Wednesday, March 14, 2007

R.I.P., Brother Herman

The Rev. Dr. Herman G. Stuempfle who served Gettysburg Seminary as professor, chaplain, dean, and president has died.

Eternal rest grant him, O Lord;
And let perpetual light shine upon him.

I was privileged to study preaching with Dr. Stuempfle -- along with a January course on Bernard of Clairvaux and a course on literature and theology. The integration of the fine arts into the task of preaching was of particular skill to Dr. Stuempfle, and he was always generous, clear, and committed in promoting his approach.

For those who want to read on, here is the entire communication from the synod in which Dr. Stuempfle served:

Lutheran Educator, Seminary President, and Prolific Hymn Author Herman G. Stuempfle Dies (Gettysburg, PA)

The Rev. Dr. Herman G. Stuempfle Jr., a Lutheran church leader known for his outstanding contributions as a preacher, professor, president and poet died Tuesday, March 13, 2007, following a long illness. StuempfleÂ’s life and work will be remembered in a memorial service to be held at the Church of the Abiding Presence, the chapel of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Saturday, March 17, 2007, at 2pm.

Stuempfle, born April 2nd 1923 in Clarion, Pennsylvania, was a resident of Gettysburg for more than five decades and best known as the President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, serving as professor, dean and president for a total of 27 years. Beginning in 1962, he served the seminary as the John and Susannah Ulrich Professor of the Art of Preaching, teaching seminarians as late as the spring semester of 2003.

The Rev. Michael Cooper-White, President of the Gettysburg Seminary, said "During the latter half of the 20th century, no other individual left a larger imprint on the life of Gettysburg Seminary than Dr. Herman Stuempfle." "On his watch as dean and president the Seminary fortified its reputation for academic excellence," Cooper-White continued, "doubled housing capacity for students, launched the widely renowned Music Gettysburg! Concert series, welcomed the local YWCA to our campus, and navigated the turbulent times as the newly formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America struggled to solidify its system of theological education. But it was in the classroom and chapel where Dr. Stuempfle's most enduring legacy was forged. As professor of homiletics, and author of the widely acclaimed Preaching Law and Gospel, he sounded a defining tone for a whole generation of us who were blessed to be his students."

Stuempfle, a product of the public schools of Hughesville, PA, was a graduate of Susquehanna University and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. He received additional advanced degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York and the doctoral degree (Th.D.) at Southern California School of Theology at Claremont. Before coming to Gettysburg Seminary in 1962 as professor of preaching, he served congregations in York and Gettysburg, PA and in Baltimore, MD. For four years he was associate director of the Board of Social Ministry of the United Lutheran Church in America. In addition to his teaching, he served as seminary chaplain for a brief time and in 1971 he became dean of Gettysburg Seminary.

Following his inauguration in 1976 as the 10th president of the Gettysburg Seminary, the oldest Lutheran graduate and professional school in North America, he spent thirteen years of service as its president. He retired in 1989, remaining a rostered pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).Stuempfle is the author of several books and numerous articles and lectures on preaching, history and theology.

The Rev. Donald McCoid, Bishop of the ELCA's Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod and chairman of the Seminary Board of Directors, said "Herman Stuempfle will long be remembered for his preaching, his hymnody and his personal graciousness. Years after he preached them, we can still remember some of his sermons."

His most widely read theology text, Preaching Law and Gospel, was published by Fortress Press in 1978. He also wrote Preaching in the Witnessing Community (1973) and Theological and Biblical Perspectives on the Laity (1973), and Images for Ministry: Reflections of a Seminary President (1995). He contributed to preaching resources such as Proclamation: Lent. In addition, he wrote scholarly and popular articles for journals, the Lutheran Magazine, and adult Christian education curriculum. Stuempfle and his wife of 50 years, Gretchen S. Parkinson, are the parents of two sons, Stephen and David, and one daughter, Kristin.


