If further Negro societies will be received into the league, it will eventually mean the withdrawal of all Walther Leagues below the Mason and Dixon Line. . . . As far as mission work among the Negroes is concerned, our Southern people try to do their part, but we know that it is absolutely impossible for us to sanction social equality.” So wrote a Texas pastor in 1922, in protest to the admission of a black youth group into the international youth group network affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). Almost fifteen years later, the same pastor, but now LCMS President John Behnken, told an LCMS convention that incorporating black congregations into the geographical jurisdictions of the Synod “will never do” (Galchutt, 75).
These statements help Kathryn Galchutt frame the environment into which young Andrew Schulze entered in 1924 as the newly called pastor of a black congregation. Schulze would emerge as the pioneer advocate for racial integration within the LCMS and become instrumental in developing several organizations that advanced the cause. The culmination of these efforts was the formation of the Lutheran Human Relations Association of America (LHRAA) in 1954. With this volume, Galchutt makes a major scholarly contribution to the history of Lutherans and racial issues in the twentieth century, particularly within the LCMS. Her narrative displays an impressive knowledge of LCMS history and its historiographical resources, as well as a command of immigrant and local history.
Complementing Galchutt’s work are two recent autobiographical books by Karl E. Lutze, who, though a generation younger than Schulze, was himself a pioneer in the Lutheran integration story. Lutze became Schulze’s colleague on the LHRAA staff and eventually succeeded him as its executive secretary. Taken together, these three volumes provide valuable insights into the process of change within the LCMS, especially in the area of race relations. A fourth volume by the late Dr. Jeff Johnson provides a larger context for black Lutherans in America.
Andrew Schulze in Cincinnati
Galchutt helps us understand the circumstances that led a third-generation German American to devote his entire career to ministry in race relations. Although as a child Schulze first lived in Cincinnatti’s historic German district, his perspectives on the world widened when his parents moved into a more sociologically mixed neighborhood on Cincinnati’s west end. Living at the end of the trolley line, Andrew recalls walking barefoot on warm, summer days over the hill to a place where he could enjoy the sky, clouds, and idyllic scenery of the Ohio River Valley, and where he could observe and talk casually with the friendly residents of a small community of African-Americans. Surely formative, as well, was his attendance at an integrated public school (25).
When an early impulse to become a pastor did not meet with parental enthusiasm. Schulze quit high school after his sophomore year—not altogether by his own choosing according to Lutze (Of Walls and Doors,204). When a series of jobs proved unsatisfying, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served on a destroyer during the last year of World War I. Still lacking strong parental support, but know in his twenties Andrew applied to Concordia Theological Seminary, then located in Springfield, Illinois, and was accepted (24–29). The seminary’s niche was preparing students who lacked the more traditional classical education and thus could not attend the primary LCMS seminary in St. Louis. Schluze’s preparation for seminary was thus very different from that of most of his future ministerial colleagues, he also had certain life experiences which gave him perspectives they lacked.
Springfield, Illinois: Seminary and First Parish
If Cincinnati shaped Schulze in special ways, so did Springfield. Upon his arrival in Springfield, Schulze sought directions to the seminary and was offered assistance by a black gentleman who, after providing directions, casually invited Schulze to, “Come and worship with us sometime” (31). Schulze did, and, in fact, began attending with increasing regularity Holy Trinity, Springfield’s black Lutheran Church.
At the seminary, Schulze voluntarily studied Greek and benefited immensely from the interest taken in him by his Greek tutor, a young faculty member named Otto Paul Kretzmann (47). His strongest supporter on the faculty, however, was Prof. Theodore Engelder, whom Schulze referred to as “the most liberal [member of the faculty] in racial matters” (49). Schulze himself notes that Engelder conducted services on alternate Sundays at Holy Trinity for several years and then became the interim pastor for a short time. (For additional information on Engelder, see Schulze 1972, 6–7).
