The Lutheran Hour

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The Lutheran Hour is a U.S. religious radio program that proclaims the message of Jesus Christ on nearly 800 stations throughout North American, as well as by weekly audiences on the American Forces Network and XM Satellite Radio FamilyTalk 170. First broadcast on October 2, 1930, and functioning as an outreach ministry of Lutheran Hour Ministries, it is the longest-running Christian outreach radio program in the world. Beginning on April 24, 2011, Rev. Gregory Seltz became the Speaker of The Lutheran Hour. The program's sermons are available online 24 hours a day, seven days a week at www.lutheranhour.org.

The Lutheran Hour is the flagship program for Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM), which is a Christian outreach ministry supporting churches worldwide in its mission of "Bringing Christ to the Nations—and the Nations to the Church". LHM is also a volunteer movement more than 100,000 people strong. LHM produces Christian radio and TV programming for broadcast, as well as Internet and print communications, dramas, music, and outreach materials, to reach the unchurched in more than 40 countries.

History of Lutheran Hour Ministries[edit]

In 1917, a group of 12 men attending a convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Milwaukee met to settle a $100,000 debt incurred by the Church body. They accomplished that goal, and in the process, formed the Lutheran Laymen's League (LLL). The LLL next raised more than $2.7 million to fund a pension plan for professional church workers.

Radio programming[edit]

In 1930, the LLL made a commitment to fund one year of broadcasting a weekly national radio program to be called The Lutheran Hour. The first program was broadcast October 2, 1930. The Lutheran Hour continues on the air today, making it the world's oldest continually broadcast Christ-centered radio program. From the program's early years to today, speakers Dr. Walter A. Maier, Dr. Armin C. Oldsen, Dr. Lawrence Acker, Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Rev. Wallace Schulz, Dr. Dale A. Meyer, and the Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus have shared God's changeless Word and offered comfort and hope to millions.

The success of The Lutheran Hour led the organization to kick off another radio program in 1991. Woman to Woman, hosted by Phyllis Wallace, took an in-depth look at issues facing women and handled these topics in a caring Christian manner. Guests included Kurt Warner, Wynona Judd, and Barbara Mandrell. At its peak, the program was heard on more than 400 stations throughout North America, and through RealAudio on the Internet.

LHM launched Life...revised in February 2006 to take the place of Woman to Woman. The program engages unchurched listeners with topics of interest to them while presenting them with a Christian worldview. Co-hosts "Dr. Mark" Hannemann and Michelle Bauer provide wise and lively discussions about family, health, financial, and other issues with Christian integrity, street smarts, and compassion. Dr. Mark is a Lutheran church—Missouri Synod pastor, a professional mental health practitioner, and director of a Christian counseling center. Michelle, a talented media professional and mother of three, provides a fresh female perspective to the discussions. The show offers something for everyone. Life...revised reminds Christians and non-Christians that life really is a series of revisions, and there is hope for the future no matter what has happened in their past.

International ministries[edit]

In 1940. the international thrust of the LLL ministry began with The Lutheran Hour being broadcast by Dr. Andrew Melendez in Spanish. That same year the LLL opened its first international ministry center in the Philippines. Five years later, it opened a ministry center in Australia. With the scope of the organization becoming more worldwide in nature, the word "international" was officially added to the LLL's name in 1927. Today, the organization airs programming in more than 50 languages to people in more than 40 countries, staffed almost entirely by nationals of the countries where it operates. These devout Christians use radio and TV programming, the Internet, dramas, music, Bible correspondence courses, printed materials, and other media to share Christ in and around their countries, often at great personal risk.

Television programming[edit]

In 1952, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod ventured into television with a dramatic series entitled This Is the Life. The program examined contemporary moral problems and gave Christian solutions. In the early years, This Is the Life was a drama series featuring the Fisher family. In later years, it was an anthology series with a different set of characters each week. Several famous actors made guest appearances on This Is the Life during this period, including Jack Nicholson, Buddy Ebsen, and Leonard Nimoy. The program aired from 1952 until 1988, first in syndication and then on NBC. This Is the Life reruns continue today on a limited basis in the U.S. and other countries, where the voices are often dubbed into native languages.

