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Messages - Russ Saltzman

#1
Your Turn / Johnson's book
February 16, 2018, 01:55:52 PM
I am re-posting this from another thread because the other thread wasn't getting any traffic, and I want people to know my regard for Changing World, Changeless Christ by Richard Johnson.

The book in brief is a remarkable history of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau, largely because it is also a history of American Lutherans in their denominational manifestations over the past century. The ALPB became a significant part of my life first as a seminarian, then as a pastor, then as an occasional contributor and, ultimately as editor of Forum Letter.

It was also, as I told Richard Johnson, something of a visit to Nostalgia World with a short stop at Melancholic Village.

The latter was due to the names of those now deceased, prominent in ALPB history, people who became guides, mentors, friends to me, even some fine critics, now gone. I do not like reading biographies for that reason – I become friends with the subject and then, damn, he dies. For the ALPB names given to my memory, I shall ever thank God that I knew them and was blessed by their proximity to my life.

There was nothing inevitable about the ALPB and its publications. It was conceived to address a need that wasn't even acknowledged, something to aid the transition from German language to English language; to explain to American society what was then an invisible collection of congregations. From that the ALPB exposed other equally unacknowledged needs among Lutherans in America: liturgics, church cooperation, confessional renewal, others. The influence of ALPB publications, my estimation, always far exceeded actual readership, and produced more friends than opponents.

There was no reason, Neuhaus once told me, Lutheran Forum and Forum Letter should not have 10,000 subscribers. True. That those publications never reached the Neuhausan vision is merely, I'd guess, an instance of more unacknowledged needs. Making those needs evident, as well as answering critics who do not in the first place even recognize them, is what the ALPB does, and along the way produces remarkable things.

A couple notes about Johnson's the book that caught my attention; well, just one thing, the disbursement of index references. The lines of index references to myself are 5. Lines of index for Neuhaus, also 5. Lines of index for my daughter, Hattie, 1. Lines of index for Paul Hinlicky's daughter, Sarah, 2. I have no idea what any of it means; I just started counting. Richard might care to explain it in a second printing.

I have not posted in this forum since becoming Roman Catholic, but I read it. Maybe you need to know, for the record, I have not heard one Romanist sermon that could not pass my innate Lutheran smell test for gospel grace. I've heard some bad sermons badly delivered (a risk we all run wherever) and some very good ones delivered well, but never anything that would send me bolting from the building.

Nowadays, I write regularly for Aleteia.org https://aleteia.org/author/russell-e-saltzman/, a Catholic web magazine, as well as, now and again, for the diocesan newspaper. I also teach adult catechism (RCIA) for folks entering the Catholic Church, and distribute communion weekly at a nursing home for resident members of the parish. Minor note: diocesan priests gathered in September for a review of Martin E. Marty's biography of Luther. Contact: You can find me on Facebook as Russ Saltzman. But if you are obviously a young girl and evidently friendless, you won't hear from me.

Peace and God bless, Russ
#2
Changing World, Changless Christ, in brief, is a remarkable history of the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. Equally, it is a history of American Lutherans in their denominational manifestations over the past century. The ALPB became a significant part of my life first as a pastor, then an occasional contributor, and ultimately editor of Forum Letter.

It was also, as I told Richard Johnson, something of a visit to Nostalgia World with a short stop at Melancholic Village.

That was largely due to the names of those now deceased, prominent in ALPB history, people in the ALPB who became guides, mentors, friends; even some fine critics, now gone. I do not like reading biographies for that reason – I become friends with the subject and then, damn, he dies. For the ALPB names given to my memory, I shall ever thank God that I knew them and was blessed by their proximity.

There was nothing inevitable about the ALPB and it publications. It was conceived to address a need that wasn't even acknowledged, the need to transition from German to English, to explain to American society what was then an invisible collection of congregations. From that the ALPB exposed other equally unacknowledged needs among Lutherans in America: liturgics, church cooperation, confessional renewal, others. Its influence, my estimation, always far exceeded actual readership.

There was no reason, Neuhaus once told me, Lutheran Forum and Forum Letter should not have 10,000 subscribers. True. That those publications never reached the Neuhausan vision is merely an instance of more unacknowledged needs, I'd guess. Making those needs evident, as well as answering critics who do not in the first place even recognize them, is what the ALPB does, and along the way produces remarkable things. Richard Johnson tells it well.

