From Conservative Lutheran to Progressive Christianity
How does someone evolve from a conservative Lutheran upbringing into a Progressive Christian? This book traces what the author calls “ten conversions” or life-altering experiences which made that evolution possible.
Drafted into the Korean War right out of college, the author sees the world in global terms for the first time. For example, he is shocked to find separate drinking fountains for blacks and whites in Georgia. While at Camp Cook, California he was the only recruit in a barracks of sixty men who went to chapel on Sunday. These are two examples of what led him to abandon his dream of becoming a professional writer, as he felt the call into the ministry. This was an unlikely call since he grew up with little respect for the Sunday morning experience.
As a Lutheran pastor he found the church to be in need of reform. He was trained to believe that the Sunday sermon was the key to ministry, but when farmers at a rural congregation came inside the warm church on Sunday, they fell asleep. He realized the sermon was not the main thing, but rather those “teachable moments” when people are in crisis situations. To learn more about people in crisis situations he became involved in the civil rights movement by going to Mississippi during the violent summer of 1964 to help college students register black people to vote. When he wrote about his experience in the local newspaper, he got into trouble with his congregation.
With respect to inner city ministry, he spent six days on skid row Chicago in 1967 and began to identify with the hopelessness of the homeless. This experience was dramatically shared in a four-part series in the local newspaper.
After the skid row experience, he felt the Church was in need of some drastic changes to make it more relevant and closer to Jesus’ original message. He ran into resistance, however, from the Church bureaucracy when he started an experimental house church in a multi-cultural area of Los Angeles.
Later efforts to teach people about the realities of hunger and poverty were discouraging. To make it more real, he organized field trips in neighboring Mexico whereby students and other volunteers would assist the local people in building affordable straw-bale housing.
As a result of these experiences, he found Progressive Christianity to be a good alternative to the Protestant status quo.
This is his story.