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Lutheran Quarterly celebrates 25 years of publishing

Lutheran Quarterly and its predecessor publications go back to 1849, according to Mark Granquist, professor of church history at Luther Seminary, St. Paul. But the earlier iterations did have some differences. Usually these journals were operated as a joint publication of several Lutheran seminaries. Under this polity, the publication ran out of steam in the mid-1970s, and eventually died.

But a handful of Lutheran scholars had a vision for resurrecting an independent Lutheran scholarly journal, and in 1986, as competing visions for what the Lutheran church should look like, and two years before the merger of the American Lutheran Church (ALC), Lutheran Church in America (LCA), and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Lutheran Quarterly once again saw ink.

The logo of Lutheran Quarterly

“The reason for a scholarly Lutheran publication is that Lutherans as a people take their theology and history very seriously.”

Lutheran Quarterly is old-fashioned,” explained Paul Rorem, editor and professor of church history at Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey. “It is published four times per year in a traditional scholarly format.” He added that Lutheran Quarterly has a unique niche. While many publications have to adapt to busy pastors and well-meaning but under-prepared lay leaders, this journal has doctrinal depth and historical detail. “We don’t shy away from the footnotes,” he said.

Normally Lutheran Quarterly includes a potpourri of articles; the material does not normally revolve around a central theme.

The editorial staff is more concerned about quality than addressing a cultural fad. “I remember founding editor Oliver Olson once told us, ‘When we do an article right, it should be the definitive treatment [of that issue] for that time.’”

Across the boundaries that are Lutheranism

Like Metro Lutheran, Lutheran Quarterly is intentionally a pan-Lutheran organization, and always has been. “Originally we bridged borders between the ALC, the LCA, and Missouri,” explained Rorem. “Now we include the ELCA, LCMS, and even some of the new church expressions.”

“We try to cover topics from a number of different sides,” said Granquist, who is also Lutheran Quarterly’s director of circulation and development. “We include both Europeans and Americans, people from Missouri and the ELCA,” as well as “picking up some of the smaller Lutheran bodies too.

“The reason for a scholarly Lutheran publication is that Lutherans as a people take their theology and history very seriously,” Granquist said. “It doesn’t just inform their past, but also their present and future. We look back to documents that are 500 years old to help us with present issues.”

And the future is important to those behind the publication. To that end, they have established the Gerhard Forde Endowment Fund, named after the Luther Seminary professor whom many credit with defining the core perspective of Lutheran Quarterly. His article “Radical Lutheranism” was definitional in this respect, and is still available on the publication’s website: www.lutheranquarterly.com. The endowment was established to cultivate the historical and theological understanding of the Lutheran tradition articulated by Forde over the course of his service to the church, according to Granquist.

“Many people are contributing to the endowment for the 25th anniversary,” Granquist continued. For further information about the endowment, or to make a contribution, contact Bud Thompson, Department of Religious Studies, Gonzaga University, 502 E. Boone Avenue, Spokane, Washington 99258.

In commemoration of its 25th year of publication, Lutheran Quarterly is sponsoring a speaking tour by frequent contributor Oswald Bayer, a German systematic theologian. Bayer will be in the Twin Cities in March 2012 for an event at Luther Seminary. For further information, watch upcoming issues of Metro Lutheran.

The publication’s logo (see above) “VDMA” is an abbreviation for Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum or “the Word of the Lord remains forever.” Martin Luther used this in the 16th century as a slogan for his movement; it was printed on coins and banners. Granquist believes this same slogan positions Lutheran Quarterly well in another age of shifting Lutheran landscape. “It’s important to have a place where Lutheran identity and theology can be discussed,” he said. “And a publication without editorial purpose is a pretty dull publication.”

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