Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity follows the rise of two Lutheran clergymen - Herman Otten and J. A. O. Preus - who led different wings of a conservative movement that seized control of a theologically conservative but socially and politically moderate church denomination (LCMS) and drove "moderates" from the church in the 1970s.
The schism within what was then one of the largest Protestant denominations in the United States ultimately reshaped the landscape of American Lutheranism and fostered the polarization that characterizes today's Lutheran churches.
Burkee's story, supported by personal interviews with key players and church archives sealed for over twenty years, is about more than Lutheranism. The remaking of this one Lutheran denomination reflects a broader movement toward theological and political conservatism in American churches - a movement that began in the 1970s and culminated in the formation of the "Religious Right."
Burkee, a historian at Concordia University Wisconsin, offers a personality-driven account of the shift toward conservativism in the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod. After setting the stage by highlighting the socially progressive aspects of the synod after World War II, Burkee tracks the swing to the right largely through the actions of conservative agitator Herman Otten and synod president Jack Preus in the 1960s and 70s. Relying on personal interviews and archives only recently accessible, Burkee does offer a staggering amount of information and insight into how conservatives succeeded in their theological and political goals. However, the lack of explanation of basic mechanics of synod elections and management might leave unfamiliar readers feeling somewhat confused, and the implications beyond the Missouri Synod are obscure. Also, his disdain for Otten and Preus and their methods is barely contained, raising questions of impartiality. Historians and others with strong interest in the Missouri Synod or in how staunch religious-social conservatives achieved success during the Cold War years will be engaged by the book, though the work is a bit dense for casual reading. (Feb.) Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.
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