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Letters Our identity Readers seek clarity about our ‘theological brand,’ mission to the unchurched

ing attended some clergy retirement seminars and hearing horror stories about transitions, I would add that when a church gets a new pastor, the (former) pastor doesn’t go away but is an ongoing, often divisive presence undermining the leadership of the new pastor. Among the resources our synod provided was what a depart- ing pastor should not do once she or he has retired or moved on. To have a guideline put into parishioners’ hands is important. The Rev. Edward R. Schreiber Saugerties, N.Y.

Stop all executions I read that [Kelly Gissendaner] was executed (“Gissendaner sings while executed”; November, page 10). To kill someone who confessed their sin and was forgiven by our Lord is murder. We must stop all executions. I read (elsewhere) that only two or three innocent ones are executed. Anything our churches can do? As a former chaplain, I can tell you that for many prisoners, if not most, being sentenced to life in prison is a worse judgment. The Rev. Robert Ove Aurora, Colo.

New pastors The article “5 things that happen when you get a new pastor” (Octo- ber, page 12) by Tim Brown will help conversations take place. Hav-


Feeling comfortable, loved Keep up the good work on clear, inviting articles. We and Avu, our Greenland husky, really enjoyed the “Furry friend brings laughter, cheer to seniors” (October, page 38). My wife Chris and I take Avu to nursing and assisted living homes. It is great and uplifting to see smiles on resi- dents’ faces. I agree with author Katie Scarvey that dogs can make seniors feel comfortable, loved. Earl Finkler Medford, Wis.

Credit union Hearing about the ELCA credit union disturbed me (“Credit union to open”; September, page 8). How did this plan originate? A friend, who is a lifelong atheist, gave me this perspec- tive: “Didn’t Jesus throw the money changers out of the temple?” How does the ELCA justify this? I thought we had a mission to the unchurched. This isn’t helping. The Rev. Marsha Swenson Madison, Wis.

Our theological brand Kudos to Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton for staying on her fourfold message. But in “What is ‘Lutheran’?” (October, page 50), saying that “what we eat, what hymns we sing, what jokes we tell, what countries we hail from, what color we are, what we wear” isn’t what defines “Lutheran” or binds us together flies in the face of most everyone’s experience of the ELCA today. Saying it out loud and wishing doesn’t make it so. “We are Christian” isn’t a statement of having become “generic” but clearly states we are Christ-centered above all else. If “God’s grace” is what is unique to us, what does this say about our ecu- menical partner’s theology? We need to be Lutheran Christians, with a clear noun and adjective distinction. We are living in a post-denomina- tional world. It’s time to clarify our theology by our branding. The Rev. Kevin Murphy Walnut Creek, Calif.

Good works I would like to commend Bishop Eaton for her excellent article “What is ‘Lutheran’?” Her statement—“If culture and cuisine don’t define us, our theology must”—takes us to the very heart of the dilemma posed in this extremely well-written article. I also was impressed by her asser- tion that “we have a particular way of understanding the Jesus story.” While the bishop certainly is respectful of good works in her interpretation of the transformative relationship that exists between faith and good works, I am inclined to think that faith, so perceived, may at times pos-

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