Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 25 - LCMS in World Mission (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-025 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST 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. ***** >> DAVID: I find this discussion about mission efforts in the world so exciting. But, of course, I want to know and understand the decisions my own church has made in mission work. How does the LCMS fit into this big picture of world mission? >> SPEAKER: Well, David, that is a natural question to want to know where our church fits in to this big and exciting story of the worldwide mission of the church. And I'd like to try to answer that really in two ways. For starters, I think that it's important to remember that in the early days of the Missouri Synod, when the Missouri Synod was first organized, it began as a movement on the receiving side of that picture of missions, rather than on the sending side. This is what I mean by that. The Missouri Synod was organized in 1847 primarily as a group of German immigrants. And it was organized with the purpose of serving and ministering to German immigrants on the American frontier. That was their primary mission focus. They were very explicit about that on many occasions. They made it pretty clear that they had a target audience. They were aiming at German-speaking arrivals on the American frontier. This actually goes back before the organization of the synod to the work of Friedrich Wyneken. Wyneken had come really as a missionary pastor to America and was sent to the frontier to try to plant Lutheran churches and find German-speaking settlers who had managed to get to the American frontier, which in those days, the American frontier was in Indiana and southern Michigan. And Wyneken worked under harsh conditions under all the difficulties of the Wild West and managed to establish numerous congregations and make contact with some of these German settlers that were there, and he wrote was really a cry for help back to Germany for assistance in this important work. He described in tragic terms the plight of these German settlers who were living on the American frontier without any contact whatsoever with Christianity and the dire need they had for the word of God and for proper spiritual care. And it was that cry for help from Wyneken that attracted the attention of men like Wilhelm Lohe who would send some much aid to the mission in North America and also attracted attention of men like Wilhelm *Sieler and Friedrich Kramer who offer themselves for missionary service in North America and became pastors and leaders and really missionary organizers of this endeavor. But, you see, the point is that much of the assistance, much of the aid, both in terms of money and in terms of personnel, was coming from overseas, that the Missouri Synod, as it got organized in its early days, was the recipient of mission assistance. It wasn't really a sending church. It was a mission church. It was a mission field in many ways. That was an explicit part of their identity. The original name of the Missouri Synod was the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States. There are very specific about their ethnic identity, as well as their confessional identity. They knew that the target of their mission work were German-speaking immigrants. Now, that might seem a little bit exclusive and ethnocentric to us today. But the fact of the matter was they had very limited resources, and German immigrants formed the largest single ethnic group of any immigrant group to the United States in the middle to late 19th century. Hundreds of thousands of German-speaking newcomers were finding their way to the American West lured by the possibility of a new life and great opportunities. And someone had to pay attention to the spiritual care of this vast migrating population. And the Missouri Synod saw that as its particular God-given calling to plant churches among this large and growing immigrant group. But clearly, an immigrant group, and many of the Missouri Synod�s strategies and approaches to the ministry in America were specifically chosen to suit this immigrant situation. An example, the most common way of starting a Missouri Synod church in the 19th century, was to start a church and a school together. The school, of course, was primarily for catechetical instruction, but they taught all the subjects. And very important, the school was conducted in German. This was a natural magnet to German-speaking newcomers and communities that wanted their children to get an education but didn't necessarily want to give up their mother tongue and the language and culture of the old country. This German-speaking congregation and German-speaking school as a unit, were a powerful tool for accomplishing this immigrant mission that was the focus of the early Missouri Synod. And it was fueled by such institutions and fed by a constant influx of new German immigrants throughout the 19th century that the Missouri Synod became a numerically large and well-established church body in America without any intentional outreach to English-speaking or native-born Americans. Their focus was on in these immigrant groups, he German-speaking immigrants. They had several opportunities throughout the 19th century to reconsider that. We can understand some of the thought process that went into that mission. If we look at the old convention records of the synod from the 19th century, for instance, the 1874 convention of the synod passed a resolution stating that the synod has a particular God-given duty to assist the German immigrants who come from Lutheran homes. So this was not just a question for them of being ethnocentric or short-sighted, they really understood this as their God-given duty to reach out to these German-speaking immigrants. Who else was going to help them, after all? It's interesting that shortly after that, the convention in 1878, just four years later, thought through its mission again and concluded in another resolution, God also wants the gospel he entrusted to us to be preached among the English-speaking Americans. Love compels us, he said. So there was awareness that the gospel that they enjoyed and from which they lived was for everyone, but there wasn't a clear idea of necessarily how to reach English-speaking Americans. And on the other hand, they were quite busy. They had their hands full, really, of working with German-speaking immigrants. In the 1880�s, a convention of the synod passed a resolution stating that with already so much ministry to do, the synod will not begin a new mission without an express indication from God that such is His will. They were just maxed out. They had not enough money or manpower to meet any more mission challenges, as far as they could tell. So they