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Lutheran Peace Fellowship

A Panorama of Witness and Struggle
Lutheran Peace Fellowship through the years


How might LPF's rich legacy help us – each of us – respond to the gospel call for us to be peacemakers today? The answer builds on another question: What does it mean to follow Jesus' Way of Shalom? It is notable how many of the stories and parables of Jesus show him questioning conventional thinking and seeing and acting beyond assumptions about our options for dealing with conflict, who one should or shouldn't associate with, and the nature of love, power, violence, or evil.

Following Jesus opens up a remarkably useful and creative perspective on all of these issues. It can lead to love, joy and fulfillment – and to sacrifice, conflict with authority, and reproach, as Jesus, Bonhoeffer, King, Day, and a great many LPF members have found. Exploring that perspective has also made LPF workshops, witness, and resources a potent force at times in the Lutheran churches.

This resource views the story of Lutheran peacemaking through the eyes of participants from each stage of our history up to current efforts of Lutheran Peace Fellowship members around the US. You'll find a varied, moving, often creative panorama that offers insight and inspiration for today's challenges.


Timeline of activity in the formation and development of Lutheran Peace Fellowship

    1938 Edgar Carlson (of Gustavus Adolphus College) writes "If War Comes" a defense of Christian pacifism.

    1939 An informal study group of United Lutheran Church in America pastors forms Lutheran Social Fellowship (LSF) to study social questions and stir up social interest. The Augustana Synod approves the Oxford Conference anti-war declaration.

    1940 Lutheran Social Fellowship (LSF) holds a meeting on "a more Christian social consciousness" and "problems for the Church in a world at war." Edgar Carlson raises support for Lutheran conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service (CPS).

    1941 LSF begins outreach to students at Gettysburg Seminary and Lutheran Pacifist Fellowship in Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Other predecessor groups to LPF are formed including Augustana Lutheran Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Pacifist community at Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kansas.

    Joseph Sittler writes a series of articles on ‘Christians and War’ in the American Lutheran Church Student Service Bulletin. Jimmy Claypool, Augustana Seminary student body president, writes "Why I Am a Pacifist" for the student newspaper.

    1943 Jim Bristol and Catharine Juram organize a local LSF group in Philadelphia to support Lutherans in Civilian Public Service camps. ALFOR in Chicago, with a membership of 94. expands its constitution to include education and support for COs in prison as well as those in CPS camps.

    1944 Trevor Sandness reports that Lutherans had contributed almost half the cost of maintaining Lutheran conscientious objectors in CPS camps.

    1950 Paul Scherer writes on pacifism for the Church Peace Mission.

    1951 Herbert Weiskotten serves as first director of Church Peace Mission, a pacifist ministry to mainline churches.

    1958 A Lutheran Peace Fellowship newsletter is published by William Zimmann and Albert Myers. LPF also develops a brochure entitled "Not By Might . . . The Message of Lutheran Peace Fellowship."

    1959 Lutheran Peace Fellowship initiates education efforts on military recruitment in schools.

    1960 LPF purchases ads on military service in the National Lutheran; the Lutheran Standard refuses to print the ads.

    1961 Alton Motter becomes Lutheran Peace Fellowship chair; Lloyd Berg accepts position of secretary-treasurer.

    1962 An LPF dinner is held at the United Lutheran Church in America constituting convention; keynote speakers are Walter Reuther and Conrad Bergandoff.

    1964 LPF is active at the Pittsburgh ULCA convention. Edgar Carlson writes the LPF pamphlet, "Think On These Things."

    1965 Lloyd Berg writes a letter on behalf of LPF condemning use of "gas and illness" in Vietnam. Robert Havlick responds with a call for greater Lutheran involvement in the anti-war movement.

    1967 Martin Marty, Peter Berger, and Richard Neuhaus are among the signers of a statement by Clergy and Laymen Concerned About the War in Vietnam, later named Clergy and Laity Concerned.

