Rev. Henry L. Lieske, a retired Lutheran pastor of moderate theological
views, spent his career in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
(LC-MS). Born on October 21, 1911, he was the son of Henry F. and
Clara (Blaesing) Lieske of Henderson, Minnesota. He attended public
and parochial schools before enrolling in 1925 at Concordia College
in St. Paul, Minnesota, a combination four-year high school and
two-year junior college. At Concordia, Lieske followed the preministerial
training course of the Missouri Synod. From 1931 to 1935, Lieske
attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he was active in
the Student Missionary Society and the Lutheran City Mission of
After graduating from Concordia Seminary, Lieske served in Kendalville,
Indiana as secretary and assistant to Dr. M.F. Kretzmann, Secretary
of the LC-MS. In addition to his office duties, Lieske assisted
in the local Lutheran parish by preaching and teaching Sunday School.
He also worked with the youth organization known as the Walther
and its Camp Limberlost.
From 1938 to 1943, Lieske served as pastor of Redeemer Lutheran
Church in Warsaw, Indiana and Calvary Lutheran Church in Plymouth,
two mission congregations of the Central District of the LC-MS.
In addition to his pastorate in Plymouth, Lieske served as pastor
Lutheran students at Culver Military Academy at Culver, Indiana.
When a student from the academy, and his parents from Denver, members
of the American Lutheran Church, attended services at Calvary,
and also wished to commune, Lieske was forced to start reexamining
Missouri Synod theological position on “close” Communion
in which he had been schooled.
While serving as the pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in
Elyria, Ohio, from 1943 to 1955, Lieske witnessed the developing
conflict within LC-MS. In 1945, a document known as “A Statement,” signed
by forty-four moderate Lutheran pastors, prompted Lieske, initially
opposed to the document, to study in a new light the New Testament
and the writings of the sixteenth-century Lutheran reformers. He
began to question the brand of inerrancy of Holy Scripture which
he had been taught, “sinful unionism,” creation vs. evolution,
and other points of controversy then divided moderates from conservatives
within the Missouri Synod.
Lieske’s interest in the area of pastoral care and his contact
with a variety of clerical viewpoints during his Ohio pastorate helped
him to articulate his position as a moderate church man within the
Missouri Church. In the early 1950s, he attended a week’s seminar
conducted by Chaplain Granger Westberg (d. 1999) in a hospital setting
in Chicago on counseling, mental health, psychosomatic illnesses,
and related subjects. Subsequently, Lieske enrolled in courses in
pastoral counseling at Oberlin College Graduate School of Theology
in Oberlin, Ohio and contributed to a workshop program on pastoral
counseling sponsored by the Central District of the LC-MS. Lieske
developed a deep appreciation for the approach employed by the psychiatrists
and counselors in their fields, with its emphasis on total acceptance
of the individual “where he or she is at” quite apart
from approval of their actions or ideas. It seemed to Lieske that
was an approach very akin to that of Jesus Christ. Transferring the
approach to the ecclesiastical sphere, he came gradually to adopt
theological “slants” that were in some areas at variance
with his own immediate tradition, but which were, he believed, directly
descendent from the New Testament writers, Luther, and the Reformation
reformers. Lieske’s attendance at numerous pastoral conferences
in the Cleveland area brought him into contact with the (in Lieske’s
words) “conservative” pastors from the Greater Cleveland
area, the “moderate” clergy of Lorain County, and clergy
of other Protestant denominations meeting in the Elyria Ministerial
Lieske received a call in 1955 to start the St. Timothy Lutheran
Church in east Portland, Oregon, at S.E. 145th and Powell. During
his pastorate, Lieske served on the Board of Control (later called
the Board of Regents) of Concordia College (1958-67), the Board
of Social Welfare of the Northwest District of the LC-MS, and on
of the Lutheran Welfare Association of Oregon. His efforts, along
with those of others, resulted in the inclusion of the LC-MS in
the work of the association, which was later named the Lutheran
Service of Oregon.
Lieske’s call to Burnsville, Minnesota in 1967 coincided with
the heightening of the conflict in the LC-MS. According to Lieske,
the LC-MS was beginning to narrow down its confessional basis, as
spelled out in the Synod’s constitution, and increasingly resorted
to “rules and regulations” as a means of enjoining doctrinal
consensus. Lieske’s belief in retaining the Synod’s confessional
basis was one sign of his identification with the moderate movement
in Missouri. At Burnsville Rev. Lieske worked hard to encourage his
congregation to study both sides of the growing conflict.
In 1976, Rev. Lieske retired from active parish ministry and
moved to Golden Valley, Minnesota. There, he became a member of
Memorial Church in Plymouth, an LC-MS congregation that had joined
the newly formed Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC).
Lieske occasionally preached and conducted services, taught Bible
classes, conducted pastoral visits, and served on the congregational
refugee-resettlement committee. In 1980, Prairie Lutheran Congregation
of Eden Prairie asked that Lieske serve as its Interim Pastor.
In addition to his occasional pastoral duties, Lieske over many
enjoyed collecting items relating to American postal history. His
historical interest and archival bent, along with his affection
for the Lutheran tradition, finally led him in the late 1970s to
a research collection documenting the moderate movement within
the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
Henry Lieske married Marguerite Jones on June 7, 1939. They had
six children: Jeanne, Jay, Joy, Janice, Jacquelyn, and Judy.
Rev. Lieske died on September 13, 2002 in Edina, Minnesota.