Presented by Pastor Roy A. Steward, Jr., ELCM President, and Senior Pastor of the Central PA. Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium & General Parish [Faith Ev. Lutheran Church, Altoona PA. & Barley Ev. Lutheran Church, New Enterprise, PA].
Presented: August 10, 1994 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, IN. Conference of the LMS-USA.
Sources of Information In preparation for this paper and presentation I have worked under the pressure of a very short time frame while trying to continue active ministry to two congregations. Many if not most of my observations and remarks should thus be received as preliminary, pending a chance to check out more of the original first hand documents. In preparation I have re-read two basic General Histories. The one, Basic History of Lutheranism in America by Dr. Abdel Ross Wentz, Revised Edition. Fortress Press. 1964. The other, The Lutherans in North America, Edited by E. Clifford Nelson in collaboration with Theodore G. Tappert, H. George Anderson, August R. Suelflow, Eugene L. Fevold, and Fred W. Meuser. Fortress Press. 1975. It was fascinating to compare the two works side by side. In a number of instances I found the older work by A. R. Wentz to be much more thorough and detailed than the Nelson work especially in regard to the Eastern Lutheran Developments. I then went back and re-examined the Historical section of What's Going on Among the Lutherans, Leppien & Smith. Northwestern Pub. House. 1992. I am deeply indebted to ELS Pastor, The Rev. David J. Webber, Harwich, Mass. for sending me extracts from the Work of ULCA Theologian C. H. Little , Disputed Doctrines: A Study in Biblical and Dogmatic Theology . 1933; An Historical Paper appearing in the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly (spring 1987) "Berkenmeyer and Lutheran Orthodoxy in Colonial New York" by Pr. Jay Webber; Another paper authored by Pr. Webber entitled "Confessing The Faith in the Language of America: The Historical Context and Enduring Significance of the Henkel Translation of the Book of Concord"; and a paper authored by Pr. Webber that examines the Confessional roots of the ULCA entitled "Confessional Lutheranism and Church Fellowship: "The Position of The United Lutheran Church In America.". Our Pastor, The Rev. Ralph Spears loaned me his copy of The Chicago Synod and its Antecedents by Martin L. Wagner. Wartburg Pub. House Press 1909. A very helpful book in examining the Henkel tradition. I also had on hand my own set of The Journals of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. I have also found the History of the United Lutheran Synod of New York & New England 1786 by Harry J. Kreider. Muhlenberg Press. 1954.; Documents of Lutheran Unity in America by Rlichard C. Wolf. Fortress Press. 1966 to be very helpful. I also had in my library two different editions of The Book of Worship (Usually referred to as the Washington Hymnal). The earlier edition was published in 1899 by the Lutheran Publication Society [General Synod], Philadelphia. The later edition was published in 1918 by the United Lutheran Publication House. Other Works that I have perused and made notes from include: Franklin Clark Fry: A Palette for a Portrait, Edited by Robert H. Fischer. The Lutheran Quarterly. 1972; History of The Alleghany Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania by Rev.W. H.. Bruce Carney. The Lutheran Publication Society, Philadelphia, PA.. 1918.; Which Way to Lutheran Unity? A History of Efforts to Unite the Lutherans of America. by John H. Tietjen. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri. 1966. The Doctrine of The Church by Conrad Bergendoff (The Knubel-Miller Lecture Series), Board of Publication of The Unite Lutheran Church In America, Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia PA. 1956; Christ Frees and Unites by Martin J. Heinecken (The Knubel-Miller Lecture Series), Board of Publication, United Lutheran Church in America, Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, PA. 1957.; and Commitment to Unity: A History of the Lutheran Church in America, by W.Kent Gilbert. Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA. 1988.
I began my reading with a sense that Orthodox Lutherans holding to an inerrant view of Scripture as well as to a subscription of the Lutheran Confessional writings of the Book of Concord have been a persistent force within the development of Lutheranism in the Eastern United States.
Many things have become clear to me in my reading which I had missed in earlier readings. It is amazing how scales fall from our eyes at various points in life. 2 initial points are: 1) Those from the Eastern Lutheran bodies intent upon halting, mitigating, or redirecting the renewed Conservative Confessional interest have repeatedly tried to portray the "Men of Missouri" and the other Conservative Lutheran immigrants of the mid 19th Century as an almost invading and un-American phenomena that has set back Lutheran efforts at Unity . This effort tries to make "Missouri" , "Conservative Confessional" and other phrases into almost dirty words, things to be avoided by progressive and enlightened American Lutherans. Lutheran Unity/Union have been the central priority which should not, it is felt be held in abeyance because of Doctrinal difference. The scapegoat to blame for lack of a United Lutheran church has thus been the "Conservative Confessional Immigrant" because of their strong insistence upon "Sola Scriptura" and upon agreement in Doctrinal matters before Union. 2) Those from the Confessional Lutheran Church bodies formed out of the various Lutheran Immigrant groups of the 19th Century have followed a reverse propaganda effort and have portrayed the Eastern Lutherans as entirely saturated with the infections of Pietism, Rationalism, Doctrinal laxity, Unionism, Syncretism and other equally (to Lutherans)dirty labels.
Certainly it is true that the first Lutherans on the American Scene where challenged by Pietism ( Heavily reflected in the Moravian threats as well as introduced by an influx of Halle trained Pastors and Catechists), Unionism growing out of a common language with the German Reformed as fellow minorities in an English World, the effects of the American Revolution and the intense as well as infectious excitement regarding "Freedom to agree to disagree", Rationalism followed closely upon the heals of Pietism and threatened at times to snuff out the Lutheran identity of the first Lutheran Groups, In reaction to Rationalism the Methodist/ Baptist etc. religious revivalistic gatherings began beginning in the late 18th Century and these posed an enormous threat to the Lutheran Confessional stance. The efforts at Centralizing Political authority in the Church paralleled or imitated that of the Secular Society and those pushing greater centralization wanted to ultimately merge all Protestant Christians into one configuration (Syncretism). Centralized governance concentrated attention upon bigger being more efficient and having greater political impact used as its main tool the art of Compromise. Compromise was reasonable and rational. Agreement to disagree was necessary in order to keep the American Secular arrangement in harmony but these secular principles when applied to Christian Doctrinal understandings reduce Holy Scripture and its clear witness of the Lutheran Confessions to a least common denominator. This danger was very evident in the effort to revamp the Augsburg Confession. Truly it was a miracle that the name Lutheranism (Much less the Confessional understandings) within the first American Lutheran Church Bodies survived all of these dangers. But survive they did and more than that the Eastern Lutherans were in fact steadily moving toward the Conservative Confessional Lutheran Stance. A large part of the credit (or blame) in this movement has been given to the Immigrations of the 19th Century which brought a strong influx of strongly Confessional Lutherans to America. I do not by any means wish in this paper to " short change" the contribution that was in fact made by these later immigrants but from my reading I believe it is clear that the immigrants did not find a Lutheran Confessional Vacuum among the Earlier Eastern American Lutherans. It may at times have been a dimly burning wick but those who were Staunchly Confessional/ Orthodox Lutherans were already present and had been present in America from the very beginning of European settlement. Confessional Lutheranism was evident among the first Eastern Lutherans and it continued not only to survive but to expand up until the time of the mid 19thCentury immigrations which then gave it a considerable boost.
I cite a typical comment by J. H. Tietjen from his book written while he was still at Missouri's Concordia Seminary as an example of the popular distortion. I believe his theses to be erroneous.
"The most Critical problem for Lutheran union stems from the fact that the history of Lutheranism in America is a story of the transplantation and acculturation of two kinds of Lutheranism "Pietistic Lutheranism" and "Confessional Lutheranism" (pg. 7)....."Confessional Lutheranism was transplanted to the U. S. by waves of immigrants that came to the new world in the middle and latter part of the 19th Century. pg. 8)"
Gilbert's history of the LCA comes at the matter in the same way as Tietjen and although you will hear him softly admit to the truth that there were clear differences already existing among the Eastern Lutherans you can also clearly hear the LCA spin which blames the failure to achieve unity among all Lutherans upon the later immigrants. immigrants..
"In Some respects, however, the forces that would lead to a fragmentation among Lutherans in North America were already at work. Again, immigration played a crucial role. Lutherans poured into North America from the 1830's through the balance of the century as Sydney Ahlstrom has put it, 'No Protestant communion was so thoroughly transformed by the later nineteenthİcentury immigration as was the Lutheran'.....The immigrants not only reintroduced the language problem for those synods that were becoming largely English speaking but also brought a new conservative influence. There had been a revival of Lutheran confessionalism in Europe which spread into existing congregations in the East and dominated the formation of new synods in the Midwest." (Pg . 11)
The error, I believe, is in simplistically portraying "Confessional Lutheranism" as the result only of the waves of immigrants that came in the middle and latter part of the 19th century. I believe this error is shared by a great many. You can find it in the E. Clifford Nelson work where the statement is made that the Tennessee Synod formation and the efforts by the various Henkel Pastors was influenced in the main by the Missouri Synod folks. They did in fact give encouragement to Socrates Henkel the son of David Henkel but they were not on the American Scene when Paul Henkel reacting to the American Revivalism deepened his confessional understandings and when David Henkel made a theological defense based upon the Book of Concord. Propaganda by the Syncretistic elements within the one Eastern Body (General Synod) tried to portray the Henkels as being influenced by Aliens but it was not true.
