A newsletter for friends of the Global Mission Institute, Luther Seminary

Global Vision - Fall 2010

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GMI Member Congregation Profile

Central Lutheran, a GMI supporter for 23 years

by Angela Busch, M.Div. Junior


Central Lutheran Church, Minneapolis

Ninety-one years ago, 12 Minneapolis businessmen founded one of the city's first English-speaking Lutheran churches. They founded it on a principle: that this new church would not be an ethnic parish but would be open to everyone who lived in the surrounding area.

Five years later, Central Lutheran Church was bursting at its seams with more than 1,500 members. Five years after that, a new cathedral had been built, an imposing Gothic structure that still stands today at 333 South Twelfth Street in Minneapolis.

What also still stands today at Central is that founding mission: a principle that this church would not be an ethnic parish but would look beyond its immediate congregation to serve the world, members and nonmembers alike.

"Those original businessmen created a ministry that existed to give itself away for the sake of the world from its inception," said Senior Pastor Rick Nelson, '80.

Hence, it is not surprising that Central Lutheran has been one of the most dedicated and loyal congregations to the Global Mission Institute, as well as Luther Seminary more broadly, for the past 23 years.

At a time when many churches are struggling financially, Nelson said Central has seen no downturn in general giving but rather a steady increase, allowing the church to continue its commitment to the GMI, something Nelson said is important in helping Central adapt to changes in global mission over the past two decades.

"The GMI provides a continual push for looking at and discussing global issues," Nelson said. "We want to be a part of that discussion in today's world. That's why we support the GMI—we want to encourage members and friends of Central to do the same thing: get involved and participate and learn."

Nelson added that Central's congregation, sometimes through events such as global mission forums, has always responded with generosity to global mission concerns. Currently, foreign mission represents about 16 to 20 percent of Central's total benevolence; an amount Nelson said is "certainly the highest I've ever experienced."

In addition to a strong congregational partnership, the GMI has had a strong membership base from Central Lutheran since its founding. The Rev. Dr. Arne Sovik, for example, has been a member at Central Lutheran since 1992. Around that same time, through his membership at Central, he became a supporter and friend of the GMI.

Sovik, a retired ELCA pastor and former director of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Department of World Missions, says now, at age 92, that he has been "into overseas mission his entire life," and he believes the GMI helps Luther to stay involved wholeheartedly in global mission.

With his wife, Ruth, a former deputy director of the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism who died 10 years ago, Sovik dedicated much of his life to furthering the cause of global mission. Born to missionary parents in China, he later returned as a missionary there and in Taiwan, finishing his career with 25 years at the LWF headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. He has also returned in recent years.

"As a member of the Central Lutheran global mission committee since 1992, I have been active in assigning funds to various causes, including the GMI," Sovik said, adding that through his contributions to the GMI and his work on the committee, he "endorses and tries to expand the thought and action of Central Lutheran in world missions."

Central also holds regular Global Mission Forums and an annual Global Mission Festival, complete with music, liturgy and speakers from around the world. Knowing the GMI will bring great value, each year Central Lutheran invites them to participate as an exhibitor at the Global Mission Festival. Members of the Luther Seminary international student community are also invited as special guests to the celebration.

One of Program and Relations Coordinator Chenar Howard's first congregational events as a member of the GMI staff was the Global Mission Festival at Central.

"I was so impressed by the entire event, specifically the service celebrating global mission," Howard said.

"It is a special treat to introduce the international students to Central Lutheran, especially when I explain that it is one of the GMI's supporting congregations. At the end of the day, the students understand why."