Monday, January 26, 2015

All Christian Kings, Princes, and Governors (BCP) …!

 by John Stephenson

Citizens of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth Realms (of which Canada is the chief) have to be some years older than myself (b 1953) in order to remember living under a Sovereign other than Elizabeth II, who in September of this year looks set to become the longest-reigning monarch ever to wield the sceptre over the British Isles. Despite moments of irritation with the antics of certain royals, I’ve never not been a monarchist. Old habits die hard, of course, and for millions of inhabitants of the UK and the Commonwealth Realms, loyalty to the Crown is just that, habitual, a routine orientation of the mind and heart that is only rarely the topic of reflection. I often jokingly attribute my own royalist sentiments to having sat through Her Majesty’s coronation on 2 June 1953 before an aunt’s television set at the tender age of less than four months. Nor can I forget that I am a twofold subject of my gracious Sovereign Lady, both by birth and in virtue of having gladly sworn allegiance to her in her capacity as Queen of Canada when, with the other non-Canadian born members of my family, I took the oath of citizenship in the summer of 1997.

My own monarchical sentiments could easily survive abrupt changes of location, ethnicity, and culture, and, were I to live in Japan or Thailand, I would happily bow my head to the hereditary sovereigns of those faraway lands. “King” is an image that transcends cultures across time and space, being rooted not only in the depths of the human psyche (think of C. G. Jung’s “archetypes”) but also in the nature of God Himself. After all, Psalm 2 pictures our Lord as set by YHWH on Zion as “my King,” not as, so to say, the president of the holy Christian church, re-elected by consent for an indefinite series of three-year terms.

Preference for constitutional monarchy over other forms of government is poles removed from engaging in the personality cult of any particular king or queen, though it certainly helps that Elizabeth II has proved a model of personal and regnal rectitude over more than six decades. The Queen appears to realise that the symbol that she temporarily embodies is much, much greater than the diminutive, well-spoken Englishwoman apart from whom it has no current subsistence in the headship of State of her various realms. Alas, her heir apparent has long given the impression of somehow running for office and needing to prove himself; perhaps he has made the mistake of elevating himself, with all his personal quirks and foibles, over the symbol to which no mere earthly monarch can ever do full justice.

The British sovereigns have as little right to be Supreme Governors of the Church of England as the Lutheran rulers of Germany had to strut around as supreme bishops of the churches within their domains, or as the King of Norway has to be Protector of the state church of his realm. And the successors of Henry VIII had no business institutionalising in their office the title Defender of the Faith that Clement VII bestowed for his own lifetime on the king who followed his attack on Luther by renouncing the authority of the pope who stood in the way of the dissolution of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon.

But the British sovereigns have always been officially and often personally Christian, in which context I think of another monarch whose rule spanned six decades. For some reason, certain new relatives of mine grimace at mention of “good King George,” and yet it is well to remember how, when tormented by physicians during his first spell of madness, George called on the name of the Lord by reciting collects from Common Prayer, refraining from coarse speech. And at a time when the Church of England was an episcopally ordered part of Reformed Christendom with a modest liturgy and no one would have thought of bowing to what was mostly called the Lord’s table, George would make three profound bows to the altar of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, when he took up the offering to the officiant; he got the point that the reality symbolised infinitely transcended himself, the symbol, ceremonially acknowledging the superior sovereignty of the one true God in general and of his Lord Jesus Christ in particular.

Despite the personal Christian faith that has manifested itself on occasion in her public utterances and gestures, Elizabeth II has placed constitutional propriety over the demands of biblical monotheism as, in 1967, she gave the Royal Assent to the legalisation of abortion and as, in 2014, she did the same for the hellish redefinition of marriage; in both cases, she broke her coronation oath and, if she would reign with Christ in paradise once her earthly reign is over, she needs to repent these grave misdeeds.