The topic of our first Conference is "Biblical Inerrancy" and I have tried to keep my search focused upon this area. However, I believe that the adherence to the authority of the Lutheran Confessions has been an important aspect to also keep before the inquiry since there are historically very different views of inerrancy within Protestantism, namely, The Calvinistic/ Zwinglian view of Inerrant Scripture and the Lutheran Confessional view of Scripture as God's Inerrant and Infallible Word. Lutheran Biblical Inerrancy is thus an understanding that
is different from other protestant notions. Specifically it refuses to attempt explaining away that which is paradox or mystery. The Classic example of the difference in understanding is evidenced in Luther's meeting with Zwinglian the final disagreement over the real presence of Christ in the Sacrament.
I began this paper with the assumption that there were indeed many Lutherans in Eastern Lutheranism who were influenced by the Reform understandings of Scripture. This is what would be expected with a minority element (The Lutherans) surrounded by a majority of people adhering to various Reformed Theologies (whether it be English or German or Dutch). So although it can be said fairly accurately that those in the German and Dutch churches adhered to an Inerrant view of Scripture and that this set the tone for at least the first century of Lutheran development in Eastern Lutheranism care must be taken to distinguish between the different types of Biblical Inerrancy. Deism/ Rationalism I believe grew directly out of the Reformed Theological effort to explain paradox and mystery where encountered in Scripture, i.e. Jesus is in heaven and therefore reasonably cannot be present in the Bread and the Wine of Holy Communion. Likewise Pietism and especially its daughter "Revivalism" in reaction to Scholasticism/ and then Rationalism as much as anything else was an attempt to infuse deeper meaning into the Scripture for the individual or put another way to draw out of Scripture its "true message".
Also as I began this paper my initial assumption was that there were orthodox confessional Lutherans in America from the very beginning of European settlement and that the Biblical/ Confessional understanding of these Lutherans continued to survive throughout the Eastern United States within the old Lutheran bodies and that this element was experiencing a significant strengthening and was responsible in part for an increasing awareness by Eastern U.S. Lutheran Pastors and people of the unique insight into the truth of Scripture set forth not only by Dr. Luther but also by the authors of the other Lutheran Confessional writings.
The experience of the ELCA formation left me feeling that the Biblical/ Confessional Orthodox Lutheran Developments had been betrayed. I was left wondering how it had all happened. Recent developments in the AALC raised for me the sense that the same thing which had happened in the ELCA formation was being repeated in the life of the AALC. Thus my determination to begin searching the Historical record to see if I could discern where the move toward a Biblical Confessional Lutheranism went awry so that any attempt to reverse the apparently similar pattern currently taking place within the AALC might benefit or, that failing, that any attempt at a new Lutheran configuration of Pastors and congregations might benefit. Early in my reading I began to make a list of factors that appeared to have either often been overlooked or intentionally glossed over. What follows here is a list of my observations beginning with the Earliest period and continuing up until the present. There is some redundancy of points that I felt needed repetition in the sequence. I have expanded upon my points of observation with information from my readings:
For the remainder of this Preliminary Presentation I will deal with Three Topics.
I. Some personal background so that you will know from whence I come and some of the influences upon my understanding.
II. A review of items that I feel to be either overlooked or Glossed over in discussions about the Eastern U.S.Lutherans.
III. Lutheran Struggles over Inerrancy/Confessions - Eastern U.S.A.
I. Personal Roots
Since I am a "born and reared" native eastern Lutherian with personal Genealogical American roots predating the French and Indian Wars and American Lutheran Roots predating the same I believe that some Autobiographical notes and remembrances at this point might shed some light on the Eastern Lutherans understandings and direction of Biblical/ Confessional movement. Some various auto-biographical items relative to my own brief life will provide me an occasion to make commentary based upon my readings.
1. I was baptized in, grew up in and was ministerial Son of St. Paul Ev. (Wurtemburg) Lutheran Church, Rhinebeck, New York.
a. Founded prior to Berkenmeyer as one of the outlying congregations of the Rhinebeck Lutheran Church.(1703 -1730). Joshua Kochthernal appears to have founded the first of the Rhinebeck congregations and quite probably my home congregation. He died in 1719. Justus Falckner cared for the congregations in the Hudson valley after Kochthernal's death and upon his death in 1723 his brother Daniel Falckner who was very active in establishing congregations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey covered the congregations until Berkenmeyer arrived. The Congregation still is in existence and has staunchly resisted repeated Synodical efforts to close it for the purpose of merging the various congregations into one large Lutheran Church. It is thus, along with the other New York Hudson Valley Palatine congregations one of the 20 or 30 oldest continuously existing Lutheran congregations in America.
b. Kochthernal, Berkenmeyer, Hartwick, Muhlenberg, Quitman, Bachman all were active in the Rhinebeck area.
All but Muhlenberg and Bachman were pastors of the Rhinebeck congregations. Bachman as president of the United Synod of the South would be severely critical of the Tennessee Synod and of the Henkel's. In this he would be a very strong ally of Schmucker et. al. Despite Hartwick and Quitman the Rhinebeck congregations remained with the conservative New York Ministerium. The Confessional Conservatives became very upset with Hartwick and Berkenmeyer strongly attacked Hartwick. Muhlenberg journeyed to Rhinebeck to help mediate. He preached in all of the Rhinebeck congregations. The Conservatives met with Berkenmeyer and asked him about his views of Muhlenberg. Berkenmeyer affirmed Muhlenberg as a solid Lutheran Pastor but not Hartwick. Quitman was Pastor of Rhinebeck and Wurtemburg while he served as President of the New York Ministerium. The Conservative reaction to the Rationalism of Quitman eventually resulted in a Lutheran Biblical/Confessional renewal for the New York Ministerium. As the name of St. Paul's Wurtemburg would suggest, German language continued to be the primary Worship language of the congregation right up until WWI. The various men mentioned hear represent some major swings in the preaching that was experienced by the people of the congregations. Nonetheless the laity of the congregation, as I will point out, clung to the more Biblical/ Confessional foundation set forth at their founding by Kochthernal and Berkenmeyer. This happened despite the fact that Quitman was described as a very dynamic and forceful preacher who was well liked.
c. St. Paul (Wurtemburg together with the other Rhinebeck congregations was a member of the New York,Ministerium which rejected membership in the General Synod during the presidency of Quitman. . The Hartwick Synod withdrew from the New York Ministerium because the New York, Ministerium was too conservative and orthodox. (Kreider).
Rural people tend to remain true to their earliest foundations. Most of the New York Ministerium congregations were composed of German Farm families. St. Paul Sunday School taught a very literal and inerrant understanding of the Bible and the Pastors of my youth I remember as being very Lutheran. For a brief time when the New York Ministerium joined the General Synod St. Paul Wurtemburg was a General Synod congregation. But the New York Ministerium like the Pennsylvania Ministerium cautiously maintained its own identity. When the PA. Ministerium withdrew for its final time from the General Synod and issued an invitation to form a new Lutheran Church Body the New York Ministerium (which included my home congregation became one of the founding bodies in the General Council.
An example of my home church's conservatism is illustrated by the Hymnal used. It was the last congregation in the Hudson District of the then Metro - New York Synod (LCA) to change to the SBH from the Common Service book in 1966. ( SBH was then about 20 years old). This followed a similar cautious and conservative pattern for they were very slow to change from the Book of Worship (acquired sometime in 1918 or 1919) to the Common Service Book (Printed as the Hymnal of Merger in 1918 for the United Lutheran Church in America). They did not acquire the Common Service Book until their Book of Worship Hymnals began to get dilapidated sometime just prior to or following my coming into the world late 1940's or early 1950's). Previous to this they had used an older New York Ministerium Worship Book . I believe that their reason for being slow to change was based upon Biblical/ Confessional basis.
A prominent feature of the specific edition of the Washington Hymnal used by my home congregation was the inclusion in the Middle of the Hymnal of a section which contained the Augsburg Confession (In its entirety). Formulas of Governance and Church Constitutions. Curiously, the Constitution of the General Synod as amended in 1913 were also included. The ULCA merger took place in 1918. The edition of the Hymnal that my home congregation used includes revisions which are dated as having taken place in 1917 ('Formula for Church Government (pg. 245 Book of Worship, Philadelphia PA. The United Lutheran Publication House.) The name of the Publishing House makes it clear that my home church did not obtain its Hymnal until after the merger which formed the ULCA. I believe it is very instructive that my home church did not choose to purchase and order copies of the Common Service Book with Hymnal authorized by the United Lutheran Church in America. and Copyrighted in 1917 and 1918 by The Board of Publication of the ULCA. Philadelphia. This New Hymnal did not include the Augsburg Confession nor did it include the ULCA Constitution with easy reference to the very specific Wording which had been insisted upon by the General Council in regard to the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. Another very curious item occurs in reference to the Copyright date. Before copyright is obtained the Hymnal must be in finalized format. The new Common Service Book omitting the clear Confessional and Scriptural wording was thus already in final form before the ink was dry on the merger which formed the ULCA.
