Full Text for Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences of 1856-1859 (Text)

(ttnurnrbia m4tnlngital &tntIJly Continuing LEHRE UND WEHRE MAGAZIN FUER E v .-LUTH. HOMILETIK THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY-THEOLOGICAL MONTHLY Vol. XV August, 1944 No. 8 CONTENTS Pap Fetlowship with God. c. A.upst llardt ___ ______. __ 505 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences of 1856-1859 ___ 529E. L. Luker ____ S63Outlines OB the Standard Gospels Theological Observer 572 Eln PrediIer muas Dicht alleIn tOft­ Es 1st kein DIng. das die Leute den, also daas lIE die Schafe unter­ mehr bel deJ" Klrche behaelt dem weise. wle lie recbte ~ 801len die gute :Predl8t. - Apologfe, Art. 24 seID. 8OIl~ auch ~ den Woe1­ feD. to.hnm, -daas Bfe die Sehafe atcht aoare1feb. und mit falllcher Lehre ver­ If the trumpet give an uncertafn fuehren un4 IrrtuDl elnfuebren_ sound. who &ball prepare himself to Luthet' the battle? - 1 C07'.14:8 Published for the Ev. Lath. Synod of Missouri, Ohio, aDd Other States CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE, st.Louis 18, Mo. ftIRDII m v ... ,.. Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 529 cession for us." 143) His blood cleanses,144) and keeps on cleansing, us from all sin, thus making it possible for us to continue in fellow- ship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. By that faith we live and hope to die. By that faith we look with expectant eyes and longing hearts for the consummation of our fellowship with God at the coming of the Lord, when the vision of the seer on Patmos shall have been fulfilled: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. And I, John, saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying: Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God. And God shall \vipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away." 145) Then Paradise lost will be Paradise regained, and in that P aradise we shall enjoy blissful, unbroken communion with our God forever and ever. Until that day dawns, may the saving grace of the Lord J esus Christ, the redeeming love of the F ather, and the sanctifying fellowship of the Holy Ghost be with us all. Milwaukee, Wis. C. AUGUST HARDT Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences of 1856- 1859 I. Incidents Leading to the F irst Conference The minutes of the first session of the Fourth Free Conference contain this sentence: "The meeting expressed its heartfelt sorrow because Professor Walther , who gave the first impetus towards the calling of free conferences and through whom God Himself caused so many bless- ings to be added to the conferences, was prevented this time by a severe throat illness from participating in the transaciions of the conference." 1) The immediate cause of the conferences was undoubtedly the attempt made within t he General Synod to overthrow the Un- 143) Heb. 7:25. 144) Here we have the durative present, %(1ll(lQ£~EL, 1 John 1: 7. 145) Rev. 21:1-4. 1) Lutheraner, XVI, 10. 34 530 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences altered Augsburg Confession by substituting for it an American TecensL__ cal: __ ' the Definite Platform. This recension UIaS ap- proved by the Wittenberg Synod in September, 1855.2 ) Walther 2) The nature and tendency of the Definite PlatfoTnt, may be seen from the following quotations selected from Part I ("Preliminary Prin- ciples") nf the Platform: "Thus also did the Lutheran Reformers of the sixteenth century, when cited by the Emperor to appear before the Diet at Augsburg, present the Confession, bearing the name of that city, as an expose of their principal doctrines; in which they also professedly reject only the greater part of the errors that had crept into the Romish Church. (See conclusion of the Abuses Corrected.) Subsequently Luther and his coadjutors still further changed their views on some subjects in that Confession, such as the Mass, and seven years later taught purer views ll-i the Smalcald P~rticles. "Again a quarter of a century after Luther's death, these and other writings of Luther and l'vielanchthon, together with a..'1other work which neither of them ever saw, the Form of Concord, were made binding on ministers and churches, not by the Church herself, acting of her own free choice, but by the civil authorities of certain kingdoms and prin- cipalities. The majority of Lutheran kingdoms, however, rejected one or more of them, and the Augsburg Confession alone has been acknowl- edged by the entire Lutheran Church (HuUeT'U8 Red., § 116, p. 50), "Whereas the entire Lutheran Church of Germany has rejected the symbolicd books as a whole and also abandoned some vf the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession, among others the far greater part of them the doctrine of the bodily presence of the Savior in the Eucharist, and our fathers in this country also more than a half century ago ceased to require a pledge to any of these books, whilst they still believed and in various ways avowed the great fundamental doctrines contained in them; "And whereas the General Synod of the American Lutheran Church, about a quarter of a century ago, again introduced a qualified acknowl- edgement of the Augsburg Confession, ii}. the Constitution of her Theological Seminary, and in her Constitution for District Synods, at the ordination and licensure of ministers, without specifying the doctrines to be omitted, except by the designation that they are not fundamental doctrines of Scripture; and whereas a general desire has prevailed amongst our ministers and churches, to have this basis expressed in more definite manner; and the General Synod has left the matter optional with each District Synod: "Therefore we regard it as due to the cause of truth, as well as to ourselves and the public, to specify more minutely what tenets of the Augsburg Confession, and of the former symbolic system, are rejected, some by all, others by the great mass of the ministers and churches of the General Synod in this countrj'. "Accordingly, the following American Recension of the Augsburg Confession has been prepared, by consultation and co-operation of a number of Evangelical Lutheran Ministers of Eastern and Western Synods belonging to the Genf'ral Synod, at the special request of Western brethren, whose churches particularly need it, being inter- mingled with German churches, which avow the whole mass of the former symbols. In this revision, not a single sentence has been added to the Augsburg Confession, whilst those several aspects of doctrine have been omitted which have long since been regarded by the great mass of our churches as unscriptural, and as remnants of Romish errors. "The only errors contained in the Confession (which are all omitted in this Recension) are ~ Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 531 immediately recognized the danger in this attempt to overthrow the IV[agna Charta of Lutheranism, He had previously warr:d Lutherans against the tendency to delete certain articles from the Confession or to subscribe to it with reservations.S ) The move- 1. The Approval of the Ceremonies of the Mass, 2. Private Confession and Absolution. 