From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Columnist to Leave 'The Lutheran'; Editor Listening to Concerns

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 19 Apr 2000 14:52:28


April 19, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Walter M. Wangerin Jr., longtime
columnist for The Lutheran, the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA), will cease writing his column by the end of
2000, the magazine's advisory committee was told at its April 14 meeting
     The committee consists of 10 elected members and two advisory
members.  It meets twice a year and advises the magazine's staff on a
variety of issues.  Herb Strentz, Des Moines, is chair.
     Wangerin, a faculty member at Valparaiso (Ind.) University, writes
the column "Between Us" for the magazine.  He informed the magazine of
his decision recently, saying he wants to concentrate on writing books,
said the Rev. David L. Miller, editor.  A decision has not been made on
a possible replacement, Miller added.
     In his report to the committee, Miller said he is meeting with a
variety of synod and congregational groups to talk about the magazine.
"The magazine's credibility" is one of the  concerns, Miller said.  Some
people want to discuss how the magazine covered a proposed full
communion agreement with The Episcopal Church before the ELCA Churchwide
Assembly voted to approve it last August, he said.
     The conversations have gone well, said Miller, who was elected by
the churchwide assembly last August and became editor Nov. 1, replacing
the Rev. Edgar R. Trexler, who retired. "I'm not going to say we're
going to please everyone," he said, "but we're getting a hearing."
     There has been "a great deal of affirmation" for the magazine,
including its recent emphasis on prayer and spiritual themes, Miller
said.  The magazine received eight awards last month from the Associated
Church Press, he added.
     The Rev. Frederick E.N. Rajan, executive director of the ELCA
Commission for Multicultural Ministries (CMM), told the committee the
unit's relationship with the magazine is positive.  Two years ago, CMM
asked the magazine to be more attentive to people of color in the
     "The magazine has heard our cries, and there are very beautiful
results," he said.
     Advisory committee members praised the magazine's emphasis on
spirituality, the quality of its artwork, the diversity of people in its
pages and the content of its April 2000 issue.
     The advisory committee for The Lutheran discussed several other
     + The magazine revamped its mission statement in a series of 
team-building sessions with the staff, said Sonia C. Solomonson, managing
editor.  She also described the statement as "a work in progress."
     + Two committee members, Lori L. Brocker, Portland, Ore. and the
Rev. Kenneth E. Roberts, Columbus, Ohio, presented suggestions to the
committee and staff on possible strategies for faith-oriented coverage
of issues related to the national election this fall.
     + About 4,700 of the ELCA's 11,000 congregations provide the
magazine to their members though congregational plans, said James Huber,
publishing director of The Lutheran, Augsburg Fortress Publishers,
Minneapolis.  Another 1,100 provide the magazine to members through
other plans, he said.  A recent marketing effort with congregations
resulted in significant initial response, he said.
     There are more than 595,000 subscribers to The Lutheran, though
subscriptions have continued to decline throughout the ELCA's 12-year
existence.  Many of the reductions occur when congregations decide to
drop members' subscriptions, Huber said.  Congregations often report the
reason for dropping subscriptions is "financial," he said, but the
magazine does gain subscriptions as well as lose some.  "It is
frustrating," Huber said. "This not where we want to be."
       Subscriptions to The Lutheran are as low as $6.95 annually.
"This is the best deal going," said the Rev. Paul A. Wee, committee
member, Alexandria, Va.  "I can't imagine a congregation that wants to
grow in mission to be without it. It just comes with the territory."
     + Augsburg Fortress shelved for at least one year a project to
launch a new Christian magazine for women, Huber reported.  Tentatively
titled "Sunday/Monday Woman," the possibility of the magazine became a
concern for The Lutheran and Lutheran Woman Today, the magazine of the
church's women's organization, Women of the ELCA.  Miller said there was
inadequate conversation between the publisher and the churchwide
publications before plans for the possible new magazine became known.
"It was unfortunate conversation didn't occur," he said.
     "I think somebody just missed something here," said Wee, who is
also a member of the Augsburg Fortress board of trustees. He said the
board "questioned" the communication that took place before the decision
was made.  It appeared  "depth and breadth" of conversation about the
new magazine "was not there," Wee said.
     + A readership survey of The Lutheran, conducted by Blue Dolphin
Group, Wayland, Mass.,  is under way, Huber said.  Blue Dolphin provides
consulting services to a variety of periodicals.
     + The Lutheran will divert $100,000, half of its annual subsidy
from the churchwide budget, into a restricted endowment to be maintained
by the ELCA Foundation, Huber said.  Funds from the endowment will be
used to replace some or all of the subsidy, should the endowment grow to
sufficient size, he said.
     + Beginning with the April issue, the magazine began using a
different type of paper. The paper allows for improved photo and color
reproduction, said Michael D. Watson, art director for the magazine.
Editor's note: The Web site for The Lutheran is

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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