Saturday, July 30, 2011
It is hard not to leave such an excellent conference without a lot of colliding thoughts and impressions. Here are some of mine, in no particular order.
1. The cordiality between the ELCA scholars and LCMS scholars was admirable. But the theology that came through in the ELCA presentations left no doubt that the Lutheraness of the ELCA is radically different than ours, and Luther's and Loehe's. They are more interested in Luther's and Loehe's processes than in their content. Their Lutheraness is that they share a spirit of reform with Luther. They honor him and his ideas in their original context, but dismiss them as inappropriate, if not right out sexist and ignorant, for our own day. Dogmatics is not a confession of faith for them, but a historic record of what good and pious people once believed. They were very drawn to Loehe's idea that the Church's confession is every imperfect and growing on this side of glory. They were very impressed with early American Lutheran unionism as "generous." They were sad that when the emergency situations passed the unionism slowed or stopped.
2. Loehe's mission and theology is mainly misunderstood - even by the presenters. The difficulty we have in reading the histories of the LCMS and Iowa synods, etc, is that we fail to place them into the context of German migration. We know about it. It is mentioned. But we fail to see the signifigance. We are so impressed by the rapid and zealous growth of the church and of Loehe's accomplishments that we can't help by look for models that we can reproduce. It is mentioned, again and again, that the Indian mission in Frankenmuth and in Iowa were, humanely speaking, failures. They were also a very small part of what the Franconians and Iowans were doing.
3. The Gesellschaft in Neuendettelsau may have the more Loehen view on this than us. All the institutions Loehe established, the deaconess house, the school, and the immigrant communities as Gemeinde, grew directly out of immediate needs of the people. The young women who were too poor to marry needed to be rescued. He established deaconesses for the deaconesses more than he established them for service to the Church. They served the Church, to be sure. But the first order was to rescue them. Then he put them to use. The Germans were immigrating to the US for cheap land with or without Loehe. Mostly they were going and losing their religion, being swallowed up in the new land by the Methodists. They needed pastors to preach and provide the Sacraments. That was the main purpose of the emergency workers he sent and the main request of Wyneken. The outer mission of reaching the Indians was almost and afterthought. The school provided for the needs of the children and also of the deaconesses. There was a lot of talk about inner and outer missions. But it felt to me like the Americans were mainly interested in trying to recapture the outer mission success of Loehe's heirs in America.
The Gesellschaft can come off a bit arrogant to an American mind. They are the mother. We are the daughters. We owe them everything. They have no intention of reaching out and evangelizing Bavaria. But they will continue to send missionaries around the world and we can all sit at their feet in wonder. At the same time, what need is there to evangelize Bavaria? If were looking for a model, perhaps there is one in Loehe: stop evangelizing America and reach out to those already baptized. No irishmen or Italians or Indians or African slaves joined the Iowa synod. They probably didn't have more than a handful of lost Norwegians and Swedes either. They were fully, almost exclusively, German. The Indian failure was never meant to be integrated in any case. In this, at least, the Gesellschaft does seem to be faithful to Loehe's program. Loehe didn't engage in what we would recognize as Evangelism. Nor did he send missionaries to the lost. He sent pastors to the Baptized.
What is the model then? Meet the financial needs of our people. What would that look like? Setting up factories with chaplains on staff? I don't know. I am not the visionary that Loehe was. But isn't the world in a financial crisis as severe as that of Loehe's day? Perhaps we should send pastors to India to minister to the American engineers.
4. Loehe's greatness. It seems to me even more unfair to Loehe than it is to Luther to try and systematize his works and theology. He was a parish pastor. He had no advanced degrees. He had a few kooky ideas. They weren't the prevalent or dominant mark of his theology and preaching. He changed his mind about this, probably forgetting his earlier opinions. He responded to the needs and pain of the people with the Gospel. He preached. He prayed. He taught. His emphasis upon the Holy Communion was not a dogma or an exegetical opinion. It arose from his service in the Office. The same is true, I think, of his pseudo-charismatic views. Dr. David Scaer makes a great joke by constantly claiming that the Holy Spirit came upon him. I've only recently realized that it is not completely a joke. Those who serve in the Office where the Holy Spirit works, those who breathe Him out as He has been breathed into them in preaching and the Holy Absolution, become aware of His presence and inspiration. Loehe's theology grew naturally from the prayers of the Church. Thus also, his so-called "high view" of the Office.
