Lloyd Svendsbye, a founding member of the ELCA, dies

3/14/2014 12:00:00 AM

            CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Dr. Lloyd Svendsbye, a member of the commission that formed the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died March 2 after suffering a stroke. He was 83. A funeral liturgy will take place March 14 at Normandale Lutheran Church in Edina, Minn.
            Prior to the formation of the ELCA in 1987, Svendsbye led in a merger of two Lutheran seminaries in St. Paul, Minn. Luther Theological Seminary and Northwestern Lutheran Theological Seminary became Luther Seminary, now one of eight ELCA seminaries.
            "Dr. Svendsbye was deeply committed to greater Lutheran unity," said the Rev. Lowell Almen, ELCA secretary from 1987 to 2007.
            "As Dr. Svendsbye said in 1981, the year before the election of the Commission for a New Lutheran Church (that formed the ELCA) in late August 1982, 'Lutheran unity is not simply an argument about advantages to be won or positions to be protected in negotiations. It is an article of faith, rooted in Scripture, and proclaimed in the creeds and confessions of our church. ... If we use our reason wisely, we can create a structure that eliminates unnecessary duplication and competition [between and among churches] to let our witness to the gospel be seen more clearly in the world,'" said Almen, adding that Svendsbye once declared, 'Our grandparents and parents prayed for this moment when Lutheran unity can more visibly be expressed. ... The greatest urgency is to remove impediments to mission, so that the gospel may do its work.'"
            Svendsbye graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., in 1951 and from Luther Theological Seminary in 1954. He was ordained in 1955 and served as assistant pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Minneapolis. He later assisted at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, N.Y., while pursuing a doctorate at Union Theological Seminary in New York from 1959 to 1962. While completing his thesis for his Ph.D. degree in church history, he returned to Concordia in 1962 and served as chair of the religion department for four years.  In 1966, he was appointed editor-in-chief at Augsburg Publishing House in Minneapolis, and in 1971, Svendsbye was named academic dean at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn. He was elected president of the two seminaries in 1974, serving in that capacity until the spring of 1987, when he became the 19th president of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. -- his final position before retirement in 1992.
            His career also included serving as the last vice president of The American Lutheran Church (one of the ELCA's three predecessor church bodies) from 1980 to 1987. Earlier, he played a critical role in arrangements for the third assembly of The Lutheran World Federation that was held in Minneapolis and St. Paul in August 1957. After that assembly he taught religion at Concordia from 1957 to 1959 prior to graduate study.
            Svendsbye is survived by two sisters and a brother, and he is preceded in death by his wife, Annelotte (Moertelmeyer) Svensbye.
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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4  million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

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