In the years of Stuempfle's presidency, the seminary faculty continued to evolve with more than ten appointments. The presence of women in the student body increased from 13% to more than a third of seminarians. The Seminary initiated its Washington, D.C. based program of study and established its House of Studies there during Stuempfle's tenure. At the same time, Stuempfle helped develop the Town and Country Church Institute, created a permanent chaplaincy for students, and initiated a support program for the seminary's overseas students. A major chapel renovation resulted in the installation of the Andover tracker organ and the beginnings of the Music, Gettysburg! concert series. Also under his leadership, the Seminary entered into a long term agreement with the YWCA permitting its facility on the seminary campus. The Seminary also expanded the A. R. Wentz library. Annual support for the seminary grew 400% during his 14 year presidency and a successful capital campaign added significant resources to the seminary's assets.

The Hymn Writer

Stuempfle is among the most honored and respected of hymn writers of the 20th and 21st Centuries. His four volumes of hymn texts, published by GIA Publications, include songs of devotion and reflection; dancing and jubilation; sorrow, wonder, and delight. The collections are entitled: The Word goes Forth : hymns, songs, and carols (1993), Redeeming the time : a cycle of song for the Christian year (1997), Awake our hearts to praise : hymns, songs, and carols (2000), Wondrous Love Has Called Us (2006). His texts have graced Lutheran congregational anniversaries, consecrations of Roman Catholic bishops, and English hymnal supplements.

It was in retirement that he became an active hymn writer. He has written an estimated 550 texts, more than half of them already published. Stuempfle is among the most published hymn writers in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, published in 2006, which features eight of his hymn texts. Stuempfle has always been mindful of the link between preaching and hymn writing, saying "Hymns are the sung testimony to God's mighty acts of grace and judgment," and creating hymns always remained for him a part of his "fundamental vocation to communicate the Gospel." Dr. Mark Oldenburg, the Seminary's Steck-Miller Professor of the Art of Worship, and fellow hymn writer said his "language is simple, glorious, and deep, whether he's preaching or writing."

Community Leader

Dr. Stuempfle was known throughout the Central Pennsylvania area, and Gettysburg in particular, for leadership in community and civic projects. Always taking an active stance in social issues, he participated in the creation of day care centers, served on the Gettysburg area Inter church social action committee, and the community wide observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. He helped create and support prison ministries and a local homeless shelter. He tutored young people in the after school program of Christ Lutheran Church of Gettysburg, where he was a member, and where and chaired the congregation's most recent building expansion and renovation efforts. He was a trustee of both Susquehanna University and Gettysburg College.


Stuempfle has been honored everywhere he has served, spoken and contributed. Symbolic of the esteem with which he was held in many communities over decades, Susquehanna University, Gettysburg College and Thiel College, Greenville, PA. presented him with a honorary degrees. He became the first recipient of the Gettysburg Seminary Distinguished Alumni Award in 1989. The Seminary named a student apartment facility for him and recently began a major project to fund the Herman G. Stuempfle Chair of the Proclamation of the Word in his honor. That endowment project1 milliony crossed the $1million mark on its way to full funding at $1.5 million.

The Gettysburg Rotary organization presented Stuempfle with its fourth 2006 Eisenhower Humanitarian Award, the first going to Eisenhower himself and Bob Hope. He was granted the "Peacemaker Award" from the Gettysburg area based Interfaith Center for Peace and Justice. He was admitted to the Academic Hall of Fame of Hughesville High School in 2003. The Hymn Society of the United States and Canada awarded Stuempfle the elite status of "Fellow of the Hymn Society" in 2004, demonstrating the deep and abiding appreciation for his dynamic creativity in the pulpit, at the lectern, and at the writing desk.

The Rev. Carol Hendrix, Bishop of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, ELCA, gave thanks "to God for the gift of the Rev. Dr. Herman G. Stuempfle Jr., pastor of the church, whose pastoral presence and words have impacted the lives of people throughout the world. A consummate churchman, Dr. Stuempfle used his many God-given gifts in service to Christ's church and as a faithful disciple of the lord Jesus Christ. Through his books, his teaching and preaching, and the hymns he wrote he helped to keep the church faithful. He was a gracious, gentle man whose life we celebrate."

1 comment:

Chip Frontz said...

Nice tribute, Dwight. The Ministerium of Pennsylvania has lost one of its finest - but there's one more Pennsylvanian among the great company of saints from every nation which no one can number.