Forming Lutherans seeks to foster awareness of and appreciation for dynamic and engaging adult faith formation processes. We believe that those formation processes—as practiced in the ancient catechumenate—holistically incorporate new Christians into lifelong discipleship. Since such patterns of formation are owned and practiced by entire congregations, faith formation practices that form lifelong Lutheran Christians can invigorate congregational identity, mission and life. To that end, Forming Lutherans’ mission is to promote and make available to the LCMS and the larger church the enlivening resources of proven and tested formation practices.
How do we intend to accomplish this mission? The following objectives provide a snapshot of our journey:
- Celebrate and witness to the successful formation processes and practices of congregations
- Bring pastors, commissioned ministers, and lay church leaders into conversation about the benefits of faith formation practices
- Facilitate the development and use of formation practices within congregations as they seek to disciple new Christians, especially in the younger generations
- Provide robust print and web-based educational and ritual resources for use in developing vibrant catechumenates
- Organize conferences and workshops which envision the benefits, scope, and possibilities of formation that leads to discipleship
- Maintain the website FormingLutherans.org, enabling it, and associated social media, to be a place for engagement and exchange on the catechumenate
- Research, write, and speak at conferences and continuing education events in the church
Our mission is to equip congregations to lead adults, especially those of the Millennial and Gen Z generations, into active participation in the life and mission of the church. Driven by the reality that many people, especially those in the Millennial and Gen Z generations, view the institutional church as detached from daily life and concerns of earthly existence, we cannot stand idly by while the church continues nonchalantly down a path leading it to greater irrelevance in the eyes of current and future generations. Our aim is nothing less than to invigorate the life of the church through advocacy for authentic and engaging formation practices.
Who We Are
As a cradle Lutheran, I was brought up in the faith by devout LCMS lay parents who attended church every Sunday, a practice I embraced as a young adult. I identify with the “older brother” who has never left home, to whom the father said, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15:31). As a rostered deaconess, it has been my privilege to serve the church professionally (i.e., paid positions) in non-parish settings, most recently (since 2008) as a full-time professor at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota.
My appreciation for graceful and grace-filled worship dates back to my undergraduate life at Valparaiso University and led me to earn a master’s degree in liturgical studies in the 1990s. I resonate deeply with the definition of the church in the Augsburg Confession: “It is the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the gospel” (Kolb/Wengert, Art. VII, p. 42). Of course, it’s been challenging to live according to this definition during a pandemic when we cannot assemble as we have in the past and where the opportunities for receiving Holy Communion have been limited. However, Lutheran sacramental theology is a theology rooted in the presence of Christ through material elements of water, bread, and wine. We may all be exploring new ways of being “church” in these times, and I’m grateful for virtual services where Christ is proclaimed through the reading of God’s Word and preaching, and through liturgy and song. But over the long term, the physical gathering of the Body of Christ around Word and sacrament will endure.
My interest in the adult catechumenal process is related to my Lutheran sacramental theology, my dissertation work on the rite of confirmation, and two decades of teaching undergraduates, who reflect the larger trends in North America and Europe. How can the institutional church reach the “Nones”—the fastest growing segment of the population? I am hopeful that the adult catechumenal process can be an entry point into (or back into) a life of faith in community with a body of believers gathered around Word and sacrament. To reach the next generation, the church is called to build community with and among seekers, to provide catechesis that allows for exploration of questions, and to foster faith formation through ritual.
I was delighted in 2016 when Kent Burreson invited me to partner with him on a grant proposal to study several Lutheran congregations with a robust adult formation process and thrilled when Kent was the recipient of a Calvin Vital Worship Grant in 2018-19. At that end of that collaborative effort, we felt that we had a wealth of data that could be valuable to share with the church, and so we worked together on this, our second grant. I am honored to be the recipient of a Teacher-Scholar Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, which has made possible these conferences on faith formation and the adult catechumenate described on FormingLutherans.
I thank God for the gift of a most supportive husband, Mark, who is a New Testament scholar and a tech guru. It is because of his latter area of expertise that you are reading this website, for Mark Schuler is the pro bono webmaster of FormingLutherans.org.
Like Dr. Schuler, I am a cradle Lutheran as well. But, perhaps atypically for the LCMS, life in the Lutheran tradition of the church came through my dad’s and paternal grandfather’s Norwegian lineage. My Norwegian Lutheran great-grandparents immigrated to this country and my grandfather’s faith and piety were planted and formed such that he, my grandmother and father were founding members of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Milford, Ohio. There my faith-life was formed by the liturgies of The Lutheran Hymnal and my confirmation pastor’s proclamation of law and gospel.
That seed of interest in the liturgy and its formative power blossomed completely in the liturgically-rich environment of Valparaiso University, especially under the leadership of the sainted Daniel Brockopp. Study at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, under the guidance of esteemed researchers and teachers, refined my liturgical piety into a committed desire to know more and to research the historical and theological development of the liturgy. After seminary that led me to study at The University of Notre Dame with the father of Protestant liturgical history, Dr. James White. As with Dr. Schuler, my dissertation work on sixteenth century Lutheran baptismal practice embedded an abiding interest in baptismal instruction and formation, including the latent power of the ancient catechumenate.
Teaching has a way of laying bare the lacuna in education and formation. Having joined the faculty of my Alma mater, Concordia Seminary, in 2000, in teaching worship and systematics courses I realized the ritual and catechetical benefits of the adult catechumenate, something into which the LCMS had failed to tap. Participation on one of the committees that prepared the 2006 hymnal of the LCMS, Lutheran Service Book, an excellent resource for the church, nevertheless furthered my intuition that the lack of formation processes was a significant omission. Since the early 2000’s I have sought ways in my teaching and in my service since 2020 as Dean of the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus to strengthen the awareness of adult formation rituals and processes.
This research project on contemporary catechumenal forms and models for the Lutheran church is one of three primary research and writing interests I have. The others involve writing and providing resources on natural (green) burial and contributing to the knowledge of Luther’s liturgical theology and practice. Any chance to give presentations and papers on these topics that allows me to travel and see other parts of this wondrous creation I embrace.
My wife Cindy and I have two daughters, Maggie and Lily Kate, and as the father of both a Millennial and a Gen Z daughter, I think I know something about worship formation with those generations (but they’d probably tell me how authentically deluded I am). In my spare time I like to read across many genres, listen to a multitude of musical styles, watch as much professional and college sports as I can, and enjoy as many good craft beers as possible home brewing some of my own.