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Concordia Honoree Turns 80

July 10, 2024
Fridrich Schorlemmer received an honorary doctorate (LL.D.) from Concordia University Texas

In 2002, the Rev. Friedrich Schorlemmer received an honorary doctorate (LL.D.) from Concordia University Texas. At the time, he was not well known in Austin or, for that matter, in the United States. He was a Lutheran pastor in Wittenberg, Germany whom Germans today regard as the “Father of the East German Revolution.” Concordia’s president at the time, Dr. David Zersen, went to meet him at the Protestant Academy of Saxony-Anhalt in Wittenberg where he taught, as well as served as a pastor at the famous Castle Church. Dr. Zersen met with him at the Academy and proposed that he consider accepting an honorary doctor’s degree from Concordia. It was a bold proposal.

Zersen’s interests in those days included broadening the reputation of Concordia, which was often still regarded by many local Austin residents as “a kind of Bible school.” Hence the proposed candidates for honorary degrees often had nationwide and worldwide reputations. In 1983, Friedrich Schorlemmer had begun a movement called “Swords to Ploughshares” based on Isaiah 2. In the Cranach courtyard in Wittenberg, he had a blacksmith hammer a sword into a plow, and then he followed the act with a devotion. German television was present and the imagery was sent through East and West Germany. Schorlemmer became a leader of the pastors in the Democratic Peace Movement who wanted to exchange militarism for a commitment to peaceable economics. It was to become one of the major turning points in the 20th century. Today in the Wikipedia article on Friedrich Schorlemmer, Concordia’s doctorate is listed as one of his honoraria.

In the year’s following, Schorlemmer has written over thirty books, is regarded as one of Germany’s prominent intellectuals, and as one of those most responsible for bringing down peacefully in 1989 the German Democratic Republic. When he visited Austin in 2002 to receive his honorary doctorate, and to deliver for the first time, an address in English, he pondered Eloiese Krabbenhoft’s Luther statue and said, “It is the best of all of them! In many, Luther stands atop a high pedestal insisting he has found the truth. Here in Austin, he is portrayed as a reflective 18-year-old student at Erfurt searching the Scriptures-- just as all Concordia students do today.” 

As Friedrich Schorlemmer turns 80, Concordia’s constituency sends its congratulations and best wishes to a man who through his life and work has brought distinction both to Concordia and to his nation.