Editor's Column: We’ll bury the bishop in Minnehaha

All the fanfare surrounding the pope’s death and burial left some of us Lutherans nonplussed. When our world leader dies, we may never even notice.

Like most non-Catholics, I liked Pope John Paul II. He did a great job in bringing down communism and finally admitting that Galilee was right, among other things. But his exit from the world stage was a bit grand by Lutheran tradition and made us a little envious.

I was raised in a Lutheran church and still know several Lutheran pastors, but I must admit I was clueless as to the identity of our worldwide Lutheran leader, assuming we have one. Thanks to the miracle of the World Wide Web, I tracked down the name of Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in American and president of the Lutheran World Federation. He’s apparently top dog among Lutherans except for those affiliated with the Missouri Synod, but that’s another story.

Bishop Hanson’s resume looks a bit pale compared to that of John Paul II. Judging by his online biography, he’s spent almost his entire life in Minnesota. His first educational accomplishment was to graduate in 1964 from the Minnehaha Academy. He eventually got some degrees from Harvard, but if he’s a typical Lutheran he’s probably most proud of his degree from Minnehaha because the name sounds funny. In Lutheran culture, that’s pretty hilarious.

Bishop Hanson is a relatively youthful 58 years old, the same age John Paul II was when he took over as pope. I doubt that he’ll keep the job until he drops dead. Lutheran leaders have to run for re-election from time to time and there might be an anti-Minnehaha faction out there somewhere, a branch of Lutherans who want to be taken more seriously, which can’t happen as long as we have a leader who graduated from Minnehaha. A rebellion may be brewing over coffee and cookies as we speak.

I’m hoping Bishop Hanson lives a long life and expires in office so Lutherans throughout the world can attend his funeral at Minnehaha, assuming we hear about the death. To my knowledge, CNN has never reported the death of a Lutheran bishop because nobody seems to care. That could change if we play the Minnehaha angle correctly.

The American Lutheran church needs a spiritual center, and I say it should be the Minihaha Academy, in the heart of Minnesota, ancestral Land of the Lutherans. We should pass the hat and use the proceeds to build a cathedral out of cement blocks, sheetrock and simulated wood grain paneling, and tell the media that legend has it that the body of Martin Luther is somewhere in the basement, under the used coffee pots, where we also plan to bury Bishop Hanson.

Dozens of Lutherans scattered throughout the world could attend the service and fill the chapel, with one or two even spilling out onto the street in front of the Minnehaha Academy. We could invite President George W. Bush or his successor, pointing out that Lutherans also vote. There may not be enough of us to merit lowering the flag to half staff for a week, but dropping it a few inches lower on the pole for several minutes would be appreciated.

We’ll all be there in Minnehaha, waiting for the media coverage of a Lutheran burial ceremony. If we can’t get CNN, we’ll take the Cartoon Network.

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