5. Walther can't help but look bad in comparison. The comparison may be unfair, but there it is. Walther's context is different. So is his work. It is terribly unfortunate that his letter criticizing Loehe was published and also that he was unable to bring these to Loehe face-to-face when he had the opportunity. It was, however, an unequal relationship. Walther had nothing to give to Loehe. Loehe had already bestowed great, financial gifts upon Walther. So also, Walther was younger and had been quickly forced into a fledgling bureaucracy. He was not as immersed in the Predigamt as Loehe was. He was looking for answers to questions that probably didn't even make sense to Loehe. I don't think anyone, Walther included, fully understood how completely different society and the State were in the US and how that must impact the Church. To his credit, I think Walther probably had the firmest grasp upon this of anyone at the time. It is more than the separation of Church and State, though that is critical. It was also the pluralistic and diverse culture of all aspects of American society, the impending loss of German, the intermarriage of Germans and other ethnicities and also of diverging Faiths. I am not sure Loehe even had to face the Reformed in Bavaria. But if he did, that was it. There were only two flavors of "protestants" and there was Rome. The government kept things in control. I think, though I may be wrong, the union pressure was mainly in Saxony. In any case, yes, Walther looks bad. I think that is unfortunate. In fairness, we all look bad compared to Loehe. He was truly a great man. Walther has his weaknesses but also had incredible gifts and he also deserves his due.
I hope you find these quick reflections of some interest. Please remember that they are not fully formed thoughts, just general impressions. I mean no offense to the ELCA, or Waltherians, or Loehe men. I am open to correction. I am simply trying to put these things into perspective and think about Loehe's legacy and example.
Friday, July 29, 2011
Thursday, July 21, 2011
An Update from Wilhelm Torgerson
With a Concluding Appeal for Help
A formal (but hollow?) reiteration of orthodoxy
On 20 June 2011, in the course of its regular Church Synod (=National Convention), representatives of the SELK adopted the following three propositions almost unanimously (with no votes to the contrary, but three abstentions):
● The matter of the ordination of women to the holy ministry of the Church is not an open question but rather a disputed one
● SELK’s official position in regard to WO continues to be what is set forth in Art. 7,2 of her constitution. Since the foundation of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1972, this section has clearly stated that only men (in the male sense of the word, i.e., Männer) may hold the office of the public ministry.
● The Consistory (Kirchenleitung) is to establish a commission, made up of equal numbers of men and women, clergy and laity respectively, to guide the ongoing discussion of WO within the SELK.
The June resolution apparently represents the sixth or seventh formal decision by an official assembly of the SELK that has reiterated our Church’s official stance with respect to WO.
Specific background: an errant sister synod provokes crisis in the SELK!
This time around, such a public decision was particularly necessary because of a dramatic series of events immediately preceding the Synod.
● On 2 March 2011, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baden (ELKiB), with which SELK has long stood in altar and pulpit fellowship, decided to call a female pastor from the United Protestant Church in the Netherlands to serve as assistant minister in its Freiburg congregation. Mrs. Cornelia Huebner had hitherto served both a nominally Lutheran and a Calvinist parish in the Netherlands, a fact that immediately raises the additional issue of her (and the ELKiB’s) doctrine and practice concerning the Sacrament of the Altar.
Like the SELK, the ELKiB is not one of the Territorial Churches of Germany that replaced the old State Churches after the First World War. Indeed, ELKiB’s roots are in the Old Lutheran movement of the 19th century, and at one time the ELKiB was part of the Hannover Synod that joined the SELK in the merger of several distinct Old Lutheran bodies in 1972.
Despite its roots in orthodox Lutheranism, the ELKiB officially approved the introduction of WO at its 1994 Synod, though it did not act on this decision at that time.