Graduating from the seminary in 1924, Schulze’s first call was to Holy Trinity. When he married that same summer, Prof. Engelder gave Schulze’s new wife, Margaret (Goering), the standard advice given to all families of white pastors serving black congregations, namely, that she retain her membership at Trinity, the white congregation where she could also commune. She ignored that advice. Also atypical of other white Lutheran ministers serving black congregations, the Schulzes found housing in the black neighborhood of their congregation (Galchutt 49; see also Schulze 1972, 6–7).
An incident described by Galchutt reveals the environment within the LCMS and Schulze’s attempts to change it. An early Schulze initiative at Holy Trinity was to reestablish a parochial school. When a teacher, Phyllis Jones, wished to complete her education by enrolling at an LCMS institution, she was denied admission by Concordia College in Seward. (Not noted in the narrative is that Concordia Seward had just taken the unprecedented step in the LCMS higher education system of breaking the gender barrier by admitting a limited number of women. Two concurrent integrations were evidently too much.) Schulze then contacted W.H.T. Dau, president of the new Lutheran university in Valparaiso, who was personally receptive but hesitated because of community resistance. The Ku Klux Klan was very strong in Northwest Indiana, and, in fact, almost had purchased the university itself just a few years earlier (51; for Schulze’s assessment of Miss Jones see Schulze 1972, 10—11). Schulze’s pattern of writing polite but expectant letters—letters not artificially contrived but pastorally motivated— challenged the recipients to reflect on issues they might otherwise have preferred to ignore.
The St. Louis Years
In the St. Louis decades (1928–1947), Schulze emerged as a leader of the movement to integrate Lutheran institutions. After his success in Springfield, he became pastor of the newly founded St. Philip’s congregation, a black parish in St. Louis. St. Philip’s was located in the “Ville,” the affluent black section of St. Louis, which boasted its own black high school and which was home to Arthur Ashe, Tina Turner, and Dick Gregory. Under Schulze’s leadership St. Philip’s became self-supporting during the Depression, but, even as a self-sustaining congregation, St. Philip’s could not join the LCMS.
When Schulze continued to assist his young, well-educated parishioners in their attempts to gain admission to the educational institutions of the LCMS, not only were his efforts often rebuffed, but in 1938 they evoked a resolution from the LCMS Board of Directors reaffirming President Behnken’s previously stated position that the Synod’s secondary and higher educational institutions should remain segregated. The resolution noted the existence of separate black institutions in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Selma, Alabama (78).
Several months after this, Schulze presented his views at the LCMS Western District Pastoral Conference and received a mixed response from faculty members of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, who were in attendance. He then determined to write a book on the subject. When the manuscript for My Neighbor of Another Color was rejected by Concordia Publishing House, he arranged for private publication—borrowing funds from parishioners. Prof. Alfred Rehwinkel, who had offered enthusiastic support at the pastoral conference, gave his personal imprimatur by writing a supportive introduction.
Galchutt notes that the book created moderate interest. The Christian Century gave it a brief review, and H. Richard Niebuhr commented privately that the issues raised by Schulze were not unique to Lutherans but typical of Protestantism. The leading LCMS popular magazine, The Lutheran Witness,intentionally ignored it. The Mission Board of the Synodical Conference, charged with supervising Schulze and black congregations, selectively circulated an internal negative critique written by Prof. John Theodore Mueller of the St. Louis Seminary. The black pastors and educators at the black institutions in North Carolina and
Alabama were not given access to the review. The underlying major premise of Mueller’s lengthy response was that society operated with clear racial boundaries and that it was not the church’s mission or obligation to change them. To do so would run the risk of becoming involved in the Social Gospel and destroying the historic, clear Lutheran focus on the pure Gospel. Schulze’s subsequent efforts to discuss the critique personally with Mueller were twice rebuffed. In fairness to Mueller, Galchutt notes that he later retracted his critique and conceded that Schulze was correct. My Neighbor of Another Color soon required a second printing and Schulze emerged as the leading LCMS voice on racial issues (80–90).