I mentioned earlier St. Paul Wurtemburg did not finally get the Common Service Book until sometime in the mid 1900's. They like a good number of other congregations evidently preferred a Hymnal which contained the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as well as a Constitution which contained the very specific Wording about Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
The contrast of the Book of Worship edition used by my home church with the Older General Synod Book of Worship published by the Lutheran Publication Society. Philadelphia, PA in 1899, which my home congregation seems not to have used, is that the earlier version did not include the Unaltered Augsburg Confession but did include the Constitution of the General Synod is very revealing. Curiously the Version of the Hymnal containing Revisions of 1917 that was used by my home congregation also included the Constitution of the General Synod [As] " adopted at Washington, D.C. In 1869, and Amended at Atchison, Kansas., 1913" (pg. 259). The Wording of the 1869 Constitution is in marked contrast to the Constitution of 1913.
"Article II Section 3. All regularly constituted Lutheran Synods, not now in connection with the General Synod receiving and holding with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of our fathers, the Word of God, as contained in the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and the Augsburg Confession as a correct exhibition of the faith of our Church founded upon that word, may at any time become associated with the General Synod, by adopting this Constitution, and sending delegates to its convention according to the ratio specified in section first of this article." (The underlining of the phrase "as Contained" is mine.)
I share all of this Hymnal information here because it reflects a very significant struggle that was taking place within the Eastern Lutheran Church bodies leading up to the 1918 merger which formed the ULCA. I believe the lack of reference in the Common Service Book to the Biblical and Confessional also reflects a secret behind the scenes "Sell out" deal at the leadership levels (Similar to what I believe happened in the ELCA formation). Once a merger is fait a complis then statements that were necessary to bring it about are regarded as material for the archives but not as material necessary for the continued life of the Church body. This, I believe, is an area of clear warning: Formation Documents must be kept very visible and public and dare not be entrusted just to a few leaders in a centralized leadership for all who would maintain a High view of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. My home congregation I believe is reflective of where many of the congregations and Pastors were at. They preferred keeping the Hymnal which contained the Augsburg Confession and the specific wording about Biblical and Confessional Subscription. The General Synod amendments of 1869 were done as a result of growing criticism of the non-confessional/ lackadaisical Biblical stance of the General Synod. A good bit of this was generated by the Henkel efforts and the Tennessee and Indiana Synod efforts. The staunch Orthodox Lutheran immigrants of the mid 19th century certainly were a significant part of the critique of the General Synod and of the General Council. However I believe a great deal of the critique was home grown Lutheran Confessionalism. The General Council publicly insisted upon the further changes which are contained in the 1913 General Synod Amendments before it would consider a merger leading to the ULCA. In the words contained in the 1918 edition of the Hymnal used and beloved by my home church the phrase pertaining to Holy Scripture has eliminated the phrase "As Contained". This reflected a significant Theological shift in response to the Biblical Confessional Conservatism of the Constituency which formed the ULCA. Elimination of the "As Contained" segment was at the insistence of the General Counsel before it would consider merger with the General Synod. The New York Ministerium had become a member of the General Council.
A General Synod Man became the President of the ULCA (F. Knubel) and it appears to me that General Synod men together with some like minded General Council men obtained the key control positions in the organization and thus proceeded to file the specific Scriptural and Confessional Statement in the Archives of the ULCA once the merger between the General Council, The United Synod of the South, and the General Synod was fait a'complis. Many of those who attended the [ULCA] constitution convention assumed that the first president would be Theodore E. Schmauk outstanding theologian and leader of the General Council. (Gilbert). Schmauk, interestingly had been raising warnings about the undermining of Holy Scripture by means of the Historical Critical method. Gilbert and Wentz portray the issue as having to do with Centralized authority versus Synodical (meaning the local Synod not the general body) authority and control. Old Ministerium / General Council leaders Jacobs, Weller, and Keiter pulled out all of the stops in order to persuade the Ministerium/ General Council delegates to proceed with the merger.
The issue of centralization is very much connected to the matter of Biblical/ Theological/ Confessional understandings.
I shift back for a moment to the Book of Worship Hymnal used by my congregation rather than the Common Service Book published synonymously with the formation of the ULCA -
In a footnote to the Title of the Augsburg Confession found in the 1918 edition of Book of Worship were the following words:
"*With the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Fathers, The General Synod receives and holds the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practice; and it receives and holds the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a correct exhibition of the faith and doctrine of our Church as founded upon the Word. [Constitution of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States, as adopted in 1913. See Arts. II and III.]"
These very same words are repeated In Article II of the General Synod Constitution which was also printed in its entirety in the edition of the Hymnal used in 1918 by my home church. Sunday after Sunday these words were before the eyes of those who worshipped. The reaction to the later Hymnals makes it is clear that the words were referred too on a frequent basis and thus had considerable impact. If this was true for my home congregation on the Hudson it was also certainly true for many other congregations that formed the General Synod. Thus there was a conservative impact even within the "General Synod" which was viewed as the least Confessional of the three bodies which would unite to form the United Lutheran Church in America.
The charge raised against the General Synod (after 1913) was that though the wording in regard to Holy Scripture and the Confessions was now very Confessional and clear that it was questionable whether this was being taken as more than lip service by the churches of the General Synod. My home congregation certainly in the teaching that I received from early childhood on took the wording very seriously.
The Missouri Synod raised the same concern about the General Council and cited that there were key Pastors in the General Council who expressed disapproval of the Biblical/ Confessional basis of the General Council and who engaged in Fellowship with non Lutherans, opened their pulpits to non Lutheran Ministers, etc.. The big concern hear of course was that other Churches have a clearly different understanding of Holy Scripture.
One of the objections from the older members to the newer hymnals (Common Service Book and Service Book and Hymnal) that I remember hearing was the mention of the absence of The Text of the Augsburg Confession and the clear statement on Holy Scripture.
[Although St. Paul Congregation continued to have some strands of Conservative Confessional orientation during my youth most of this has now sadly disappeared and the congregation seems to have been fully absorbed by the Liberal ELCA orientation at least in regard to the interpretation of Holy Scripture and adherence to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. Nonetheless the historical record points to a congregation continuing to hold to the inerrant and infallible view of Holy Scripture and to the Confessions far longer than most. These views had survived even having a popular Rationalist Pastor who also served as the New York Ministerium President. In the contemporary struggle for churches to survive and to keep the doors open basic doctrine and Biblical understanding is compromised and watered down in an effort to attract others into the church. Sadly that is not an approach that builds a congregation for it does not put trust in God's Word alone.]
Missouri Synod Encounter
In 1965 I enrolled at Agricultural College at the SUNY, Morrisville, New York. The Franckean Synod and Hartwick Synod years had left the area pretty much devoid of Lutheran congregations. The nearest Lutheran Worship for me from Morrisville was either Syracuse or Oneida, New York. I went both places initially. The Syracuse Worship was at Syracuse University and the Oneida Worship was at a little Missouri Synod congregation: Redeemer Lutheran Church. I believe because of my conservative biblical roots I found the Missouri Synod congregation most comfortable and so for two years I worshipped with the folks at Redeemer under the solid preaching of Pr. August Schultz . Occasionally I would make the trek to Rome, New York to worship with a larger Missouri congregation and listen to the superb preaching of a Pr. Boriac. My point in sharing this matter in this paper is for the purpose of pointing out that although we had been told of the unbending nature of the Lutheran Church İ Missouri Synod I the son of a very old Palatine Hudson Valley New York congregation felt very much at home with the Missouri Synod folks. Perhaps this says something about only my home congregation but I do not think this is limited to just St. Paul Ev. Lutheran (Wurtemburg), Rhinebeck, New York.
Sometimes the word "Missouri" brings to mind only the Mid Western part of the country. Often forgotten is the fact that a good number of "Missouri congregations" and other Orthodox Confessional Lutheran Congregations from the Buffalo Synod etc. were organized in the mid 19th century throughout central and western upstate New York. This was primarily in the territory of two very liberal Synods The Hartwick Synod (Which broke from the New York Ministerium because it was too Orthodox and Confessional and the Frankean Synod which broke from the Hartwick Synod. It is a fact the Missouri Synod, Buffalo Synod congregations were not founded throughout Eastern New York State (New York Ministerium territory) nor throughout most of Pennsylvania. I believe that this was due to the larger number of Confessional and Orthodox congregations and Pastors already in those areas. Wentz reports that a large number of Wurtemburg ( Baden-Wurtemburg, Germany) settled among the Pennsylvania Lutherans and strengthened the Confessional Lutherans in the PA. Church bodies.