Unfortunately, SELK did not promptly react at that fateful juncture, e.g., by discontinuing church fellowship with a body that had just opted for heterodoxy in doctrine and practice. The maxim on which SELK failed to act was the misguided notion that “it’s only theory, so long as they don’t implement it.”
Informal - and controversial! - response from some in the SELK
On 28 March 2011 the Pro Ecclesia group of confessional SELK pastors met in Hannover,
and after thorough discussion addressed an Open Letter to the Superintendent of ELKiB.
This letter decried both the 1994 decision of his church body with respect to WO in principle and the Freiburg congregation’s issue of a solemn call to Mrs Hübner in particular. Moreover, it informed the Superintendent that its signatories could no longer in good conscience practise communion fellowship with his church. 45 clergymen of the SELK have by now signed the Open Letter.
Here is a translation of the text of the Open Letter of 28 March:
Esteemed Superintendent Schorling,
We, the undersigned, are disconcerted and sad that we had to take note of the fact that the Freiburg Parish of ELKiB has called a woman to serve a vacant pastoral position in its midst. Mrs. Hübner is active in a committee of the Lutheran World Federation with the goal of securing the introduction of women’s ordination also in those LWF churches that have not yet on theological grounds practised WO.
This now creates an entirely new situation in the relationship between our two churches. Now as before we support the Resolution of SELK’s 2001 General Pastoral Conference and of its 2003 National Convention “that it is not possible for a SELK pastor to officiate together with an ordained woman”. In calling a woman into the Office of the Proclamation of the Word and the Administration of the Sacraments instituted by Christ, the undersigned recognize an offence against clear apostolic instructions. “This offence not only indicates a broken relationship with the Word of God, but is also irreconcilable with the Evangelical Lutheran understanding of the ministry as the Pastoral Office” (Commentary by SELK’s first Bishop, The Rt Rev Dr Gerhard Rost, on Art. 7 of the proposed constitution of SELK, 1970). The ordination of a woman to the Office of the Church creates a situation that touches upon the Gospel itself. For the Gospel needs to be proclaimed and handled legitimately, properly, and in an authorised way. According to Christ’s will and command, it not possible for a woman to do so. In this sense there is doubt that the sacraments administered by a woman can be considered valid and in accord with Christ’s institution.
On the basis of Art. 7,2 of SELK’s constitution in connection with Art. 7,1, as well as with a conscience bound by the authority of the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, we therefore state publicly: The actions of ELKiB make it impossible for us to practise altar and pulpit fellowship with ELKiB.
S i g n a t u r e s
Hostility within some quarters of the SELK to Pro Ecclesia Open Letter –and an attempt at damage control by Bishop Voigt
The above letter was duly posted to ELKiB in Freiburg and to the SELK Consistory in Hannover. At SELK headquarters it was by no means received entirely with favour or approval. On the one hand, some SELK officials offered the procedural argument that Pro Ecclesia had no right to speak for the Church as a whole to the leader of another church body. And then, on the other hand, some church officials and pastors—especially in Western and Southern Germany—loudly proclaimed the view that Pro Ecclesia was maliciously “rocking the boat”, wilfully causing a disturbance in the relationship between the two churches. Most shockingly, some from this wing of the SELK were even fully supportive of the ELKiB’s decision, and there were some calls from these quarters for church discipline to be exercised against the Pro Ecclesia signatories.
As may be imagined, a rather disruptive debate promptly ensued within the SELK.
In the prevailing situation, after consultation with SELK’s Consistory and the College of Superintendents, the Bishop of the SELK, The Rt Revd Hans-Jörg Voigt, felt constrained to issue a Pastoral Letter to the church at large, dated 1 April 2011. The Bishop made several points, of which I offer this summary:
● The Bishop reminded the Church that SELK’s 2003 Church Synod had formally reiterated the position that the Church is bound to her Constitution, especially Art. 7,2, and to the decisions taken at successive conventions to confirm her official position on WO.
● He stated that, until the discussion process on WO within the SELK is resolved, church fellowship with ELKiB may continue to be practised; at the same time, however, he cautioned that such altar and pulpit fellowship cannot not be insisted on.
●Even where church fellowship is practised, no pastor of the SELK may officiate together with an ordained woman.
