Friday, March 27, 2009

Hard Times

What's the best way to lose weight?  Cut off your head.  Or remove some organ whose immediate function may not be readily apparent -- "Hey, what's a spleen for, anyway?"

That's basically what the ELCA did yesterday, when it terminated its archivist, Elisabeth Wittman.  The archives are an essential tool for any researchers into American Lutheranism, and Wittman has supervised them skillfully for years.  She has also organized gatherings of the regional and synodical archivists, helping to coordinate the collective memory of  the church.

Those of us who don't work at Higgins Road have long since made a parlor game of trying to decide which functionaries are least functional.  Or which functions are the poorest use of our stewardship funds (episcopal junkets to Gaza, anybody?).  And sure, an archivist may look like a luxury -- "All she does is pitter around with those dusty old hymnals, right?"  But that's wrong.  Archivists and historians are like your church treasurer, except that the treasures they deal with are more important than money.  Without them, we will not know where we have been, or how we got to where we are.  And without that knowledge -- including far more detail than most people can imagine -- it will be hard for us to make realistic plans for the future.

2 comments:

mark said...

Shit! Fire the bishop NOT the archivist! Is there anything we can do?

revcathyellen said...

And in The Lutheran that just arrived, this news: Grace Matters cancelled; regional Campus Ministry coordinators let go. I can personally attest that if it had not been for the NE coordinator, campus ministry in NY would not have made it through the transition when I was on the board. And I totally agree about the junket to the mideast!