3. Denial of the Divine Obligation of the Christian Sabbath. 4. Baptismal Regeneration. 5. The Real Presence of the Body and Blood of the Savior in the Eucharist, ". . . whilst we will not admit into our Synod anyone who believes in Exorcism, Private Confession and Absolution, or the Ceremonies of the Mass, we grant liberty in regard to the other omitted topics, and are willing, as heretofore, to admit minJ.sters who receive them, provided they regard them as non-essential, and are willing to co-operate in peace with those who reject them, and to subscribe the pledg~ defined in the following Resolutions: "I. Therefore, Resolved, That this Synod hereby avows its belief in the following doctrinal Basis, namely, the so-called Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the American Recension of the Augsbtlrg C011- jession, as a more definite expression of the doctrinal pledge prescribed by the GenNal Synod's Cunstitution for District Synods, D.nd as a correct exhibition of the Scnpture doctrines discussed in it: and that 'We regard agreement among brethren on these subjects as a sufficient basis for harmonious co-operation in the same church. "II. Resolved, That we receive the General Synod's For'mula of Government and Discipline, contained in her Hymn Book, as our directory, and that any additions or alterations we may desire we will embody in by-laws; so that our beloved Church may possess and exhibit to the world entire harmony in the reception of one Doctrinal and Disciplinarian Platform. "III. Resolved, That we will not receive into our Synod any minister who will not adopt the Pledge defined in these Resolutions and faith- fully labor to maintain its discipline in his charge." (Definite Platform, Doctrinal and Disciplinarian, for Evangelical Lutheran District Synods; Constructed in accordance with the Principles of the General Synod, Philadelphia, Miller & Burlock, 1856, pg. 3-6.) A "Symbolical Disclaimer" in which certain articles in the Con- fessions were rejected was appended to the Definite Platform. The following introductory remarks to the "Disclaimer" are significant: "The extraordinary length of the other former symbolic books as a whole, is sufficient reason for their rejection as a prescribed creed, even if all their contents were believed to be true; because neither the Scriptures nor the practice of the early centuries, affords any warrant for an uninspired and therefore fallible creed, nearly as large as the entire Old and New Testament together. The exaction of such an extended creed is subversive of all individual liberty of thought and freedom of Scriptural investigation." "The following extracts from the former symbolical books we reject, not because they do not contain some sentences of truth; but because the particular doctrine taught in each is regarded as erroneous by the great mass of the churches in connection with the General Synod" (op. cit., 20). 3) He criticized the deflections of the General Synod (Luth. VI, 35; et a1.), He opposed Sprecher of the college in. Springfield, Ohio, for maintaining that the Augsburg Confession provided only "historical 532 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences ment inaugurated by the Wittenberg Synod caused him grave anxiety for the future of Lutheranism. He wrote in Lehre und Wehre: 4 ) "When in September of the previous year the Wittenberg Synod of Ohio brought forth its Definite Platform for a so-called American Lutheran Church, together with her official repudiation of the constitution, the Magna Charta of our Church, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, and exhorted all who shared their opinions to quit traditional Lutheranism, then it seemed as though a de- structive storm was gathering and threatening to strike the Lu- theran Church of our New Fatherland." The storm, however, did not strike as devastatingly as Walther had feared. Only three synods subscribed to the Definite Platform by January, 1856.5 ) Only three leading church periodicals showed interest in the Definite Platform.6 ) Other publications rejected it. information and witnesses of faith" (Luth. VI, 57) . He received for publication an article which censured the Iowa Synod because said synod subscribed to the Augsburg Confession but qualified its subscription in such a way as to leave room for "doctrinal progress" (Luth. XII, 2) . On the other hand, Walther praised those who were loyal to the Con- fession. Thus he spoke of Professor Reynolds of Columbus, Ohio, as one "who is loyal in attitude toward our Church and her Confessions" (Luth. VI, 134). 4) 11,3. 5) These synods were the Wittenberg Synod, the Olive-Branch Synod, and the English Synod of Ohio. By the end of the year, however, the Northern Synod of Indiana, the Kentucky Synod, the Miami Synod, and the Synod of Central Pennsylvania had adopted the Platform, while the Pittsburgh Synod had shown definite leanings toward it (L. u. W., II, 223; 280) . The Alleghany Synod discussed the selection of a committee to alter the Augsburg Confession, but action was postponed (L. u . W ., II, 223) . 6) The Lutheran Observer, the Lutherische Kirchenbote of Gettys- burg, and the Evangelical Lutheran of Springfield, Ohio (L. u. W., II, 3) . The Lutheran Observer became the chief open exponent of the movement. When the editor of the Evangelical Lutheran was urged to champion the Platfonn, he indicated that he would resign (Evangelical Lutheran, Feb. 1, 1856) . Later the Evangelical Lutheran gave its subscription list to the Luthemn Observer and ceased to appear (L. u. W ., II, 156) . The LtLtheran Observer continued the struggle for the Platform. It challenged, for example, the Virginia Synod for calling the Augsburg Confession its confession and maintained that the Augustana was only a relic of the Reformation (L. u. W ., II, 28). When confusion and dissension arose because of the Definite Platform, the editor of the same paper declared that the Recension contained nothing new, that all members of the General Synod had always dealt according to the principles therein contained (Lutheran Observer, Jan. 25, 1856; L. u. lV., II, 64). In the Feb. 15 number of the Observer, the editor urged a compromise by which the Augsburg Confession would be left unharmed but at the same time the friends of the Recension would be satisfied. He urged the adoption of the following resolutions: 1. That the errors in the Augsburg Con- fession should not be taught; and that, accordLng to our opinion, a correct interpretation of the Confession excludes such errors entirely; 2. That whatever opinions a person may have regarding the points mentioned, , Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 533 The Lutheran Standard of Ohio strongly opposed the move- ment;7) the Missionary agreed with the condemnation of the Re- cension voiced by the East Pennsylvania Synod;8) the Lutherische Herold 9) likewise rejected the shameful attempt to overthrow the constitution of Lutheranism. The