●The Consistory and the College of Superintendents enjoin all pastors to refrain from creating any kind of offence or confusion in their congregations and in the church at large.
The Bishop continued his letter as follows:
As the Bishop of the Church I am deeply concerned for our sisters and brothers in the Baden sister church. In a fraternal letter “from Bishop to Bishop” I wrote to Superintendent Schorling, that WO and the service of ordained women in the church are not “catholic” in the proper sense of that word. This means WO does not reflect what has been believed on the basis of Holy Scripture at all times and in all places. And also the debate among our Baden brothers and sisters in regard to a possible subscription to the Leuenberg Concord causes me real anguish. But I feel equal anguish about the tensions in SELK with an increased nervousness prior to our church convention. …It is my observation that both sides, the opponents and the proponents of WO, are pushing hard. With good intentions we increase the pressure on others, especially in view of the coming convention. The understandable desire for clarity and for the resolving of all conflicts and tensions is becoming ever stronger. I have the impression that an internal separation has already taken place in our church and that the “faithful” on both sides of the issue are counting their troops. It is my task as Bishop to serve the unity of the church. Therefore I’m asking all pastors, workers and parishioners deliberately to live with the tensions in our church, to bear with them and, by working with one another and not against each other, to help reduce them. The unity of the church is not an emotional daydream but rather a mandate and instruction of Christ, as is His command to stay with the truth and pure doctrine. I recommend that in the coming period of time we consider the theological and spiritual question of the church’s unity, the value thereof, and under what conditions this is to be achieved. Let us not grow tired of praying for the unity of the Church, something that was in danger from its very beginning and yet has always existed. In Christ, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt
The Bishop felt compelled to follow up this missive with a brief letter in which he explained that in the Pastoral Letter he did not mean to plead for unity at the expense of pure doctrine—so obviously this is exactly the impression that it made among some members of the SELK. The very fact that the Pastoral Letter kept referring to Einheit (= outward unity) instead of Einigkeit (= unity of mind and spirit) makes one wonder about its underlying theological agenda.
Is it high time for pastors in LCMS and LCC to express solidarity with Pro Ecclesia and concern to Bishop Voigt?
Since, as the sainted Dr Marquart used to say, altar and pulpit fellowship between church bodies involves joint responsibility for doctrine and practice, I thank the editors of Gottesdienstonline for permitting me to update our North American brothers and sisters in the faith on the recent dramatic developments within the SELK, which will ultimately have consequences on the other (your) side of the ocean. And I am particularly grateful that they are making it possible for pastors in LCMS and LCC to sign the following Open Letter to Bishop Hans Jörg Voigt:
Open Letter to Bishop Voigt
Dear Bishop Voigt,
We, the undersigned, rejoice in the fellowship that binds us to the SELK as the mother church of the branch of Holy Christendom that has grown out of the Lutheran Reformation. The high value we place on our fellowship with the SELK causes us to look with great alarm upon the recent unhappy events in your Baden sister synod that threaten to impair the communion we enjoy with you, your pastors, and your people as a good gift of God.
We hereby voice our solidarity with the good confession made by the pastors of the Pro Ecclesia group in their Open Letter of 28 March 2011.
We respectfully ask you to put the whole weight of your office behind the position taken by Pro Ecclesia with respect to the consequences of the intended installation of Mrs Hübner as a “pastor” of the ELKiB.
We note that women’s ordination is not a matter of secondary importance. To the contrary, its introduction has gravely challenged the Christian integrity of all those church bodies that have adopted it. Indeed, to speak colloquially and sharply, it might be said without exaggeration that all churches that introduce women’s ordination to the Pastoral Office instituted by Christ our Lord find themselves sooner or later as it were on the exit ramp from the highway of Holy Christendom. Since the crystal-clear testimony of Holy Scripture as received by the historic Church makes WO as much an “open” question as are the Divinity of our Lord and the inspiration of Sacred Scripture, we earnestly ask that the SELK promptly break church fellowship with the ELKiB and that discipline be exercised on those pastors of the SELK who continue to practise altar and pulpit fellowship with the ELKiB.