Prince Charles’ preference for classical over modern architecture may well reflect good personal taste, and certainly does not infringe on the Christian confession to which he is ostensibly committed. His lunatic ravings on the topic of so-called climate change have an eerily pantheistic, pagan ring about them, and, if he feels so strongly on this subject, perhaps he should renounce his inherited office and run for public office in the pursuit of his eccentric goals. In the interests of the 8th commandment, we should concede that in recent months the Prince of Wales has spoken out with clarity for the slaughtered Christians of the Middle East, lamenting the sufferings of his “brothers in Christ.” With these utterances he has struck a different note from the many paeans of praise he has directed to Islam over the decades during which he has waited to ascend the throne, a privilege that the Queen’s great longevity may yet deny him.

But what are we to say of his decision, at the end of this week of prayer for Christian unity, to fly to Saudi Arabia in order to express his condolences on the death of the nonagenarian King Abdullah, whose demise leaves Elizabeth II as the oldest reigning monarch on earth? In company with his fellow royals, Charles has paid many visits over the years to Arabia and other parts of the Islamic world, and the British royals have many bonds of friendship with their Muslim counterparts, even as those authoritarian monarchs preside over systems that dish out death to Christian converts, forbid the public confession of the holy Name, and mete out barbarous punishments to a whole range of offenders, real or imagined. Today’s news informs us that Westminster Abbey, a royal chapel after all, is flying its flag at half-mast in honour of the departed King Abdullah, the wealth of whose family has been throwing up mosques across the globe at the same time as this ruling family has seen to it that not a single church may arise within the bounds of its kingdom. And amid their many social get-togethers with the tyrants of Arabia, the British royals have hardly ever set foot in Israel, which, despite its understandable Jewish loyalties, permits Christian worship and upholds constitutional liberty. You would think that those who would sport the titles of Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England might find spiritual benefit in stopping by the churches of the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre now and then.

Canada’s Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, is himself a good monarchist, a courageous supporter of the State of Israel, and one of the few Western leaders not to allow political correctness to blind him utterly to the Islamic danger. I devoutly hope that, when next he hosts a British royal or stops by one of the London palaces to pay his respects to what is also Canada’s Royal Family, he delivers a word in season in rebuke of the hideous, indeed despicable fawning of a professedly Christian dynasty before barbarous, anti-Christian tyrannies with which they should be ashamed to associate themselves.

God Save the Queen, and may He grant Elizabeth and her heirs and successors to bend the knee in true piety to Christ the King, whose reign will outlive theirs and beside whom they, like all mortal flesh, fade into mere insignificance.

Rev. Dr. John Stephenson is Professor at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catherines, Ontario.

From the President of Synod

The President of Synod recently posted this to his Facebook account.

When a public teacher on the roster of Synod can without consequence publicly advocate the ordination of women (even participate vested in the installation of an ELCA clergy person), homosexuality, the Errancy of the Bible, the historical critical method, open communion, communion with the reformed, evolution, and more, then the public confession of the synod is meaningless. I am saying that if my Synod does not change its inability to call such a person to repentance, and remove such a teacher where there is not repentance, then we are liars, and our confession is meaningless. I do not want to belong to such a synod, much less lead it.

Much of what Rev. Harrison refers to happened right here at the Gottesdienst blog some time back. May the Lord grant wisdom and strength to all charged with correcting what has gone awry.

- The Editors

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sabre of Boldness Goes to Jeff Horn

 The 2015 Sabre of Boldness was awarded to the Rev. Jeffrey Horn, Theological Educator to Papua New Guinea, at tonight's 20th annual ceremony in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 

The ceremony was held after the Concordia Theological Seminary Symposia banquet in the seminary's commons area.  Chaplain Jonathan Shaw opened the ceremony with an explanation of the award in its 20th year, the Sabre itself, and the significance of the award. He then introduced the editor, whose remarks are below. The nominees were then announced and the recipient gave a marvelous off-the-cuff speech on the situation of our suffering fellow Christians in New Guinea and elsewhere. We hope to publish those remarks in the future.

Pastor Horn was selected for boldness in confessing Christ in the mission field in spite of harassment and slander from opposing factions in the PNG church and government. He did so in spite of health issues that burdened his family.