    1968 John Backe begins his work with Lutheran Peace Fellowship.

    1969 Vince Hawkinson writes mixed report on LPF activity, calls for greater coordination among peace groups.

    1970 Conscientious Objector support programs are initiated by LPF at the Univ. of Minnesota, Univ. of Wisconsin, and UC Berkeley.

    1971 "Daily death toll" demonstrations are organized at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC

    1972 "Stop the Killing" peace procession on the Feast Day of the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents, is organized by Alton Motter in St. Paul, Minn.

    1974 John Backe becomes Lutheran Peace Fellowship director and he makes LPF part of his parish ministry at Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City.

    1978 Lutheran Peace Fellowship publishes an "Open Letter on the Nuclear Arms Race".

    1979 Dennis Jacobsen's article "The Lordship of Jesus and the Lordship of the Bomb" appears in Currents in Theology and Mission.

    1981 "A Call to Tax Resistance for Lutherans" is initiated.

    1983 LPF sponsors the "Swords into Plowshares" trip to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union.
    Tom Witt begins work as LPF’s first full-time Coordinator, with an office at Luther Seminary, St. Paul. Peace Notes becomes LPF’s newsletter.  An “Open Letter” by Joseph Sittler is the lead article – a response to the peace statement drafted by the Lutheran Church in America.

    1984 LPF is active in the 50th Anniversary of the Barmen Declaration (a critique of Nazi positions on the church-state relationship in 1930s Germany), and the Working Group on Justice Agendas and the New Lutheran Church. The LPF newsletter publishes reflections on the Lutheran World Federa-tion Assembly in Budapest. LPF begins regular meetings, two a year, of a national elected board.

    1985 LPF begins to sponsor a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace on Nov. 11, the feast day of St. Martin of Tours. LPF initiates an annual Call to Military Tax Resistance, a major effort to expand the definition of what it means to be a conscience objector to war, going beyond the draft to our pocketbooks. Over 100 people sign these Calls.

    1986 An open letter concerning the Military Chaplaincy is released on Ash Wednesday; it has 150 endorsers, including bishops, reserve chaplains, theologians, seminary professors and members of the Commission for a New Lutheran Church (CNLC).

    1987 LPF becomes a key player in Pension Members for Divestment (regarding investments in apartheid South Africa). The Peace Notes newsletter focus is on 'Making the Connections: Prayer and Peacemaking, Spirituality and Non-violence.' A Chaplaincy Retreat is attended by members of LPF, and reserve and retired Lutheran military chaplains.

    1988 The ELCA is formed. LPF works closely with Jean Martensen, who directs the peace desk in the Division for Church in Society. Newsletters in the late 1980s explore war and racism, women and nonviolence, militarism and economics, making connections to justice concerns.

    1989 Lutheran Peace Fellowship has a strong presence at the first ELCA youth gathering in San Antonio; LPF produces several popular resources for young people, such as '21 Ways Teens Can Work for Peace.'

    1990 Bonnie Block becomes national coordinator and LPF moves to Madison, WI with offices in Midvale Lutheran Church. A double issue of Peace Notes is dedicated to the Gulf Crisis. In Nov., 100 people gather in Minneapolis to celebrate LPF's 50th anniversary.  Steve Schroeder publishes A Community and a Perspective: LPF and the Edge of the Church, 1941-1991 (University Press).

    1991 Peace Notes continues to focus on the Gulf Crisis. Lutheran Peace Fellowship and its members around the US are active in opposition to the Gulf War.

    1992 LPF national coordinator Bonnie Block travels to El Salvador on a delegation to celebrate the 5th anniversary of Medardo Gomez as Bishop of the Salvadoran Lutheran Church.

    1993 LPF leaders serve on the task force which drafts the ELCA peace statement, 'For Peace in God's World.'  LPFers around the country lead workshops on and respond to the draft document.  A special insert of Peace Notes comments on the draft which is approved the following year.

