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Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity Hardcover – February 1, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Fortress Press (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0800697928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800697921
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,005,996 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Burkee ... executes his historian's craft superbly...enormous research ... interviews with willing primary actors, and contemporaneous news reports....  He takes no side but remains objective."
--John Hannah in Lutheran Forum

"A book that could change American Lutheran history." --Paul Hinlicky in Lutheran Forum

"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." --from Religion in Review, Jan 26, 2011

"Burkee ... executes his historian's craft superbly...enormous research ... interviews with willing primary actors, and contemporaneous news reports.... He takes no side but remains objective." --John Hannah in Lutheran Forum

"A book that could change American Lutheran history." --Paul Hinlicky in Lutheran Forum

"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." --from Religion in Review, Jan 26, 2011

"A riveting account of a perfect storm that did not have to happen, a storm that was reinforced by the political and cultural dynamics of the turbulent 1960s. This massively-researched book tells the fascinating story of the destructive clash between scheming conservatives and elitist liberals in the Missouri Synod wars of the 1960s and 70s, with the vast majority of laity and pastors caught between them. An infinitely sad but instructive story indeed." --Robert Beene, Director of the Ranoke College Center for Religion and Society

"James Burkee has done a commendable job of providing not only a rich measure of historical background and perspective on 'Seminex,' a controversy of the 1970s that continues to impact the Missouri-Synod as a Lutheran church body, but also a case-study example of the Christ-and-culture battle line that runs through all of American Christianity." --Jon Diefenthaler, LCMS District President

"For many reasons, this could not have been an easy book to write and perhaps no one besides James Burkee could have carried out the task so successfully. With a critical eye and a sympathetic heart, Burkee illuminates the mechanics of America s rightward turn of the 1960s and 70s through the history of one of its great churches. This is a crisply told story of institutional transformation with profound implications for the entire nation." --Chris Beneke, Associate Professor of History, Bentley University, Waltham, Massachusetts

About the Author

James C. Burkee is Associate Professor of History at Concordia University Wisconsin, where he teaches modern American political and religious history. He is a frequent contributor to national newspapers on political and historical matters, including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Hill, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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Customer Reviews

The author did a good job...
F. Hubert
Otten would condemn liberals who fellowshiped with non-LCMS Lutherans but he would fellowship with non-Lutheran conservative Christians.
Charles R. Wiese
A little one sided and concentrates too much on the politics, but he told us that in the title.
RAHAlpha

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Pastor Charles F. Buckhahn (cfbuckhahn@aol.com) on February 8, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Dr. James C. Burkee's book, Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod; A Conflict That Changed American Christianity, which is based upon his doctoral dissertation, "Pastors and Politics: The Conservative Movement in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, 1956-1981," is another contribution to the written history of the conflict within the LC-MS during the 1960's and `70's. It is not the final word on this conflict, however. There is much that is not covered in its pages: such as the theological issues which laid at the heart of the conflict; the rise of the so-called "Moderates" within the St. Louis Seminary, the Synodical Board of Missions, and the print media of Synod, the Lutheran Witness and the Reporter; and a detailed analysis of the efforts of the Moderates to hold on to their gains over against the efforts of the Conservative Movement to take those gains away.
The reason for this is that Dr. Burkee has turned his attention solely to the rise of the so-called "Conservatives" and their political efforts to cleanse the Synod of the moderates and their influence. For those of us who lived through this conflict, the thesis that the Conservative Movement was largely political in nature is not new. Moderates within the Seminary, Mission Board, and the Witness/Reporter were eliminated from their positions not through ecclesiastical trials which were based upon theological issues. They were removed mainly by their supervising Boards and officials, who were conservatives, elected through the effective politicking at Synodical Conventions by the Conservative Movement.
What is fairly new is that Dr. Burkee maintains that this Conservative Movement was not lay-led nor did it rise up from the grass-roots.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Charles R. Wiese on February 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fortress Press sent me a review copy of Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod by James Burkee. The book is very well researched with lots and lots of footnotes. It documents the rise and cooperation of the various conservative parties within the LCMS and how they turned on one another when the liberals were pushed out after the Seminex controversy. The book is full of quotations--the author usually just lets the people speak for themselves. Both the conservatives and liberals are shown to be guilty of duplicity and both sides remain unrepentant for their actions. Both sides used political means to achieve their goals. After the conservatives ousted the liberals through political means they engaged in duplicity with one another and used politics against each other.

The book focuses primarily upon J.A.O. Preus and Hermann Otten. Burkee regards Otten as the single most influential individual in the crisis. Preus would use Otten to do his dirty work. Preus would publicly condemn Otten and privately apologize later. Otten would publish anonymous letters in Christian News but condemn liberal groups for doing the same in their own publications. Otten would condemn liberals who fellowshiped with non-LCMS Lutherans but he would fellowship with non-Lutheran conservative Christians. Otten's means for gathering information was questionable at best.

Burkee successfully compares Preus to Richard Nixon and ties the rise of theological conservatism in the LCMS to the rise of political conservatism in the nation as a whole. Burkee shows that both conservatives and liberals confused political and theological issues. Unfortunately seems to as well. Burkee lumps abortion in with political issues but abortion is not just a political issue--it is deeply theological.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I knew very little about the Missouri Synod before reading this book, and I won't let it determine all of my opinions of the Synod, but I honestly think it helped me to better understand the ELCA and modern American Lutheranism in general. The most interesting and well-written part of the book is about the personalities and characters involved in the Synod during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I would recommend this book as a good introduction to some of the many issues within contemporary American Lutheranism.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jay Winters on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
A story isn't just "good" because it ends the way you want it to. A story is "good" when it shows you an elemental truth in such a way that you begin to understand it better. The mythological stories of the Greek Titans are not "good" because they behave as you would hope gods would. Rather, they are good because the gods do not behave as gods should, but as men do.

"Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod" a "good" book in my estimation. It is the story of the Titans of the Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod, circa 1960 to 1990. We are introduced to characters who act with god-like power, but foibles that reveal their sin-stained humanity in such a way that you are left with sympathetic feelings even for the characters you most detest. Burkee shows not only the facts of what happened during these tumultuous years in the LCMS, but does his best as a historian who tries to show you the facts of the motivations in the story.

As to the question of "bias", it appears that Burkee's book is not without bias, but that is at least partially for understandable reasons. Burkee himself even states that he would have liked to receive more information from both "sides" of the conflict of this 30-Year War between "moderate" and "conservative" - but that most often both sides refused to give him access. The person who gave Burkee the most access was the same person that set out to give all of the Missouri-Synod access to his documents and way of thinking: Herman Otten, one of the story's chief antagonists. Simply pointing out that Burkee differs in opinion from Otten, his largest source, does not absolve Burkee of bias nor does it absolve those who refused to talk to Burkee out of fear, intimidation, or quietism.
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