When racial riots in Detroit and Harlem in 1943 prompted the mayor of St. Louis to create a Commission on Race Relations, he asked Schulze to serve, which he did. Soon Schulze himself founded the St. Louis Lutheran Society for Better Race Relations (SLLSBRR) which became an important influence for changing Lutheran attitudes. With Prof. Rehwinkel as president, the SLLSBR was able to meet on the campus of Concordia Seminary—though not without an initial challenge. Many students, including Martin E. Marty, the late Jaroslav Pelikan, and George Hans Liebenow, became involved (100–105). In his own quiet way, Schulze had become an activist.
Chicago, LHRAA, and Valparaiso
The year 1947 was pivotal for the LCMS in many respects. In this year, the LCMS determined that black congregations, previously governed by the Mission Board of the Synodical Conference, could now be admitted into the geographic districts of the LCMS. The Mission Board of the Northern Illinois District of the LCMS invited Schulze to come to Chicago and develop a racial outreach strategy for the entire district. Schulze accepted and became pastor of Christ the King congregation on Chicago’s South Side, near Bronzeville. Soon Schulze created the Chicago Society for Better Race Relations and attracted wider support, including from two Concordia Seminary, St. Louis professors: Martin Scharlemann and Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Both participated in summer institutes led by Schulze. In 1950, Dr. O.P. Kretzmann, now president of Valparaiso University, offered to host these summer institutes on the university’s campus. Meanwhile, tension between Schulze and the Northern Illinois District had emerged because Schulze envisioned a plan in which Lutheran congregations in changing neighborhoods would become integrated, whereas the district had conceived a strategy of establishing a series of all-black congregations within black neighborhoods. Northern Illinois District leaders were relieved when after only a few years Schulze accepted the invitation of his former tutor, O.P. Kretzmann, to lead a newly created structure on the Valpo campus—the LHRAA (117–145).
The next and last professional period in Schulze’s life, 1954–1968, would prove to be one of the century’s most tumultuous in the United States, particularly in matters of race. Galchutt’s chapter on the Valpo years provides considerable detail about Schulze, and it is in fact the longest in her book. At Valpo, Schulze’s responsibilities were divided between serving as executive secretary of the LHRAA and teaching, including a course on The Church and the Race Issue. As head of the LHRAA, Schulze often traveled on extended weekends to locations where Lutherans were trying to respond to local race-related challenges. He also edited the Vanguard, which replaced the Lutheran Race Relations Bulletin, and continued arranging the summer institutes, which brought mostly black and some white lay and clergy leaders to campus. The gatherings—some of which this writer had the opportunity to observe—were invariably instructive, inspirational, emotional, and for many life-changing.
The shift in terms from “race relations” to “human relations” in the new LHRAA name permitted an enlargement of LHRAA thinking and mission, which soon included outreach to Native Americans and other minorities. It even took an international dimension.
Galchutt’s narrative is especially interesting in describing the LHRAA’s involvement in the LCMS at large, including in the South, during Schulze’s Valparaiso period. She incorporates into her narrative the KKK abduction and beating of Vicar James Fackler, as it had been detailed by Richard Ziehr in The Struggle for Unity (1999). The Vanguard made the “Fackler Flogging” into a national event, while The Cresset allowed Fackler to tell his own story (reprinted on pages 60–62 of this issue).
Galchutt describes at some length Schulze’s involvement in the 1962 voter registration movement in Albany, Georgia. When the Martin Luther King, Jr.-led effort stalled, King called for an infusion of northern clergy to generate more attention. Schulze responded. With seventy others, he rode the bus to Albany, along the way experiencing discrimination firsthand. When Schulze was arrested in Albany for refusing to disband when ordered, President O. P. Kretzmann sent a $200 bail bond, wrote President Kennedy demanding federal intervention, asked his friend Father Hesburgh at Notre Dame to use his national network of contacts on Schulze’s behalf, and waited for the inevitable letters questioning how one of his faculty members could be involved in such an incident. Schulze confessed that in many respects the Albany experience had strong Pauline overtones for him personally, and, at age sixty-six, had been perhaps the most deeply moving experience of his career (182).