Pastor Horn gratefully accepted the award, acknowledging the support of fellow LCMS missionaries on the field, Julie and Anton Lutz. He also gave thanks to God for the faithfulness of Bishop Nicodemus, and the pastors of the Good News Lutheran Church in PNG who have shown great courage in preaching Christ. They are examples to Christians around the world of endurance in the work of the Gospel. He thanked God for the national leaders in the PNG government who stood up to help the missionaries in time of need. He also gratefully acknowledged the work of Rev. Chad Trouten and Bethany Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, IN, who provided abundant mercy work to the Horns. Please join in praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ in PNG as they endure challenging times, that Jesus’ little sheep would always be well fed with the Word and Sacraments.

The other nominees for the 2015 Sabre of Boldness, all of whom we deem worthy of the award, were:
  • Rev. James Schulz, A WELS pastor for 10 years, Pr Schulz temporarily resigned from the Office of the Holy Ministry over concerns about WELS theology regarding the relationship of justification-sanctification, and the unit principle of fellowship.  Our Lord called him back to the pulpit and altar, however, and down a road yet untrod as he contemplated his confessional subscription and Scripturally convicted conscience regarding the doctrine and practice of the WELS.  By 2012 Pr Schulz found himself increasingly at odds with WELS theology and practice.  Labeled a "heretic" by his WELS winkle for suggesting they read and discuss the Lutheran Confessions together in mutual conversation so as to contemplate the doctrine of justification, Pr Schulz began to seek consolation and comfort from another mother, that is to say, Missouri.  But colloquy was temporarily denied him, to hate mail received from former WELS members, pastors, and seminary professors.  Several in his circuit wrote letters of support for Pr Schulz, and Pr Schulz continued to move through the process, undergoing a rigorous oral interview by the colloquy committee.  Upon approval he was welcomed into the LCMS, his congregation and he became members of the IN District. Since then, many of his members, including his church musician, have transferred out of the congregation and into LCMS congregations who have jettisoned the historic liturgy, practice open communion, and slander Pr Schulz and his diminishing congregation.  Two large, suburban, non-confessional LCMS churches established mission/satellite plants within one mile of Pr Schulz's congregation.  His congregation, with limited aid/advice or help from the district, has finally voted to dissolve her constitution and bylaws, and has been forced to the difficult decision of closing her doors next month, a move that will move him to C.R.M. status. In all of this Pr Schulz has remained steadfast and faithful.
  • Rev. Seth Mierow, whose ministry in Indianapolis, Indiana includes a campus presence at Butler University, leading to the opportunity for him to make a bold confession of faith on a panel discussing the freedom of religious expression, in which he, as a lone voice in the wilderness—the only voice on the side of the truth—explained the importance of the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision, and explained with eloquence and simplicity the role of the US in protecting religious freedom.  Pastor Mierow provided a strong confessional witness in spite of ridicule and scorn, not returning reviling for reviling, but pleased to have been given the opportunity to give a defense for the hope that is in him.
  • Pastor Olle Fogelqvist, of Sweden, who has been serving in Löftedalens Pastorate, a group of several congregations south of Gothenburg, who has been defrocked for teaching that the ordination of women is wrong. If the decision is upheld on appeal, it implies a significant tightening of restrictions on those who dissent from the radically liberal path chosen by the politicized Church of Sweden leadership, as well as an elevation of current policy choices above faithfulness to God’s Word. The Gothenburg Consistory alleges that Pastor Olle Fogelqvist said in an August 2013 sermon that rejecting ordination of women was a requirement for salvation. Pastor Fogelqist has said that he simply explained what First Corinthians 14 actually says, where Paul talks about women in the congregation, and denies making salvation dependent on rejecting women’s ordination, or any point of doctrine. He had said, instead, that deliberately violating God’s commandments, including St. Paul’s admonitions regarding the service of women in the church, was a serious sin that could separate one from Christ because it meant turning one’s back on God and walking away from salvation. 
  • Pastor David Emmons, of Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, has been pastor of Zion and Immanuel Lutheran churches, congregations that had a long, unbroken history of short term pastors who were forced out of their office one way or another. The ruling majority felt that the congregations must be foremost a venue for the community. This meant that they participated in all ecumenical, syncretistic and unionistic events, that weddings should be held for anyone who wanted to married at the church and that the services should be planned by the couple not the pastor, that confirmands should not be asked to do memory work, and, of course, than everyone, regardless of confession or even in the case of open, unrepentant sin should be communed. Pastor Emmons engaged a course of gentle teaching but was met with great resistance and hostility. Not only did the congregation attempt to force him to participate in unionistic services and other bad practices, which he refused, but he was banned from attending LWML meetings, banned from writing letters to the newspaper, and banned from speaking about Islam and other religions.  His wife also received hate-mail. His children were slandered and defamed and even suffered public harangues and shame from members. The congregation attempted and sometimes succeeded at participated in unionistic activities without Pastor Emmons and without his knowledge and the elders refused to allow Pastor Emmons to address the situation. With over eight years there, Pastor Emmons has out-stayed all his predecessors and the pressure for him to leave is increasing. Members repeatedly complain to the elders with false accusation. Each year his salary has been cut and at times he has been banned from speaking at the voters’ meetings. His salary was taken down to $830 per month in 2013. He was told that if he didn’t leave soon they would find a way to make it zero. Pastor Emmons continued to faithfully preach the Gospel and serve them despite their ill treatment of him and his family. Rather than leave them, he took a job at the US Post Office and two part-time jobs. They did not see this as a sacrifice that he made for them but were angry that he had found a way to stay as their pastor. This past December, they voted to remove him from his office without cause and apart from the normal procedure.