weren't going to tackle any new missions unless and God gave them a direct indication that He wanted them to do so. Now, they didn't add any stipulations of how they would recognize God's leading them in this direction. But apparently, it wasn't that difficult because the very next convention resulted in an explosion of new mission opportunities and resolutions that pointed the synod outward into new mission endeavors. But throughout the 19th century, the focus was primarily on reaching German-speaking immigrants. That was so effective and such a clear focus of the synod, that it wasn't until 1935, almost 90 years after the synod had been founded, that it elected its first American-born president. John W. Behnken was the first American-born president of the synod. Before him, all the presidents of the synod had been born in the old country. They were immigrants themselves, and they were leaders of an immigrant mission church. I think that's important to realize when we think about the mission identity of the Missouri Synod is to realize first of all, the synod started as a church on the receiving end of mission help, not on the sending end. Let me turn, now, to that sending side of the work of the synod to send out missionaries from us to reach others. It's true that our focus was on German-speaking immigrants. That was a sort of inner focus. In fact, they referred to it as *inneren mission (German) in German, inner mission, home mission, you might say. And that home mission might take place anywhere. It wasn't a geographical distinction. But they were also aware of the need for foreign missions. Foreign missions in the early days of the Missouri Synod didn't mean something outside the United States. Foreign mission meant mission work in a language other than German. It was foreign language work so the task of taking the gospel to your English-speaking neighbor was foreign language work. This was foreign mission work whereas the work of planting churches among German immigrants in Brazil was regarded as inner mission or home mission because the people you were working with, these German-speaking immigrants, were very much like yourself. Foreign missions became more and more important as time went on in the Missouri Synod. The first big endeavor of the synod was the work among freed slaves in the American south after the Civil War. In this work, the Missouri Synod cooperated with other Lutheran bodies to plant churches in an English-speaking mission effort. This was, for all intents and purposes, a foreign mission field for the Missouri Synod in the 1870's and '80s. That worked developed ultimately into an opportunity for the synod to begin work in Africa in the early 20th century. Probably the first individuals that we today would look to and recognize as foreign missionaries from the Missouri Synod were, in fact, two missionaries that had already served with the Leipzig Mission from Germany in India. Their names were Theodore Naether and Franz Mohn. Naether and Mohn had been sent by the Leipzig Mission and had started their work in India, but they encountered theological disputes with the mission and ultimately severed their connection with the Leipzig Mission and were then left without any support. They turned their attention to the Missouri Synod and corresponded and ultimately also visited and were accepted as missionaries of the Missouri Synod and sent back in 1894 to return to their work and continue where they had left off. They became then the first foreign missionaries of the Missouri Synod working in India. I have with me a book that has an excerpt from an account of the life and death of Theodore Mohn. He worked for about nine years after the Missouri Synod sent him back to India and ultimately, there was an outbreak of plague in the area where he was working. And he was actively involved in ministering to people who were and contracting and dying of this horrible disease. He began to develop symptoms himself, and I'll read just a little bit of this account so you get a flavor for the conditions under which he worked. "On Sunday, seventh of February 1904 at noon, the little child died. And now the transfer of the whole family to the *past hospital in the segregation camp was ordered. But first, missionary Naether gave the mother, sick of the plague as she was, and the father, Holy Communion. In the evening, Naether buried the little boy in the mission compound garden, and when he helped to bed him in a box, because he did not want us to simply cover him with dirt like a dog, the smell of the plague came to him from the little body. Apparently, the sickness was transferred to him thereby for already the next day, pains in the armpits and mild fever began. Nevertheless, he carried out his duties hoping with the cleaning and disinfecting of the outbuildings and in the evening buried the boy's mother who had died in the morning in a special cemetery near the *Pest hospital. On Tuesday, the pains multiplied, and since none of the *Pest officials looked after him, he took himself to the hospital and a native orderly examined him. The orderly confirmed that the pains came from developing of boils of the plague. It is hard to describe with what emotions the brother went home. But with the greatest poise and faithfulness, he set his house in order, wrote to his aged parents, to the mission director, to the bank in Madras, called Samuel�s family and admonished them to remain true to the Lutheran Church, admonished the heathen servants in this time of need to place their confidence not on a false but a true God and not to desert their masters. And then always standing at a distance, he bade farewell to his brothers and his sisters and his children. These were placed into the faithful keeping of his brother-in-law and were immediately lodged in that part of the house that was farthest from his bedroom. On the next day, quartered in the school building. Only his wife stayed with the sick man who, to save her as much work and contact with him as possible, dressed himself in a clean white suit and laid down on his bed. She is witness of how he prepared himself for death as a humble sinner who lives only by the grace of Christ. " Naether�s death by plague in 1904 was all too common for foreign missionaries in the 19th century. They suffered from the same diseases that took the people they served and constituted a very real threat and a very real danger for those who committed themselves to life on the mission field. So that was the account of the death of the first foreign missionary of the Missouri Synod, Theodore Naether, as the Missouri Synod entered into this grand picture of world mission on a pattern that resembles in many ways that of other groups and churches about the same time. ***** 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. *****