I have not posted on this forum since becoming Roman Catholic, but I read it. Maybe you need to know, for the record, I have not heard one Romanist sermon that could not pass my innate Lutheran smell test for gospel grace. I've heard some bad sermons badly delivered (a risk we all run wherever) and some very good ones delivered well, but nothing that would send me bolting from the building.

For those who wonder, I write regularly for Aleteia.org https://aleteia.org/author/russell-e-saltzman/, a Catholic web magazine, as well as, now and again, for the diocesan newspaper. I also teach adult catechism (RCIA) for folks entering the Catholic Church, and distribute communion weekly to a nursing home for resident members of the parish. You can find me on Facebook as Russ Saltzman. But if you're girl evidently friendless and with no mutual friends, you won't hear from me. 
#3
Colleagues, friends

Before word gets out too far and you hear it not from me, my wife, Dianne, and I are transitioning to the Roman Catholic Church.

I'm told there's a small announcement going in Forum Letter next month and some advance copies have gone out. I had private conversation with Bp. John Bradosky [North American Lutheran Church] morning of our Great Plains Mission District convocation early November and told him. For the record, he wasn't surprised.

To say I am becoming Roman Catholic is about the fifth step with four preceding it, none of which in my mind are necessarily connected. I'll take you through them. I did this about as honestly as I could, given circumstances.

1) I was nominated for the NALC executive council. I decided if I were elected I'd resign as district dean; I was restless in that work and I don't like two-fers, people holding two offices. Then, I saw Pr. Melinda Jones' name on the ballot with 6,000 male pastors (I do exaggerate, slightly) also after the spot. The only question for me was whether I'd come in second or third to Melinda (I still got political instincts). I made second.

2) Having become accustomed to the idea of surrendering the dean's office, I found, maybe mid-August, despite losing to Melinda, the reasons for giving up dean were still all in place. We are a small district numerically. The work should be passed around as much as feasible. I had done it four years; time to let go.

3) My wife. We were in Charleston, SC tending her father's death bed as the NALC convocation was going on. Experiencing the death of her Roman Catholic father on the last day of the NALC convocation in July, my wife sensed a tug back to her childhood faith. She had issues with the RCs for many years, but never really examined them. When she began examining them last summer, most had faded. Her father was raised a Lutheran and became Roman Catholic; Dianne was Roman Catholic and became Lutheran. Life is darn strange.

4) When she mentioned this to me, I had no objection at all. It was something Richard Neuhaus, famously a Lutheran gone Catholic, had urged on me for years. Our last correspondence before he died 2009 was on that subject. You might say his ghost has come 'round to whop me upside my head.

While certainly Neuhaus was - crap, still is - a tremendous influence on me, Dianne's announcement set me to examining my Lutheran life, and in some ways it's not as Lutheran as it once was. I write regularly for a Catholic magazine. Everybody senior on the staff at First Things is Catholic. I know as many priests as I do pastors, people I hang out with on email and the like, and I point out not a few of those priests were once Lutheran pastors. Not to slight you or anyone you know, it has just happened in my life that my intellectual and best theological compatriots these days are largely Roman Catholic.

What I have always sought - since seminary on - is to be in a church that finally gives expression to the catholicity of the Augsburg Confession. There is no Lutheran expression doing that. Most of my 17 years as editor of Forum Letter was spent, so it seems, showing Lutherans how far we have fallen from the practice of parish life described in our own confession.

There are evangelically catholic centers of Lutheran congregational life, and some that are deeply so, And there are evangelically catholic-minded pastors seeking parish renewal by Creed, Catechism, Confession, and praise God for it. The Church must continually struggle "against forces that always strike the Church and gospel: the fashions and fads of Gnosticisms ancient and new . . . the devaluation of the sacraments through neglect, the socially accommodating spirit of Church Growth excitements, and the gross appetite of a politicized bureaucracy." (Forum Letter 19:9, September 1990). It may be, I'll find out, the best field for the contestation in that struggle is with Rome.

5) By the time I reasoned all that out, Step 5 was, like, why the hell not?

Yet, this is not for ease nor is it out of mere unhappiness with the state of Lutheranism. It rises from true conviction that has grown in strength since Richard's death, that the essence - more like fullness - of the Church of Christ is in found communion with churches in communion with the bishop of Rome. It is not safe to deny one's conscience or renege on conviction.