When Schulze retired six years later, dynamics within the country and the black community were changing rapidly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated, and leadership within the black community now focused on the convergence of power within the black community. The environment following 1968 was very different from that in which Schulze had begun his pastorate in Springfield, 44 years earlier.
Finally, Galchutt’s research is especially significant because she has written one of the first contemporary scholarly works to deal with the history of Lutherans and twentieth century racial issues. Not only are Lutherans now represented in the scholarly literature of race and religion in American history, but there is also a useful platform for additional dissertations, monographs, and articles.
Karl Lutze’s two volumes Of Walls and Doors (2001) and Awakening to Equality: A Young White Pastor at the Dawn of Civil Rights (2006) contribute to our understanding of Lutherans and race in the middle third of the twentieth-century. Of Walls and Doors already has been reviewed in The Cresset (Richard Lee, Michaelmas, 2002), but since it has many connections with Andrew Schulze and the issue of Lutherans and race, some additional comment is appropriate.
Of Walls and Doors ranges broadly across Lutze’s past, sharing warm and engaging stories about those who enriched and shaped his life. In the first of four anecdotal clusters, he describes influential persons in his “Wisconsin Years,” especially his father, a public school principal. In the second group, he shares his experiences during his seminary internship in Baltimore, where his supervisor, the Lutheran City Missionary and institutional chaplain, Rev. Leslie Weber, known simply as “Rev,” assigned him to minister to patients at a black tuberculosis sanitarium.
The last two sections deal with personal encounters in Oklahoma and then Valparaiso. The Oklahoma cycle comprises vignettes of various members of his largely black congregations in Oklahoma from 1945–1959. The Valparaiso section deals with only a few of those whom he knew and admired: Andrew Schulze; Victor Hoffman—a member of the political science department, editor of the Vanguard, and later a leader in race relations in Milwaukee; O. P. Kretzmann—“The Great Man”; Clemonce Sabourin– pastor in Harlem and active leader in LHRAA; Bob and Anne Springsteen, the latter was an LHRAA staff member and poet; and Oliver Harms—LCMS president and quiet, receptive friend of the LHRAA and its causes.
In this connection—and not to be missed—is the account of LCMS President Harms’s trip to Alabama to help resolve disagreements among southern Lutherans in their response to issues of integration. After a long day, Harms was invited along with Lutze to the home of Mr. Chris McNair. McNair is a professional photographer, a Lutheran (thanks to Walter A. Maier and the Lutheran Hour), and the father of Denise McNair, (one of the Four Little Girls in the later film by Spike Lee), who had been killed in the Birmingham Church bombing of September 1963. Telling the rest of the story here would detract from its reading. Of Walls and Doors is easy to pick up—hard to put down.
Deftly avoiding essential duplication with Of Walls and Doors, Awakening to Equality is a more focused and sustained narrative. For eleven chapters, Lutze describes his seminary education and then his life as a young pastor in Oklahoma between 1945 and 1959. Only in the last chapter does Lutze deal with his years at Valparaiso University, painting only with a very broad brush.
Awakening depicts an energetic young pastor engaged in a very unconventional ministry during the early days of integration within the LCMS. Young Pastor Lutze quickly gained the trust not only of the black community that he served but also of his fellow Lutheran clergy in the Oklahoma District of the LCMS. Modestly written, the book leaves one to surmise that much of the positive response to his efforts can be attributed to Lutze himself—his congenial personality, his energy, his method of dealing with challenging situations, and his deep compassion for people.
Not to be overlooked is the credit Lutze gives to the active involvement of his wife Esther, which, like that of Margaret Schulze, made a huge difference in establishing his credibility. Richard Ziehr underscores the significance of the actions of these two women by noting that, as late as 1959, the chairman of the Synodical Conference Mission Board told the wives of white pastors going into black ministry, especially in the South,“that they could not have membership in a black church, they could eat meals with their members, but they could not have their members eat with them [in the parsonage]” (Ziehr, 25; emphasis added). The photo above—with Esther Lutze front and center—tells the story of her response to this advice.
