Title: Krister Stendahl, Lutheran Bishop, Dean, Scholar and Teacher, Dies ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 17, 2008
Krister Stendahl, Lutheran Bishop, Dean, Scholar and Teacher, Dies 08-046-FI/JB
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Krister O. Stendahl, New Testament scholar, teacher, former dean of Harvard Divinity School, Cambridge, Mass., and Lutheran bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm (Sweden), died April 15. At the time of his death Stendahl, 86, was Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Divinity Emeritus, Harvard Divinity School.
A funeral service for Stendahl is planned for April 18 at 11 a.m. at University Lutheran Church, Cambridge, Mass. A memorial service of celebration will be held May 16 at 2 p.m. at Harvard's Memorial Church, according to a message on the Harvard Divinity School Web site.
Stendahl was well known as an advocate for the equality of women in the church and for promoting ecumenical and interfaith relations through his work with the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches (WCC), both in Geneva, and other church organizations. He spoke and wrote in support of full equality for people who are gay or lesbian in both the church and society.
In a written tribute to Stendahl, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), noted that Stendahl was one of "the most distinguished biblical scholars, theological leaders and insightful churchmen of the 20th century." Stendahl advocated for the ordination of women in U.S. Lutheran churches as well as in Sweden, Hanson wrote.
"Throughout his service as a pastor and bishop, Dr. Stendahl spoke of the church as a movement rather than an organization," Hanson wrote. "Yet, with courage and commitment, he gave conscientious attention to the well-being of the structures of the church. He spoke what he believed was a timely word, even if what he said might provoke others to disagreement. Whenever he spoke, he formed his convictions on the basis of Scripture and the tradition of the church. He did not merely express his opinion. He always sought to teach and bring new insights into the community of faith, the church."
Born April 21, 1921 in Stockholm, Stendahl earned bachelor of divinity, licentiate of theology and doctor of theology degrees from Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden, and was ordained in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. While earning the degrees he studied in Cambridge, England, and Paris, served as a parish pastor, and taught biblical studies at Uppsala University.
In 1954 he joined the faculty at Harvard Divinity School as a professor of New Testament. He served there for 30 years, from1968 to 1979 as dean. He received the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1959 and 1974. Stendahl left Harvard in 1984 to serve as Bishop of Stockholm until his retirement in 1988. He returned to Cambridge as chaplain to Harvard Divinity School. At Brandeis University, Waltham, Mass., from 1991 to 1993, he was the first Myra and Robert Kraft and Jacob Hiatt Distinguished Professor of Christian Studies.
After retiring from Brandeis University in 1993, Stendahl and his wife, Brita, a writer and scholar in Scandinavian and comparative literature and culture, promoted Christian-Jewish relations, said Stendahl's son, the Rev. John K. Stendahl, Lutheran Church of the Newtons, Newton Center, Mass. In 1994 Krister Stendahl become co-director of the Osher Center for Tolerance and Pluralism at Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem, and facilitated American scholars' working visits to the Holy Land, his son said.
In his New Testament scholarship, Stendahl examined tensions in the early Christian community between Jews and gentiles. His books included "The School of St. Matthew" (1954), "The Bible and the Role of Women" (1966), "Paul Among the Jews and Gentiles" (1976) and "Meanings" (1984). An emphasis on the Jewish context of the New Testament developed into an interest in Jewish studies and involvement in Jewish-Christian dialogue. He served on the council of the World Union of Jewish Studies. From 1975 to 1985 he chaired the WCC Consultation on the Church and the Jewish People.
In 1988 Stendahl received the first Distinguished Service Medal from the Association of Theological Schools and (together with Dr. Gerhart Riegner) the Second Ladislaus Laszt International Ecumenical Award from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. In 1993 he and Brita Stendahl received the first Myron B. Bloy Memorial Award from the Association for Religion and Intellectual Life.
Lund University, Lund, Sweden, in cooperation with the Church of Sweden, has established the Krister Stendahl Chair in Theology of Religion. It is located in Jerusalem at the Swedish Theological Institute, focusing on Jewish studies and dialogue between Judaism and Christianity with the additional dimension of engaging Muslims in dialogue.
Stendahl is survived by Brita; his children, John, Anna and Daniel; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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