strong opposition to the Definite Platform filled Walther with joy and caused him to hope that a united Lutheran Church of America would soon come into being. In order to hasten the formation of such a united Lutheran Church, he published the following appeal for free Lutheran conferences in Lehre und Wehre: 10) "This constellation [that is, the united front of those loyal to the U . A. C.] certainly fills all who love the Lutheran Zion of this land with great joy and also with hope for the future. It has our preachers and our people have the fullest freedom, and by right must have such freedom, to believe regarding the Confessions what, according to their opinion, the inspired Word of God teaches, and that neither Church nor Synod has the right to disquiet or disturb them in their belief. Walther pointed out that the General Synod might have effected such a compromise before the Definite Platform appeared. That document had opened the eyes of many. Furthermore, human right granted to all the privilege to believe as they chose; God, however, requi.red that everyone believe the doctrines of the Bible (L. u W., II, 95) . The Lutheran Obse1've1' continued to attack doctrines taught in the Augsburg Con- fession, e. g., the Real Presence, rebirth through Baptism, confession and absolution, etc. (L. u. W., II, 140) . 7) L. u. W ., 11,3 8) The Missionary seems later to have disappointed Walther. The Pittsburgh Synod at its meeting at Zelienople declared itself opposed to alterations in the Confession and formally subscribed to the A. C. At the same meeting, however, it rejected the "error" of "the real presence or the Roman Catholic transubstantiation" and also "priestly absolution." Furthermore, it declared, if the Augsburg Confession were properly interpreted, it would not disagree wit..l} the convictions held by the Synod on the points mentioned (Luth. XII, 181) . 9) L. u. W. II,3. Other voices opposing the Platform were heard. W. J. Mann, pastor of St. Michael's and Zion Churches, Philadelphia, in a pamphlet entitled "A Plea for the Augsburg Confession in f...nswer to the Objections of the Definite Platform" (Philadelphia, 1856), vigorously attacked the Platform and above all the conceit of synods which would ban ministers from Lutheran congregations because they adhered to certain articles of the Augsburg Confession. (This "Plea" was answered by S. S. Schmucker in a pamphlet entitled "American Lutheranism Vindi- cated: or Examination of the Lutheran Symbols on Certain Disputed Topics," Baltimore, 1856. This pamphlet attacked especially the teaching of the Real Presence and rebirth through Baptism. The pamphlet was endorsed by the Lutheran Observer.) .Another pamprJet, published by Pastor J . R. Hoffmann, with the title "The Broken Platform" (Phila- delphia, 1856), likewise attacked the Recension. Hoffmann belonged to the General Synod and had hoped that tl1is organization would unite American Lutherans. The Definite Platform opened his eyes to the dangerous tendencies within that Synod. His attitude is shown in the motto of his pamphlet: "0 Teucri, ne credite equo." 10) n,3-6 534 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences become evident that the number of those who do not bow, nor wish in the future to bow, their y.nee to the Baal of the so-called 'de- velopment' and the so-called 'higher enlightenment' of the 19th century, is without a doubt greater than our feeble faith or despair had believed. The more this strengthens the faith and the courage of all true Lutherans here, the more compelling is the challenge therein contained to nurture with supreme faithfulness and greatest diligence the unity which God through His marvelous grace has already wrought among us. We, at least for our little part, feel it a sacred duty to add our little bit. "Our brothers in Germany, working apart in various state churches, have utilized free conferences, religious assemblies, etc., as a means toward the promotion of their unity in faith and con- fession. We are convinced that after a time hl which the various local churches lapsed into a deep and general decay in matters of doctrine and practice (as occurred in the last century), there is no way more fitting, with the exception of published written testi- monials, for awakened individuals within the various church bodies to strengthen and advance the church unity which has become lpparent which h _.- ___ chosen w____ mother Church. Since we are living under different circumstances, may we not hope that smiliar general conferences would be more pro- ductive here, in proportion to the extent that the Church is frce from the bonds of the State and mere theories alone militate against church life in this land? We do not doubt it. "So we venture openly to inquire: Would not meetings, held at intervals, by such members of churches as call themselves Lutheran and acknowledge and confess without reservation that the Un- altered Augsburg Confession of 1530 is the pure and true state- ment of the doctrine of sacred Scripture and is also their own belief, promote and advance the efforts toward the final establish- ment of one single Evangelical Lutheran Church of America? We for our part would be ready with all our heart to take part in such a conference of truly believing Lutherans whenever and wherever such a conference would be held pursuant to the wishes of the majority of the participants; at the same time we can promise in advance the support of numerous theologians and laymen to whom the welfare of our precious Ev. Lutheran Church in this new fatherland is equally a matter of deepest heartfelt yeaTIling and "vith '\vhom \ve have discussed the thoughts here expressed. "Since it is true that many differences of opinion still exist among those Lutherans who hold with all their heart to the funda- mental Confession of our Church, the treatment of which in our periodicals can more easily hinder than advance unity among us, the personal and verbal statements and expressions of opinions Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 535 would above all else surely bring about this unparalleled blessing, l1al'uely, that the contest within our Churc] / {hict ":1 ab ,~ be necessary) will receive and keep the nature of a mutual com~ petition among brethren for the faithful preservation of the pre- cious gem of doctrinal purity and unity. In order, however, not to overreach the brethren, we shall refrain from expressing our~ selves further on the proposal made." 11) Walther invited others to express their opinions, either in personal letters or in periodicals and publications. Such opinions were soon expressed. In Lehre und Wehre 12) an article written by a person with the initials A. B. endorsed such a conference. The author felt that the following rules should govern the con- ference: 1. That the conference be an open one and the minutes thereof published; 2. That only those who expressed adherence to the entire Book of Concord be permitted to participate in the discussions; 3. That the conferences be held annually; ~. Th le pl T1Jose of the con' 