Book Reviews & Commentary

Thoughts about In the Footsteps of Phoebe...

        Lutherans in America have often been accused of “quietism.” Walter Rauschenbusch, father of the social gospel, charged that Lutherans have never influenced American life in proportion to “their numbers, the splendid quality of their Teutonic stock, and the ability of their leaders.” Ernst Troeltsch blamed this “quietism” on our religion. “Whenever it becomes dubious about the world and about sin,” Troeltsch wrote, Lutheranism “withdraws into the refuge of inner happiness over justification through faith.”

        Cheryl D. Naumann’s valuable book, In the Footsteps of Phoebe, shows how Lutherans in America have a long history of doing good for their neighbors, and particularly how Lutheran women have served their churches and communities in love.

        Especially valuable for researchers are the extensive primary documents she has assembled, often in their entirety. These documents convey not only the information but also the spirit of those involved in the Missouri Synod’s deaconess movement.

Mark E. Braun, Professor of Theology, Wisconsin Lutheran College; author of A Tale of Two Synods: Events That Led to the Split between Wisconsin and Missouri.

        Perhaps because The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod concerted its efforts in securing a firm Biblical, Lutheran doctrinal grounding for its congregations after its founding in 1847, it did not immediately heed the voices of the Inner Mission Movement on the European continent.  When LCMS attention was directed to the Inner Mission it occurred about 1900 and frequently at local initiatives.  One of those was the ministry of deaconesses whose history is wonderfully recorded in Deaconess Cheryl D. Naumann's comprehensive study before you.  A colorful and wandering history until the Synod created its own program in 1980, today a dedicated corps of LCMS rostered deaconesses continues the Inner Mission focus on loving and serving Christ’s people. 

Frederick S. Weiser, Professor Emeritus and Archivist for Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pa.; foremost ELCA authority on deaconesses; author of Serving Love: Chapters in the Early History of the Diaconate in American Lutheranism, and Love’s Response: A Story of Lutheran Deaconesses in America.

        This book is a rare treasure which is not often encountered even in confessional circles – a book defending the preservation of orthodoxy written by protectresses of that orthodoxy!  It is a good thing for a male pastor to defend the usefulness of the diaconate while contending that its parameters be kept doctrinally pure.  It is a wonderful, blessed thing when that affirmation of the orthodox role of the diaconate comes from the mouths of the deaconesses themselves.

        Our church body owes a deep debt of gratitude to these women, without whom we would have no confessional Lutheran diaconate.  The Synod should be made aware of what a miracle from God we have received though the service of these ladies.

Theresa Jo List, recent Assistant to the Dean of the Graduate School, for Diaconal Studies, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri.


        In a culture which increasingly upholds the god of self service, God calls His children to serve one’s neighbor as he has need. In the Footsteps of Phoebe chronicles the service of faithful Lutheran women who by their confession and lives have selflessly cared for their neighbor with acts of mercy.  Both the deaconess community and the Lutheran Church owe a debt of gratitude to Deaconess Naumann for her careful research of the deaconess movement within the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.  The record and voices of many, past and present, come together to tell this beautiful story of God’s guidance and blessing. I commend this book to everyone who desires to know this important and ongoing story in the life of the church.

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