Awakeningis divided between experiences at Lutze’s first parish,Hope Lutheran Church in Muskogee, and his second, Prince of Peace in North Tulsa. One learns how Lutze converted an old house into a church, how he purchased a decommissioned military chapel and had it reconstructed on a site the purchase of which he negotiated with the help of ice cream cones, how he desegregated a public park in Muskogee, and how Oswald Hoffman, then the director of public relations for the Missouri Synod, maneuvered an enlightened LCMS response to the 1954 Supreme Court school desegregation decision (Brown v. Topeka Board of Education).
Continue reading and one learns of Lutze’s encounter with a Frau Richardson, his involvement in founding a local chapter of the Urban League, and his response to personal threats from members of the local White Citizen’s Council.
In chapter twelve, “Oklahoma, My Teacher,” Lutze relates how his experiences in Oklahoma prepared him for his work with LHRAA and teaching at Valparaiso University. However, over twenty years of active leadership in the LHRAA and the department of theology at the height of the American civil rights controversy can hardly be compressed into the fifteen pages the book devotes to this part of his life. That was not, of course, the intent of this book.
Jeff Johnson and Black Christians: The Untold Lutheran Story
If the three previous volumes focused almost exclusively on race relations within the LCMS, Jeff Johnson’s Black Christians broadens the picture. Though Johnson’s work is somewhat dated (St. Louis: Concordia, 1991), it remains valuable in several respects.
First, it should be noted that Johnson was himself part of the LCMS integration story. Johnson, who graduated first from Concordia College Oakland, California, and then Concordia Seminary in St. Louis (M.Div., 1948), was apparently the first African-American to break the color barrier at an LCMS educational institution in the twentieth century. He earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Southern California in 1961. After serving pastorates in Detroit, East St. Louis, and Indianapolis, he joined the faculty of Valparaiso University as the first black faculty member in 1962 teaching sociology and serving as department chair.
Though trained as a sociologist, Johnson compiled a very useful historical synthesis of Lutherans and black Christians in America from colonial times to the present. His work is strongest and most valuable in the colonial and ante-bellum periods, not only because of his details on colonial blacks and Lutherans, but also because of his inclusion of Lutherans in the Caribbean, especially the Virgin Islands, Guyana, and Surinam.
His treatment of the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War successfully demonstrates the existence of a significant Lutheran presence within the black community. A key component in this story was St. John Lutheran Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where Pastor John Bachman supportively forwarded to his church council a request for membership from a group of blacks. So it was that free blacks and slaves were accepted as members, but on a parallel or collateral basis. On the eve of the Civil War they comprised thirty-five percent of St. John’s membership and had their own cemetery adjacent to the church.
Johnson’s statistics demonstrate that the number of black Lutherans in the South peaked in 1859 (126). He also asserts that “What is unusual about the period between 1774–1865 . . . is that Lutherans in the North, who were much better organized, more numerous, and with more resources than those in the South, exerted so little effort to reach out to the black community” (129). About Lutherans and blacks during reconstruction, Johnson bluntly states that,“to say that black Lutherans ‘disappeared’ after the Civil War is not correct. They were either asked to leave Lutheran congregations or they were summarily put out” (148).
In treating the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and its twentieth-century predecessor groups, Johnson notes the relatively modest efforts by the American Lutheran Church, which in the 1950s transferred its Alabama operations to the Synodical Conference. By way of contrast, he is more impressed with the remarkable emergence of interest and action within the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), during the 1960s. Much of this energy he attributes to the leadership of LCA President Franklin Clark Fry, who placed responsibility for implementing LCA race relations plans in his own office. Johnson calls the distinctive approach of the LCA “inclusiveness,” which he suggests is the active attempt to listen to minority voices and to place them in positions of influence and leadership. Inclusiveness goes beyond integration. Johnson does not carry this theme into the actual structuring of the new ELCA, which formally began functioning in 1988, and which mandated certain ethnic, gender, and lay and clerical representations within the governing structures of the new church body.