Let us pray for each other as we endeavour to heed Christ’s call for faithfulness in these ominous times of mounting apostasy. And let us encourage each other to hold fast to Christ’s whole truth in all matters of faith and practice, firmly resisting the contrary pressures of the devil, the world, and our own flesh.
Yours, in Christ,
[If you are an LCMS or LCC clergyman and would like your name attached, please email Dr. Torgerson directly at:
During an appearance this week hosted by the Christian Chamber of Commerce in Columbia, S.C., she was asked about her personal faith.
"I'm a believer in Jesus Christ," Bachmann answered. "I was born into a family where we were Lutherans. I'm sure that the Gospel was preached from the pulpit. I just didn't hear it."
Bachman then went on to describe how at 16 she gave her heart to Jesus Christ.
Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
2While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
3Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
4His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
5Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
6Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
7Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
8The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
9The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.
10The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Folks, if you import non-Lutheran stuff into your Lutheran church it won't be, you know, so Lutheran anymore.
Except of course if it is Roman Catholic—that can imported with impunity. :)
I refer you to the conclusion to Part I of the AC and to its final conclusion:
"5] This is about the Sum of our Doctrine, in which, as can be seen, there is nothing that varies from the Scriptures, or from the Church Catholic, or from the Church of Rome as known from its writers. . . . 8] For it is a false and malicious charge that all the ceremonies, all the things instituted of old, are abolished in our churches. 9] But it has been a common complaint that some abuses were connected with the ordinary rites. These, inasmuch as they could not be approved with a good conscience, have been to some extent corrected."
"Only those things have been recounted whereof we thought that it was necessary to speak, in order that it might be understood that in doctrine and ceremonies nothing has been received on our part against Scripture or the Church Catholic. For it is manifest that we have taken most diligent care that no new and ungodly doctrine should creep into our churches."
That, according to the Lutheran Confessions, is what Lutherans are like: nothing in ceremonies contrary to the Church Catholic.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Evangelical Christianity did not disappear after the war. Rather, it was increasingly secular, a function of the prevailing postwar culture rather than the other way around. Dwight L. Moody packed his revivals with the simple message of eternal salvation and banned politics from his pulpits. He offered little in the way of theological exegesis. Most of his "sermons" took the form of secular stories sprinkled with treacly aphorisms much more than biblical texts. As the Wild West and minstrel shows made caricatures of Indians and blacks, Moody succeeded in making religion a spectacle. Many of his middle- and upper-class congregants came to see a show and to be part of an event. It was comfort religion, part of the culture of affluence and prosperity. (p. 13)
The Litany of PurposeP: God sent His Son to seek and save the lost. We were once part of the lost.C: Lord, make us into people who are glad to share the Savior. Bring us to our community's lost and our church's needy.P: God sent His Son to sae the sinners and now He sends the Holy Spirit to call them to forgiveness, faith, and salvation.C: Lord, make us people who are glad to share the Savior's salvation and peace. Help us share His peace with those we meet.P: In His providence, God has granted us grateful hearts that are glad to share the wonders of His love and the glories of His grace with others.C: Lord, make us people who will share the Savior with those who are closest to us.P: The Lord blessed us with children both biological and spiritual; He will also bless us with the words to tell them of the Savior who wishes to bless them.C: Lord, make us people who will share the Savior with families who are hurting and in homes where there is fear and discord.P: In His wisdom God will give to us that Scriptural message which is most needed in thee homes. In those places where stuff and not the Savior is most important, may we share the Savior. May we reflect Your love, which is far greater than ours.You have told us not to forget all our blessings. There is not enough time for us to list all of them. But help us remember some:(A single bell chime may be rung after each remembered blessing)A Savior from sin; the Sacraments; leaders both temporal and spiritual; gift of family and friends; plenteous food and drink; warm homes; technological advancements.In thanksgiving, may we be Your people who share the Savior, who must tell of what we have seen and heard.If, in the coming years, we suffer loss, if discouragement and depression are to come, let us look to You for strength and deliverance. As loss brings changes to our fellowship, let it be because we have gone with our Savior, and not because we have turned our hearts away from you.[This is then followed by the Litany of Confession. ]