    1994 Bonnie Block serves on the Consultation which writes "For the Peace of the Whole World, Five Bible Studies on Just Peacemaking." The LPF office moves to Seattle as Glen Gersmehl becomes national coordinator.

    1995 ELCA closes its Peace Education office shortly after approving the ELCA social statement on Peace.  LPF expands its peace education, with as many as 100 workshops a year through the '90s on the Bible and Peacemaking, Conflict Transformation, Christian Nonviolence, Hunger and Conflict, and other topics. LPF launches the Ruth Youngdahl Nelson Youth Scholarship Fund, raising $3500.

    1996 LPF's leadership and resources help Lutherans gather the most petition signatures for a global landmines ban of any group in the US.  We develop a landmines worship resource mailed to every ELCA pastor and leader.  The Campaign to Ban Landmines of which LPF is part receives the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize.

    1997 Lutheran Peace Fellowship plays a crucial role in gaining passage of the Chemical Weapons Treaty by the US Senate.  LPF co-leads the social justice 'trek' at ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans, with 12 participatory activities and LPF's 120-foot 'Wall of Hope' exhibit of peace and justice movements throughout history and around the world.

    1998 12 ELCA synods and several churchwide agencies endorse the Nobel Decade for Peace, committing to teach nonviolence at every level of the church. The United Nations designates the years 2001-2010 as 'The International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.' LPF leads a study trip on the effects of a decade of war in Central America.

    1999 Aid Association for Lutherans awards LPF an “Innovations” grant to develop nonviolence resources and workshops. By year's end, the Decade for Peace is endorsed by 31 ELCA synods and the Churchwide Assembly, making Lutherans the largest Decade supporter, religious or secular. LPF's coordinator is one of 24 leaders from around the world invited to India to help frame and launch the largest peace education effort in UN history. We launch a website and an Endowment Fund.

    2000 In two years, LPF leads 16 day-long and weekend Leadership Trainings and 60 workshops on nonviolence.  Participants applaud the program’s insight and empowerment.  We distribute 100,000 resources, including 900 copies of the nonviolence manual, From Violence to Wholeness, with our 50-page supplement.  The ELCA’s Dept. of Schools mails LPF materials to 2200 Lutheran schools.

    2001 Kate Reuer is chosen as LPF’s full-time Youth Trainer through Lutheran Volunteer Corps, expanding LPF work with youth leaders, students, and youth directors.  Requests for peace resources and workshops increase 4-fold in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy and the ‘war on terror.’  LPF’s fall newsletter is a double issue with comments on the crisis from 24 Lutheran leaders and activists.

    2002 LPF members around the U.S. oppose war with Iraq through vigils, forums, protests, the media, and civil disobedience.  LPF expands youth work and Leadership Trainings supported by a Wheat Ridge grant. We launch the 'Peace Points' series for adult and youth leaders.  Monica Fisk becomes LPF’s second LVC Youth Trainer.  She co-coordinates peace activities of all ELCA peace ministries at the Youth Gathering attended by 30,000 young people.  LPF’s “Wall of Hope” is again a focus.  

    2003 LPF’s 8-page Iraq resource is sent to 35,000 church leaders and pastors in Jan.  LPF leaders reach a total of over 5 million people in interviews on 20 radio and TV programs and articles in The Lutheran, Journal of Lutheran Ethics, andmany secular publications.  Grace Hanson becomes our third Youth Trainer and leads 24 workshops and trainings by mid-2004.  Our computer activity on hunger is included in the nation’s largest critical thinking curriculum, used in 60,000 classrooms.

    2004 LPF is awarded a grant for our “Training for Trainers” workshops. LPF’s computer-based Budget Priorities Game earns rave reviews.  For the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence, LPF leaders develop a peace worship insert used in 10,000 churches around the world on the Inter-national Day of Prayer for Peace.  Pat Edrey becomes LPF’s fourth Youth Trainer.

