Full Text for The Conflict To Renew Lutheranism (Text)

The Conflict To Renew Lutheranism I TAN s-LL'TZ I'OETSCH, Visiti~lg L'rofessut- C'oncorclia 'Theological Seminary, Springfield licgular Sj>calicr, German 1,uthcran Hour 31; ARE STILL confcssionall~ orieilted Luthcriun groups in- side the state connected Gcrn~an churches (Volksl:ir~-he).' Their THE' is not significantly largc. In 1967 about 350 millisters or- ganized djffcrent KircJ~licJlc Sn~~~~nlirllgcl~ zwz Ilibel ZIIL~ BC~CI~IZ~IL~S (Cl~urclily Gatherings for Bible and Confession). They can bc found ill Bruns\\lick and Hanno\~cr, in Bavaria and Schles\vig-Holstein, in Hamburg and e11ci1 in I3rcmcn. One of the inost acti\~c groups is located in Wcstphalia, an area of a Protestant Union Church. Some me11 are also trying hard to found another group in \Vucrtteinberg. The\ all arc convillced that church \17ork can onlv be cstahlislled and 'carried out on the basis of the Lutheran ~onfcs~ions. Ilo these men lla\,c a right to insist on a strong confessioilal status? \Vc loolc at their congregations. i\/lost of t1ici.n are passi\~c ant1 suffer the burden of the structures typical of our Volhskirche. The attendance at Sunday services is about one or two per cent, Christianity is hardlj more than a family ritual with almost no con- fessional consciousness.' There arc sonlc exceptions. ~\cti\pc parishes can be founc! in certain \iillages. The cit! of Brc~ncn,, strongl! Calvinist in its lcarning boasts an active Lutheran congregation. It sul~scribes to thc ilugsburg Confession and Luther's Catechisms and confesses the Holy Scriptures as the infallible IVord of God. Its Pastor Dr. George Huntemann' turned from c~trcilmc Protestant L.ibcralisin to Lutheran Confessioi~alisil~ under the influcncc of his friend, the \\rell-known German theologian Helmut Echtcrnach of Haml~urg, now a praesidium member of the 'Churchl\? Gatherings.' The average parisheh, howcvcr, seem to bc spiritually -dead. There- fore it is astonishing, that thcrc is still such a vital interest in con- fessional Lutheranism outside the Gcrnman Lutheran Frcc Churches. \\'hat is the reason for this confessional Lutheran ai\alzcning in the state related churches? The centers of the confessional movcinent in the German state Iclated churches arc located in the village Sittenscn, located between Brcnlen and Hamburg, the town Brunswick, near the Iron Curtain, ancl the northern part of Bavaria. \Then the Evangelische Kirche in Z)eutschland, embracing all the state related churches including Ilutheran, Reformed and Union was founded in 1948, two Bavarian clergymen left the established church. Professor Hermann Sasse ellmigrated to Australia and Pastor Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf entered one of the three Lutheran Free Churches in Germany. Later Dr. Hop€ bccanlc the director of the Blcokmar I,uthcrai~ klission Insti- tlltion.Vn Urunswick, Pastor R4ax IVittc, active in cvangclism work, founded the congregation St. Glrici-Brzledent. I4c bccame knori71~ widely for his profountl Lutheran consciousness and be- came the leading light in a group of pastors, which later attained fame as Lutherischer I~rziclerkreis 13rnrrl~schu'eig. Pastor Pcter Martig of Sittcnscn established an academy for teachers along with inany retreats ancl seminars in order to show how i~nl~ortailt the Confes- sions of the Lutheran Reformation could be in our day. The Gesell- schnft fzlr Irt~zerc ztrz~l Azisscre Missiolz inz Siltnc ilcr L~~~thcrischetz Kirche in Ncucndettclsau, Bavaria gave aid to confessio~lal Lutheran groups in that area. In 1953 all these diffcrcnt groups of confes- sionally conscious Lutherans united under the chairmanship of Dr. I\~olfram Von J/ in Germany. Still the gro\vth of a confcssionally conscious 1,uthcranisni in Gcrlllaily was rather modest. The Brunswicl< group and the German Lutheran Hour contacted similarly minded Scandinavian Lutheran nlovements unclcr the Icaclcrshil~ of thc Bishop of Gotenburg, Sweden, Bo Gierty, the Professors Lciv and Sverrc Aalen of thc Frce Facultv at Oslo, Nornray, and thc l'rofcssor Regill Prentcr at Aarhus, mark. The Scandinavian groups arc dcfencling the Luthcran Coil- fessions against liberalism and modernism in their countries. I11 addition, the S~vcdish Kyrklig Sniizliizg kri~zgs Bihelit och Bekii~zllelseiz is attempting to abolish the absolute rule that the Swedish l'arliament cxcrciscs over thc Luthcran State Church in that country. The Sn~cdish confessional group 11~1s set a patter11 for the German Churchly Gatherings. Thcrc is one exception. 