The Sabre of Boldness 2015: preliminary remarks by the editor

The Sabre of Boldness ceremony has reached its 20th year. A milestone. Twenty years ago, Gottesdienst was still in its adolescence, and many of the people in this room were still in their adolescence. Twenty years ago the there were no pocket cell phones, the dot com boom had just begun, and the Internet had only begun to function. Twenty years ago the Die Hard movies were still being made, Seinfeld was still on, and the Green Bay Packers had not been in the Super Bowl since the Lombardi era. Twenty years ago many Robert Preus had just died, but others we knew and loved at this seminary were still among us, perhaps most notably, Kurt Marquart. Maybe we should have given him the sabre, and things would have been different. Every one of the nineteen honored sabre-bearers is still among us today (and the legend grows).

So here we are at twenty. Now twenty is a holy number. For it is twice the number of commandments, and therefore signifies a new and holy creation. And it is also four times five, meaning that the fulfillment of the Books of Moses has come and is spread to the four corners of the world. And it is 6, 6, 6 + 2, meaning the number of the beast is overcome by the two natures of Christ. And it is one half a generation, putting it at the pinnacle, the height of courage, strength, and boldness. Or, if you prefer, for twenty years we have been engaged in this nonsense. (what were we thinking?)

But in honesty, there is of course a very serious side to this, for we do like to give honor where honor is due, and we do like to acknowledge courage in confession when we hear of it. That’s why we present the sabre: to encourage people, particularly our own people, in their faith and confession, and to tell them that we thank God for it, and for the most holy faith by which they have gained their courage. Nonetheless, as every one we have sought to honor with our little award could likely tell you, this isn’t much, really. And the very fact all those we have honored in the previous nineteen years are still living is a testimony to this, that there are others far more worthy. For there are the real martyrs; martyrs the flame of whose confession still outshines all of ours, martyrs too numerous to count: men, women, and even children who have laid down their lives for our most holy faith. And not only in the centuries of the Church’s infancy, but also in these days. It’s fashionable for religious zealots today to slaughter Christians in the name of their false god and his false prophet Mohammed. Just last December we heard of four children in Iraq, accosted by ISIS and ordered to say that they would follow Mohammed, but the children, all under 15, confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “No, we love Yesua, we have always loved Yesua, we have always followed Yesua, Yesua has always been with us,” and when, after given a second chance to convert they refused, they were all beheaded. These are the ones truly worthy of honor, who have already gained the grace of heaven, of whom we sing:

A noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid
Around the Savior’s throne rejoice in robes of white arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven through peril, toil, and pain,
Oh God, to us may grace be given to follow in their train.

