John Tietjen, Pivotal Lutheran Figure, Dies

The Christian Century, March 9, 2004 | Go to article overview

John Tietjen, Pivotal Lutheran Figure, Dies


John H. Tietjen, a seminary president who led a mid-1970s revolt of moderates against fundamentalists in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, and contributed to a three-way merger of Lutheran bodies in 1987, died at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, after a long struggle with cancer He was 75.

His death on February 15 came only four days shy of the 30th anniversary of the 1974 exodus of students and faculty, including Tietjen, from the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. The next day, classes of Concordia Seminary in Exile (Christ Seminary-Seminex) began at Saint Louis University and at Eden Seminary in Webster Groves, Missouri.

The split widened within the LCMS, resulting in the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) in 1976 by ex--Missouri Synod members, Tietjen among them. He later joined the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which he helped to create.

Briefly an ELCA bishop in 1987 before quitting in an administrative dispute, Tietjen moved to Fort Worth for a pastoral post at Trinity Lutheran Church. Contemporaries praised Tietjen for his articulate views of academic integrity and Lutheran unity" in a tumultous period.

"John Tietjen became the eye of the theological storm in the Missouri Synod because of his commitment to the gospel as the central theological doctrine of Lutheranism," said Edgar M. Krentz, Christ Seminary-Seminex professor emeritus of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. "Confronted by accusations that the theological faculty of Concordia Seminary taught false doctrine, his theological sensitivity and his personal ethical integrity led to the faculty's defense," said Krentz. "Historians of Lutheranism in America will regard John Tietjen as one of the major theologians of the 20th century. …

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