Dear Mr. Lehmann,
I would like to make three responses to comments made in the July, 2007, issue of The Lutheran with regard to my address to the WordAlone national convention. But before I do so I want to share with you my high regard for your editorial leadership of this important voice of the ELCA and to say how honored I have been both to write for your periodical and to work closely with your outstanding editorial colleagues. Thank you for this excellent ministry.
Before embarking on my response I should say that I was privileged, especially as a non-member of WordAlone, to be invited to be in dialogue with this remarkable group of faithful and committed Lutherans. My complete lecture can be found on their website and your readers should know where it can be read in its entirety so that they might be able to reach their own conclusions as to what I actually said on that occasion.
1. In Gayle Aldrich's article on WordAlone she gives the impression of citing two paragraphs from my address by the explicit use of quotation marks. Yet the first and longer paragraph cannot be found in my lecture; it simply is not there. What we apparently have here is Ms. Aldrich's compilation and interpretation, often incorrect and misleading, of remarks made at different points in the hour-long address. This deception, coupled with her second brief quotation removed fully from its pastoral and academic context, can have only one goal, whether intended or not: to mislead your readers.
2. Timothy Wengert, a distinguished and highly respected colleague of mine, appears to be responding to Gayle Aldrich's skewed summary falsely attributed to me rather than to my complete text. This is, of course, unfortunate, since it overlooks the detailed theological and academic nature of my remarks. Professor Wengert seems to have overlooked my citation of Luther's own harsh words about those who misinterpret Scripture when he advises us to take seriously Luther's exposition of the eighth commandment in the matters at hand. While fully respecting the eighth commandment, I would, with Luther and the Heidelberg Disputation, agree that a theologian of the Church Catholic is required to "call a thing what it actually is" and to point out false teaching for the purpose of public discussion and dialogue. I should also mention that not one reviewer of my Who Owns the Bible? Toward the Recovery of a Christian Hermeneutic (Crossroad, 2006) has referred to the key phrase "alien hermeneutics" as "incendiary." Such language only engenders false and misleading impressions.
3. In your own editorial comments you indicate that my remarks were "alarming" because they "just ramp up discord, stoking even more invective" serving only "to divide, not reconcile or correct." Personal judgments such as these are unfortunate since they never deal with the substance of my argument nor recognize the ecumenical and reconciling nature of my forty-three years of ordained ministry. The very point of my WordAlone lecture was to deepen our understanding of "Scripture as the Presence of Christ" by correcting those tendencies in the ELCA that undermine, intentionally or not, the reconciling and redeeming power of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Sincerely in Christ,
(The Rev. Canon) Karl P. Donfried, Dr. theol.
CC: Gayle Aldrich, Timothy Wengert, Mark Hanson, Lowell Almen