    2005 The ELCA Decade for Peace Task Force holds a nonviolence Training for Trainers for fifty leaders from every part of the U.S.  LPF leaders develop the program and manual, and serve as lead trainers.  It sparks a large ELCA network and a web site.  ELCA world hunger grants received for over a decade peak at nearly 20% of LPF’s budget.  Sara Collins serves as LPF’s fifth Youth Trainer.

    2006 LPF holds a gathering in Seattle featuring speaker Rick Steves, host of public television and radio programs on travel, and author of numerous books including a Lutheran-sponsored guide to ethical travel. LPF launches a series of Spanish language resource translations for use in the US and Latin America. Allyson Fredrickson becomes LPF’s sixth Youth Trainer.

    2007 LPF co-sponsors a moving prayer service at the National Cathedral and candlelight procession of 7,000 people to the White House calling for peace in Iraq.  The ELCA Decade for Peace Task Force sponsors a 2nd nonviolence training for 45 leaders from around the U.S.  LPF again develops the program and manual and provides the lead trainer. 

    2008 Lutheran Peace Fellowship co-sponsors Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in Wash., DC.  Monica Fisk returns to LPF as Youth Coordinator and launches a new LPF youth website and blog, greatly expanding LPF networking & action with Lutheran youth and young adults.  A dramatic milestone:  a million people have used our computer activities on hunger and military spending.

    2009 LPF mobilizes new support for increasing and coordinating development aid. Our Youth Program leads Learning Tree workshops and a large activity area built around the LPF Path of Hope for 35,000 high schoolers at the ELCA Youth Gathering in New Orleans. We expand LPF’s devotional PeaceDeck which builds on our popular peace cards – a total of 180,000 are in print.

    2010 LPF is among the most active religious groups working for Senate ratification of New Start to reduce nuclear weapons and improve verification.  A Wheat Ridge grant helps LPF offer leadership and conflict training and mentoring for volunteers in food banks and meal programs; most had expanded greatly due to the economic crisis. We support advocacy to increase development aid.

    2011 The largely nonviolent Arab Spring opposing authoritarian regimes in Libya, Egypt, etc. sparks requests for workshops on social change and nonviolence.  The deepest depression since the ‘30s and the rise of the Occupy movement shed light on growing inequality in the U.S. and corporate money’s corrupting role in U.S. politics, impacting LPF concerns from military spending to hunger. 

    2012 LPF activities include helping youth facing decisions about military service in many congre-gations in Minnesota, and workshops on budget priorities, leadership, and nonviolence on the West Coast.  A school shooting in Newtown, Conn. raises gun violence to national prominence, encouraging many LPF members and groups to advocate for background checks and other reforms.

    2013 With other peace groups, LPF advocates for reducing military spending, and for diplomacy to curtail Syria’s chemical weapons and Iran’s nuclear program, with some success. Our Women’s Initiative develops resources on violence against women and women’s peace efforts throughout his-tory. We organize a national gathering for members of LPF and other Religious Peace Fellowships.

    We are grateful to Steven Schroeder, author of an illuminating history of LPF, A Community and a Perspective (University Press, 1993), who drafted much of this timeline. Tom Witt, Bonnie Block, and Betsy Lee shared valuable additions. Various LPF leaders added material for more recent years. Its first published title was "60th Anniversary Timeline of activity in the formation and development of Lutheran Peace Fellow-ship." We would be pleased to see your comments on this, and suggestions of other activities in our history.

    For more information about the history of LPF:
    A Community and a Perspective: LPF and the Edge of the Church, 1941-1991 by Steve Schroeder (University Press)
    Recent Highlights of LPF’s Ministry

feel free to copy this worship resource for individual, group or congregation use

Read about more recent LPF activities in "Highlights of LPF’s Ministry", and our “Program Update".


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