Monday, November 20, 2023

Rev. Arthur Simon+

Longtime family friend Rev. Arthur ("Art") Simon died on November 14, 2023. To read an official announcement, go here.

Art's father and my grandfather were colleagues in ministry, serving as fellow Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pastors in Oregon. Art, his brother Paul (not the famous songwriter/singer but the famous US senator from Illinois, who was also a one-time presidential candidate), my uncle Bob, and my dad were friends when they were active in the LCMS's youth organization, the Walther League. Art wrote briefly about his friendship with my dad in the opening chapter of one of his books, The Rising of Bread for the World (Paulist, 2009). He also wrote about my dad, and about my nephew Andrew, in another of his books, Rediscovering the Lord's Prayer (Augsburg/Fortress, 2005). Art and my uncle Bob were co-students at Concordia, Portland, and Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. And then, years later, after the death of my dad, Art and my mom became very close friends, not least because of their shared interest in the Oregon Ducks football team. I thought perhaps Art and my mom might get married, but that didn't happen for various reasons. In 2014, when my wife, son, and I visited Art and his wife, Shirley, in Baltimore, he graciously gave me his entire library, which we brought back to Valpo in a large rented van. 

From my time on the faculty at Concordia, Portland, through my years here at Valpo, Art has been a mentor to me, especially in matters regarding the relationship between Christian faith and public service. (When I was facing oppositional headwinds in the LCMS over the issues of women's ordination and six-day creationism, Art was a frequent conversation partner. He provided me with a lot of pastoral consolation in those difficult years!)

I'm grateful to God for Art's life and ministry. I am also glad that some of my former Valpo students, while serving as interns in Washington (or as participants in various summer fellowships), benefited from Art's vision and expertise when they reached out to him. 

As the founder and first president of Bread for the World, Art tirelessly worked to end poverty and hunger. His engagement with these issues initially grew out of his pastoral ministry on the lower east side of New York City. Along with a dozen other church leaders in his region, Art began to brainstorm about how they could address the local and global root causes of hunger. They wanted to lead Christians to try "to prevent hunger from happening in the first place rather than just reacting to it." So toward that end, Bread for the World was founded in 1974. (If you watch Rick Steves' travel show on PBS, you'll see a brief promo for Bread. I once had a brief conversation with Rick, in which he shared how much Art's first book about hunger had changed his whole outlook on that issue.)

To learn more about Bread for the World, go here.

To quote from Bread's announcement about Art's death: "His work has helped initiate programs that have reduced hunger, decreased poverty, and improved nutrition, impacting hundreds of millions of people in the United States and around the world."

Bread's current president, Eugene Cho, nicely summarizes Art's legacy: "To this day, I’m inspired by the three ideas he had in the founding of Bread: to prevent hunger from happening in the first place rather than just reacting to it; to work within the system of American democracy to ensure political leaders hear about hunger from their constituents; and to organize Christians to speak up collectively against hunger – these speak to things that are as relevant in the 2020s as they were in the 1970s."

Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints. May light perpetual shine upon Art, and may God grant comfort and peace to Shirley, their family, and all who mourn Art's death.

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