'The S~veclish group combines both confcssional Lutherans and Pietists in oilc group. This is the illajor cause for inner tensions ill tlle group. The Gernlans, on the othcr hand, havc two groups with scparate organizations. \\ihcrevcr possible, the confessional and 1ic.tistic group in Germany cooperate wit11 each other. In 196 7, the Brunsivicl< group in Gcrmnny published 18 theses on major theological questions ~indcr the leadership of l'astor Dr. Hclnlut 1,iebei-g, nonr pastor for St. Ulrici-Britedenl. After several nlonths lapsctl, thc Lutheran Frce Churches of Germany published an official Pastoral Letter ~varning against liberal trends in con- tcinporary theology. Both tlocuments rccei~wl positive and negative reactions from all over. This provicled the s tinlulus for cstabl ishing the first 'Churchly Gatherings' in Bruns\\.ick and IIano\ier. One third of all the pastors in thc Hrui~s~ricl< Volkskirche subscribed to the 18 theses. In 1967 a German-Scanclina17ian Theological Confer- cncc for Sittensen was planned and then fori11ally organi/ctl in February, 1 9 6 5. Leading theologians delivered papers. Hundreds of clcrgyincn from Germany and Scandinavia discussed the con- temporary thelogical situation. 1:cpresentatiires froill the pietistic oricntcd group, "The Coilfcssing Movement: No Other Gospel," and from the confessionally oriented pastors in Berlin were also present. The Sittensci-1 conr~cntion lJasscd a resolution, cntitlcd Word to the Congregatio~zs, warning church mcmbers of liberalism. It also boldly confcsscd thc central clogmas of the Christian faith. N;itionally cir- culated newspapers and magazines controlled by Axel Springer carried the story with an appeal. Later Springer hinlsclf left the Volkskirche to become a member of ;i Lutheran Frec Ch~rch.~ Several 'Churchly Gatherings' were founded in other areas of Germail Volks- kirche. A praesidium was elected ~vith l'astor Peter Hartig of Sittensell as chairman. The writer of this article was honored in being chosen as the representative for the Gcriiiaii Lutheran Free Churches in thc Significant progress mas nlacle with the establishnient of a 1 periodical Das Inforlrtatio~zsblntl Kirchlichc SammZurtg published by Stcltcn l'ublishing House (Brcmcn, Postfach 4 195 09). Through it I 1 the voice of the confessional Lutheranisni can be heard in the Volks- 1 kirche and more can bc reached. The Bleckmar Mission House I 1 opcnetl its doors for retreats and theological conferences. The I Oberursel Thcological Seminary of the Lutheran Free Churches gave an opportunit~ to thc 'Churchly Gatherings' to establish their own chair of' theology. Thus thc future generation of pastors can be trained by the joint faculty from the Volkskirche and free churches. This position rvas first offered to Professor Dr. Joachinl Heubach of 13rw""idium. The 'Cl~urchl~ Gatherings' arc thus the first collfcssional organi~ations ivithin thc Volkskirche officially rc.cogni/c(l 1))' the Gcr- lnun Lutheran Frce Cl~urclics, thc sister churches of 11lc A'lissouri Synod. 11. FUHTIIEH DEV~L~PMENTS The way has not been easy for the 'Churchly C;atherings.' Many difficulties have hindered tllc group froill having a clear coiicept of itself. There was the old temptation to form a llunlbcr of separate theological confercnces. Other lllcnlbers ~vantcd the 'Gatherings' to be the basis for ;I well plannet1 evangelism effort in G~rlll~~liy. Scvcral plans u7erc drafted to edit a world-widc Lutlicran pcriod ical. It was necessarv to dcfiile hat the attitude of the different 'Gatherings' ! uould I; to other organizations, liltc the Evangelisc7le Sawzwrlzing Ijerlin or the pietistic 'Confessing hIo~cment: No Other Gospel.' One group fa~lorcd rcorgani~ation on thc local parish lc~~cl. Others ~vantcd to lent1 their ~veight in influencing the La1~~Eeskirche~tZeitu7z- gen, the church officials. The Gcrlnan theological climatc is cjuitc unstable. For every extrenic theological libci-a1 positioil thcrc is a reaction. 