As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we take a brief look
at the lives of influential and important Lutheran leaders and theologians.
Carl Monrad Gullerud was born into the Norwegian Synod in 1908. His father was a pastor in that synod, serving in Tracy, Minnesota; and when the majority agreed (in 1917) to a merger based on a faulty agreement (the Opgjoer), he sided with the minority and became a founding member of what later was called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). Thus Carl was schooled early in the values, and difficulties, of maintaining a confessional Lutheranism.
Carl received his higher education in the Missouri Synod, attending Concordia Lutheran High School and College in St. Paul, Minnesota. He graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis in 1932. While there, he sat in the classroom of Franz Pieper and came into contact with other orthodox pillars of the old Missouri Synod, as well as with others who, sadly, would contribute to Missouri’s decline, and with whom he would later be forced to clash.
His first call, to South Dakota, involved an interesting arrangement: the congregation in Volga was in the Norwegian Synod, whereas Mt. Calvary in Brookings was part of the Missouri Synod. At the beginning of his ministry he wed Ruth Rodning. They were married until her death in 1947, and their union was blessed with seven children.
In 1941 Gullerud had accepted a call to Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Mankato, Minnesota. There he was pastor to many of the professors and students at Bethany Lutheran College. There he also got to know Martha Brudvig, the head cook at Bethany, whom he married in 1950. The Lord gave them two children.
Gullerud’s zeal for the gospel led him to canvass the area around Mankato to locate those interested in forming a congregation. In the mid-1940’s an unused church was purchased and moved to Eagle Lake, and Salem Lutheran Church was organized. While there, he also served as Vice President and then President of the ELS. These were days of contention within the Synodical Conference, and C.M. found it necessary to follow the example of his father and leave the synod he loved. He was active in the formation of the CLC and was a charter member. To support his large family during those trying times, he became a salesman of World Book encyclopedias and helped gather data for the U.S. census.
In our earliest days, C.M. Gullerud was one of those called to teach in our newly-formed seminary, first in the basement of Immanuel Lutheran church in Mankato, and then later in Eau Claire. As a seminary professor, he was instrumental in influencing a new generation of confessional pastors with his sure knowledge of the Scriptures. He had a unique grasp of comparative symbolics, knowing almost as much about Catholic and Reformed theology as he did about Lutheran. While his teaching style was never flashy, it was sturdy and confident—done with authority. Questions were answered concisely and precisely.
Gullerud’s influence was not only in the classroom. He was active in administration, serving as the President of Immanuel Lutheran College for sixteen years. In addition to all that that involves, he also ran the student bank. One afternoon each week he would personally get acquainted with us wee freshmen, as we made deposits to or (more likely) withdrawals from this bank. It was one example of his conscious attempt to initiate contact with all the students at Immanuel.
On the synodical level, C.M. served as convention moderator in the synod’s early years. He was also a longtime chairman of the synod’s Board of Doctrine.
But perhaps his greatest contribution was through his writing. As assistant editor of The Confessional Lutheran, he sought to influence the Synodical Conference to remain true to its past. As editor of The Lutheran Sentinel, he sought to influence the ELS in the days of controversy with Missouri. As regular contributor and then as editor of the Journal of Theology, he contributed his “Panorama” column, in which he surveyed the religious scene near and far and offered his wise assessment. In retirement, he wrote a number of devotional books.
Norman Greve is pastor of St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iron River, Michigan.