On Main Street was also a popular TV program. Hosted by Dr. Dale A. Meyer, the former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour, the program shared practical spiritual teaching on today's issues from a Christ-centered, biblical perspective. Guests included Jimmy Carter, Kathy Ireland, and Mary Lou Retton. Broadcast on more than 100 over-the-air stations and nearly 125 cable stations, On Main Street at one time had a potential reach of more than 50 million viewing households per week. The program is no longer in production.

Today's television programming includes Christmas and Easter specials dubbed into several languages and broadcast on stations around the world through LHM's international ministry centers. The holiday specials include Little Shepherd, Red Boots for Christmas, Christmas Is, The City That Forgot Christmas, The Stableboy's Christmas, The Puzzle Club Easter Adventure, Easter Is, and Three Days.

A new identity[edit]

In 1992, due to the popularity of The Lutheran Hour radio program, the International LLL chose Lutheran Hour Ministries as the overall identity for its media outreach programs. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Lutheran Hour Ministries continues to explore new media and to expand its use of others.

Today, through Christian radio and TV programming, Internet and print communications, dramas, music, and congregational outreach training, LHM works with The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church—Canada, and congregations worldwide in "Bringing Christ to the Nations—and the Nations to the Church". Last year, LHM reached nearly 1 million people worldwide, and nearly 80,000 referrals were made to local pastors as a result of Lutheran Hour Ministries' media programs and initiatives.

Current and past speakers[edit]

2002 Removal of speaker Wallace Schulz[edit]

In July 2002, just weeks after his promotion from associate speaker to main speaker, Dr. Wallace Schulz was involved in an LCMS controversy that resulted in his removal from the show. Acting in his capacity as LCMS Second Vice President, Schulz suspended LCMS Atlantic District president David Benke, ruling that Benke, by taking part in an inter-faith prayer event at Yankee Stadium to commemorate the victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, had engaged in syncretism and unionism, practices prohibited by the LCMS. (Benke's suspension was later overturned on appeal.) The show's board of governors, shortly following Schulz's elevation to main speaker, had requested that he recuse himself from the Benke adjudication to avoid "a conflict of interest" in his duties to the International Lutheran Laymen's League, which operates Lutheran Hour Ministries and had not taken an official position on the Benke case in order to avoid alienating members holding differing views on the issue. When Schulz nevertheless accepted the Benke case, the board relieved him of his duties while keeping him on the payroll, explaining that the radio program had been "compromised" by Schulz's participation in church politics,[1][2] and that it might serve to "polarize" the International Lutheran Laymen's League.[3] The League soon offered Schulz a return to the show under condition that he accept certain stipulations for future conduct, but Schulz refused to accept these restrictions and thus did not return to the show.

Schulz's removal, like the Benke case itself, proved extremely controversial within the LCMS. His supporters argued that Schulz had a constitutional duty to rule in the case, and thus could not recuse himself upon the board of governors’ request.[4] The Rev. Eric Stefanski, in a column published by the conservative LCMS group Concord, accused the International Lutheran Laymen's League of waging "a massive, twisted PR battle" against Schulz, and of presenting him with "ultimatums that no pastor could agree to without denying his Ordination vows."[5] Supporters of Schulz also argued that a drop in financial receipts at the ILLL, which led to layoffs and program cancellations in 2003, were attributable primarily to donor and listener dissatisfaction over the speaker's removal.[6][7] Opponents of Schulz's actions, on the other hand, praised the decision to suspend the speaker, with many arguing, as a column published by the liberal LCMS organization Jesus First put it, that those who disagreed with Schulz's actions were "working hard to present views more representative of this church."[8]

Schulz now serves as an evangelist and editor for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, an LCMS organization dedicated to translating theological works into the languages of the world.

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