The Lutheran church has experienced a lot of “firsts” over the years that were covered by its magazines.

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Palm City, Fla., has the distinction of being the first mission of the ELCA, organizing on Jan. 3, 1988.

Conventions marked the creation of the ELCA, which was formed in 1987 by the merger of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America, and the first men’s group with the formation of the North Carolina Lutheran Men in Mission, which is recognized as the granddaddy of men’s groups across the ELCA.

In August 2013, Elizabeth Eaton was elected presiding bishop of the ELCA. She is the first woman to hold the post. Her installation was celebrated on Oct. 5, 2013.

With the creation of the ELCA, The Lutheran magazine’s launched Jan. 1, 1988. In 2016, The Lutheran is renamed Living Lutheran, with its first issue introduced in April.

Wars and disasters

Living Lutheran and its predecessor magazines have a long history of covering the Lutheran response to events in the world, including wars and disasters.

In 1986, more than 7,000 Lutheran readers responded to a survey about the Vietnam War, designed by nine Protestant church magazines. Some readers felt the war wasn’t being pursued vigorously enough while others felt it should be de-escalated.

More than 250,000 Rwandans flee massacres in their homeland to Benaco refugee camp, Ngara, Tanzania. Living Lutheran covers relief efforts during the Rwandan civil war in July 1994.

In times of disaster, the Lutheran church is a presence. As ELCA presiding bishop, Mark S. Hanson visited New York to view the devastation following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The Lutheran devoted 16 pages of its November issue to highlighting Lutheran first responders, theological reflections, the ministry of Lutheran chaplains and more. In 2005, the magazine devoted stories to how Lutherans and congregations were impacted by and provided relief and resources in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In March 2020, COVID-19 is declared a pandemic. Living Lutheran publishes stories covering the unique and powerful ways ELCA members, leaders and congregations responded to the pandemic and how the church can move forward. An “I’m a Lutheran” column featured Emily Landon, who handled the University of Chicago Medicine’s COVID-19 response.

Society and Lutherans

Throughout the years, Living Lutheran and its predecessors have been telling stories of God’s people living their faith.

In 1999, The Lutheran covers the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification by representatives of the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation in Augsburg, Germany. It reports that the declaration was called “more than a signature, it is a day of joy and hope” by Peter Menacher, lord mayor of Augsburg.

The Lutheran’s report on the 2009 Churchwide Assembly notes two key votes: approval of a social statement on sexuality that acknowledges same-sex relationships, and the adoption of a resolution opening the door to ministerial positions for people in same-sex relationships.

The 2019 Churchwide Assembly voted 718-191 to declare the ELCA a sanctuary church, becoming the first North American denomination to do so. Living Lutheran’s May 2020 lead feature examines what it means to be a sanctuary denomination and how the declaration builds on the church’s commitment to accompany refugees.

In 2017, Living Lutheran highlights the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with coverage of the commemoration service held Oct. 31 in Washington, D.C. Its October lead feature, “Freed in Christ to serve the neighbor: 500 years of Lutherans in action,” explores how the ELCA’s “Reformation roots” guide the church’s ministry and actions today, and the moment’s “Lutheran crossroads” that will determine its future.

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