'lce i 1d n, ~ to 0_ solve any Lutheran body in America; 5. That those who attended the conference should bear in mind that the purpose thereof was to unite and not to separate; 6. That the Leipzig Conferences should be taken as models; 7. And that theses for the conference should be dravvll up in advance. Walther opposed the suggestion that theses be drawn up in advance. He was also opposed to limiting the membership of the conference to those who subscribed to the entire Book of Concord. After quoting the above-mentioned suggestions, he criticized some of them with the following words: "There is no doubt that the person who without reservation subscribes to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession cannot reject one single phrase in the other Confessions, inasmuch as these are nothing else than a further development and apology of that which is contained in the Augustana. Nevertheless, as church conditions have been here L'1 the last decades and to some ex~ tent still are, there may well be many a genuine Lutheran who is loyal from the heart to the Augsburg Confession yet does not have the clear kno-",rledge rightly to subscribe to the whole Con- cordia. Also such Lutherans are, without a doubt, our brethren. For that reason the free: general conference should not adopt a basis 11) Walther adds that those in attendance at such a conference should not come as representatives of their respective synods but only speak for their own persons. 12) II, 84-85 536 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences by which it would give the impression of not being willing or able to extend the hand of brotherhood to all upright, honest, Lutherans who hold that general Confession with us; nor should they, we feel, despair of the blessing which could easily come if their basis would make room for those Lutherans, who, with all firmness (Entschiedenheit) for the teachings of our basic Con- fession, still have scruples (Bedenken) concerning the capstone of our confessional structure, the Formula Concordiae. We be- lieve one of the most important duties of the conference would be just this, to remove the uncertainties from the minds of those brethren who still harbor scruples against the consequent un- folding (Durchfuehrung) of the doctrine confessed at Augsburg and, by the grace of God, to lead them to the blessed, happy con- ,riction that the other symbols of our Church are impticite con- tained in the Augustana, which they accept." Other opinions on Walther's proposal were soon expressed. The Lutheran Standard quoted Dr. Walther's appeal in full (Feb. 18, 1856) and later assured the movement its wholehearted sup- port (April 4, 1856).13) The editor of Lehre und Wehre received many _______ __ ___ throughout the United ~_ urged and endorsed the conference.14) The New York pastors, at their conference held in March, 1856, endorsed the free Lu~ theran COJ:1..ierence as proposed by Walther. The Luth", , '~LI'''' .Her- old (April 15, 1856) quoted the original proposal in full and sug- gested topics to be discussed at the conference.16) The Missionary of Pittsburgh (June 1, 1856) agreed with the purpose of the free conference, but held that the time for such a conference had not yet come, since many ministers who could not understand German would not be able to take part in the discussions. It suggested that local free conferences be held for the purpose of discussing doctrine. Walther, however, felt that general conferences should first be held in order that the participants would first of all be 13) "It seems as though a general interest in the importance of any step of that nature is stirring in all parts of the Church .... We can assure the friends of this movement that if such a conference is held .•• the brethren in Columbus, if such be the general wish, will gladly receive them or meet with them at any other place." - Luth 'It Standard (translated from Lehre und Wehre, II, 152). 14) L. 'U. W., II, 148. 16) These topics included the following problems: In what ma •• ~rs must all Lutherans agree? How far does such unity exist among us? Which synods or our country, by the standards of the A. C., are still truly believing? In which matters may differences be permitted, and wl . attitude should the synods take toward one another in view of th, differences? Would it be advantageous or not to solve those differen. at the p:c'esent tillle, and if so, what means should be adopted to rem, them? What rules are to be followed in establishing new congregatiu."" and in those matters pertaining to the ministry, etc. (Cf. L. '!t. W., n, 150-151.) Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 537 assured of their unity and then work for unity in smaller circles.17 ) The Evangelical Lutheran (Feb. 15, 1856) hailed the proposal of Walther as an indication that the exclusive, "hard-shelled" IS) Missourians were yielding.19) 17) L. u. W., 11, 185-186. The Missionary held to its opinion. Later (Oct. 23, 1856) it proposed that not only those Lutherans meet at free conferences who adhered to the U. A. C. but all who called themselves Lutheran. 18) It is hard to understand how Walther, who for years had cham- pioned the doctrine of the invisible Church and its universality, could be called exclusive or how the person who made the following statements could be called "hard-shelled". Walther made many statements similar to the following: "The Lutheran Church is not limited to those neoole who from their youth have borne the name 'Lutheran' or have-taken that name later on. To every person who honestly submits to the whole written Word of God, bears the true faith in our dear Lord Jesus Christ in his heart and confesses it before the world, we extend our hand, regard him also as a fellow believer, as a brother in Christ, as a member of our Church, no matter in what sect he may lie concealed and captive." Luth. I, 5. "As far as our relation to the Indianapolis Synod is concerned, inasmuch as they stand on the same confessional basis with us and are shaping their chu rch practice more and more h. accordance there- with, w e haVe decided to propose closer church fellowship to them. For it would not be in harmony with the Word of God and church practice if we, living in the same country and being in church matters essen- tially one, would exist side by side as two divided church organizations." Luth. VIII, 17. (For doctrinal differences betweeen the two synods at this time see Luth. VIII, 39.) "Weare not fighting for a particular constituted division which calls itself Lutheran. It is not our goal to bring matters to such a pass that all Christians accept a so-called Lutheran Church polity and Lutheran ceremonies, join a Lutheran Synod, or bind themselves by Lutheran symbols. . . . The object of our struggle is nothing else than the true faith, the pure truth, the unfalsified Gospel, the pure foundation of the Apostles and Prophets." Luth. I, 100. "We do not hereby mean to indicate that we are among those who believe that their understanding requires no development or correction. It is rather