Dr. Oswald C.J. Hoffmann, religious broadcasting pioneer and honorary speaker of radio’s “The Lutheran Hour,” who died Sept. 8 (2005) in St. Louis after a brief illness, likely would have appreciated the words of LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick at Hoffmann’s memorial service.
“We come today not to praise a man, but to praise God who gave us this man with unique gifts and abilities,” said Kieschnick, addressing some 400 mourners at the service, held Sept. 16 at Concordia Lutheran Church, Kirkwood, Mo.
Dr. Hoffmann, who was known worldwide as the voice of “The Lutheran Hour” but always put the spotlight on Jesus Christ, most certainly would have appreciated Kieschnick’s focus on God.
“Ossie,” as Dr. Hoffmann was known, lived through years of great changes in government, society, and even in the church. “In all these times, Dr. Oswald Hoffmann was determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” Kieschnick said. “He personified the determination that the Gospel of Jesus Christ be heard throughout the world.”
Dr. Paul A. Maier, LCMS second vice president and son of Dr. Walter A. Maier, founding speaker of “The Lutheran Hour,” said he couldn’t imagine anyone living a more interesting life than Dr. Hoffmann. “He was our representative [to] world Christianity in so many ways it would require another book to tell.”
Concordia Pastor Vernon D. Gundermann described Dr. Hoffmann as being “in the Amen corner.”
“He’d preach and say ‘what else is there to say but Amen,’ and then go on and explain what ‘Amen’ meant,” he said.
The “Amen corner,” Gundermann said, “is for all of those who know there is no more to be said, because it was all said and done in Jesus Christ.” Even though he was well-known, Dr. Hoffmann “never played the hero,” said Gundermann, “because he knew that Jesus Christ is the only hero.” (See related story.)
In a news release announcing Dr. Hoffmann’s death at age 91, Lutheran Hour Ministries Executive Director Greg Lewis described the broadcaster as “an incredible blessing to Lutheran Hour Ministries and to the millions of listeners who tuned in to ‘The Lutheran Hour’ during his tenure as speaker of the program. He shared the hope of Christ with people around the world.”
Dr. Hoffmann was the voice of the radio program for 33 years, from 1955 to 1988.
“The Holy Spirit used Dr. Hoffmann to tell the world about its Savior. And the world listened,” said Rev. Ken Klaus, speaker of “The Lutheran Hour” since 2002. “For a preacher, that is enough — that is everything.”
Dr. Dale Meyer, who succeeded Dr. Hoffmann as speaker of “The Lutheran Hour” and now serves as president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, said he and other preachers “molded ourselves after the style of Rev. Hoffmann.” Meyer described Dr. Hoffmann as “absolutely human, and not throwing a lot of theology jargon around. He always talked as one human to another.”
Ordained a Lutheran minister in 1939, Dr. Hoffmann served The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod as a religious leader and ambassador. He served for nearly 70 years in a career that included varied roles as an author, pastor, broadcaster, classical and linguistics scholar, teacher, translator, public relations director, film production adviser, and member of numerous organizational boards. He was the author of eight books, including his 1996 autobiography, What More Is There to Say But Amen; magazine articles; and thousands of sermons. Dr. Hoffmann also was a consultant and friend to foreign dignitaries; U.S. presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Nixon; and world religious leaders, including Dr. Billy Graham.
“Few preachers in our generation have spoken as eloquently and as forcefully for Christ as my friend Oswald Hoffmann,” Graham wrote in Dr. Hoffmann’s autobiography. “His ministry through radio and in person has touched the lives of thousands, but perhaps equally important has been the example of his life and dedication to countless young pastors and preachers.”
In the 17 years since his retirement as speaker of “The Lutheran Hour,” Dr. Hoffmann made many public appearances, traveled throughout the world on behalf of the ministry, and corresponded with many people, including listeners of the radio program. He recently had retired from his duties as honorary speaker.
Dr. Hoffmann’s wife, Marcia, died in November 2000. The couple had been married 60 years and are the parents of four children: Rev. Peter (Elaine) Hoffmann of Chicago; Rev. Paul (Jane) Hoffmann of San Jose, Calif.; Katharine Ann (Brian) Bates of Pearland, Texas; and John Hoffmann of Kirkwood, Mo. Survivors include 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Lutheran Hour Ministries, 660 Mason Ridge Center Drive, St. Louis, MO 63141-8557, or Concordia Lutheran Church, 505 S. Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood, MO 63122. To make a credit-card gift by phone to LHM, call (800) 944-3450, Ext. 4130, between 7:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Central Time.
Posted Sept. 23, 2005