Other Stories to be Told
The history of Lutherans and blacks in America comprises a relatively small segment in the larger histories of both Lutherans and of blacks in America. Perhaps because Lutherans themselves were often isolated by their own ethnicities, especially until the mid-twentieth century, and perhaps by their theology as well, they were not well positioned to exert significant influence on the national racial scene. Yet there is a significant story that has been emerging and which deserves closer examination and telling.
The Galchutt and Lutze volumes focus on the involvement of white LCMS ministers serving in black communities. While there have been many other white pastors over a long period of time who would fall into this category, Schulze and Lutze are distinctive because of their push for integration. The push for integration is also the focus of Ziehr’s 1999 book, which refers to the efforts of the LCMS’s Southern District in the 1960s to implement the 1947 policy permitting the incorporation of black congregations into the synod’s geographic districts.
From a historiographical point of view, we now have a reasonable core of materials for understanding basic race relationships within the LCMS and the white leadership of the movement for integration of the LCMS, at least through the first two-thirds of the twentieth century. This obviously should be supplemented by additional accounts, but now there is at least a core.
The stories of the black pastors with whom white pastors like Schultze and Lutze interacted remain largely untold, at least in the volumes in this retrospective. There are some autobiographies by several black LCMS pastors. Samuel L. Hoard, a Schulze protégé from St. Philip’s in St. Louis, wrote The Truth Will Set You Free (Concordia, 2004). Though not autobiographical, Richard Dickinson’s Roses and Thorns (1977) presents another important dimension to the story by detailing the painful history of many black pastors within the LCMS,especially in the 1960s. Dickinson later told his own story in This I Remember (1995). Dr. Robert H. King, the first black to serve as a vice president of the LCMS, wrote Pastor Jenkins Said,“Hang on to Matthew 6:33”: An Autobiography of Robert H. King, Ph.D. (1999).
There surely are other black Lutheran pastors whose stories deserve telling and would help to fill out the larger picture, especially within the LCMS. Still lacking are good narratives of Marmaduke Carter, Clemonce Sabourin, and Will Herzfeld, just to name a few. Lutze pays a fine tribute to Clemonce Sabourin in Of Doors and Windows (233–250), and Sabourin told something of his family’s early experience in Let the Righteous Speak! Travel Memoirs (1957). Galchutt also took notice of the Schulze/ Sabourin collaboration in closing Immanuel College in North Carolina, but Sabourin merits a fuller treatment. The late Will Herzfeld was originally in the LCMS and a prominent participant in the LCMS Alabama story. He became a bishop in the AELC, another predecessor of the ELCA, and then performed high level service in the ELCA Division of Global Mission.
Although this reviewer feels less competent to comment on the historiographic situation within the ELCA, it appears that the real story of Lutherans and blacks in the United States during the last third of the twentieth century has been occurring within the ELCA. It is, however, a story that has not yet been written. All relevant records are perhaps not yet available within the archives. This should not, however, deter some historian from piloting a history and following Galchutt in utilizing personal contacts and interviews to reconstruct some of the stories while living sources are still available.
One looks for scholars to describe the career of the late Rev. Nelson Trout, the first black district president in the American Lutheran Church and subsequently professor at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, a task which should be aided by his recollections that are part of the Oral History Collection of the Archives of Cooperative Lutheranism. Albert “Pete” Pero, a Concordia Springfield graduate who recently retired from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) was deeply
involved in the development of black theological responses and a variety of organizations embodying
black Lutheran leadership. Another twentieth-century story has been emerging at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, which has undertaken programs of theological education for significant numbers of non-Lutheran, black professional church workers in the Philadelphia area.
There are probably other stories to be identified and told. In the meantime, thanks are due to Galchutt, Lutze, Johnson, as well as Ziehr, Dickinson, King, Hoard, Schulze and others for their stories are providing unique, useful, and foundational contributions to our understanding of Lutherans and race.
James W. Albers is Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University.