Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 49 - The Removal of Martin Stephan (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-049 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. ***** >> PAUL: In your description of the Saxons who settled in St. Louis and Perry County, you refer briefly to the removal of Martin Stephan. There must be more to that story. What else can you tell me about him and what happened to him? >> DR. LAWRENCE RAST: Well, Paul, once Stephan was accused of these adulterous relationships, the community really had to come to grips with some basic questions. They had invested this man with complete authority over all aspects of their life. Now that he was being accused of being a sinner, a manifest and public one at that, what would this mean for the community? As I alluded to in the previous question, they really struggled with how they addressed this. The clergy at first, first Pastor Lober, and then the other clergy more broadly, struggled with exactly how they should approach Stephan on this point. Ultimately, they decided to send the youngest of their number down to Perry County to see if he could get an answer out of Stephan. And so poor C. F. W. Walther was made the guinea pig and off he went. In his attempts to deal with Stephan, however, he was simply rebuffed. Stephan refused and said, I will have nothing to do with you. By virtue of my office as bishop, I do not have to answer to you or to the clergy as a group. The clergy then initiated some of the lay leadership into the discussion and asked them to consider how they might deal with the situation. The response of the laypeople was simply, he must be removed. So ultimately what happened was a group of the pastors and lay leaders went to Perry County. They attempted to confront Martin Stephan. He refused yet again, and so they read to him an action of deposal. In it they accused him of malfeasance in office, improper use of the community funds, and of adultery. When they finally let him go, they said, his refusal to address and to engage in a conversation with the council that had invested him with the office of bishop clearly indicated that he must be removed. He was rowed across the Mississippi River, deposited in Illinois, and sent away from the community. Strangely enough, he went on to serve a Lutheran congregation in what is today the Red Bud area of Illinois. It was then called Horse Prairie. And his grave is at a Missouri Synod congregation�s cemetery in Red Bud. You may still visit it if you might. But the question now moved to a new arena and that was: What have we done. The lay people, especially the lay leadership, vigorously reacted against the clergy blaming them for having led them into following a false prophet. The clergy, for their part, was repentant of their following Stephan rather blindly and incorrectly. But, they said, in order to help the movement go forward, what they would do would be to fill the vacuum that Stephan's departure had caused. What quickly emerged were two competing parties within the church. The clergy party saying, we�ll simply take over leadership of the colony. We'll take over the responsibility for both the spiritual and the temporal matters of the colony. But we will do it as a group, a group of clergy, rather than simply as one man. However, the lay leadership led by Carl Vehse and Adolph Marbach said, no. This will not do. You clergy got us into the mess in the first place. Now it's the responsibility of the lay people to lead. And they proposed a radically congregational solution to the crisis facing the community. Vehse himself would go on record as saying, in all things, the laypeople, the congregation, is to be preferred before the clergy. In fact, the clergy serve at the will of the laypeople. And should the congregation desire it, they may dismiss pastors at will. Obviously, things have taken a terrible turn. And the result for the community was complete and total chaos. That chaos extended over the course of two full years, from 1839 until 1841. In this two-year period, the Saxon colony found itself grappling with basic questions. Are our pastors really pastors? Are we, as the people of God, actually the church, or have we sinned so grievously the only resolution to our problems is simply to pack up as a group, return to Germany, and publicly confess our sins. All of those three questions really cut to the heart of what it means to be a congregation, to be a Christian, to be a Lutheran. And during this two-year period of turmoil and chaos, no clear answer was given. However, in 1841, the resolution would be proposed. And it would come, Paul, from a very unlikely person, the youngest of the clergy and the one who was initially set forth as the guinea pig to try and work with Stephan. C. F. W. Walther would soon articulate a biblical and confessional position that would put healing to this tumultuous situation. ***** 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. *****