One Purpose

By Larry Beane

I don't know if other LCMS churches and pastors were targeted or not (though I suspect so), but I recently received a journal in the mail unbidden, called: "One Image, One Purpose, One Baptism" from an organization called CBE International (Christians for Biblical Equality).  I had never heard of this organization before, but given that "equality" is a buzzword of late - in particular with regard to matters of sex roles in church and society - I decided against pitching it with the other usual complement of uninvited postal material that one inevitably receives as a church pastor.

Upon scanning it, it turns out to be a collection of six essays with the usual tired and hackneyed exegetical arguments for women's "ordination."  It is an apologetic of sorts for the philosophy of radical egalitarianism.  The authors include a layman whose position and current religious affiliation are unstated, a professor (Ph.D.) from Loyola (New Orleans), a former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, a professor from North Park Theological Seminary (on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Covenant Church), a professor (Th.D.) from Dallas Theological Seminary, as well as a guest professor (Ph.D.) from Gordon-Conwell, who appears to be a Baptist.

Lacking any LCMS theological credentials or Lutheran academic positions among the authors, I was rather surprised to find the LCMS mentioned 5 times on the very first page following the table of contents (not to mention references as well to CPH, the CTCR, the word "Lutheran," and Luther's "What does this mean?" from the Small Catechism).  Interesting.  The opening one-page introduction was written by a former member of an LCMS congregation.  There was a blurb consisting of a third of the page written by a currently-rostered LCMS pastor, who finds "the resources provided by Christians for Biblical Equality" to be "quite helpful," and for this reason, he says, "I recommend to you, my brother pastors, the material attached."

Why my congregation and I had received this was starting to make more sense.

The first full essay keeps the Missouri Synod ball in the air by referencing the LCMS, the CTCR, and its document, "The Creator's Tapestry," (including three citations).  The author is also an LCMS pastor's wife.  The gist of her essay is that there is the LCMS-endorsed (but wrong) complementarian view of man and woman, and the (correct) egalitarian view.  Her essay argues for egalitarianism because of the biblical "pattern whereby God lifts up the lowly (those deemed as the lesser ones in society) and brings down the mighty (those deemed by the world to be greater in terms of status and power)."  She cites examples of God's favor upon the "younger," "women," and "the poor."

This emphasis on egalitarianism as a way of overturning the troika of ageism, sexism, and classism supports the purpose of the Christians for Biblical Equality organization:

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) is a nonprofit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV 2011). (emphasis added).

The mission statement of CBE is as follows:

CBE exists to promote biblical justice and community by educating Christians that the Bible calls women and men to share authority equally in service and leadership in the home, church, and world.

The idea that the biblical equality expressed in Gal 3:28 is extended from the immediate context of justification (v. 24) so as to include egalitarian authority structures falls by its own weight.  For though CBE uses Gal 3:28 to argue that "women and men" are to "share authority" in "home, church, and world," they do not take their premise to the logical conclusion of the aforementioned troika and include children in that biblical authority-sharing.  They don't argue for a model of governance of "home, church, and world" that gives voice to children, who are by nature the weakest of the weak in "home, church, and world."  Where are the calls for children's ordination?  Where are the denunciations of ageistic hierarchicalism that elevates adults over infants in matters of authority in "home, church, and world"?

A quick scan of CBE's mission statement, core values, and envisioned future on the inside back cover of the journal basically demonstrates that this organization - its lip service against ageism, racism, and classism notwithstanding - is a one-trick pony.  It's all about the goal of "ordaining" women in those church bodies that do not presently do so.  That seems to be the "One Purpose" lurking in the middle line of the title.

