Lutherans/spiritual disciplines


Dear Martin,

Does the ELCA have spiritual disciplines?  Do they teach spiritual disciplines like fasting, silence, and solitude.  I am not finding much information about spiritual disciplines from a Lutheran perspective.  Is there a reason for this?



Thank you for your question.  The practice of certain spiritual disciplines, such as fasting, silence, and solitude have traditionally not been a part of Lutheran piety and practice.  There may be many reasons for this.  It may stem from our Northern European/Scandinavian beginnings where such practices were less popular.  It may stem from our Protestant roots which, after a time, began to see these practices as "Roman Catholic" and so, less desirable.  In fact, even within the Roman Catholic context, such practices became more practiced among lay people long after the Reformation--before then being observed primarily within monastic life.  It may also be that Lutherans, like many traditional Protestants, were very cerebral in the attitude toward theology and piety, and distrusted any "emotional" trappings or overly "personal" expressions of piety.  

All that being said, many Lutherans have been exploring these disciples, and others for the past generation or so.  To do so, however, we have been basically relying of the wisdom of our sisters and brothers for whom these practices have been used for many years: Roman Catholics and Episcopalians especially, but also folks such as Quakers, Mennonites, and even Buddhists from time to time.  

We therefore, don't have the experience of others Christians and other religions, so you won't find as many Lutheran "experts" and it is not surprising that you would not find much at all on any ELCA site.  We are just too new at it.  I do know many Lutherans who are very skilled at teaching these disciplines, but the "big guns", so to speak, are folks such as Richard Rohr, a Franciscan in New Mexico who runs the Center for Contemplation and Action in Albuquerque; Parker Palmer, an excellent Quaker writer and; C. W. McPherson, an Episcopal priest who has written about keeping the practice of silence.

I hope that this is helpful.

Martin Eldred


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Martin W. Eldred


I have been a Lutheran Christian for 55 years and a Lutheran pastor for almost 27. I can answer most general questions about Luther, Lutheran History, Lutheran Theology, and a Lutheran approach to Biblical Interpretation. I am ELCA, for those who know what that means, and I tend to be moderate theologically. I hope that I can converse with those that are either more conservative or liberal than I, and especially with those who are really just seeking.


Pastors are "generalists" and generally have a working knowledge on many subjects. We are also used to working with a variety of answers from a variety of people. I teach a great deal, especially in the area ofthe New Testament. I particulalry enjoy the Pauline literature.

I have been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, an international gathering of biblical scholars and teachers, since the late 1980s.

I have written a few book reviews for the journal, "Lutheran Quarterly."

I have a B.A. from Pacific Lutheran University in Religion (Biblical Studies)and a Master of Divinity from Wartburg Theological Seminary, and I am currently completing a PhD in New Testament.

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