Scope and Contents
The Collection was given in 1993 to the SCPC by Steven Schroeder, who gathered the records for research on his book about the Lutheran Peace Fellowship. Series A contains a few documents relating some of the history of the organization. Additional historical information can be found throughout the collection and especially in the Jubilee Year (1991) Memorials in Series D: these contain recollections of the organization's founding and history by key Lutheran Peace Fellowship participants.
Administrative information can be found in Series B, including records dating from the 1940s and 1950s of precursor organizations of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, such as the Lutheran Social Fellowship. Other folders contain meeting minutes of governing bodies that reflect changes in the structure of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship: for example, from 1958 to 1963 there was an executive committee--comprised of the Chairman and Secretary-Treasurer--while in the 1980s there was a board of directors. The rest of the administrative folders provide records relating to finances, membership, and elections. These records are not continuous, but contain substantial gaps.
The correspondence also reflects changes in governance: from 1956 to 1973, the office of Secretary-Treasurer generated a considerable correspondence, striking in its thematic variety and interest. Secretary-Treasurers corresponded with individual members, Lutheran Peace Fellowship colleagues, conscientious objectors, pacifists and occasionally with those critical of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship. The Vietnamese Conflict and the nuclear arms race occasioned the greatest quantity of correspondence, with most from 1962. From 1974 onward, the office of Secretary-Treasurer gave way to that of Coordinator and correspondence with individual members apparently ceased. Series D contains the correspondence of Coordinator Tom Witt who wrote mainly to the Lutheran Peace Fellowship Board (1984-1991).
Series D includes a folder containing five decades of bulk mailings--in the form of letters and brochures--to the membership: much of the business of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship can be understood through their perusal. Series E contains reference material relevant to Lutheran Peace Fellowship's work.
Additonal Lutheran Peace Fellowship material can be found in DG 013 (Fellowship of Reconciliation), of which the Lutheran Peace Fellowship is an affiliate. See also A Community and a Perspective: Lutheran Peace Fellowship and the Edge of the Church by Steven Schroeder, available in the Book Collection. There is another Lutheran Peace Fellowship collection at the Region III Archives of the ELCA at Luther-Northwestern Seminary in St. Paul.
A history of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, entitled A Community and Perspective: Lutheran Peace Fellowship and the Edge of the Church, 1941-1991, was published in 1993 by Steven Schroeder. He calls the Lutheran Peace Fellowship "more organism than institution" whose history is "anecdotal" (p. 3). Partly, the Lutheran Peace Fellowship began with the work of individuals. For example, the writings on pacifism of Joseph Sittler and Edgar Carlson, published in the "Student Service Bulletin" of the American Lutheran Conference in 1941, contributed to the formation of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship. Rev. Alton Motter, Executive Committee Chairman in 1961, remembers Trevor Sandness--an Fellowship of Reconciliation member and a conscientious objector during WWII who sought to provide financial and spiritual aid to other CO's--as "the moving spirit behind the development of Lutheran Peace Fellowship" (p. 41).
Lutheran Peace Fellowship began its institutional life as three separate Lutheran peace groups in the late 1930s and early 1940s: the Lutheran Social Fellowship in the Philadelphia/New York City area, the Augustana Lutheran Fellowship of Reconciliation (ALFOR) in Illinois, and the Lutheran Pacifist Fellowship in St. Paul, Minnesota. The first met to "arouse the social consciousness of the Lutheran Church," and the last two formed in order to support conscientious objectors before and during WWII. This last purpose "provided the primary rational for Lutheran Peace Fellowship's continued existence" (p. 3). An early mailing to members stated that the Lutheran Peace Fellowship had been formed by students in Minneapolis on May 12, 1941. Immediately after the war, the Lutheran Peace Fellowship had 100-200 members, many of whom worked for various peace organizations other than the Lutheran Peace Fellowship. This influence led, in 1962, to the Church Peace Mission influencing the Lutheran Peace Fellowship to turn "to the more general task of defining pacifism in the context of the Cold War" (p. 49). The year 1962 was an important one for Lutheran Peace Fellowship: despite its small membership, it organized a dinner in conjunction with the founding convention of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). It was at this dinner that labor leader, Walter Reuther, and Lutheran theologian, Conrad Bergendoff, delivered keynote speeches about nuclear issues. Thereafter, Lutheran Peace Fellowship's activity increased in response to the challenges of the Vietnamese Conflict era.
Around 1974, John Backe, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in New York City, became coordinator of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, bringing it out of a relatively dormant period following the war. As Schroeder notes, Backe's tenure was dynamic. His newsletters to the general membership tended to resemble personal letters, containing reflections on typical Lutheran Peace Fellowship themes like nuclear weapons (p. 87). In 1982, Backe recommended restructuring the board, a step that led to the hiring of a full-time staff person in 1984.
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, the Lutheran Peace Fellowship published newsletters, enabled discussions, and organized meetings around the themes of the spirituality of non-violence, the Lutheran chaplaincy system, tax resistance, socially-responsible investing, and economic and racial justice, among other topics. In concurrance with meetings at the United Nations on nuclear weapons in 1982, the Lutheran Peace Fellowship sponsored a worship service at which well-known priest, Father Henri Nouwen, spoke.Another significant event was the 50th (Jubilee) anniversary of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship in 1991, about which Steven Schroeder solicited reminiscences and records from Lutheran Peace Fellowship notables.
The office of Secretary-Treasurer was occupied by Albert Myers from 1956-1960; by Lloyd Berg from 1961-1964; and by Vincent Hawkinson from 1965-1973. Parish pastors all, each worked from a different location. Alton Motter served as Chairman in the 1960s. The office of Coordinator was filled by John Backe from 1974-1984, Tom Witt from 1984-1990, and Bonnie Block from 1990. The current Coordinator is Glen Gersmehl. Throughout the existence of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, the membership and activity of the group waxed and waned according to the needs and tempo of the times. The Lutheran Peace Fellowship is still active today. For more information see http://members.tripod.com/~lutheran_peace/.