3. Hartwick College Experience. Upon my graduation from Agricultural College I had decided to enter upon study for the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. Thus matriculation for a B. A. degree at Hartwick College, Oneonta New York followed. The year I matriculated Hartwick College de-affiliated from the Lutheran Church in America so that more State funding could be obtained. A year or two previous the requirement for all students to attend daily Chapel had been eliminated. It had a reputed strong Religion department and all students were required to take courses in Religion. I was immediately exposed to an incredible challenge. One of the Professors was Schoneberg Setzer and another was Philip Heffner, a third was Robert Mansbach. Each of these proceeded to lay upon my understanding the HistoricalİCritical methods of understanding Scripture. A popular Religion Professor Dr. Eugene Umberger had resigned from the College faculty the year previous to my matriculation and had accepted a call to a large United Presbyterian Church. Had I known of this and been sufficiently aware of the implications I probably would have been warned away from Hartwick. The one required course with Setzer (and I still have the Oxford Annotated Student RSV Bible we were required to purchase) proceeded by having us cross out all portions of the New Testament that Setzer believed to be in-authentic. This was in 1967. Setzer was from the Southern U.S. The other professors originally hailed ( I believe) from theChicago area. I resisted most heartily and merely repeated what was needed to pass the course. This would get me ready for the Systematic Theology Experience at Gettysburg Seminary under Robert Jenson.
I share this information not because it is unique for I have read the accounts of Dr. Kincaid Smith and have listened to others share almost identical experiences. Those Pre-enrolled for ministry seemed to be singled out for college courses loaded with the Historical Critical Methodology. What is more the Youth attending the Lutheran Colleges came from by and large active Lutheran families. I Chose the college in part for its Lutheran identification and then had the "Sola Scriptura" of their Faith eroded. The college effort was indeed a "Liberal effort to influence a change in the conservative confessional understandings of the influential laity as well as pre-enrolled ministerial students. The Eastern U.S. had a goodly number of Colleges among which were: Wagner, Hartwick, Lenoir Rhine, Muhlenberg, Tiel, and Gettsyburg.
LTS at Gettysburg
I entered LTS at Gettysburg in 1970. The Seminary had a more conservative reputation at the time than Philadelphia. It had indeed become a more Conservative Seminary in reaction to the Schmucker days and following the General Council formation. Dr. Abdel Ross Wentz as its President had a strong leaning in Conservative directions. The surrounding rural Lutheran community had a strong impact upon the Seminary. When I decided to attend Gettysburg Seminary I knew of the Civil War battle that had been fought in part on the Seminary Campus but I did not realize that a series of Biblical - Confessional Theological battles had likewise been fought upon the same ground. The relatively conservative faculty which had been in place at Gettsyburg since the days of the General Council leaving of the General Synod was however was in the process of being replaced as a result of retirements. Dr. Wentz had retired although he still continued to do some occasional lecturing. Under the new Administration Gettysburg was cultivating a Confessional reputation but the emphasis upon conservative Biblical understanding had been replaced by the Historical-Critical. Dr. Robert Jenson coİauthor with Dr. Carl Braaten of Christian Dogmatics was one of the leading lights at the Seminary. I resisted the Schoneberg Setzer teachings and now I spent 4 years of Seminary resisting the Robert Jenson perspective. Somehow I graduated without compromising my belief in the entire Scripture as truly Gods Word.. I believe my Hebrew professor, Dr. Jacob Myers (one of the last of the old faculty) helped keep me in balance especially as he had us read large portions of the Old Testament in Hebrew. Even so some of the saturation rubbed off upon even the most conservative of us.
While at Gettsyburg I also resisted the Ecumenical thrust. I was a leader in a successful Student effort to hold off the requirement that Seminarians must take part in Washington D.C. Theological Consortium studies. This was an interesting development in Theological education which was replicated in each of the LCA Seminaries of the East. Before a Student could become solidly anchored in the Lutheran Biblical Confessional understandings the student was thrust into a syncretistic setting with students and professors of other Christian traditions. Schmucker would exult at this approach for it appears to me to be a very clever way of reducing the specific Lutheran Doctrines and understandings to a general least common denominator ecumenism.
5. First Hand encounter with Unionism.
In my Naivete and eager for an Official Call I accepted my First Call in 1974 at St. David Ev. Lutheran Church, Hanover PA. This would truly become a most beloved congregation to me. They were a congregation struggling to be truly Lutheran. The Congregation was begun sometime around 1750. It began as Lutheran and then accepted a joint arrangement with a German Reform congregation in 1753. From that date on they were locked in a terrible ongoing battle. The Reform element was very aggressive and at times appears to have governed the decisions of the Lutheran congregation who were not only the older congregation but the Larger congregation. The Lutherans came to be part of a larger "Charge" or Parish comprised of 3 very large congregations ( each one numbering close to 700 members) and were served by one Pastor. The Reform congregations had a parallel "Charge" or parish. At the time of I began my Pastorate, The St. David Lutheran congregation had broken with the larger Lutheran Charge desiring its own Pastor and a more Lutheran orientation. The Sunday School continued to be a Union affair with the United Church of Christ congregation insisting upon an interİdenomination literature which of course was really Reformed in Theology. The first years were very tough and if I had any doubts as to the differences in Theology I found that my Lutheran Confessional understandings were very much enhanced. The Lutherans at my urging ended up selling their share in the property to the Reformed congregation and left to build a new church. Somehow, someway, in the midst of all the syncretism and unionism of the "Union Church Situations" within Pennsylvania a solid core of Biblical and Confessional focus was maintained and the people of St. David Ev. Lutheran, Hanover were led and guided finally by these understandings. Here as with my own home congregation in upstate New York I do not believe this congregation to be the rare exception. They too were part of the General Synod and curiously enough Muhlenberg (who had preached at my home church in upstate New York had preached at St. David on his way to and From Frederick, Maryland. and St. Matthew (Conewago), Hanover.
I have a suspicion that the awful struggles (And they were awful) that took place within so many of the Union Churches of Pennsylvania over the years made the Lutheran people much more aware of what it was to be truly Lutheran. Obviously the difference in Theology drove people to take the Lutheran Scriptural understandings very much to heart. Thus there really and truly is a very strong reservoir of conservative Biblical and Confessional understanding within the churches of Central Pennsylvania. This is the area that the late Dr. Franklin Clark Fry referred to as the area where [ LCA Lutherans] were the densest!" He was not referring simply to the numerical reality.
The Church Polity that was foisted upon the congregations in the formation of the LCA by and large by the efforts of F. C. Fry [A. R.. Wentz for one staunchly opposed Fry on his centralization efforts] has neutralized the conservatism (Biblical and Confessional) of the Pennsylvania congregations and Pastors. The possibility of loosing Property and the long heritage that goes with it has had a large impact upon the Lutherans of the East. It is obvious that the LCA folks entering into the merger which formed the ELCA did not want to allow any possibility of allowing Eastern Lutheran congregations and Pastors the option of leaving the ELCA with their property. This is obvious in the double standard that was established at merger. Former ALC congregations needed only to hold two consecutive votes to leave the ELCA and could retain their property if joining another Lutheran body. However, former LCA congregations not only needed the two consecutive votes but also needed the official approval of the Synod in order to leave with their property. Why this double standard? I believe that it was due to an awareness of significant numbers of congregations and pastors within Eastern Lutheranism holding to Conservative Biblical/ Confessional understandings who might choose at some point to vote out of the ELCA.
II. Overlooked or glossed over Items relative to Eastern U.S. Lutheranism.
Some of what follows will be a repetition of observations made in my brief auto-biography of sorts and accompanying commentary found above but if so again I stress the preliminary status of this paper and can only hope that any redundancy will but reİenforce the observation and or thesis. Here also I add some commentary at various items that I feel have been overlooked or glossed over.
1. The Conservatism of small rural congregations (which have long predominated in the Eastern U.S.) Many a congregation/ parishioner has stated that they have seen Pastors and Synods come and go.
2. The impact upon renewed Lutheran understanding of the terrible struggles within Union Churches (especially in Pennsylvania within the old PA. Ministerium congregations). In the ULCA days and probably dating from the later period of the General Council [The PA. Ministerium had a large number of rural Union churches and the ULCA & LCA continued to have a large number of Union churches throughout Pennsylvania] a special Commission was put in place known as "The Commission for the welfare of the Union Church". To the outside observer the title was very misleading and would certainly convey the impression that the PA. Lutherans wanted to preserve and encourage Unionism. Quite the opposite was in fact true. This Commission was intended to deliberately find peaceful ways to dissolve the Union churches. It was very successful. In Central PA. for example there had been well over 150 Union congregations in the mid nineteenth century but by 1976 when the congregation I served successfully dissolved the Union Arrangement it had suffered through since 1753 there remained only 21 Union churches. In the St. David, Hanover PA. situation the efforts to dissolve spurred a strong interest in the Lutheran Confessional understandings.
3. The Dutch persecution of New York Lutherans resulted in migration out of New York State to Pennsylvania . The Lutheran elements were very self sustaining and orthodox. In 1723 a fairly large group mostly German but with some Dutch migrated the Tulpehocken area of PA. Conrad Weiser the Father-in-Law to Be was a member of this group.
4. The obvious Impact of a Father-in-law and his daughter upon Muhlenberg. Conrad Weiser was a very influential member of the New York Lutherans and there appears to have been a very good relationship between the Father and the son-in-law.
5. The reality that the Swedish Lutherans were not "Pietists" as often portrayed but were more of an Orthodox Confessional stance. ie., the "Church Law of Sweden at the time". The Swedish Pastors had considerable influence on Muhlenberg. (See comments above)
6. The fact that Reference to the Lutheran Confessions in the PA Minsterium Constitution was discontinued by the PA. Ministerium only after Muhlenberg's death says something about Muhlenberg's commitment to the Confessions..
