesota, where he served three years. He then spent 17 years as pastor of Joy Lutheran in Cambridge, Minnesota, before coming to Bethlehem Lutheran in Minnetonka (membership 300) in 1991. He’s now 60, a veteran LCMS pastor.

One of David’s two sons, Brian, a St. Olaf College graduate, and his wife, Anja, serve as missionaries in Mexico, working as linguists and translators for the Wycliffe Bible translators organization.

Jonathan grew up in both Michigan and Minnesota. His father accepted a call to a parish in Mora in 1975. He finished high school there and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in business administration.

It was during Jonathan’s student days at the Univer-sity that his split from the Missouri Synod occurred. He was active in Lutheran Campus Ministry at what he describes as “a difficult time.” Inter-Lutheran ties were coming apart and hopes for cooperation be-tween them faded.

The LCMS relationship with the former American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America splintered over a number of issues, especially ordination of women and ecumenical relations. Jonathan decided to affiliate with the then Lutheran Church in America (LCA).

Older brother David says he “understood where Jon-athan was coming from and why he made the decision. We never held that against him and it wasn’t divisive in the family.”

Following graduation from the University, Jonathan spent two years as a campus organizer for Bread for the World and then enrolled at Luther Seminary. His first call was as pastor of a two-point parish at Montpelier, North Dakota, south of Jamestown. After three years there, he served eight years as pastor of Resurrection Lutheran in Lebanon, Ohio, followed by four years at Holy Cross Lutheran in Oakdale, Minn-esota.

He became senior pastor of Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (baptized membership 1500) at 4801 France Avenue South in the fall of 2004. He’s now 44, the father of two teen-agers.

The passion for mission which marks the whole Buuck family made Jonathan a good fit at Good Shepherd, a congregation with a strong tradition in that area.

The congregation has just completed a Momentum for Mission drive that overshot its goal and raised $650,000. Much of that money will be used to support the work of the fast-growing Oromo Lutheran Church, an Ethi-opian immigrant congregation of the ELCA now housed at the former Our Redeemer Lutheran parish, near Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis.

David’s current outreach efforts focus on the workshop for worship lectors he and actor Mark Rosenwinkel offer to congregations across synod and denominational lines in the Twin Cities area.

“We’re helping people read and project Scripture with understanding,” David said. “We’re trying to bring Scripture to life, to bring out the life and drama we see in Scripture.”

Sister Kathleen, now 58, is also involved in outreach work of the church. Her husband, Dr. James Wind, an ordained ELCA pastor, serves as president of the Alban Institute, a Virginia-based organization that provides education and consultation services to congregations and judicatories across denominational lines.