By Cheryl Magness
This summer’s LCMS convention in Tampa, Fla., included a symbolic passing of the vice-presidential baton on July 21 as the Synod’s retiring first vice-president, the Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr., gave the opening convention essay only a few hours before his successor was elected.
Almost two months later, on Sept. 13, the baton was officially passed when the Rev. Peter K. Lange was installed as the Synod’s new first vice-president during a Service of Installation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
From Kansas to St. Louis
Prior to becoming first vice-president, Lange served as president of the LCMS Kansas District (2015–19), and, before that, as senior pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Topeka, Kan. (1999–2015), and associate pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Concordia, Mo. (1990–99). He is a graduate of Concordia University, River Forest, Ill. (1984), and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (M.Div., 1988; S.T.M, 1998).
Lange has served as secretary of the LCMS Council of Presidents (2018–19), a member of the 2016 Resolution 13-01A Task Force “To Extol and Equip the Blessed Partnership between the Royal Priesthood and the Office of the Public Ministry,” a floor committee chairman in 2016 and 2019, and a member of numerous boards and committees for the LCMS Missouri and Kansas districts. He has also participated in short-term mission trips to England, Russia, Czech Republic, Germany and South Africa.
Lange and his wife, Marcia, have four grown daughters. They recently relocated to St. Louis, and Lange began working at the LCMS International Center (IC) on Sept. 3. Right now, he says, “I hardly know what’s in store,” but adds that he has already begun to gain a new, “huge, exciting, wonderful, big-picture” perspective on how the work at the IC serves the entire Synod. Succeeding Lange in the Kansas District is former Kansas District First Vice-President Rev. Justin Panzer, pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, Abilene, Kan.
About half of Lange’s job as first vice-president will consist of overseeing the colloquy program, and the other half will consist of “whatever the president asks me to do.” He will remain on the Council of Presidents and will also serve ex-officio on the LCMS Board of Directors and the Commission on Theology and Church Relations. He was recently appointed to the Board of Regents of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. Over the next triennium, he will assist the president in visiting all 35 LCMS districts.
“A realistic optimist”
As Lange makes the transition from district president to first vice-president of the Synod, he is working closely with retiring First Vice-President Mueller. Mueller was honored with a Service of Thanksgiving, followed by a reception at the IC on Aug. 28.
Preaching at the service on 1 Cor. 1:18–25 (“We preach Christ crucified”), LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said, “As I was contemplating our decade of service together in these positions, Herb, I could not help but notice that you have given me a whole lot of gray hair while, ironically, gaining none yourself. And this, too, is the theology of the cross because you did all the work, so why do I have all the gray hair?”
Turning serious, Harrison told Mueller, “You know the wisdom of the cross like few do. … How this message of Christ crucified has made you a complete realist and, at the same time, a complete optimist in your career as a churchman. That’s a wonderful combination: a realistic optimist.”
Mueller’s last official day as first vice-president was Aug. 31, but he will continue in a transitional role at the IC for several more months. Since May 3, he has been receiving aggressive treatment for brain cancer (surgery on May 8, followed by chemotherapy and proton radiation treatments). “Thanks be to God I am feeling fine and doing well,” Mueller said, adding that he and his wife, Faith, are “deeply thankful for all the prayers of God’s people on our behalf these past few months.”
Mueller graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1979. He served three congregations in Illinois over the next 15 years. In 1994, he was elected president of the LCMS Southern Illinois District, continuing in that role until his election as first vice-president of the Synod in 2010. In all, he has served on the Synod’s Council of Presidents for over 25 years, participating in 101 meetings of the COP and over 50 Call Day services, all of which he deems a “privilege.”
In retirement, the Muellers are looking forward to spending time with their children and grandchildren in Iowa and Indiana. Mueller is currently writing a book “extolling the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the center of our theology and proclamation — ‘He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised again for our justification’” (Rom. 4:25). He described Lange as “a man of many gifts who will do a great job and work well with President Harrison and all of you, for the sake of the Gospel.”
Reflecting on both his years of service and his upcoming retirement, Mueller said that his prevailing emotion is one of gratitude: “It has been an honor and a blessing to serve. … Count me ‘thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now’ ” (Phil. 1:5).
As Lange pondered following in the footsteps of the former first vice-president, he admitted that “those are big shoes to fill. Everybody knows that, and I do, too.”
But Lange shared the advice of a friend, another Synod vice-president, who told him to look at his own feet and reminded him that they are not supposed to fill any shoes but his own. “The Lord has given me certain gifts, just as He has given Herb certain gifts,” Lange observed. “If you don’t try to be who the Lord didn’t make you to be, you’ll do just fine.”
Pondering those new, vice-presidential shoes, Lange echoed Mueller’s assessment of the position Mueller is departing and to which he has been called. “The word ‘privilege’ comes to mind. It’s a great responsibility, and an honor. I love being able to understand our wonderful church body in a way that’s pretty rare. I pray that the Lord keep me faithful and cause me to honor both Him and this office.”
It is always fascinating to hear the back story to a photo. LCMS Managing Photojournalist Erik Lunsford shares this one about the photo below: “I took this one of LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Peter K. Lange as his election was announced at the convention on July 21. He later shared with me that LCMS Wyoming District President Rev. John Hill, pictured behind him on the right, is a close friend, having attended seminary at the same time as Peter and his brother, the Rev. Jonathan Lange. ‘Because John Hill was single, and his home was in Texas,’ said Peter Lange, ‘he became a sort of fourth brother to our family. We were often together at my parents’ home for family celebrations, and because I did two extra years of graduate work, John, Jonathan and I received our first calls on the same night. So, it’s pretty interesting to me that, 33 years after I first met John Hill, THAT picture would be taken at my election to first vice-president of the LCMS! Who knows the mind of the Lord?’” (LCMS/Erik M. Lunsford)
Posted Oct. 3, 2019