7. Muhlenberg's main antagonists were the Pietists of the Moravian persuasion. Berkenmeyer does not care for Hartwick but speaks fairly well of Muhlenberg. September 1750 Muhlenberg Journal entry:
"September 13. I said farewell in camp and returned to Rhinebeck. Several opponents of Mr. Hartwich had secretly journeyed up to see Mr. Berckenmeyer and given him an account of my presence there. Among other things, they asked him what he thought of Muhlenberg, to which he replied that he had nothing against Muhlenberg, on the contrary he considered him to be an Evangelical preacher, etc."
November 1746 Muhlenberg Journal entry:
"I mention this because the Herrnhuters are accustomed to say that I give the Lord's supper to all people indiscriminately in order that I may increase the size of our group. We examine the people strictly, present to them both the Law and Gospel, exhort them to repentance, faith, and godliness, extol the benefits of the Holy Sacraments, as Luther says, and seek to keep the conscience as free of burden as God grants us grace to do. In short, we dig around and dung the old trees and plant and water, and then ask God for the increase."
It is amazing to discover that Muhlenberg practiced "Close Communion". Pre-registration was also a requirement for reception.
8. The Orthodoxist element at the time of the formation of the Pennsylvania Ministerium remained aloof and represented a majority of Lutherans. Eventually men like C. Stoever, Jr. do join the Ministerium. Caspar Stoever Sr. was in Virginia. Jr. stayed in PA. The Stoevers'' were very active in forming frontier congregations. My first parish was one of the offshoots of one started by thStoever'srs. Justus Falckner was in New York in 1704. His brother Daniel was active in PA. and New Jersey. Kochthernal was active in New York among the Palatines many of whom eventually ended up in PA. Likewise with Berkenmeyer (1725) many of his parishioners end up in the PA., MD, VA, and NC.. Berkenmeyer's parishioners were schooled and catechized in very Orthodox/ Confessional preaching. Anthony Jacob Henkel was in America in 1717. Wentz points out that :
"by the 1740's even before the arrival of Muhlenberg the German Lutherans had pushed across the Susquehannah [River] and into the valleys that led southward to Maryland and Virginia."
It is estimated by Wentz that there were 40,000 Lutherans in Pennsylvania alone prior to Muhlenberg's arrival. When the Pennsylvania Ministerium was organized in 1748 by Muhlenberg, Brunnholz, and Handschuh as the "United Pastors and the "United Congregations" it was composed, reports Wentz of only ten congregations [There were 6 Pastors and twenty-four lay delegates, in addition to the entire Church Council of St. Michael Church] out of seventy in Pennsylvania and adjacent colonies." The other congregations were by and large Orthodoxist. By 1771 the Ministerium had grown to eighty one congregations. The Tulpehocken congregation's) which were involved with the establishment of the Ministerium were made up of staunchly conservative orthodox Laity and 60 of the 70 congregations [those that were either uninvited or stayed away] and their pastors stayed out of the first Synod for reasons having to do with Orthodox doctrine. Thus I believe that there is ample evidence of a majority of conservative orthodox Lutheran heritage underlying Eastern U.S. Lutheran roots. This does not disappear easily and it keeps re-asserting itself in opposition to Pietism and then in opposition to Rationalism, Revivalism, etc. The Henkel's who take the staunchly inerrant position on Scripture in combination with Orthodox Lutheran Confessionalism viz-a-viz the North Carolina Synod and the General Synod receive their nursery training in both from somewhere. I believe the seeds of this came from at least in part from their American predecessors.
9. The Pietists, Rationalists, Revivalists were much more aggressive in organizational matters while the Orthodox were primarily congregational and very cautious about organization. I believe this reality has been evidenced in the Charismatic or Renewal folks of our own day as well as in the Cause oriented folks calling for Social Ministry. They are much more aggressive in becoming entrenched in ecclesiastical organization.
10. The Doctrinal position of the Dutch Lutheran Church was unequivocal (Berkenmeyer used this in his constitution)
"The pastors of this congregation shall regulate and determine all their teaching and preaching by the rule of the divine Word, the biblical, prophetical and apostolical writings, and according to our Symbolical Books, to wit: the unaltered Augsburg Confession, delivered to Charles V., Anno 1530, the Apology of the same, the Smalcald Articles, and Formula of Concord, together with both Catechism of Luther throughout, and shall not teach or preach anything contrary to the same, be it privately or publically, nor shall they introduce or use new phrases (forms of statement) which are at variance with them, or contradict them. In like manner in all points of dispute between us and others, they shall be guided and governed by the aforesaid Scriptures and also the aforesaid Symbolical Books, and shall decide and jude them by these alone, and shall plainly declare the foundation and understanding thereof to the congregation. They shall also order and direct all their preaching to the edification of the congregation, in such wise that the Word of God may be taught purely and clearly, the true doctrine be distinguished from the false and the true doctrine be urged on the people so that they may understand how to guard themselves against false teaching and teachers. " (pg. 3 Bergendoff)
Bergendoff points out that throughout the eighteenth century and until the death of President Kunze in 1807, every pastor in the New York Ministerium had to declare his loyalty to the confessional books, though sometimes the reverse which he signed mentioned only the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. [ It is clear that this being the case they would have also declared loyalty to the Scriptural statement]. This is of interest here because in one hundred or more years certain understandings do become firmly established in the congregations . The families moving from these congregations out into the frontier would have thus carried these very Orthodox and Confessional understandings with them as they traversed New York, New Jersey, PA.,MDd., Virginia, and the Carolinas. Upstate New York was often an embarkation point. Except for New York City these early New York Lutheran congregations from which people emigrated South and West were Rural Farm Churches. If that doesn't ring a bell then the reader needs to go forth and experience a rural farm church. Many a Pastor trying to introduce new and innovative approaches/ thoughts to rural farm congregations has been told to pack up his bags. They all spoke German as well and this made it even less likely that these folks would abandon the notions expressed by the Constitution instituted by the Dutch Lutherans and by Berkenmeyer among the Palatines.
"No less rigid" [ writes C. Bergendoff] was the commission of the Swedish pastors on the Delaware. They were sent from Sweden and were obligated to the Church Law of 1686, whose opening paragraph reads:
' In our kingdom and its dependent lands every citizen shall only and alone confess Christian doctrine and faith which is based on the holy Word of God, the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and expressed in the three main symbols, the Apostolic, the Nicene and the Athanasian, and also in the unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530, and in 1593 again adopted by the Upsala Council, as well as its elaboration in the entire, so called, Book of Concord. And all who assume a position the teaching (clerical) estate in congregations, academies, gymnasia, or schools, shall ordination or when they take a degree, obligate themselves by solemn oath to confess this doctrine and faith." ( pg. 3-4 Bergendoff quotes from the Kyrko-Lag och Ordning -1686)
In Muhlenberg's own Journal you will find it evident that the Swedes had strong influence with him as did his father in law Conrad Weiser.
Muhlenberg was instrumental in writing several constitutions which are likewise very helpful for us to understand that he was indeed finally more into an Orthodox/ Confessional orientation than many have believed. For the Constitution of St. Michael's Church in 1762....
"The present Living pastors and their successors regularly called shall preach the Word of God, as given by the Apostles and Prophets, and in accordance with the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, publicly, purely, briefly, clearly, thoroughly, and to edification." (Bergendoff pg. 4)
The Constitution for the PA. Minsterium read as follows during Muhlenberg's life:
"Every minister professes that he holds the Word of God and our Symbolical Books in doctrine and life; that he so exercised his office that he may stand before his Great Shepherd, rejoicing in the great Day of Judgement, as well as promised to remain forever worthy of the fellowship of the Evangelical Ministrerium of North America." (Bergendoff pg. 4)
I have underlined the sections in the 3 above quotations dealing with the Word of God and Holy Scripture. I nowhere find any statement by these Pastors and Churches referring to The Word of God as contained in The Scripture. Nor do I anywhere find a lifting out of "The Gospel" as somehow separate from Scripture. Even the Pietistic Lutherans were not engaged in an effort to reduce Scripture in general as something less than God's Word.
11. Muhlenberg was very much against Unionism with the Moravian s and with the German Reform. He actively discouraged Union Churches and he takes a consistent position on the Scripture..
March 12, 1743 Journal Entry
"There are many Reformed people here, but they, too, are divided into two parties. One party is striving hard to unite with us in building a church for the use of both. The members of our congregation, however, do not want to permit it, nor do I want to have anything to do with it. "
January 1747 Journal entry about an examination of a woman in New Hannover. He responds to the woman at one point in the conversation as follows:
"Dear mother, if we are to go aright and be sure that we are right in this so important work of conversion, we must take as our standard God's infallible Word and test everything by it......I told her to test her experience by God's Word and she would not go wrong [L. C.: The stronger her consciousness and feeling of sinfulness became, just so much stronger would grace become.]"