'Those who react to liberal theology frequentl!? s~lprort the pietistic Confessing 12Iovcmc.nt or lcclll in its direction. But after a while there can he a cliangc of opinion and the 'Confessing hfovcincnt' is no longer con- sitlercd 11.ith fa\.or. The Arbeitsgerltei~rscllnft fuer Kirchliclle Ernezl- erzrng in Bavaria, (Conference for thc Church's Rcnc\val) wants no association 111ith the 'Churchly Gatherings,' in spitc of its own Lutheran character. It tlocs not encourage friendly relations with the Lutheran Frce Churches. Its main interest is litnrg,ical renelral. I'he Bal-arian Church Gathering is il nlixturc of conicssional and pietistic I,utherans, ~0111~ wanting to join the 'Confessing Rlovemcnt' with others fa\ oring a union with the 'Churchly Gatherings' in North Cer~nang. Significantly within the next years, all the individual 'Gathering$' ot a confessional T.uthcran character will join the Buvt- r~esverl~a~~rl. This ~r~ould be an iinprcssivc array. The 'Churchly Gatherings' of Brunsrvick, Hannover, IVcstphalia, Sclilcswig-Hol- stein, fJamburg and W~iertten~berg and the thrce Lutheran Free Churches, arc all non- included in onc general type of organization. I Llnivcrsity of l(ic1. lie did not accept the call, but accepted the posi- tion as the I_n~zric.sszil~c~ri~~te~~rieiztz~r!' of Laucnburg in Schlcswig- Holstciii. Thc l~racsidii~in of thc 'Churchly Gathcrings' oifcrcd to take part in thc cditorshil-, of the I,7itherischer H~~~rdblick, n7hicll formerly was only thc thc~ological organ of the Obcrurscl Faculty. Now it also serves as thc theological journal of the 'Churchl!, Gathcrings.' In addi- tion a scrics of brochures is planned. The first, published in March by Pastor \I1olfgaiig Biischer, is dircctcd against the ordinatioil of women as parish pastors. illany illenlbcrs already use thc radio pro- ur;iin of the German Lutheran Hour for their evangelistic activities 0 ancl coilsider thc theological organ Das Hiircr-Echo der I,z~therische~t St~~izde to be their l~eriodical for practical theology. It has taken a new name, Verkii~~digu~zg.'" The last problein will be how the 'Churchlv Gatherings' will accomplish thcir aim of becoining active in congregational and evangeli~ation worlz. Thc first attcnlpt to train evangelists will begin in Bremcn later this year. 111. ~~l,ii'I~Oiu s WITH THE ~'IETISTIC CONFESSING MOVEMENT: NO OTHER GOSPEL Now \vc touch on one of the most ljerplexing problems con- ilcctcd with this subject. The basic cjucstion is the result of this fight against liberal theologies as created by the Bultn~ailil School or socialistic oriented theology, as reprcsc~lted by Rioltmann and some n~ci~ibers of the Bochum thcological faculty. \Vill different groups \vitli different coilfessions come togcther to onc organiration? Can unionism be avoided ~\~ithout at the saine time losing the advantages conllectetl with a siilglc movement? Arc unionism and separatism the oilly alternati\res? Some leading l~ersonnlitics in the confessional 'Churchl!i Gather- ings' arc also incmbcrs of the pivtistic 'Confessing R~Iovci~1cilt,' the older of thc t\\o groups founded two vcars earlier. Last but not least of our problems, some representatives of the Swedish and Norivegian ', 1 Samlings" urged our German groups to unite \\lit11 the l~ietistic illove- inent. The chairinan of the pietistic 'Confessin(r Rlo\lement,' Pastor Rudolf Saeumcr, considered our '~atherin~l like confessional "orders" inside his organization. Although the represei~tatives of these pietistic groups attended as visitors the Gcrn1:in-Scandillavian 'Theological Confcrencc in 1968, they were allowed to play no part in fori~lulatin~ the Word to the Congrcgutions. Finally, two factors helped clarify the situation: the different attitudes toward the sacra- ment of bal3tism within the \Vestphalian Volkskirchc ancl the conse- quences of the Stuttgart lreparc them for "V-E Day," when the present structurc will give way. They are just at the beginning! They have just started and have not attained an inner unity with n strong program. But there is every reasonable hope, that they 1 reach it. Luthcmn Churches in other countries can help if thcy watch the clevclopnlent of these confessioi~al groups llery closely. Of course, thcy should support them n~ith their prayers! FOOTNOTES The follo\\ing notes havc bccn addcd to l'rofcssor Poctsch's article by the editorial staff to provide clarification for the American rcacler who might be unfamiliar with Gcrman church life. 