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Pastor and President

Reflections of a Lutheran Churchman

David W. Preus

Read about Preus’ experiences and his reflections about service and leadership during a time of great change in the world and in the church.

After serving three years in WWII, during a year of law school, David Preus found himself in a family of Preus pastors who were talking theology. At the end of the year he knew himself “to be a disciple of Christ.” It became important to him to be able to articulate what faith in Christ meant. However, he was denied entrance to Luther Seminary because he did not believe himself “called by God” to parish ministry. That rule, however, was relaxed to allow him to attend for a year.

That year was the beginning of a thirty-eight-year career that included serving in parish ministry and as denominational president, as well as a public servant.

He emerged as one of the most significant Lutheran leaders during the second half of the 20th century. Preus had a long reach from his Minneapolis office. This book quietly chronicles his major accomplishments.

His first parish was in South Dakota, where almost immediately he became one of the chief leaders in bringing the Evangelical Lutheran Church into full membership in the World Council of Churches.

While serving as pastor of University Lutheran Church of Hope, near the U of M, he served as chair of the Minneapolis School board, a position that drew him into the civil rights activities of the late 1960s. He was a strong advocate for desegregating the Minneapolis school system and he marched with Dr. Martin Luther King. Preus also organized a community group to fight urban blight encrouching on the univeristy neighborhoods through deteriorating houses owned by absentee landlords.

During his last five years at University Lutheran Church of Hope he also served as vice president of the American Lutheran Church.

In 1973 he was elected president of the American Lutheran Church where he tackled national and international issues with the same reasoned determination that he had brought to the issues of Minneapolis.

Following an early visit with Desmond Tutu in South Africa, Preus brought the injustices of apartheid back to the agenda of the World Council of Churches and to the attention of U.S.A. Christians who took up the cause. The subsequent international attention encouraged the Black South Africans. Preus’ advocacy played no small part in the world-wide pressure to end apartheid.

Preus’ international personae provided access to cabinet level officials of the Soviet bloc countries, where he admonished them to cease the persecution of their Christian citizens. His encouragement of the Eastern Bloc Christians embolded them to stand up to their governments, increasing the internal pressure which contributed to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

His leadership positions on troubling issues brought him national attention. In 1978 President Carter invited him to Camp David as part of an advisory group on national priorities. He accompanied Vice President Mondale as one of a U.S. delegation to Israel’s 30th anniversary celebration of independence. He also has teamed with former Vice President Mondale in support of local institutions.

A man of great principles, Preus advocated for justice wherever he saw injustice, He sought out and enlisted other church and secular leaders to join his advocay for justice.

This is David Preus own story of a life whose influence reached far and quietly accomplished much to bring peace and justice to this tumultious world.

As one reads this book one realizes Preus’ “articulation of the gospel” was influenced by his time in law school. His attention to detail provides a fresh view of a portion of American Lutheran church history.

Preus writes:
Being faithful to the Triune God is the all encompassing priority for believers. Under that rubric one inevitably finds sub-priorities that give direction to life and work. Both pastor and president are generalists in their calling. They face many priorities and must organize them in some coherent way. Hence, four broad categories described my priorities. They were evangelism, congregations, unity, and justice. The first two were major priorities from the time I believed myself called to be a pastor. The remaining two, unity and justice, while not unknown as I began pastoral service, became increasingly important as I tried to be a responsible pastor and president of the church.

The narrative you share is nothing short of brilliant! God equipped you with extraordinary capacities to be able to "walk" such a spirited journey!! Your call and vision for "unity thru reconciled diversity" remains elusive, yet prophetic...

Ham Muus

Pastor and PresidentPastor and President

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ISBN: 1-932688-64-1
176 Pages
Size: 6 x 9
Binding: Perfectbound
Publisher: Lutheran University Press
Quantity in Basket: None

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