My future as a Roman Catholic may clarify more in the coming year. The possibility of joining Catholic orders has come up. But if nothing comes of it, well, thanks to First Things, I'm already a "catholic" voice here and there. If the Spirit is happy with that, and that only, so am I.

I guess there is a 6th step. I ever thank God that when I was struggling out of the well of agnosticism, and atheism about every third or fourth day, He placed in my path some challenging, passionate, authentic Lutheran pastors, and made a place for me in Lutheran congregational life. It was in a community founded in the Resurrection that I first believed there had even been a resurrection. It was there - St. Mark's, Olathe KS; Our Savior's, Topeka KS - that I found myself practicing what I did not believe and thereby came to believe what I was practicing.

We are each of us companions on the Way, and I will treasure the journey onward regardless of affiliations.

The Lord be with you +
Russ Saltzman
#4
Here's the link to purchase Speaking of the Dead from the ALPB.

Some of you have asked; well, someone must surely be wondering about it and would have asked had they in fact thought of it.

http://alpb.org/speaking.html
#5
Your Turn / Re: Praying for the dead?
July 12, 2014, 12:16:24 PM
As for the dead themselves, yes, we may pray for them exactly what we prayed for them in life: That they know the embrace of God's love through Christ. We may pray this, nothing less and certainly nothing more. If this is a Communion of Saints into which we have been baptized, it is a communion that must invoke the hosts of heaven.

"All I ask is that you remember me at the altar of the Lord," was Monica's plea to her son Augustine at the time of her death. ("Confessions of St. Augustine) There was no doctrine of purgatory, not as Luther rightly raged against it, and no sense of prayer somehow "improving" the lot of the dead. But there surely there was a sense that death did not sever our relationship with Christ and, by extension, our communion in Christ.

Hold your seat for a crass self-promoting moment: Read my Speaking of the Dead: When We All Fall Down, published by ALPB Books and soon available at the web site (though there is nothing to prevent you for ordering it without waiting, $16.00, 205 pp.
#6
Your Turn / Re: Praying for the dead?
July 12, 2014, 12:03:29 PM
"Harvey, when we pray for a person who is seriously ill to recover, we always ask that God's will be done. So if that person dies, then it was God's will that his or her earthly life come to an end."

Um, no. Recall that death is God's final enemy, as St. Paul asserts, along with sin and the devil. Death (cf. Oscar Cullman, "Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection?" - 1956) is the enemy of God and serves no purpose in furthering God's will for anyone. We were not made for death, nor death for us.

God's will is to restore to Himself all that "sin, death, and the devil" has stolen, and He will do it through Christ.

To pray at the death bed that God's will be done, we mean nothing less than to pray that God's ultimate, final will through Christ is done - in life and in death.
#7
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/04/a-prayer-for-death

On the Lord's Prayer

"Some scholarship asserts that the prayer did not originate with Jesus. He never said it. It is instead the collective work of early Christians who strung together a number of ideas, thoughts, passing remarks and the like that Jesus may have offered at one time or another to anybody listening. I cannot say which is more surprising: rejection of the prayer as Jesus's own, or the notion that a church committee could have agreed on the wording."
#8
Your Turn / Jenifer Estess, R.I.P
September 12, 2013, 10:26:52 AM
One of those occasions when you knew something needed to be said personally, but circumstances intervened and it was never said.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/09/jenifer-estess-rip
#9
Your Turn / Re: We Must Learn to Be a Minority
August 30, 2013, 03:18:30 PM
Quote.  In one way or another, many of us know what is it to not be in the majority, at least on some issues.  That does not need to stop us from saying what we think and believe.

QuoteIt is one thing to know how to pick your battles, or to know when a battle is hopeless and consider that it may be time to walk away to live to fight another day; it is another thing to just give up the fight and surrender.  There may soon come a time when we will not be able to be the official witness for the state on a marriage license, or when our churches will lose the tax exemptions they now have (which vary from state to state), or when our pastors will no longer be welcome to serve as military chaplains, but I do not see the need to voluntarily surrender those things at this time, nor think it would be wise to do so.

QuoteI would like to think that those of us who have left the ELCA have given up ties to people and institutions because we thought we could better continue preaching and teaching the faith that has been handed down to us outside the ELCA than we could if we remained in it, rather than think that we have given up and voluntarily surrendered.

