ERIN BAKER; News Writer:

A University Pastor candidate hopes for the opportunity next year to incorporate his experiences from working at Trinity Lutheran College to help college students explore diversity and Lutheran identity on campus.

Reverend Erik Samuelson, a Pacific Lutheran University alumnus, said during an open forum on April 13 that he feels called to work with college students in the PLU community, hoping to engage with Lutheran heritage while being open to diverse neighbors and expressions. With five years of experience as the University Pastor at Trinity Lutheran College, Samuelson learned to articulate ways of engaging with Christian faith and practice among a diverse community. He takes a particular stand on the ways he believes ministry should interact with its community.

erik Samuelson“We need to apologize for the things Martin Luther said and the way Lutherans have moved forward, especially with Islam and doubly-especially with Judaism,” he said. “He wrote some nasty stuff that […] has been used for evil rather than good. We need to own that and claim that and engage differently.”

Samuelson said that although he is a “Luther guy,” he is also critical of him. Samuelson said we must recognize these claims made by Luther in order to state that we no longer recognize those claims as true. He said by doing this, we will be able to engage in interfaith work.

Samuelson discussed the concern of Lutheran identity. Are we losing it? Are we keeping it? As PLU continues to grow as a community, Samuelson said the challenge rises from maintaining our Lutheran identity, while still being able to engage with communities around us. While Samuelson recognizes this difficulty, he does not seem deterred by these challenges.

“This dialogue piece is really key, and I’m really excited about the role the University Pastor can and probably should play in that,” he said. “As an alum, I like this direction.”

During the questions portion of the forum, Samuelson spoke about how he engages with students on a personal level in order to enact change. At Trinity Lutheran, Samuelson said that the population of school was approximately 35 percent students of color. After one sermon, where he only could see one African-American student in the chapel, Samuelson said he realized there was brokenness.

“This is not a community,” he said. “This is a subset of folks.”

Trained as a community organizer, Samuelson aimed to talk to students one-on-one to figure out a solution to this problem. He trained students who were part of the Campus Ministry group to do one-on-one conversations with their peers. From these conversations, Samuelson learned that testimonies were missing from their chapel time. With these incorporations, Samuelson noticed more and more students coming to chapel.

From these experiences, Samuelson said he learned more about the incorporation of students’ ideas and needs in order to make a more accepting community.

All in all, Samuelson said he looks forward to the opportunity to serve as the University Pastor “at this critical moment of PLU’s life.” With his experience and excitement, Samuelson hopes to make change and promote diversity within PLU’s ministry and community.

For more information regarding Reverend Samuelson’s plans for PLU, please visit:

Erik Samuelson was the first candidate interviewed at an open forum for the University Pastor position. The Rev. Jen Rude was interviewed Wednesday, April 20 and 22.

The Rev. Jen Rude is currently a pastor serving in the Metro Chicago Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Church of America as the Program Director for Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries.

The Rev. Steve Jerbi is currently the Senior Pastor of All Peoples Church in Milwaukee, WI.

All the candidates curriculum vitae and mission statements can be found at

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