12. The Strong German resistance to English was more than a language controversy.
It was connected with Theology. The English do not catechize. German Hymns and prayers drum into the people the basics of the Lutheran understandings. German was not merely re-introduced by the Mid Nineteenth Century immigrations. German Services survived throughout the East up until the Advent of the Mid Nineteenth. The General Synod would become by and large an English language body but even there the Rural Congregations continued Worship in Hoch Deutsch as well as Placht Deutsch. The New York Ministerium was strongly German language with the exception of some of the City congregations and the PA. Ministerium continued predominantly German language.
The Eastern opposition to changing from German to English was based upon the realization that the teaching done through Hymns and prayers would be greatly diluted. "Daniel Kurtz and John George Lochman (1815) wrote:
"First evangelical teaching gradually disappears, and our children grow up without hymns, without prayer, without catechism, and therefore without religious instruction; know that nothing of the sort is done in the English schools...Next we gradually lose our German customs, diligence, and thought, replacing them with English styles which frequently degenerate into pride, laziness, and extravagance...And finally, through neglect of our mother tongue, we lose our majestic hymns, prayer books, and edifying literature an unspeakable loss!" Suelflow & Nelson.
13. The effect of the great revivals beginning in the late 1700's caused a good portion of Lutherans to get re-acquainted with the Confessions and with the Lutheran Biblical understanding. i.e, Paul Henkel.
Revivalism [introduced by the Methodists] had a dramatic effect upon . Some like the Schmucker's appeared to embrace parts of it. Wagner reports in his History of the Chicago Synod that
"This religious awakening ,like a tidal wave, swept over the whole country during the first quarter of the Nineteenth Century, and affected almost every denomination in the country. It swept over the Carolinas in 1800-1801, and the ablest men of the Lutheran church in
that section, Rev. C. A. G. Storch and Paul Henkel, became greatly disturbed and perplexed over the phenomena which they witnessed, and which in some measure unsettled their people.......The tendency to ignore doctrine and substitute human experience as an evidence of divine favor, alienated the conservative pastors from the movement, and did much in preparing the Lutheran pastors for the organization of the North Carolina Synod. pg. 56.
14. Henkel came from PA. to Virginia and had a long Pastorate at New Market, VA. He founded printing press were he was able to print the Catechism in both German and English. He pushed up the valleys of VA. into the Ohio and Tennessee. During his Ministry he helped found three Synods. The North Carolina Synod, Ohio, and Tennessee. His original orthodox Lutheran concerns did not materialize out of thin air. These convictions and that of his sons did not originate from the Missourians. The Missouri Lutherans were delighted to discover the Tennessee Synod folks.
15. There was an intense effort to combat and Silence the Henkel's and The Tennessee Synod by the General Synod. I believe that this effort arose out of a fear of the silent majority. The Henkel's represented an anomaly of sorts in that they appear to aggressively carry the challenge to the General Synod. They also made very adept use of their printing press located in New Market, VA. Reflecting the conservative nature they apparently were viewed as too strident but nonetheless the publications were widely read by laity as well as clergy. When the Book of Concord was translated into English it apparently sold out as rapidly as it could be produced. Now why would this be the case if the congregations of the East were basically unconcerned about the Confessions?
16. Those with an intense sense of cause put themselves forward for leadership positions more eagerly than the conservative. (Schwarmer like characteristics whether rationalist, reformed, fundamentalist, New measure advocate, Charismatic, Women's Liberation advocate, etc.) A disproportionate number of those from the activist orientation ended up repeatedly in church leadership and control positions. These elements fear that the conservative elements will get it together.
17. Conservative elements react in one of two ways
a. It won't affect my ministry and our congregation so we will ignore it and continue to do ministry in our way or,
b. Withdrawal from the body when it becomes clear that conservative positions are blocked.
Typically the Liberal or fervor driven activist elements when blocked appear more often to bide their time, push for compromise wording under the guise of Love and Reasonableness actively work for compromise wording and actively seek membership in the governing organization. Push for Centralization of Governance. Almost never withdraw and though they lose many battles eventually acquire the key control positions in centralized organizations which allow the winning of the struggle.
18. Conservative elements seek to abide by the letter of the Word. Liberal or activist elements attempt refocus upon the "meaning" or "message" of the word. Conservative Positions may be adopted as a starting point but once adopted are not to be taken seriously. Statements once adopted are filed away in the Archives and ignored. Like the Confessions all statements are valid continue valid " in so far as" they agree with the current "gospel" in vogue.
19. Eastern Lutherans resoundingly rejected "Rationalism", "Unionism", "American Lutheranism", and made steady progress toward a Biblical/ Confessional Lutheran stance.
The New York Ministerium encountered a stronger degree of this threat due to the Presidency of Quitman. Rationalism led to a desire for reasonable Union. It was partly the offspring of religious indifference. Rationalism broke down confessional convictions and obscured points of difference among denominations. Rationalism almost always led to a desire for expediency [ends justify the means. It is only a short leap from this to the notion that if you create the organization all will eventually get with the program] Kunze in New York became charmed with the idea of closer union with the English Episcopal. Likewise in the Carolinas there was a desire for union with the Anglicans and the Moravians. It was maintained that the formation of the General Synod was out of a desire to preserve Lutheranism. In PA. the desire grew for union with the Reform. (A. R. Wentz) However Gottlob Schober the Moravian Lutheran from the North Carolina Synod was a strong advocate of the General Synod. Quitman of New York was an advocate of the General Synod as well.
20. Formation of the ULCA , the LCA, and the ELCA were mergers engineered primarily by an element at the top as the means of by-passing the conservative majorities. A deliberate strategy was introduced by the ULCA to avoid doctrinal disputation when at all possible. Free Diet's provided opportunity for leaders to meet under the guise of other matters.
"The United Lutheran Church from its inception had been identified with 'Eastern Lutheranism". This concept, in the minds of midwesterners, carried with it the stigma of Liberalism and the suspicion of not being fully committed to doctrinal purity." Gilbert pg. 72.
The mid westerners of course obtained this impression mainly from the visible leaders of the ULCA and the LCA. as well as from the Official publications of the church bodies.
Just one year after the merger which formed the ULCA, After the General Synod adopted the very specific language regarding the Scriptures and the Confessions. Key ULCA leaders reacted negatively to a paper presented in March 1991 by H. G. Stub president of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America in which Stub's paper known as the "Chicago Theses", set forth a position described by E. Clifford Nelson as 'exclusive confessionalism that was representative of Midwest Lutheranism. It stressed that the Old and New Testaments were 'the inspired and inerrant Word of God,' a phrase that was to become a crucial issue in Lutheran unity discussions for decades.' Fredrick Knubel [The General Synod Man elected to the ULCA Presidency and Henry Eyster Jacobs [A General Council Man responsible for pushing through the ULCA merger with a reluctant General Council delegation] objected to this exclusivism". Gilbert pg. 73. Schmauk was requested to serve on a committee with Knubel, and Stub paper [Chicago Theses] and to make a later report. [Schmauk's active participation with his deep commitment to the text of Scripture as God's Inspired Word and representative of the Conservative Confessional elements of the former General Council could well have provided a different outcome in matters but he became critically ill and his place was taken by Charles M. Jacobs a professor at the Philadelphia Seminary. Jacobs wrote the text of the report which Knubel supported but which Stubs did not. The point of view taken by the report was one of Ecumenical Confessionalism that stressed the catholic nature of the Lutheran Confessions." Gilbert. pg. 74.
Incidents such as the one just described bolstered the view that Eastern Lutherans were all manipulative Liberals, Astute at stacking the Political deck. Biblical/ Confessional documents such as the 1913 General Synod amendment pre-requisite for merger were simply filed in the archives once the purpose for which it was adopted was secured.
In 1934 the ULCA, which Gilbert describes as still smarting from the formation of the American Lutheran Conference as a counterpoise to it and the National Lutheran Conference,...made another overture toward Lutheran unity at its 1934 convention. Known as the 'Savannah Declaration,' (pg... 80). Missouri Synod responded and two meetings were held. Wentz reports that the ULCA delegation was specifically instructed not to engage in discussion of doctrinal matter. They broke their instruction and the sides hardened as Missouri rested on its 1932 ' Brief Statement' which declared that the Scriptures were verbally inspired and 'that they contain no errors or contradictions, but they are in all their parts and words the infallible truth, also in those parts which treat of historical, geographical, and other secular matters.' The United Lutheran church position, reports Gilbert 'saw the Scriptures as the human instrument whereby God communicated his Word, the gospel"
I believe Gilbert should have been much more forthright and stated the truth that those in control of the ULCA saw the Scriptures as the human instrument whereby God communicated his Word. I am convinced knowing the attitude of just my own home congregations which in 1932 was still using The Book of Worship containing the very specific statement on Holy Scripture would not have been alone in a very different understanding. In the ULCA and much more in the LCA with certainly new heights within the ELCA those occupying the positions of control in the wider organization became "The Church".
21. It appears to me that in the General Histories important details about points of opposition to the and even the names of persons opposing the various Unity efforts have been omitted. Details about Schmauk for example are omitted. In the Nelson History the Henkels are portrayed as having but a personality clash. C. H. Little is never mentioned. Certainly there are other key people who raised solid points of concern who have been left unmentioned.
