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In a particularly eloquent passage in his Forum Letter of 30 May 1979 Richard John Neuhaus had the following to say in a story on the foibles of contemporary American Lutheranism: "We are not dealing with an ideal church. We are dealing with a church so muddled and compromised that only a faithful Lord would dare to own up to it." That is such an apt statement, such an exquisitely Lutheran statement, that I promptly typed it on a file card and stuck it on a crowded little cork-board on my office wall above my typewriter. It stands, therefore, as a kind of benediction on my work as I compose this essay --and, more importantly, as a contemporary summary of a couple of the most essential motifs in the view of the church and, by implication, the ministry in the Lutheran symbolical books. The church confessed at Augsburg is a flawed church, a sinners' church.

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