From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutherans Discuss Their 'Faith and the Practice of Law'

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Fri, 7 Jun 2002 15:39:14 -0500


June 7, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Martin Luther, the 16th century German monk
whose teachings gave rise to the Protestant Reformation, stressed the
importance of Christian vocation -- the expression of faith in one's
daily activities.  About 50 members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA) working in the legal professions met here May 31-June
2 to discuss their faith and vocations and the possibility of conducting
similar meetings across the church.
     Eric E. Jorstad, chair of the planning team for "Faith and the
Practice of Law," said he was pleased with the wide range of practices
represented by those at the conference.  "We have lawyers, judges,
people in private practice from large corporate firms, 'in-house'
lawyers from corporations, public defenders, prosecutors, family law
practitioners, small-town solo practitioners, corporate tax lawyers, a
whole range of different kinds of law practices here," he said.
     "Lawyers have a special vocation for justice, and justice is an
important part of what the church is working for," said Jorstad.  "So,
lawyers work closely with the church in a common goal, at least in that
sense," he said.
     Ordained in 1983, Jorstad served three years as pastor of St.
James Lutheran Church, Detroit, before starting law school.  He's now a
partner with Faegre and Benson LLP, Minneapolis, specializing in First
Amendment cases.  Although no longer a Lutheran pastor, he considers his
vocation a "dual calling."
     While most in attendance were lay members of the ELCA, the
conference included many people with dual callings, said Jorstad.  There
were several lawyers who used to be pastors, pastors attending law
school and a few pastors who used to practice law.
     "There is something important to say about our vocation as lawyers
and as Lutheran Christians," said Jorstad.  "Lawyers can grow in their
sense of faith and in their sense of calling by coming together with
leadership like we've had from the speakers here," he said.
     Speakers included:
 + Marie A. Failinger, law professor, Hamline University School of Law,
St. Paul, Minn.;
 + Minnesota State Senator John Marty (DFL-District 54), judiciary
committee chair, Roseville, Minn.;
 + the Rev. Martin E. Marty, ELCA pastor, church historian and
theologian, Chicago;
 + Dr. William F. May, ethics professor, Southern Methodist University,
 + Dr. Martha Ellen Stortz, professor of historical theology and ethics,
Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.; and
 + Dr. Robert W. Tuttle, law professor, George Washington University Law
School, Washington, D.C.
Denise Vasquez, attorney and account representative, Westgroup
Corporation, Chicago, led Bible studies.  The Rev. H. George Anderson,
former presiding bishop of the ELCA, preached during Sunday worship.
     Failinger told several "lawyer jokes" to explore what they
revealed about the "conventional wisdom" or general perceptions of
lawyers and the law.  In one joke, a lawyer was asked, "How much is two
plus two?"  The lawyer replied, "How much would you like it to be?"
     The perception is that lawyers manipulate "the unchanging truth"
that two plus two equals four for the personal gain of themselves and
their clients, said Failinger.  The law is not unchanging, she said.
     Stortz referred to the parable of the Good Samaritan, which was
recorded in the Christian Bible as part of a conversation between Jesus
and a lawyer.  That conversation revealed that Jesus understood how
lawyers must think to apply common principles to unique circumstances.
     Pastors use much the same thought process to read Scriptures and
apply the teachings to their congregation's context, said Stortz.
     Faith and law are both practices -- "clusters of activities that
define a way of life," Stortz said.  "Our practices define us for the
rest of the world," she said.
     Jorstad called the conference "inspiring."  He said, "There is a
sense that we want to do this again and bring this kind of process to
more people."
     Through a series of small-group discussions, participants
expressed an interest in organizing meetings of Lutheran lawyers in
their cities, states or regions.  Many said it would be important for
the ELCA to host national conferences similar to "Faith and the Practice
of Law" but larger, before setting up local gatherings.
     "There are a lot of lawyers out there doing God's work as lawyers,
as Lutheran Christians," said Jorstad.  "I suspect they would have a
strong interest in future events and in ways we can provide resources to
help them grow and think through their own faith journey as lawyers," he
     The ELCA Division for Church in Society and Division for Ministry
sponsored the conference.  It was funded in part by a grant from Aid
Association for Lutherans/Lutheran Brotherhood, a fraternal benefit
society based in Appleton, Wis., and Minneapolis.
-- -- --
     An audio news report from the conference is available in RealAudio
format at on the Web.
Audio news reports are archived at
on the ELCA Web site.

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

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home