To put it simply, either I do not understand what Russ is saying in his recent On The Square article, or I disagree with him.

Mel Harris

The difficulty with a blog is the lack of word-count to fully develop and flesh out an idea. Of course, I've complained about it: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/07/word-compression-blues/russell-e-saltzman, but that's neither here nor there.

Jody Bottum suggested a minor adjustment in Catholic social engagement, backing off a little bit from public opposition to same-sex marriages (SSM). I do agree with him, it is a debate that has been settled, at least in thirteen states and it is sure to be adopted in others. His argument was, given SSM is now or soon will be the default social policy, the Catholic Church has other more important issues to address, pro-life questions, for starters. Give up an issue that arouses anger against, even hatred of Catholicism. When I said Bottum surrendered a sliver of the public square, that's the sliver.

But - my argument from that - is there are many cultural/political areas where catholic-minded Christians would do well to leave alone, to avoid further entanglement with Caesar's state. The things to surrender are those remaining elements of Christendom's privileges.

If no one has noticed, clergy discounts - the public recognition of the value of pastors and their work - went away a long, long time ago. So have other things, as well.

The catholic churches - those that haven't fallen for gnostic revisions (sorry, Charles, but you know what I think) - must for the integrity of the gospel stop claiming for themselves the approval of the state, of the culture, because it is no longer there.

We have to learn how to live again in the third century when Christians were a minority, very much on the edge of the culture, and regarded with suspicion by the society around them. It was a messy time, organizationally, doctrinally, and in many other ways. (Interestingly, I can find no historical account of the gnostic churches undergoing persecution.) The church made its witness against the culture, counter to it, and experienced difficulty for it.

I think the catholic churches must learn to do without the any support from the state. Property tax exemptions are already under question. Zoning laws are forbidding peaceable assembly of worship. As state registrars for marriage, soon a pastor will be sued for refusing to conduct an SSM ceremony (a case was opened in the UK seeking to compel Anglicans to conduct such ceremonies). As with my remark about military chaplains, we need to give away our privileges of rank -- because in another generation we will have lost them anyway. "Disestablishing" ourselves is protection for the churches.

This does not mean leaving the public square naked. It does mean we must do as the third century church did: instruct, preach, teach our creeds and catechisms authentically.
#10
Your Turn / We Must Learn to Be a Minority
August 29, 2013, 11:25:54 AM
Up today at First Things web site.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/08/we-must-learn-to-be-a-minority

It starts out as a review of Jody's Bottum's Commonweal piece, "A Catholic's Case for Same-Sex Marriage." Turns out, that isn't what Jody is saying at all. But he does want Catholics - and by extension traditional Christians - to back out of the debate.

That's where I've come to as well. However, as long as we're backing out of things, we need to consider other things as well.

I ended up talking about Christians retreating from the public square. (I expect the ghost of Neuhaus to show up and slap me around a bit.)

It does not - as some of the comments seems to think - mean retreating from public life. I do mean to suggest we surrender Caesar's gifts because, in today's climate, Caesar is being urged to take them away in any case.
#11
Your Turn / Re: A Collision at Nain
June 06, 2013, 01:07:43 PM

QuoteI had one question about your sermon; it had to do with funeral preaching.
QuoteThey were flat funerals, both of them. It seems most of the passion at a funeral shows up in family tribute. The family remarks are way of telling listeners how significant is their loss, and how deep was their love for the deceased. The family, it seems, must do this because neither sermon I heard ever got around to it.

From what you say later, I infer that you do not think that the sermon at a funeral should focus on the family's loss or their love for the deceased, so this section seems a little contrary. I'm quite happy to let the family speak to that themselves (preferably at the beginning, between the welcoming of the remains of the deceased and the start of the Mass itself).

Would you care to say more about the extent to which the preacher should go into the life of the one we are burying?

Peace,
Michael

Sure.

When I was a new pastor one guy fouled up my call schedule by dying. I didn't know him; I had barely met him. I asked a couple of the older men what I might say about his life. "Well, Pastor," I was told, "we all knew him pretty good. Why don't you just preach the gospel."

That works. But I have found that if I cannot relate the Gospel specifically to the deceased, then I've failed as a preacher.