our constant, serious endeavor to make progress in the recognition of truth and, with the help of God, to free ourselves more and more from the errors which still cling to us." Luth. XIII, 1. "We, only a short time ago, were held captive by many errors, and God had patience with us and with great long-suffering led us unto the way of t r uth. Remembering that, we also will show patience with our erring neighbors and, by God's grace, will refrain from all sinful judging and condemning. We will not attack erring persons but r ather the er rors. Nor w ill we pose as people who alone are true Lutherans a..T1d alone possess the truth, but only bear testimony that God has done great things also for us and has brought us to the knowledge of fue saving truth." Luth. I, 1. "People thought that after withdrawing from the left there was no possibility of erring in the other direction. Thus it has come to p ass that no one has departed farther from true Lutheranism than those who want to be the strictest Lutherans. They did not consider that also the way of truly pure doctrine is everywhere a narrow way, on which 538 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences only he remains who with holy earnestness is intent on turning neither to the right nor the left. It was assumed that the praise of being strictly orthodox .. ~~ ~~~.Y to obtain, .:.~. L. required "L~ __ rnest study, searching deliberation, prayer, struggle, and the conquering of many temptations; every unconverted man had only to attack every apparent heretic and everything which had the appearance of being ecclesiastical laxity with utmost ferocity and to press and urge everything which had the appearance of being churchly, then the deed was accomplished, the prize of orthodoxy won, the Great Inquisitor had established him- self, and all now had to fear his citation to judgment. Thus it has come to the stage that no teacher stands more in the way of the so-called 'strict churchly Lutherans' than - Luther." Luth. XIII, 58. 19) Was Walther yielding? He is ready to call men brethren with whom he had controversies. Walther always considered error a terrible thing. Time and again he indicated that he felt that "every error, when it becomes active in a man, is a deadly poison to the soul" (Luth. I, 14). On the other hand, he also realized that no human being was free from errors or could perfectly understand or explain Scripture. Luther erred (Luth. 1, 3); Walther erred (Luth. XIII, 1); it is wrong to say that the true preacher cannot err (L·utherane·r 1, 83). But let it not be overlooked that Walther wrote against unionism even while the free conferences were being held (Luth. XII, 193; XIII, 167; XIV, 53, 150; XV, 79, 117, 121, 185; XVI, 46). These articles, however, as were most of Walther's ~_ ~:_~ ___ c_.inst union, .. 'ere in the early years directed against union with ., e Rerormed. Walthe>" nnnn. ~w'l.· '. In a.'"1 article published in L'le Luthe-rat~ Observer (Aug. 22, 1856) he re- quested those synods who were urging that free conferences be held to desist from t:lldeavors tu i·estore the symbolical writings, inasmuch as he saw in such endeavors the attempt to give the preachers in America the same authority over the laity which was exercised }erm He felt that the efforts made toward free conferences were brin; disunity. Therefore he requested all Lutheran periodicals and especially Lehre und Wehre to permit the matter to rest (L. u. W., TI, 187). 540 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences of Ohio at its conference May 20-22, 1856, resolved not to take part at a free conference as proposed by Walther for the following reasons: 1. Because they felt that experience taught that subscription only to the Augsburg Confession with the lips or on paper is easy enough and often made in America, but in practice is so com- pletely ignored that pastors and congregations without the least fear of God establish opposition congregations where there are ministers who are known to be loyal to the Confession. 2. Because the person who does not declare adherence to all the Symbolical Books is not sincere in his subscription to the U. A. C. The conference saw no reason why the other Symbolical Books should not be included. 3. Because the conference felt that the Buffalo Synod was ex- cluded from the free conferences. Walther replied to these objections as follows: 23) "Ad 1. That many are loyal to the U. A. C. with lips only and deny it in practice cannot be brought to bear against the principle in acc---' ~ ~-".,. '·.1 L1. - general conference is to 1. - --.--- - ___ 1 and h lce that objection would hold in the case of the best formulated conf~ssi.on. "Ad 2. That the person who knowingly rejects a doctrine taught in one of the other Lutheran confessions cannot be in earnest with his professed loyalty to the U. A. C. is also my con- viction, inasmuch as the other symbols contain nothing more than a development, proof, and apology of the doctrines of the U. A. C. That, on the other hand, the person who declares the Augsburg Confession his confession, but not, for example, the Formula of Concord, is a genuine Lutheran is just as certain. There are whole Lutheran state churches, like the Swedish and the Danish, which have never officially acknowledged the Formula of Concord and have not required their candidates to subscribe to it, which, never- theless, were for that reason never suspected by other Lutheran churches nor denied church fellowship by those churches which subscribed to the whole Formula of Concord. In America it is also the case that, with the exception of U. A. C., the symbols are still somewhat unknown to many Lutheran preachers and for many, because of the nature of their training, it would be no small task to examine quickly the whole Concordia and orientate themselves in it. We therefore deem it right and proper not to look with suspicion on those who for the time being declare their adherence to the TJ. A. C. w';;hout reservation, but t<- ----';end the 23) Luth. XII, 181-182 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 541 hand of brotherhood to them and confer with them, with the con- viction that such are implicite subscribers to the teachings COil- tained in the other symbols, although perhaps they do not yet know these and for that reason are held by a certain hesitancy. We remind ourselves of the words of Luther. He writes in his Urteil ueber den Reichsabschied as follows: 'In addition we must acknowledge that the doctrine preached and submitted at Augs- burg is the true and pure Word of God and that all who believe and hold it are children of God and will be saved, whether they be- lieve now already or will be enlightened later on; which confession will endure until the end of the world and the Last Day. For it is written: "He that believes and calls upon God will be saved." And one must pay loving attention (wahrnehmen) not only to all those who will still join us, but also to the Christian Church which preaches the Word and our people who are its members. For it is written Gal. 6: 16: "As many as walk according to this rule, etc.;" which excludes no one. In accordance therewith, all who believe and live according to the teachings of the Confession and its Apology are by such faith and teaching our brothers, and tn lang' mce! IS as ~h as our OWl ~lso lare forsake them as members of the true Church; whether they unite '.vi.th us whenever thev will; whether they do this quietly or openly; whether they live aluvug us or at a distance. That we say and hold. If Jesus, John 17, prays for all those who were to believe the teachings of the Apostles, why should we, then, forsake and not regard those for whom Jesus prayed? In the fifth place, a person cannot deny that this doctrine which was preached and presented at so many diets has at all times converted a number of people to God, and, if a person were to repulse and separate from this doctrine, he would be fighting against the Holy Spirit inasmuch as they were illumined by the Holy Spirit, who so openly declared that such deeds and works please Him' (Luther, XVI: 1857, 58). "Ad 3. We cannot understand why the proposed plan is held to involve exclusion of the Buffalo Synod. Perhaps the conference means to say that if the free conference tolerates the 'Missourians' in its midst and does not C1tm infamia ban them as unworthy of the name Lutheran, the Buffalo Synod will not participate. The latter has really said t:b..is herself. The Synod writes in the Informatorium: 'How would it be possible for our ministers to cop.1er ~l'lith such preachers as absolVe our eXCOYiUrlunicated people and receive them to Communion?' After the Buffalo Synod, like every other one which subscribes to the U. A. C. without reserva- tion, has been invited to take part in the free conference, it is ri.:'.:._.llOUS to speak of exclusions. . .. Surely, if a person fails to answer direct invitations to a discussion aimed at peace and 542 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences rejects them without shame, then it is not to be wondered at if indirect suggestions for the establishing of peace in Israel are re~ jected. He who because of alleged sins in life will not hold dis- cussions concerning doctrine or want to hear of church fellowship thereby shows that he is given to Donatistic falsehoods and separa- tistic inclinations. . .. It is true, the Buffalo Synod accused our men of saying: 'The Buffalo Synod must be annihilated.' We, however, have declared again and again that the person who in- vented this fable was a liar and challenged the Buffalo Synod to produce its witnesses. "We finally herewith declare with a sincere heart that if the purpose of unifying the Lutherans in America could sooner be attained if we did not take part in the same, we, as far as our person is concerned, would be willing to stay away and would also then praise God from the bottom of our heart if all true Lutherans of America would rally around the Augustana invariata, and we would have to bear the shame of being excluded from the ... ork of establishing the brotherhood (Ps. 122: 3-9). God in his ·wn time me", 1,-1 1Hldoubtedly espouse our cause and remove the undeserved shame." The Lutheran Stancta1'ct (1856, 6) suggested that the following invitation be published in church papers and that pastors who desired to take part in the conference send their names to their respective periodical together with their vote for the place where the conference was to be held: "The undersigned ministers of the Ev. Luth. Church in the United States, with the conviction that the unity and the well- being of our Lutheran Zion will be greatly advanced through the free expression of opinions regarding the various interests of our Church in this land by brethren who are united in faith, herewith extend an invitation to all members of the Ev. Lutheran Church in the United States who hold the u. A. C. to be a true presentation of the teachings of the Word of God to meet with them in the city of ______________________________________ , Wednesday, Octo 1, in a free and brotherly conference concerning the status and needs of the Church in Alnerica" (translated from the German of L. u. \V.). Lehre tmd Wehre (II, 186-187) reprinted the invitation to- gether with the following signatures: F. Wyneken, Go Schaller, F. Buenger, C. F. "l\l. Vlalther, .;..i!CR.' Bie\vend. All these men voted for Columbus, Ohioo The notice was repeatedly published, and the list of names increased (II, 216-217: 245-283). The majority of Missouri Synod ministers and ministers of other Synods voted for Columbus, Ohio. The official invitation was then published in the Lutheran Standard (Septo 9, 1856. Cf. Lutho XIII, 21). Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences n. The First Free Conference 24) Columbus, ~hi;) Old. 1-7, 1856 543 Fifty-four pastors and nineteen laymen (a total of seventy- three) attended the First Free Conference. These men came frum. four synods: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Missouri. Letters from pastors in these synods as well as from ministers of the Ten- nessee, Wisconsin, and Iowa Synods 25) indicated that others 'who were unable to be present were in accord with the purpose of the conference and wished the men assembled at Columbus the guid- ance of the Holy Spirit. The following men were present from the Missouri Synod: Pres. F. Wyneken; Vice-Pres. H. C. Schwan; Profs. C. F. W. V.ralther, W. Sibler, and A. Craemer; Pastors O. Fuerbringer, E. A. Brauer, F. W. Foehlinger, H. Kuehn, J. A. F. Mueller, A. Saupert, G. Schaller, A. Volkert, E. O. Wolff, A. Wavel, and A. Selle. Lay- men of the Missouri Synod were also present. Pastors present from other synods: Pastors F. L. Daib, G. Doepken, C ~, . ¥¥ - :k, F. Groth, P. Heid, R. -:-¥ , ';, J. P. Kalb, S::oeberlin, E. Kornbaum, Prof. W. F Lehmann, r}""'--~ 'J'\IT T -,--" n. __ L __ ,.._ i"., M. Martens, K. Mees, J. G. H. Nuetzel, D. Hothacker, A. Rueter, J. A. Schulze, J. C. Schulze, J. Seidel, C. Spilmann, F. W. Steimle, C. F. Stohlmann, C. H. Weisel, C. Wernle, Prof. D. Worley; Pastors P. Gast, J. J. Fast. The conference met in Trinity Church, Columbus, Ohio, and was opened with a hymn, prayer, and the recitation of the Apostles' Creed by the pastor of the church, Prof. W. F. Lehmann of the Ohio Synod. Professor Lehmann was elected as chairman, Pastor C. F. Stohlmann as vice-chairman, Pastor H. C. Schwan and Prof. M. Loy as secretaries. After the greetings and communications had been read, the chairman called for motions relative to matters to be discussed. Motions were made to discuss 1) doctrine; 2) church worship; 3) church polity. It was also proposed to discuss the various needs of the Lutheran Church in America. It was pointed out, however, that recent attacks on the Augsburg Confession had motivated 24) The minutes of the free conferences were written in G - and English and submitted to various Lut..~eran periodicals for publica- tion (e. g., Luthemn Standard, Lutherische Herold, Lutheraner, et al.), The minuter- Hm~n ~l~n ~~;~+~-" ,~ ~amphlet fonn ("Auszug ,--- '''-7\ Verhandlungen der Freien Ev.