Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 62 - Church and Ministry in the LCMS (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-062 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE RAST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> NICK: In my electronic library I ran across a book by C. F. W. Walther entitled Church and Ministry. Are the subjects of church and ministry of peculiar importance to the Missouri Synod? >> DR. LAWRENCE RAST: Nick, those are extremely important topics for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. And I think as we've already seen from our discussion of the Altenburg Debate that they had been important even previous to there being a Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. That question of what is the church and what is the ministry has been at the forefront of our history right from the beginning. Now, we've already talked about the Altenburg Debate and how Walther saw the relationship between pastor and people in a unique way. And later on, he would articulate those theses from Altenburg in a far more detailed way for the synod as a whole in the book today we know as Church and Ministry, or the German title being Kirche und Amt. How did we get to that point? Well, that's another question. Right about the time the Saxons were dealing with this question within and among themselves: Namely, are we church?. Are our pastors really pastors? There came a letter from another Lutheran pastor by the name of J. A. A. Grabau. Grabau was the pastor of a group of Lutherans that had two centers, really, one being in Buffalo, New York; the other being in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. They later formed a group called the Buffalo Synod on June 25th, 1845. Grabau�s background is important. He was a Prussian, a pastor in Prussia, and as such, had been affected by the Prussian Union of 1817 in very powerful ways. He was extremely nervous about government intrusion, an outside intrusion, generally, into the workings of his congregation. And so when he and his followers came to America in 1839, they were determined to create a distinctively confessional Lutheran church body and to do so, hopefully, from the perspective of the historic Lutheran teachings. Grabau himself hoped to attract other confessional Lutherans to his position. And so in 1841, he wrote a letter called the Hirtenbrief, or The Pastoral Letter, and he sent a copy of this to the Saxons in Missouri who had become aware of this group. In that particular letter, he outlined his perspective in regard to the nature of the ministry especially, but also touching on questions of the church. In this respect, he spoke very strongly of the necessity of ordination as that which distinctively creates the office of the ministry, and he also emphasized that the pastoral office, when occupied by a faithful man, must be respected in all of its decisions. That is to say, it was the pastor's necessity, the pastor's responsibility to carry out church discipline, to excommunicate, to restore to membership in the church those that had been excommunicated, and the like. He also outlined in this letter his belief that it was the pastor's responsibility to take care of the *offer of for the church. That is the ceremonies and activities of the particular congregations. So a great deal of influence and authority was located in the office of pastor. Given the controversy that the Saxons were experiencing in 1841, it's not surprising that it took them some time to respond to Grabau. It took them two years, as a matter of fact, before they're really picked up the correspondence once more. And by the time they did, some water had passed under the bridge between the two groups. The response was written by G. H. Lober, a pastor in the Saxon group. But he was assisted by others including C. F. W. Walther. And they reacted fairly strongly to Grabau�s assertions, part of the reason for that being, obviously, their experience with Martin Stephan just some years before. They heard in Grabau�s letter some of the themes that they themselves had experienced with Grabau. So they cautiously responded saying, we think you've missed the point. And then they went on to expand on those points saying, it is far more important that we turn to the confessions very specifically, and within this context to the Schmalkald Articles where Luther talks about these points. Controversy ensued between the two groups and was heightened as they responded to one another at greater length. At all points it seemed to the Saxons that Grabau was placing more and more emphasis and authority upon the pastoral office at the expense of the congregation. The Missourians, on the other hand, continued to emphasize what they believed was the confessional teaching: namely, that the keys are given immediately to all Christians who are baptized and that gather together in a community that is a congregation it was those Christians� responsibility to establish in their midst the divinely instituted office of the holy ministry. The two sides were not able to reconcile their positions. And the rhetoric heightened. Ultimately, this discussion would affect the relationship between the Missourians and Wilhelm Lohe. Despite efforts at seeking a reconciliation, by 1853, the two groups had reached an impasse and Lohe withdrew his participation in the Missouri Synod endeavors and was one of the leading factors in the formation of a new Lutheran synod in America, the Iowa Synod. Now granted, Lohe admitted that the Missouri Synod's position was in fact the position of Luther and also was the position of the confessions. He outlined this very clearly in a letter in the late 1850's. But he himself, though he recognized the confessions� teaching and Walther�s teaching, was not willing to say that this answered all things for all time. In other words, he saw the question of the office of the ministry as an open question. On the other hand, the relationship between the Missouri Synod and Grabau continued, and it continued to deteriorate. In fact, Walther wrote his Church and Ministry volume specifically in response to Grabau�s position. He outlined it first in 1851, presented the theses to the synod. They adopted them in total, especially as he explained how the text of the book would read as a whole, and adopted the entire book in en masse ultimately. That book then served as the basis for discussions between the Missouri Synod and Lohe when F. C. D. Wyneken and Walther went to Germany in 1852. So there seemed to be a momentary reconciliation. After Wyneken and Walther left Germany Grabau was able to turn Lohe away from the Missouri Synod's position. The upshot of it all: Lohe was convinced that Missouri's emphasis on the rights of the laity, the rights of the congregation, the emphasis on the necessity of the laypeople of the church being involved in the calling, selection of their pastors and the like lead to the final break. He feared the ultimate result would be what he calls *Americanische that is, American mob rule. Walther, on the other hand, responded, I don't think this will happen. What I think we'll see in our Missouri Synod rather is the proper relationship between pastor and people, not at odds with one another, but complementing one another, serving one another, if you will, the priesthood of all believers calling their pastors to serve them with word and sacraments, not in contradiction or in competition with one another, but rather each serving in the vocation in which God has placed them. Grabau himself could never reconcile himself to this particular perspective. Ultimately, as tensions heightened between the two groups, he would, in a unilateral move, excommunicate the entire Missouri Synod. Such highhanded activities led many of the pastors and congregations within the Buffalo Synod to become very unhappy with Grabau�s leadership. And in 1866, the majority of Buffalo Synod congregations withdrew from that synod and joined the Missouri Synod. Grabau remained the leader of the Buffalo Synod until his death. But in the wake of his death, the Buffalo Synod slowly modified its position to reflect that of many of the American Lutheran synods until it was, for all intents and purposes, a congressionally oriented synod as well opening the way to its eventual merger into the American Lutheran Church in 1930. That question, that controversy, between Walther, Lohe, and Grabau continues to confront the Missouri Synod today. And as a result, at our synodical convention in 2001, our church body found it necessary to reaffirm Walther�s book, Church and Ministry. But reaffirming that book is not enough. Refamiliarizing ourselves with its teaching I think is the real direction in which we need to go, Nick. That book captures well the proper relationship between pastor and people all under the leadership of Christ and provides the forum for the church to go forward maintaining its faithful confession while, at the same time, providing a vigorous forum for its mission. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****