So again, why send this to an LCMS pastor and church?  Why front-load the journal with references to Lutheranism and the LCMS when none of its authors are LCMS members or scholars, nor are any of her institutions of higher learning given a voice or opportunity for balance?  Well, that's apparently how they roll in promoting their agenda.  

The fact of the matter is that the majority element (by about a 2:1 ratio) of those calling themselves "Lutheran" in the United States and in the world already "ordain" women.  The ELCA already accepts all of the exegesis and philosophical premises of egalitarianism espoused by the CBE, and does so unambiguously and vigorously.  If Lutherans are looking for a church body that is dedicated to these principles, they can certainly find one that is bigger, more diverse, and has a larger number of seminaries and congregations already.  Mathematically speaking, ELCA congregations are on the whole easier to find than LCMS churches. Lutherans who sympathize with CBE can already go to the ELCA and be comfortable, without fighting, without the frustration of the supposed neanderthal patriarchy that one finds in the LCMS.  In fact, the ELCA embraces equality to the point of placing goddess worship on an equal plane with God-worship, and is in full altar-and-pulpit fellowship with the ECUSA, in which one need not even believe in the resurrection of Jesus to be consecrated as a bishop.  Lutherans who do not "ordain" women are a remnant, and in Scandinavia in particular, they are persecuted.

But that's not enough.  As long as one church body, one bishop, one congregation, one pastor, or one layman does not agree with them, their heroic campaign of uninvited postal material must soldier on!

Interestingly, CBE's sexual egalitarianism breaks down in deviation from their own principles in their endorsement of exclusive, traditional, heterosexually-restricted marriage:

God’s design for relationships includes faithful marriage between a man and a woman, celibate singleness and mutual submission in Christian community. 

This desire to commingle a Leave It To Beaver hetero-hegemonic (if not heterosexualist) view of marriage with a Vicar of Dibley free-spirited egalitarian view of ordination is not only logically inconsistent, but is clearly refuted by history itself.  In every major denomination around the world that has accepted women's "ordination," there has been a subsequent or parallel redefinition of "marriage" to accommodate same-sex unions.  If Gal 3:28 applies to the rite of holy orders, why not also to the rite of holy matrimony?  If a lady can take a congregation, why can't she take a wife?  The same exclusive exegesis, denounced by CBE, that defines the roles of men and women differently in "home, church, and world" in refusing holy orders to women is also what prohibits same-sex marriage among Christians who don't count the blessing of homosexual unions to be a Biblical expression of Equality.

But once again, how interesting to have an overwhelmingly non-Lutheran publication laden with LCMS and Lutheran references in the first two essays, along with an LCMS recommendation from an LCMS clergyman on the same page, sent to an LCMS pastor care of an LCMS church.  Why not rejoice in the majority of Lutheran "churches" that agree with them rather than target the minority of churches that disagree with them?

Again, it's not enough.

I think the "One Purpose" of this organization and its uninvited postal material is quite clear.  What is also clear is that Satan is still asking, tempting, and taunting the daughters of Eve: "Did God actually say...?" (Gen 3:1).  Whether he is speaking by the mouth of the LCMS in denying ordination to women, or by the mouth of the CBE in promoting it, I will leave to the reader to discern.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Nominations Still Sought

At the annual Fort Wayne Symposia on the Lutheran Confessions (20-23 January 2015 at Concordia Theological Seminary) the editors of Gottesdienst will be meeting to determine the next bearer or the Sabre of Boldness. Send in your nominations now! Submit a signed nomination to Fr. Eckardt via e-mail (click here).  

The award is given “For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity on behalf of the Holy Church of Christ while engaged in the confession of His pure Gospel in the face of hostile forces and at the greatest personal risk.” State the name, address, and telephone number of the nominee and the reasons why he or she is a fitting choice for Sabre Bearer.  The degree of the adversity, steadfast resistance to pressures to compromise, heedlessness of threats, and a clear confession of faith are considered.  The slate will close on Tuesday, January 20th

For reservations at the Gottesdienst Hotel, click here by Wednesday, January 7thor call 260-484-0411 or toll free 855-322-3224; ask for the group rate for Gottesdienst.