So, good funeral sermons must ask and answer a series of related questions before one word gets written. Tend to these and the preacher will capture the Gospel and equally say something of how this life lived that Gospel - sometimes to greater and lesser degrees. So, to that last note, a sermon first must be honest in asking and answering the questions I always pose in crafting my remarks.

Why this sermon to these gathered people marking this death? I have the notion that every Christian life tells us something of how the Gospel gets lived. I try to say it. Asking each time those same questions helps me approach this death. I have to understand in some way what this death means for the Christian community.

Always, there is a final question. What will God do about death?

Linking those questions and those answers to the scripture reading will produce a sermon that takes into account the life that was lived, how that life was lived in the Gospel, and how the Gospel animates our hope of joining Christ in resurrection.

That approach does not end up with gooey sentiment, gushing over what a great guy/gal the deceased was. Nor does it presume an "automatic" immortality without the messy business of God actually cracking graves to get us up.

As to honesty, I have found it sometimes helpful to preach on the text "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." For several funerals, that's about all I could say of the deceased, but in a Christian context it is sometimes all that needs to be said.

Sorry to ramble.
#12
Your Turn / Forgiveness Therapy
June 06, 2013, 11:36:36 AM
My small take on forgiveness as a Christian discipline, not a therapy.

Feel free to chop it apart. Everybody in the comments section seems to be doing that.

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2013/06/forgiveness-therapy
#13
Your Turn / A Collision at Nain
June 06, 2013, 11:25:58 AM
There's a best-selling sermon for Sunday going around. Unfortunately, it's not mine. Mine is here:

http://www.clcumary.com/3-pentecostot-10-9-june-2013/

And, Richard O. Johnson is now one of the contributors at http://www.clcumary.com/.
#14
Your Turn / Re: One Mister Too Many, Portico
April 23, 2013, 10:50:10 AM
Quote from: Richard Johnson on April 21, 2013, 12:38:00 PM
Had a conversation yesterday with a Presbyterian pastor who have moved from the PCUSA to the EPC. They are so civilized in Presbyterian circles that they actually refer to this as a "transfer" from one church body to another. Different polity, I know, but rather more courteous that the ELCA boilerplate telling NALC pastors they should no longer wear collars or refer to themselves by ecclesiastical titles.

I got one of those letters. I keep it framed next to my ordination certificate.
#15
Your Turn / One Mister Too Many, Portico
April 18, 2013, 12:18:23 PM
I dropped out of the ELCA pension plan in the late 1980's. The account is so small I shouldn't complain about being "de-ordained." Assign my unhappiness to my cranky and peevish nature. And really I would not have said anything about it except for a recent letter I got, again addressed Mr., announcing yet another whiz-bang record-keeping service Portico has employed to make my investment experience even more thrilling than it is already. Just one "mister" too many, Mr. Thiemann.
____________________________

April 18, 2013

The Rev. Jeffrey D. Thiemann
President and Chief Executive Officer
Portico Services
800 Marquette Avenue, Suite 1050
Minneapolis, MN 55402-2892

Dear Pr. Thiemann:

I am never one to put much investment in the title "Reverend." Mostly I prefer "Pastor"; it at least has the warrant of some biblical use. But social convention being, um, conventional I've never chafed at it. People use it, fine; they don't use it, okay too.

But when I note a persistent, deliberate omission of the honorific I do become peeved. Such is the case with Portico correspondence and conversations with service personnel on the phone.

When I transferred ministerial credentials from the ELCA to the NALC in 2011 I received several bits of officially officious information carefully explaining I had been, well, "de-ordained." My "de-ordination" apparently carries to Portico usage as well.

Had I become, say, a Methodist, an Episcopalian, something other than a member of the NALC clergy roll, could I have expected the omission of "Reverend" in those circumstances? I don't know.

But to me it is odd that of all the financial outlets I use, Portico alone took the step to remove a title I've been privileged to bear since 1980. You know, my credit card company kept it. My local insurance agent hasn't said anything about it. Certainly my bank never bothered. Portico alone purposely searched for my name and removed the appended title. Of course, these other places ask my occupation and tend to take my word. Understand, I really don't care about the title. What I complain about is the altogether unnecessary small but studied insult I and numerous pastors like me have received.

Sincerely,

Russell E. Saltzman,
Pastor
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