-Lutherischen Konferenz, zu etc.", H. Lud- wig, New York, 1858 Unless otherwise indicated, all quotations and material in this description of the conference are translated from the Lutheraner. The minutes of the first conference are in Luthe'rane'r XIII,49ft. 25) Luth. XITI, 33 544 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences the calling of the conference. For that reason it was of the greatest importance that the delegates at the conference assure each other of their loyalty to the U. A. C . not only in substance, but in all its parts.26) After some discussion, the following resolution was 26) In a Refemt (read at the synodical meeting held at St. Louis in 1858. Luth. XIV, 201 ft.) Walther defines the meaning of an unqualified subscription to the U. A. C.: "Since the Symbols are confessions of the faith or doctrine of the Church (and can be or aim at being nothing else) , an unqualified subscription can be understood as nothing else than a solemn oathlike promise to the Church by the person who is entering its service that he considers the doctrinal content itself of the Con- fessions (but this without exception) as differing in no single instance (either in a primary or secondary point) from the Scripture and as being in harmony with it in every point, and for that reason believes in it as in God's Word itself and thus intends to nreach that doctrine without falsification. Therefore whatever position -a teaching occupies in the doctrinal structure of the Symbols and in whatever form it is presented, be it that of a matter specifically (ex professo) treated or that of an incidental statement, the unqualified subscription applies to all of them. . . . Clinging to the principle that the Symbols are con- fessions of faith and doctrine, the Church, on the other hand, must necessarily exclude all that which does not pertain to doctrine from the material by which the subscriber is bound." Walther considered the following of the latter nature: 1. Matters of style and language. 2. Everything belonging to the field of human sciences (mensch- Hehe Wissensehaften) and the field of criticism. 3. Historical matters. 4. Exegesis. ("In einem aehnlichen Verhaeltnisz steht auch die Aus- legung welche im Symbol von einzelnen Schriftstellen gegeben wird. Der heilige Apostel Paulus selbst stellt als das einzige unbedingt noth- wendige Erfordernisz einer unverwerflichen Weissagung oder Auslegung der .Schrift auf: 'Hat jemand Weissagung, so sei sie dem Glauben aehnlich,' Rom. 12: 7. Hieraus zieht Johann Gerhard den Auslegungs- kanon: 'Moegen wir auch immerhin den eigentlichen und besondern Sinn aller Stellen nicht erreichen, so genuegt es doch, in del.' Auslegung derselben nichts wider die Aehnlichkeit des Glaubens vorzubringen. Gesetzt also, dass ein Ausleger den besondern Sinn irgend einer Bibel- stelle nicht traefe, legte er dieselbe aber so aus, dass seine Auslegung ihren Grund in andern Schriftstellen haette, so irrte er sich wohl in der Meinung, dass eine gewisse Lehre in einer bestimmten Stelle enthalten sei, er irrte aber nicht in der Lehre. Auch wer die symbolischen Buecher unbedingt unterschreibet, erklaert daher damit nur, dasz alle in den- selben enthaltenen Auslegungen 'dem Glauben aehnlich' seien.") 5. "Since, moreover, the proof for a doctrine can be incomplete, although the doctrine to be proved or the conclusion itself rests on an unshakable divine basis and also the doctrines selected to aid in the proof of the preceding or following clauses are correct, hence also an unqualified subscription does not include . . . the form, method, and process of argumentation . . . and thus bind every loyal servant of the Church to use the method of the Symbols and no other." 6. While the doctrine of Christian freedom is subscribed to and binding, matters pertaining to church constitu tion (Kirchenverfassung), church laws (Kirchenordnung), and church ceremonies (Kirchencere- monien) touched on in the Confessions naturally are adiaphora and may be adopted or rejected. Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 545 adopted: 27) "Surely all who love our Lutheran Zion deplore with grief the -, divided state from which our Church suffers 11 __ _ in the United States of North America, and all earnestly desire to see the growth of this evil checked and all sincere Lutherans united on the basis of truth. We Lutherans, too, who are at present assembled here in Columbus perceive with great sorrow the lamentable divided condition affiicting our dear Lutheran Church in this country. We recognize also the sacred duty which devolve8 upon us children and members of this Church to do whatever we can through God's grace that the breaches in the walls of Zion be closed, that which is separated be united and, God willing, be formed into one Evangelical Lutheran Church of North America. For this reason we have convened here to humble ourselves before the Lord, aware of the remissness of which we as members of the Church have all become guilty. We wish jointly to ask for forgiveness and in His fear fraternally to take counsel as to the means by which the desired help for our Church might be ac- complished. Now, since, according to the Word of God, the true u of f ;hurch consists above 2verything dse In the U:i-:lity OL LULth auu of confession (Eph.4 and 1 Cor.1) and only on this fOlmdation true, permanent, external unity can be established, we regard the return of our Church in this country to its Con- fession as that which is chiefly necessary if true unity is to be achieved. Hence we consider it our duty in a humble spirit to address all Lutherans in the United States of North America, individuals as well as synods, and to ask them that they together with us gather again about the good confession of our faithful, pious fathers and with us, before everything else, state freely, publicly, and without reservation that the fundamental Confession of our Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, presented 1530 publicly to Emperor Charles V, is their own confession and that the faith set forth in it is in all respects the faith of their own heart. The more frequently, alas! it happens in our days that people who accept the Confession of our Church and acknowledge it as the foundation are not thoroughly con- vinced of the full agreement of this Lutheran symbol with the Word of God and willing to use it as their doctrinal guide, the more necessary and salutary it appears to us that we should in this our meeting consider above everything else this flmdamental Con- fession of our Church and through frank, brotherly exchange of views assure one the other that we all agree in the proper under- standing of this document and thereby confirm each other in the unity of the faith." 27) Translation by Wm. Arndt (Concordia Theological Monthly, XI, pp. 6 and 7). 