The Sabre ceremony is in its twentieth year.  The list of recipients is below.
Bearers of the Sabre of Boldness
1996  The Reverend Peter C. Bender
1997  The Reverend Jonathan G. Lange
1998  The Reverend Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow
1999  The Reverend Gary V. Gehlbach
2000  The Reverend Peter M. Berg
2001  The Reverend Dr. John C. Wohlrabe
2002  The Reverend Erich Fickel
2003  The Reverend Dr. Wallace Schulz
2004  The Reverend Charles M. Henrickson
2005  The Reverend Edward J. Balfour
2006  Bishop Walter Obare
2007  The Reverend Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn
2008  The Reverend Aaron Moldenhauer
2009  The Reverend Juhana Pohjola
2010  The Right Reverend Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn
2011  The Reverend Brian Saunders
2012  The Reverend Paul Rydecki
2013  Mrs. Katie Schuermann
2014  The Reverend Michael Brockman

Friday, January 2, 2015

Jürgen Diestelmann, R.I.P.

Pfarrer Jürgen Diestelmann
29 May 1928-29 December 2014

Within hours of his demise this past Monday, the electronic news service of the SELK announced the death of Pfarrer Jürgen Diestelmann, pastor emeritus of the famous Brüdern Sankt-Ulrici church in Braunschweig. Although on the roster of the VELKD (United Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany), Diestelmann was strongly aligned with the orthodox wing of our German sister church, enjoying a special closeness to Bishop emeritus Jobst Schoene. He will surely rank as one of the last pastors to carry on Hermann Sasse’s protest against the EKD, the German union church of 1948, from within.

Diestelmann’s congregation, where he discharged his vicarage in the mid-1950s and later served as pastor from 1975 till his retirement in 1990, has long been a bright light amid the darkness of the German “Lutheran” territorial churches, noteworthy for its orthodoxy in doctrine and liturgical life. Diestelmann’s personal blog, which he updated even in the past month, offered an orthodox Lutheran perspective on the local and global scene, and also served as the website of the Brüderngemeinde: . Diestelmann’s Brüdernrundbrief, whose last issue appeared in October of last year, was a much appreciated source of news and encouragement for orthodox Lutherans in Europe.

A faithful and energetic parish pastor with every ounce of his being, for more than half a century Diestelmann was highly active in academic research and publishing, focussing sharply on the sacramental doctrine and practice of Martin Luther and his faithful followers in the Reformation period. An 84-pp. book published by Diestelmann in 1960 on Luther’s understanding of the Consecration proved useful in my own doctoral researches more than thirty years ago. Diestelmann untiringly hammered home the doctrinal truth and liturgical-practical implications of the Reformer’s scriptural understanding of the Consecration, publishing a series of volumes culminating in a book issued in 2014 with a view to the impending Luther jubilee of 2017. Luther oder Melanchthon: Der Bruch einer historischen Freundschaft und die Folgen für die heutige Ökumene und das Reformationsgedenken 2017 (= Luther or Melanchthon: the break of an historic friendship and its consequences for contemporary worldwide Christendom and the Reformation commemoration of 2017) must head toward the top of my to-read list. I note from Diestelmann’s website that he recently received a courteous thank-you letter from Benedict XVI/Joseph Ratzinger, to whom he sent a copy.

I last corresponded with Pfarrer Diestelmann in 2009, when he had me review for Logia his Usus und Actio: Das Heilige Abendmahl bei Luther und Melanchthon. A glance at this appraisal of his work will demonstrate how much we shall remain in Diestelmann’s debt:

Diestelmann was co-editor of Einträchtig Lehren, the festschrift published in honour of Bishop Schoene in 1997.

Pfarrer Diestelmann leaves behind his widow, Leonore, four children, ten grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

His funeral will take place in the Brüdernkirche on the festival of the Epiphany of our Lord, with interment following the next day.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.

John R. Stephenson, PhD
Professor of Historical Theology
Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary
St. Catherines, Ontario