22. The 1918 ULCA Formation was a Time of Optimistic hope for Eastern Conservative Biblical/ Confessional Lutherans. Appearing to have won the day on major issues after a journey of almost 200 years they suddenly found themselves out in the cold.
a. The General Synod had made significant progress in adopting a clear statement on the Scripture and The Confessions. Atchinson, Kansas Amendments in 1913.
A good part of this progress took place, I believe, as an unforeseen result of the intensive warfare waged between The New Measure or "American Lutheran" folks and the "Henkelites" of the Tennessee Synod and Indiana Synod. This struggle began just prior to the 1820 formation of the General Synod. The issues however had been brewing as a result of the Revivalism that swept through the East beginning in the late 1700's. Some Lutheran leaders embraced the "New Measures" but a large portion of the established Pastors and congregations did not. Though the Students of S. S. Schmucker and others seemed to triumph the fact was that The Henkels had forced many more people to begin to take a serious look at their Lutheran identity. The Immigrations from Northern Europe of orthodox Lutheran oriented folks also helped. Their presence bolstered the numbers of "orthodox" oriented Lutherans who had been present within the Pennsylvania Ministerium and within the General Synod. The Henkels are portrayed by the Nelson work as mainly to have had a personality clash with those controlling the administration of the North Carolina Synod but the Henkels appear to have had a very deep Confessional understanding prior to the clash over David Henkels ordination. David translated the Book of Concord from Latin into English. He was no intellectual slouch as later characterized by Bachman. The Question is: from where did this profound Confessionalism originate. The Henkels came from the Pennsylvania Ministerium. At any rate the end result would be a dramatic reversal for the American Lutheran Folks at the very moment they thought their day had arrived. This reversal and the steady move toward a more confessional subscription would then lead to the formation of the United Lutheran Church in America.
In reaction to the Religious awakening that
"swept over the Carolinas in 1800-1801....the ablest men of the Lutheran church in that section, Rev. C. A. G. Storch and Paul Henkel, became greatly disturbed and perplexed over the phenomena which they witnessed, and which in some measure unsettled their people. They hesitated to call the movement fanatical, or to denounce it as unscriptural, for they discovered a remarkable change in persons who had previously been either ungodly in their lives or avowedly skeptical in their views. Rev. Paul Henkel, while he studied the movement, disapproved of the measures. The extravagant practices and arrogant claims of some of the advocates of these measures, convinced him that the movement could not be salutary to the church. The tendency to ignore doctrine and substitute human experience as an evidence of divine favor, alienated the conservative pastors from the movement, and did much in preparing the Lutheran pastors for the organization of the North Carolina synod........The immediate effect of this Unionism and Revivalism upon the Lutheran church in the south was deplorable. The enthusiasm it engendered was almost irresistible. The Patriarchs of the church, Muhlenberg and his compeers, had passed to their reward, and their successors were men of a different spirit and aim; men who did not subscribe to the confessions of the church. They evinced an anxiety to eliminated form the catechisms, liturgies, and hymns, everything that distinguished her from the sects, and under their leadership the church rapidly drifted from her moorings.......Their plea was that they proposed to Americanize the Lutheran Church......It was at the time when she had thus drifted away from her standards, and while these men were at the helm, that the General Synod was organized. That movement was not unanimous. There was a strong dissent in certain Synods, and determined opposition on the part of many pastors......Probably the most determined opposition to the formation of the General Synod was found in the North Carolina Synod. pg. 56-57 Chicago Synod and its Antecedents, Martin Wagner. Wartburg Pub. House Press. Waverly, Iowa 1909.
The Wagner History of 1909 describes events dating from a time very close to the actual struggle between the Tennessee Synod folks and the General Synod people then under the leadership of Schmucker. The General Synod had a Seminary and was able to turn out Pastors who went as missionaries into the areas of Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. This reality ultimately appeared to win the day for those who were known as the Generalists. But the Tennessee folks made a good confession and they evidently had a considerable number of sympathizers within the older Synods. I believe that this reality is made clear by some of the reactions to the Tennessee Synod or the Henkelites as they were termed. The Nelson work makes no mention of the Doctrinal statements but only mentions a personality clash. Wentz clearly states their charge and shares the very clear Biblical Confessional Stance of the tennessee Synod. Although he is the biographer of Schmucker he does not degrade the Henkels as merely motivated by a personality grudge.
"Those who followed the Henkels in their opposition to the General Synod, and to all practices and teachings which they regarded as innovations in the General Synod or elsewhere, where reproachfully called Henkelites, and their strict adherence to the symbols of the church, Henkelism. The bore the stigma patiently, were driven by these attacks to a closer study of the Word of God and of the Confessions of the church, and into closer union with one another. They appealed to posterity to vindicate their position. These doctrines were the themes of discussion at their Synodical conventions, in the family and in the shops. However they may have erred in their methods and ill-advised, as some of their attacks upon the General Synod were, it must be conceded that they were honest in their convictions and struggles establish the church upon her true foundation.......It is not too much to say that Henkelism was the salt that preserved the church in the southern section of our country from doctrinal putrefaction. Their boldness, their earnest pleas for the Augustana, animated others to examine anew the Confessions, who were thereby brought to a clearer apprehension of the rich treasures of truth therein contained. (Wagner pg. 59-60)
The Tennessee Synod did not develop an established Parish Clergy or a Seminary but it did engage in the printing of pamphlets and publications that were widely read and Wagner points out that this resulted in a a laity that was very much aware of the various doctrinal issues. There Publication house was at New Market, VA.. This strong emphasis upon publications put the General Synod folks very much on the defensive.
"The Henkels confessedly receive everything found within the lids of the whole Concordienbuch," was the testimony of their chief opponent, and the strongest champion of the General Synod, Dr. S.S. Schmucker. He was pastor at New Market, Virginia, from 1820 -1825, the home of the Henkels. He was openly and repeatedly charged by them with teaching doctrines not in harmony with the Augsburg Confession. These charges Dr. Schmucker did not deny, but justified his course on the ground that the doctrines he rejected were Romish errors, and what he received were fundamental to the Christian faith.' (Wagner pg. 61-62)
The Wentz History characterizes Schmucker as being very orthodox and committed to the Augsburg Confession for his time. But obviously in 1820, early in his ministry he was charged with being very lax with the Confession.
b. Joseph Stump (died 1935)
One of the most influential ULCA Theologians. Served as President of LTS Chicago, Chicago Lutheran Divinity School, and NorthWestern LTS. Authored several books, including An Explanation of Luther's Small Catechism (a very popular confirmation textbook) and The Christian Faith (originally published in 1932) Stump's importance as an authoritative spokesman for the doctrinal position of the ULCA is reflected in the fact that a second edition of The Christian Faith was published by the ULCA's Muhlenberg Press in 1942, seven years after his death. Clearly his basic understandings had a considerable impact. The following excerpts are from his "The Christian Faith": (Weber)
"The Holy Scriptures, consisting of the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, are the sole and exclusive authority in all matters of Christian doctrine and life. They are the supreme and absolute norm of Christian teaching. The Church is to set forth no other doctrines than those which are contained in the Bible and must reject all doctrines which conflict with it ."(pg.)
Stump is writing this well after Knubel and Charles Jacobs are declaring it to be otherwise in conference committees with other Lutherans. Stump is also setting this very clear Biblical Confessional understanding forth at the same time the Savannah Commission is meeting with the Missouri representatives and emphasizing that the Scripture is basically a human instrument through which God works.