35 546 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences At its third session the Conference decided to make it a rule to discuss 211 questions pertaining to faith and conscience, but to rule out all those matters which were consequences (Consequenzen) and pertained to the field of practical problems and were not matters of conscience in the true sense of the word. After the discus- sion of an article had been completed, unity in the understanding and acceptance of it was to be attested by a rising vote. The Conference then proceeded to the discussion of the Augs- burg Confession. The Introduction, it was pointed out, described the Confession as containing, not only the relatively purest doctrine, but the only correct doctrine which all true Christians have im- plicite, even if they have not come to a full understanding of all the teachings. For that reason no one could be regarded as a mem- ber of the Lutheran Church who rejected or changed the U. A. c. The question arose out of this discussion how a person should regard those who for themselves accepted the U. A. C., but be- longed to a church organization which did not recognize the sym- bolic authority of the Confession. This question was answered as follows: "That we regard such r orsons as Lrothers as long as they zealously contend against prevailing false doctrines ::md for the truth, and that we regard it as their duty to remaLn in the church organization in which they are established as long as there are still reasonable hopes for improvement." 28) After this discussion, the Conference declared that it consid- ered the Foreword an integral part of the Confession and that this Foreword described the relation of the Confession to our Church in the words: "that in this matter of religion the opinions and judgments of the parties might be heard and weighed among our- selves in mutual charity, leniency, and kindness, in order that 28) This resolution indicates that the Conference did not wish to dissolve any synod or to endanger its existence, but rather to lead the erring bodies to the truth. This was not a new principle for Walther. It is embodied in his teaching on the invisible Church~ In 1841, when Walther defended the right to existence of the churches of the Saxon fathers although these churches had erred at the time of their departure from Germany and also in America (Luth. XIV, 1 ff.), he successfully defended the thesis: "Erring groups should not be dissolved, but reformed (Auch irrglaeubige Haufen sind nicht aufzuloesen, sondern zu reformieren)" (Thesis 3 of the Altenburg Debate, Guenther, C. F. W. Walther, St. Louis, 1890, p. 45) . We have already noted how earnestly Walther defended himself against the charge of attempting to dissolve the BUi'Talo Synod. In 1860 Pastor Grosz of the Eastern District requested Synod to give an opinion as to whether a teacher who had accepted a call to a .ich belong. rring synod could be received into the Missouri Synod. The opinion of Synod held that inasmuch as the teacher (Knoche) had accepted the call with the understanding that he be permitted to teach Luther's Catechism and heard the Word and took the Sacrament in a Missouri Church, he was in reality serving the Missouri Synod and eould be received as a member. (Allgemeine Synodalberichte, 1860, p. 78.) Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences 547 after the removal and correction of such things as have been treated and unde"stood in a different manner in the writings on either side, these matters may be settled and brought back to one simple truth and Christian concord, that for the future one pure and true religion may be embraced and maintained by us, that as we all are under one Christ and battle under Him, so we may be able also to live in unity and concord in the one Chris- tian Church," and "we offer in this matter of religion the Con- fession of our preachers and of ourselves showing what manner of doctrine from the Holy Scriptures and the pure Word of God has been up to this time set forth in our lands, dukedoms, domin- ions, and cities, and taught in our churches." 29) After a brief discussion the first article of the Confession was approved. In the discussion of the second article the conference emphasized that all men sinned in Adam because all were in Adam. Original sin is not only a disease or the inability to do good, but is really and truly sin. The Conference expressed its belief that the words "true God and true man" in the thL -' Jticle are to be con- with all the [cates foIl born, suff, I, etc. Thus the Communion of Attributes is already taught in the Augsburg Confession and only expanded in the Formula of Concord. We pray to Jesus also according to His human nature (Deshalb beten wir auch Christum nicht blosz nach seiner Gott- heit, sondern auch nach seiner Menschheit an). In the discussion of the fourth article the Conference emphasized that faith justifies not because it is an inner condition (Beschaffenheit) and the source of good works, but because faith lays hold on the merits of Christ and appropriates them. Thus sins are forgiven for Christ's sake and not for faith's sake. Differences of opinion became evident in the discussion of the fifth article. On the one hand, it was held that "Predigtamt" had the same meaning as "Pfarramt." It was, however, pointed out that the two did not have the same meaning in this article, inas- much as the fifth article explained the means through which the saving faith described in the fourth article is attained, namely, through the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, as could clearly be seen from the Latin (institutum est ministerium docendi evangelii et pordgendi sacramenta). ufter three sessions had been given to the topic, it was moved to postpone the discussion of the relationship " "Predigtar t" and "Pfarramt" UllL~~ L~J.e fourteenth article had been read. It was then stated in a general 29) All English quotations of the Symbols are taken from the Concordia Trigloffa, St. Louis, 1921. 548 Walther and the Free Lutheran Conferences way that the Conference interpreted the term "Predigtamt" to mean services within the Church, or the administration of the means of grace, and thereupon the Conference expressed its agree- ment ,"lith article five in the usual manner. The discussion of the sixth article centered around the phrase "It is necessary to do good works." The question whether good works are necessary because they are marks of faith was answered to the effect that good works are indeed signs of faith as long as the Christian is not in a state of temptation, but when he is in such a condition, faith alone can destroy the fiery darts of the Evil One. The Conference finally agreed to the following sentences: "We must do good works, partly because of the divine com- mand, from which also believers are not excluded, and partly be- cause good works necessarily flow out of faith. Therefore be- lievers need the preaching of the Law not inasmuch as they are new creatures, but inasmuch as they still have the Old Adam in them." After this explanation the Conference proceeded to the dis- cussion of the seventh article. It 'was first of all observed that the "Chur tbed is one which has always existed. :B'OI' that reason the Lutheran Church in its historical appearance is not identical ·WHU