Lutherans tap Pa. woman as vice president Addie Butler to serve as bishop's top non-ordained adviser

September 08, 1997|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

PHILADELPHIA - Dr. Addie J. Butler has been elected as national vice president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Butler, 51, is the first African-American to hold ELCA's top lay position.

She was born a Philadelphia Baptist and had her first brush with Lutherans in the streets of Washington, where a minister and members of a Lutheran church near Howard University were trying to keep the peace in a troubled inner-city neighborhood in 1969. She was a Howard student then, and she liked what she saw. "The pastor was African-American, the congregation was predominantly African-American, so I figured that was characteristic of the Lutheran Church," she said.

Butler, a resident of Germantown, Pa., is an assistant dean at the Community College of Philadelphia. She says she has stayed a Lutheran because of the church's teaching: "We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone. I resonated with that."

The ELCA, formed 10 years ago from three Lutheran denominations, has 5.2 million members - 98 percent of them white, but Butler says she has ideas for changing the ELCA's face. "The suburbs need the city, the city needs the suburbs, and the church needs to be in both places," she said. "As the ELCA, we are a baby church, and we will sing a new song."

The ELCA is run by its presiding bishop from a Chicago office and has no president. Butler, in "a 'non-stipendiary position" - will convene several national church council meetings a year, serve as a top adviser to Anderson and represent Evangelical Lutherans outside the church. That won't cut into her dean's duties, she said, but will require some cutting back on local church activities. Butler is vice president of the five-county Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, whose bishop, Roy Almquist, backed her for the national post.

Pub Date: 9/08/97

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