Skip to nav Skip to content

August 11, 2021

By Rev. Dr. Cheryl M. Peterson

Dr. Peterson’s Excellent Adventure

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

I am delighted and excited to have been granted a sabbatical leave by Capital University for this academic calendar year (August 1, 2021-May 31, 2022). When friends of mine hear I am “going on sabbatical,” the question that usually follows is, “Where are you going?”

Many sabbaticals involve travel for research, or perhaps to teach at an international seminary. Because the goal of my sabbatical is to complete a book on the person and work of the Holy Spirit (under contract with Baker Academic Press), initially my sabbatical “travel” will mostly consist of trips to my study carrel in Hamma Library and local coffee shops – though I do hope to do some actual traveling in the spring.

Like many Lutherans, I had not spent a lot of time thinking about the person and work of the Holy Spirit in my seminary studies or during my pastoral ministry. My interest in pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit) developed during my doctoral studies at Marquette, and led to my first book, Who is the Church?, which proposed an ecclesiology (doctrine of the church) that “starts with the Spirit.”

In this new book, I will bring scriptural and doctrinal perspectives on the Holy Spirit, especially from churches with Reformation roots, into conversation with Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity (which despite being the fastest growing expression of Christianity globally, has largely been ignored by mainline Protestant theologians) to offer a fresh look at the work of the Holy Spirit in the church life today. Specifically, I will explore the personhood and work of the Holy Spirit in the three movements in a Christian’s life: justification (as God working for us), sanctification (as God working in us), and vocation/mission (as God working through us). I will also examine the means of the Spirit’s work, the Word and Sacraments, as well as those spiritual gifts emphasized by Pentecostal and charismatic Christians.

My interest in the Pentecostal and charismatic movement grew out of global connections through the Lutheran World Federation and friendships made during my doctoral studies, as many of my fellow graduate students were from Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God and Church of God (Cleveland, TN).

For the last four years, I have also served as a member of the Lutheran World Federation International Dialogue Commission with Pentecostals. This spring, the Dialogue will hold its final meeting—hopefully in person—outside of Los Angeles (the birthplace of the modern Pentecostal movement), where we will approve our final report.

Also in spring 2022, I hope to travel to North Sumatra, Indonesia, where my husband, the Rev. Dr. Charles Peterson, has been called to serve the ELCA as a missionary professor of Lutheran Identity. Although Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country, Christianity is fast growing. In fact, at present, Indonesia has more Lutherans than in all of North America! I look forward to learning from the churches there.

I am grateful to have been granted this academic year sabbatical for my research and writing, and I look forward to returning to the classroom in fall 2022 to continue “forming leaders for Christ’s church at work in the world.”

The Rev. Dr. Cheryl M. Peterson
Trinity Endowed Chair in Mission and Ministry
Professor of Systematic Theology and Associate Dean for Academics