Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 50 - The Saxons after the Removal of Stephan (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-050 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. ***** >> JOSHUA: The sudden loss of the leader under such painful circumstances must have been a hard blow for the Saxons. How did they recover from that? >> DR. LAWRENCE RAST: Joshua, you're right. It was a devastating blow, and it points, it seemed that the community would not recover. Carl Vehse, whom I mentioned before, in fact left the colony and went back to Germany and publicly repented and reentered his life of public service over there. Others, however, remained, and they struggled through this question and really what happened was they ended up with a distinction between themselves that was always about power, who was in charge. Here they were simply following the lead of how Stephan had helped define the community previously. When Stephan was deposed, the clergy simply stepped in and said, now we're in charge, not as an individual, not as a tyranny or a monarchy, but as an oligarchy, that is, ruled by a few. The others stepped in and said, no. That won't do at all. Those who are truly in charge are the members of the congregations. They have the power to appoint and to depose. And it seemed that there was no way of bringing the two prospectives together. They were necessarily, mutually exclusive. And again, this went on for two years. Great distrust existed between various elements within the community. Some pastors refused to serve saying, I no longer have a call. I am no longer a pastor. Other pastors were deposed by their congregations. The congregations simply saying, we no longer have need of your services. We don't trust you. Otto Herman Walther actually died in January 1841. Dr. Suelflow, long-time curator at Concordia Historical Institute says he died of a broken heart. In some ways that's probably true. Before he died, however, he tried to make provision for the people. That is to say, because they were embroiled in such turmoil over this question, many of the people were not taking the opportunity to prepare themselves for the coming winter. The result: people were going hungry. People were sick. People were dying. And in order to try to help these poor folks, Otto Herman Walther at one point proposed the formation of a charity board of sorts. And this charity board would be responsible for determining need and giving out money to those who were in the most dire straits. However, in his proposal, he actually stated it should be one of the clergymen who was responsible for this activity. The congregations, individual laypeople, reacted violently against the proposal, refused to acknowledge the plan. And as a result, many people continued to go hungry. There was profound and fundamental distrust that characterized the community. Why? They were functioning largely within the realm of the law, power. Who's in charge? Finally, finally, they said, we must come to grips with this problem. And they proposed a debate between the two sides: clergy and laity. On the clergy side, the one defending their position was to be C. F. W. Walther. He had succeeded the leadership position vacated by his brother who had died, as I said, in January 1841. On the lay side, Adolph Marbach who had risen to the forefront after Vehse�s departure. In April 1841, the two men came together at Altenburg in Perry County to hold what we today call the Altenburg Debate. And the assumption was the two would simply defend their existing positions. Walther, however, upset the apple cart by presenting a very different perspective on the entire matter. What he did was to strive to define the church in terms of scripture and the Lutheran confessions. And in a brilliant series of theses settled the controversy and blessed us with both a perspective on church and ministry as well as a polity that has continued to be effective within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. What did he do? Simply put, he started from the most general of perspectives saying that the church is defined by the means of grace. That is to say, the church is the Holy Spirit's creation working through the proclaimed word and the administered sacraments. Where the word and sacraments are present, the Holy Spirit is present to create and sustain faith. Thus, the simple question that Walther raised in the minds of the people was: Have we maintained the word and sacraments. The answer, obviously, yes. Despite all our other errors, those things have remained central. Thus the next question: Are we then church. The answer has to be yes because the church is Christ's. It's not the clergy's church. It's not the laity's church. It's Christ's church. And within that church, God calls, gatherers, enlightens, sanctifies his people, drawing them into his kingdom, making them his people through that proclaimed word and administered sacraments. Those people then, as priests of God -- here we see the emphasis on the priesthood of all believers -- call from within their midst men to proclaim that word and administer those sacraments as servants of those whom God has called into his church. Thus says Walther, it's not us versus them on either side. It's simply us. There is no pastorate without a congregation. And a congregation without a pastor is not complete. Rather, what the Lord desires is a man who is serving the people of God that God has given to them. And beyond that, it is the people of God that Christ calls to establish that office in their midst. There's a mutual interdependency. There's not a question of power and who�s in authority. Rather, all of us are under Christ as his church. Walther's proposals are remarkable in the way they concisely bring forward the scriptural and confessional teachings regarding the office of the ministry and the nature of the church. He would spend a lifetime expanding on these points so that we see remarkable works coming from his pen, one being Church and Ministry about which we'll have a lot more to say later in the course. But what is so striking in this particular instance is the way Walther uses scripture and confessions to focus on the gospel that unites us all in the one Christ. What is striking as well is the manner in which this community goes from being in chaos and turmoil in the months immediately preceding April 1841 to being harmoniously committed to the establishment and maintenance and expansion of this Biblical teaching. They go from being full of turmoil and inwardly turned to seeking out like-minded Lutherans beyond their own community. And to this end, this group begins to publish a newspaper. Der Lutheraner is published first on September 7, 1844. When it comes to Wyneken's attention in Fort Wayne, he is reported to have said, thank God that there are other Lutherans in America. And from that point forward, he, his colleagues, along with the Saxons, will work to come together to form a distinctively confessional Lutheran church. ***** 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. *****