'The word "liberal" has been substi- tuted for wherever Professor Poctsch had uscd thc word 'nco-rationalist.' In German theology the term 'liberal' is user1 in connection with the thcology associated with a thcologian like Adolf von Harnack, who worltcd around the turn of the century. The term has :I parallel mcaning in American thelogical parlance in connection with Rauschenbusch and Fosdick. As a rule the word 'neo-rationalist' is not uscd in English. Poetsch uses the term to apply to the denlythologiziny movcrncnt that sprang up around Rudolf Bultmann and some of its even more destructive dcsccndants. There is no cxact English equivalent, howrcvcr 'liberal', in spite of its inexactness, covers the situation well and is unrlerstootl in 21 sense similar to ho\v the German uses 'nco- rationalism.' I. V~lkskirche is a word and concept which defies translation and explana- tion in the English language. The Volkskirchc can be explained as the ccclcsiastical institution in Europe which is recognized by the state and and in somc cascs dircctly supported. In most European countries, citizen- ship ~~sually implics rncmbcrship in the Volkskirchc. Thc Europcan Volkskirche should not in any \va! 1,~ co~lfused by what ne call in our country "congrcgations." 2. An estimated 10% of the membership of the Volkskirchc can in any way bc considcrcd practicing Christians, cvcn by the most generous measurc- mcnts. 1 or 2% arc in attcndancc in churchrs. This statistic in most city congregations is a gross cxagger;~tion. 3. The Evangelical Church of Brcmcn is somc\vhat of ;III anomaly in Gcrmany. Thcrc is no onc confcssion for the entire church, but congrc- gations can bc Luthcran, Union, or Reformecl. Thc confessional persua- sion of most churches are dctcrminrd by church law. 4. I'astor Huntcmann holds two docotors dcgrccs, one in theology and another in philosophy, both from the University of Basel, ;ln institution madc famous through its association with the late Karl Barth. Dr. Huntc- nlann is thc author of Angriff auf die Modcrne, Provoziertc Thcologie in tcchnischcr Welt, . . . und ~uns dic Hibel dnzu sagt, and a recently pub- Iishcd thdogical biography of his life, In rler Sparrnung lcben. It has I~ccn lcarncd that he will accept thc position of professor at ;I free faculty to be established in Bascl. 'Through spccial arrangements he will con- tinue to serve his Brcmcn congrcgation. 5. Both Professor Sassc ant1 Pastor Hopf were awartlcd the honorary degrees of doctor of divinity by the faculty of Concordi;~ Thcological Seminary, Springfield. 6. ?'he Bleckmar Mission does mission ~tork in South Africa among the Bantus. The Gcrman Luthcran Free Churchcs havc about 45,000 mcm- bcrs in West Gcrmany, 1)ut thcrc arc over 20,000 in their South African mission. 7. Kiinncth, a world famou$ namc in thclogical circles, is ;~ssociatcd with the pietistic oriented Cotil'c~\sing hlovcmcnt. 8. Axcl Springer is ;I member of St. hil;iryls Chapel in Berlin, where Pastor Dr. Jobst Schocnc,, 1960 St. Louis graduate, is pastor. ITcaclquartcrs for the Springer newspaper magazine syndicate is locatcd directly on the wall dividing the City of Rcrlin. Thc building can he literally scen in every corner of the Communist scctor. 7'1zc Conflict To Rcnc~v Lzctheranisln 117 - . -. . -- .- - 9. 'rhc ofhccb of ~~zJ~(~c~sz~~~C~.~~~CV~~CJZ~L~~~ has no exact coulltcrpart in the American 1,uthcran synods. The position is half-way betn.ccn a synodical l>rcsidc.nt ;~nd district president. 10. Pastor l'octsch scrvcs on the editorial staff of both the Infol-mationsblatt ant1 Vcrkiindig,zrg. 11. The Gcrnman l