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Metro Lutheran announces 2013 Gold Pen Award recipient

Whether someone holds an advanced theological degree or is opening a Bible for the first time, Rolf Jacobson has a unique gift to meet them along their scriptural journey where they are. He is a sought-after theologian, speaker, teacher, and communicator. For his deep influence throughout the church on all these levels, Jacobson is the 2013 Metro Lutheran Gold Pen Award honoree. He will receive the award at the Metro Lutheran Annual Dinner on October 13.

Rolf Jacobson

Jacobson’s influence in teaching Scripture ranges from multiple works he has published through Augsburg Fortress to more than a decade of teaching theology, first at Augsburg College, and currently at Luther Seminary. In his preaching, leading classes, writing, and theological interpretation, Jacobson brings insight to scriptural discussions.

“His work has invited the church to move to its edges,” Metro Lutheran board member and Gold Pen nominator Catherine Malotky said. “He is inviting the church into its future at any number of levels.”

As both a theological scholar and church communicator, Jacobson’s work moves the mission of the church forward.

Ordained in 1991, Jacobson’s first call was to parish ministry. He served for five years as associate pastor at Como Park Lutheran Church in St. Paul before continuing his education at Princeton Theological Seminary. He went on to teach at Augsburg College, Minneapolis, as an assistant professor of religion. In 2003, he joined the Luther Seminary faculty, where he currently serves as associate professor of Old Testament.

In addition to his writing and teaching, Jacobson is a sought-after speaker and a frequent contributor to the WorkingPreacher’s “Sermon Brainwave,” a weekly theological podcast broadcast by faculty at Luther Seminary.

Communicating religion clearly

The Gold Pen is a board-nominated award given annually to an individual who meets a defined set of criteria. The standards for choosing the Gold Pen recipient include distinguished service to Christ and the church through significant contributions to public communication, service that is consistent and significant, increased effectiveness and understanding of the relationship between secular and religion communication, and the fostering of inter-Lutheran communication.

Metro Lutheran board member Michael Edwins, a retired ELCA pastor, explains that the nominees are determined by board nominations, then narrowed by an executive committee, which then brings three nominees to a board vote. The finalists are chosen based on the number of nominations brought forward by the board, how well they fit the criteria, and their uniqueness within their category.

“Rolf fits [this honor] in a couple ways, both as a communicator and as a theologian,” Edwins said of choosing Jacobson as the 2013 recipient.

As both a theological scholar and church communicator, Jacobson’s work moves the mission of the church forward, meeting his audience where they are. While he regularly discusses and interprets Scripture with fellow theologians, he is also able to comfortably interpret Scripture with broad audiences.

When bringing theology to lay audiences, “Rolf doesn’t talk in heavy theological language,” Malotky said. “He doesn’t rely on the inside jargon of theology to get across ideas, to make the ideas come alive.”

The breadth of Jacobson’s communication skills can be seen through his writing, which includes works of theological and biblical scholarship for both the church and academia. As a biblical scholar, articles by Jacobson appeared in Word and World, Theology Today, Interpretation, Teaching Theology and Religion, and in several collections of scholarly essays.

Through his work with Augsburg Fortress, he has contributed to multiple works. These include producing the Handbook series (The Lutheran Handbook and The Christian Handbook), editing Crazy Talk: A Not-So-Stuffy Dictionary of Theological Terms, and, with Kelly Fryer, writing the “No Experience Necessary” Bible studies.

Malotky described Jacobson as “an important creative mind,” at Augsburg Fortress. “He was really the brain child behind the narrative lectionary and a contributor to The Lutheran Study Bible,” she said.

“Rolf looked at how to communicate with youth in new forms and new ways,” she said of the book.

“Rolf is in the thick of his career,” Malotky said. “He is a churchman in his prime. It is powerful to see someone … hopeful and enthusiastic about what is to come.”

To get a glimpse of Jacobson’s hope and enthusiasm for the church, join Metro Lutheran staff and board members at the annual dinner on October 13.

UPDATE 7-25-13: An earlier online version incorrectly cited Jacobson as the originator of the Lutheran Study Bible.

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