William “Bill” Horne, beloved ELCA vice president

William “Bill” Horne II, vice president of the ELCA, died Aug. 14 of a suspected heart attack. Horne was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Clearwater, Fla. He had served as the city manager of Clearwater since 2001. He was 72.

“Bill was a man of absolute integrity and a deep, living faith in the grace and love of Jesus. Bill embodied the Lutheran understanding of vocation as husband, father and city manager,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

Horne was elected vice president by the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The position is the highest a layperson can hold in the denomination, and in this role Horne presided over the ELCA Church Council.

“Bill was a faithful servant leader who loved this church dearly and its mission to do God’s work in the world,” said Jodi Slattery, ELCA executive for governance. “He understood the importance of taking the extra time during the [council] meetings to make sure all voices and perspectives were heard.

“Even during challenging situations, Bill led the Church Council meetings with integrity, thoughtfulness and grace. I give thanks to God for Bill’s life among us.”

“Bill was a man of absolute integrity and a deep, living faith in the grace and love of Jesus.”

Eaton added, “Bill was energized by being the churchwide representative to synod assemblies. His leadership was strong, thoughtful and wise.”

In his reports to the council, Horne often spoke of his practice of meditating on the Sunday lessons “to hear what God is up to in my life, and how I might apply the word to my work vocation and daily walk with my congregation, family and neighbors.”

A retired U.S. Air Force colonel, Horne also served as the vice president of the Florida-Bahamas Synod and on the ELCA Church Council as a member for six years. He was a member of the ELCA Theological Education Advisory Council and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators.

At the 2016 assembly, Horne recalled how an ELCA Air Force chaplain had invited his family to be part of a Lutheran worship service. Although they were the “only people of color in that small group, we felt we were an integral part of that group,” he said.

Following his election as vice president, Horne told the assembly, “Brothers and sisters, I love this church. I love you. We have a lot of work to do, and I know that our dedication and our commitment to each other and our hard work will make the ELCA what God wants us to be.”

He is survived by his wife, Loretta, and two children.

Walter Wangerin Jr., esteemed Lutheran storyteller

Walter Wangerin Jr., a Lutheran pastor, professor and author, died Aug. 5 in Valparaiso, Ind., after having lived with cancer for 15 years. He was 77.

He taught at Valparaiso University and the University of Evansville in Indiana; was a founding member of the arts organization the New Harmony Project; and was a speaker on the nationally syndicated Lutheran Vespers radio program.

Wangerin served congregations in Evansville, Ind. (see page 45). He was writer in residence and the Emil and Elfriede Jochum Chair in the study of Christian values in public and professional life at Valparaiso University beginning in 1991. He taught literature, creative writing and theology there until his retirement in 2012. He also taught at Christ Seminary-Seminex, Chicago, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

“Walt Wangerin was a master storyteller who knew instinctively that people were more likely to listen deeply and really hear when they were invited into a story and not subjected to a lecture,” Eaton said. “It was a gift.”

“Walt Wangerin was a master storyteller.”

He wrote more than 40 books for children and adults, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry and devotional works. His first novel, The Book of the Dun Cow, won both the National Book Award and the New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year in 1980. He was a contributing editor of The Lutheran, writing a monthly column from 1987 to 2000, and had been an award-winning newspaper columnist.

He was also a member of the Chrysostom Society, a group of Christian writers, which last May published Songs from the Silent Passage, a collection of essays that discuss and honor Wangerin’s work.

A former radio announcer, Wangerin was the speaker for Lutheran Vespers from 1994 to 2005. “Walt was our speaker when Lutheran Vespers celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1997,” said Eric Shafer, then director of ELCA Communication Services. “Later Walt spoke for, most famously—Walt’s idea—a [Lutheran Vespers fundraising] bicycle trip across seven states in 2002,” which raised $1.4 million.

Wangerin is survived by his wife, Ruthanne; four children; and eight grandchildren.

David W. Preus, servant leader and bishop of the ALC

David W. Preus, Lutheran bishop, civic leader and World War II veteran, died July 23. He was 99.

Preus was born May 28, 1922, into a long line of church leaders. He is a graduate of Luther College, Decorah, Iowa. Following World War II, he went to law school for a year at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, before attending Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

Ordained in 1950, he served as a parish pastor for 23 years before becoming vice president/acting president of the American Lutheran Church (see page 45). Elected ALC president/bishop in 1973,  he led the denomination as it merged with two other church bodies to form the ELCA.

Preus was known as a calming presence and a seeker of common ground. “I remember being part of a U.S. Lutheran delegation to East Germany,” Eaton said. “We had a meeting with the East German government’s minister of culture, which dealt with religious organizations. The minister said, ‘We trust in science. You trust in God. History will tell who is right.’ To which Bishop Preus responded with absolute cool and clarity, ‘We’ll wait.’ Nine years later the Berlin Wall came down.”

Three of Preus’ major themes in life were “Jesus, justice and joy,” and servant leadership infused his life’s work.

Preus was known as a calming presence and a seeker of common ground.

Being a servant, he noted, is “towel and basin work.” In a sermon at University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis, he referenced Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet as a call to servanthood: “[Jesus said] if I am your Lord and teacher and I have washed your feet, then it is for you to wash each other’s feet. That is the summons for the Christian church throughout all ages. It is a summons for humanity. It is that for which we have been designed—to be towel and basin people taking care of each other’s needs, not waiting until we’re asked or it’s demanded of us, but finding the opportunities to minister to human need in all of the ways that are available to us now” (A Towel and Basin Man, 2008).

An advocate of church members participating in civic and community affairs, Preus was a member and chair of the Minneapolis School Board, the Minneapolis City Planning Commission and other Twin Cities civic organizations. He actively supported equal opportunities in housing, civil rights and civil rights legislation.

He was known for his ability to seek out people from all faiths and backgrounds to work together toward a common good. He met with four U.S. presidents, addressed social justice topics with Martin Luther King Jr. and joined Vice President Walter Mondale on work trips abroad.

During his 15 years as presiding bishop, he also served as vice president of the Lutheran World Federation and as a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

In 1988, he was appointed distinguished visiting professor at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, and director of its Global Mission Institute, serving until 1994.

Preus is survived by his wife, Ann Margaret; five children; nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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