"While the synod ought naturally to be in a better position to decide doctrinal questions than the individual congregation, because it represents a number of congregations, the congregation nevertheless retains the right to judge whether the actions of synod are in harmony with the Scriptures and with the Confessions of the Church." (pg. 371)
Protestantism split into two great branches, the Lutheran and the Reformed. For Lutheranism the determining principle was faith; for the Reformed or Calvinistic branch it was the absolute sovereignty of God. This principle of Calvin and the rationalizing principle of Zwingli, who sought to banish all mystery and to make every doctrine completely intelligible, explain the course taken by Reformed theology...Zwinglianism, being averse to the acceptance of mysteries and insisting on comprehending the doctrines of Scripture, seeks to explain away what it does not understand. Lutheranism, on the other hand, accepts the teachings of Holy Writ, even when it cannot comprehend them. Calvinism, basing all on the absolute sovereignty of God, lands in arbitrary divine predestination, and thus restricts the scope of the Gospel and the efficacy of the Means of Grace. Reformed and Lutheran Protestantism differ more or less widely on the doctrine of the Word of God, Predestination, the Person of Christ, Baptism and the Lord's Supper (pg. 12 -13)
c. Martin J. Heinecken, Professor at LTS Philadelphia. Christ Frees and Unites, Published in 1957 by Muhlenberg Press and by the board of Publication of the United Lutheran Church in America. very influential. Excerpts:
"It would be well to call to the attention again of all the Lutheran bodies what was set forth by the United Lutheran Church in 1934 in the Savannah Resolution: 'We recognize as Evangelical Lutherans all Christian groups which accept the Holy Scriptures as the only rule and standard for faith and life, by which all doctrines are to be judged, and who sincerely receive the historic Confessions of the Lutheran Church (especially the Unaltered Augsburg Confession) as a witness to the truth and a presentation of the correct understanding of our predecessors.....The United Lutheran Church in America...pledges its ministry not only to the Augsburg Confession but to the entire Book of Concord, and it can do so with good conscience...Lip service to a confession of the past, while allowing a diversity of interpretations, is not a sufficient basis for agreement... If agreement on the gospel as described is the basis of full church fellowship, what shall we say about the vexing question of pulpit and altar fellowship? On the view here presented , altar fellowship is not the first step on the way to unity, but the expression of the unity which has previously found expression in a common confession." (pg. 54-56)
Heinecken however appears to try to straddle the fence and to provide a middle ground. Always dangerous because one can split the pelvis for in the very next paragraph which follows the above he writes:
"We believe that the Confessions are to be interpreted in their historical context, not as a law or as a system of theology, but as 'a witness and declaration of faith as to how the Holy Scriptures were understood and explained on the matters in controversy within the Church of God by those who then lived.' (He is quoting from the same Charles Jacobs who joined Knubel and declaring Against the Chicago Theses paper of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America President)
d. C. H. Little (Carroll H. Little 1872 - 1958) Son of Tennessee Synod Pastor. 1901 graduate of General Council Mount Airy (Philadelphia Seminary) 1914 Doctor of Divinity from Lenoir-Rhyne College; 1928 S. T. D. from Chicago LTS. From 1917 to 1947 professor of Theology at ELS in Waterloo, Ontario (General Council Seminary until 1918 and then a Seminary of the United Lutheran Church. He is mentioned in Carl RChronicler's's , A History of the Lutheran Church in Canada but not one word is mentioned about him in any of the other General Histories of American Lutheranism. Theodore Graebner spoke very highly of Little's 1933 book, Disputed Doctrines. This outspoken professor taught for 40 years in a Seminary of the General Council and ULCA which trained the largest proportion of its Pastors for congregations in the USA and yet not mention is made of him in the General Histories of Lutheranism in the US. This is rather incredible. He was a home grown Eastern U.S. Lutheran not a Missouri Synod plant within the General Council and the ULCA. He writes as follows:
"On the subject of the Inspiration of the Scriptures, we have no direct statement in our Confessions for the reason that it was not called in question in the times when our Confessions were formulated. Inspiration of the Scriptures, as belonging to the fundamentals, was taken for granted, just as was the existence of God, which no one deemed it necessary to attempt to prove. But on the question of the authority of Scripture, which depends upon inspiration, the testimony is strong and clear, as the following expression of the Formula of Concord shows:
'We receive and embrace the Prophetic and Apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the pure, clear fountains of Israel, which are the only true standards whereby to judge all teachers and doctrine." There was no doubt at that time as to the full and complete inspiration of the Scriptures as a whole and in all their parts......But in modern times this stronghold and fortress of our Christian faith has been powerfully assaulted...The popular view now seems to be, that not the Scriptures themselves are inspired, but only their thoughts and concepts; that the sacred writers were inspired only in a general way in the supervision and direction of their work; and that there are different degrees of inspiration, to be determined by the subjective attitude of the reader. According to such views, it cannot be said that the Bible is the Word of God, but only that it contains it" (pg. 18)
It is necessary therefore for us to hold firmly to the Biblical teaching on the subject of the Inspiration of the Scriptures. The following definition is offered as meeting this requirement: Inspiration is the activity of the Holy Spirit by which He put into the hearts and minds of chosen men the impulse to write, and so controlled and directed them that they produced in a real and verbal sense a correct and inerrant record of God's revelation to men."
e. The Three men listed above not only made a substantial impact upon a large number of Pastors through their Seminary teaching but they also reflected a very definite Theological tradition that had been forming and regrouping within the Eastern Lutheran Churches for a long period of time. After all they did not just develop out of thin air. They left their impact in 3 Seminaries of the (Waterloo, Chicago, and Philadelphia.) Gettysburg was also moving into an increasingly more conservative Biblical/ Confessional mode in the aftermath of the Schmucker American Lutheran Effort and the General Council Withdrawal. A. R. Wentz it 's president during much of the ULCA period was very favorably disposed to the Biblical/ Confessional direction. Although favoring Lutheran Unity he was very much against centralization. Dr. Wentz grew up just a few miles away from where my first Parish was located (Wentz Meeting House is still preserved). Of the three men listed above Heinecken's straddling of the fence mode would influence others to do the same.
III. Lutheran Struggles over Inerrancy/ Confessions - Eastern USA. (Some preliminary conclusions)
1. Confessional Lutheran view of an inerrant and infallible Sola Scriptura which recognizes Mysterium Tremendum proclaimed in Scripture was in continual contrast with the Reformed view of Rationally explaining away the Mystery (Dutch Reform, German Reform, and various English Reform Theologies [Puritan, Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, & Methodist]. Native Union Churches combined with the Unionism emanating out of Prussia to encourage a desire for practical mergers.
2. The Confessional view that it is the Objective, Inerrant/ Infallible Word which creates Faith in us and that this Faith is not of our own doing was at odds with Pietism and Revivalism. German language helped insulate and shield from the worst excesses of the Revivalism. But it [Revivalism] does begin to effect the English speaking portion of the Eastern Lutherans in the early 1800's to mid 1800's. S.S. Schmucker's father was very much influenced by American Revivalism. "Old Lutheran" or "Catechism Christian" became derisive terms to imply an intolerant Lutheran. Emotional acceptance of the Savior or of the Spirit should break down barriers raised by human interpretations of Scripture.
3. Rationalism prompted some to attempt to explain in rational terms the Supernatural of the Bible. (Quitman)
4. The General Synod formation prompted strong reaction by the Tennessee Synod folks. The Tennesseans objected to the notion that majority votes could decide matters of Doctrine and objected to the lack of emphasis upon Holy Scripture and the Confessions. Strong polemic carried on between the Tennesseans and the Generalists. A very wide audience among the laity. Henkel interpretations perceived as a very considerable threat by Schmucker et. al.
5. Schmucker and friends establish Gettysburg Seminary. Begin with what was thought to be a fairly solid Subscription for Professors:
"In this Seminary shall be taught, in the German and English languages, the fundamental doctrines of the Sacred Scriptures as contained in the Augsburg Confession."
The "As contained" clause became the central issue. It can be argued that those in the leadership down through the years really were directed by the "As contained" understanding. Parish Pastors and members of congregations by and large would not have accepted the "As Contained" understandings.
Schmucker pushes American Lutheranism which in watering down the confessional base also gives up the inerrant and infallibility of The Scripture. In a letter to Germany rejects the Literal understanding of Holy Communion held by Luther.
emphasized the Religion of the Spirit over against the Religion of Form. Those who are truly spiritual are not to let differences keep them apart and separate. Tolerance and Reasonableness are held up as higher virtues than truth.
General Synod itself became very suspect as to its real Biblical and Confessional position.
Recommended Confessional base to member Synods: "That the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God are taught in a manner substantially correct in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession."
The growing strength of the Biblical/ Confessional Conservatives increased the activities of the Liberal elements. Fraternal Appeal of the Definite Synodical Platform of Schmucker was a blatant attempt to preempt the Conservatives. The direction of increased activity is within the organizational framework.
The Conservative element easily predominated in the General Synod, but they made concessions to the liberal (New Measures - American Lutheran) element that the Ministerium regarded as unwarranted. i.e., The Reception of the Melancthon Synod.
In the General Council as well as in the developments leading up to the ULCA formation very fine foundation documents are adopted but then are not put into use. This was the major criticism of the General Council.
ULCA leaders seemed to file the Biblical Confessional statements in the Archives.
6. Although Conservative the General Council formed without first achieving a common mind on various doctrinal matters and Parish Practice.
"It was soon found that even among Lutherans of the strictest orthodoxy there were wide differences of opinion concerning the doctrinal teachings of the confessions."
Union before there is unity does not seem to lead to true unity later on. The General Council was much more conservative but essentially followed the General Synod approach of becoming one in union and then attempting to work out the differences later.
7. Organizational Centralization allowed leadership to pull off mergers before the full impact truly hit the laity and the Pastors.
8. General Synod folks and later the ULCA chose a deliberate policy to try to avoid doctrinal disputes.
9. The "New Measures" focus seems very similar to the contemporary Church Growth movement and renewal movements.
"The term [New Measures] referred to specialized techniques for bringing individuals through an emotional conversion experience. The necessity of these methods was that "God has found it necessary to take advantage of the excitability there is in mankind, to produce powerful excitements among them, before he can lead them to obey. (Nelson quoting Charles G. Finney)....To many Lutheran leaders of the early nineteenth century these dramatic methods seemed to offer an effective way to combat rationalism, indifference, and apathy."
Defenders of the new measures defended their efforts by claiming that their positions had been misrepresented. Emotions among Lutherans did not become as 'fanatical' as opponents liked to imply. [they said]. Usually accounts of revivals noted that a 'dreadful solemnity" had prevailed throughout the services. Weeping and earnest conversation rather than "screaming and falling" seemed to be typical. Furthermore they did not intend to substitute human efforts for God's Grace any more than those who claimed grace came through the preaching of the Word. It was merely a question of taking the style of preaching more seriously [They said] (Nelson)
The focus upon the inerrancy and infallibility of the Word underlines content and text. The New measure folks emphasized the Style of presentation.