Commencement 2010 - Doctor of Divinity Recipient the Rev. John Huneke

Recipient of the Degree of Doctor of Divinity:
The Rev. John Huneke

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The Rev. John George Huneke, pastor of Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Brooklyn, New York's Highland Park Section since 1973, was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree Friday May 21 during the commencement exercises of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP).

In presenting the degree, LTSP President Philip D. W. Krey cited Huneke, 78, "for his exemplary stewardship and pastoral leadership and his compassionate presence" in making use of God's gifts to serve others.

Krey noted that Huneke "has spent a generation renovating the building and mission of Reformation Church," the fourth congregation he has served over a 50-year career of pastoral ministry. Krey also noted the philanthropic tradition of Reformation Church, which has created an endowed gift through the Metropolitan New York Synod to support LTSP seminarians financially through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Fund for Leaders in Mission.

In brief remarks following the awarding of the degree, Huneke remarked that during his career he has always sought out pastorates where it was thought the congregation "only had about three years to live. "Don't let that frighten you," he told the seminary's graduating class. "I have served Reformation now for 37 years. If there are not 200 in the pew, don't let that frighten you. If you are serving in a community where people seem to be in special need of spiritual encouragement or where poor people live, don't let that frighten you." Huneke noted that while some despair over the "narrowing down" the church seems to be experiencing as the result of growing influences of traditions like the Muslim faith, "that should not frighten us" because such diversity reveals "a widening faith commitment, a breadth and depth that makes us stronger." He noted that financial support for Reformation has come from non-Christian faith traditions.

Noting that Time magazine has referred to the current time as the "decade from hell," Huneke cited former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as saying "When you are going through hell it is important to keep going. See it. Do it. Teach it," he told the graduates. "Be ready, steady, go, glow, look as though you are saved. Grow. Make a difference. Renew. Renew. Renew." 

A Brooklyn native, Huneke received his BA from Columbia University in 1953, an Master of Divinity degree from LTSP in 1956 and a Masters in Theology from Harvard Divinity School in 1958.