Herbert Chilstrom remembered, honored by LSTC

February 11, 2020

It is with both sadness and gratitude that the community of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago mourns the death of the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Chilstrom, 88, died Jan. 19 at his home in Green Valley, Ariz., and a memorial service will be held there at 2 p.m. (Desert Hills Lutheran Church) on Thursday, Feb. 13. A memorial service will also be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, in Christ Chapel at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn.

At both services, clergy and all rostered leaders of the ELCA, together with clergy of all ecumenical partners are invited to robe and process (the color of the day will be green) and are asked to RSVP:

The Gustavus service will be livestreamed online via Stretch Internet and YouTube.

Bishop Chilstrom served congregations in Pelican Rapids, Elizabeth, and St. Peter, Minn. Among his survivors is his wife Corinne, who is also an ELCA pastor.

LSTC is proud to claim Chilstrom as an alumnus. He graduated in 1958 from Augustana Seminary, a predecessor seminary. His support of LSTC was strong, culminating in the establishment of the Chilstrom Chair in New Testament.

Faculty member Barbara Rossing said the Chilstrom Chair reflects what the bishop himself called his “love affair with the Bible.” He wrote about the impact his grandmother’s daily Bible readings in Swedish during the Depression had on him, and about his study of Greek and Hebrew at Augustana Seminary and “the importance of studying the Bible in the historical context in which it was written,” Rossing said.

“Herb’s gift to LSTC and to all of us in theological education [was] his ability to bring together three things: a love for the Bible, a commitment to the church, and brilliant thinking on the church’s public theology—why the Bible matters in our world today,” Rossing said during her remarks last Spring as Chilstrom and several from LSTC gathered in St. Peter to boost support of the Chilstrom Chair.

Indeed his work on biblical hermeneutics (how to use and interpret the Bible) shaped the church and sets a course for the church, she said.

Just days after news of Chilstrom’s death reached LSTC, President James Nieman reflected on how Bishop Chilstrom drew from his Augustana roots that shaped him, as well as contemporary passions and concerns he had, such as the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church and seminary, care for the earth, his views about public matters and ways in which he was engaged in public ministry.

“He was a living model of what ministry could be like for all of our students and faculty,” Nieman said. “One of the important things that Herb gave to LSTC was in his leadership of the church. We’re not a school all by ourselves, off to the side. We’re a part of a larger church. He set that context, he set the tone, that it was important to be the church that was inclusive, that was diverse, that was intellectually responsible, that was committed to mission and that was a part of a future that was innovative. And I think that has always been inspiring to us around LSTC.”

Chilstrom’s memoir, Journey of Grace, chronicles his journey that began at seminary and the historical insights on the formative years of the ELCA. When Rossing spoke at the event in St. Peter, she listed five issues that LSTC continues to work on, all of which mesh with Chilstrom interests and causes: 1. sexuality; 2. creation care 3. mental health and suicide; 4. peacemaking and war; 5. spirituality.

“Friends, I want to make the case that LSTC is continuing the work of one of our most distinguished graduates to draw on the Bible for public theology, public church,” Rossing told the crowd. “I hope you will support teaching the Bible in the living tradition of Herb Chilstrom, to shape the next generation of pastoral leaders. I hope you will support this important chair.”

To make a gift to the Herbert Chilstrom Chair for New Testament, go to lstc.edu, click on Giving from the top menu and choose Make a Gift from the dropdown menu. Then, chose Chilstrom Chair of New Testament from the Designation drop down menu. Call 773.256.0699 or mail checks designated to the Chilstrom Chair to LSTC at 1100 E. 55th St., Chicago, IL 60615.

For more stories and information on Bishop Herbert Chilstrom, go to:

Herbert Chilstrom, first ELCA presiding bishop, dies at 88

Bishop Eaton issues pastoral message on death of Herbert Chilstrom


Southwestern Minnesota Synod website:


Julie Sevig Communications Specialist – Advancement 773.256.0740 Julie.sevig@lstc.edu

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