A Popular History of the
Concordia Lutheran Conference
There are two Scripturally-founded reasons in particular for which this history is written,
One is that our own people who are older and who experienced many of the events here told may not forget, in the process of time, what great things God in His grace has done to deliver them from spiritual slavery; and especially that the younger generation may be factually informed about their great heritage. Thus the Psalmist of the Lord writes, “That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children” (Psalm 78:6). And again, “This shall be written for the generation to come” (Psalm 102:18). Likewise, when God’s people were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, the Lord spoke to His people and said, as He instituted the Passover, “And it shall come to pass, when ye come to the land which the Lord will give you that ye shall keep this service. And it shall come to pass, when your children shall say unto you, What mean ye by this service? That ye shall say, it is the sacrifice of the Lord’s passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when He smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses” (Exodus 12:25-27). Anyone who reads and knows our history will recognize that there is indeed a parallel between Israel’s deliverance at that time and our own deliverance, for which we are truly grateful to the Lord.
Another reason for this popular history is our willingness and our sincere desire to inform others who wish to know about us but who don’t have proper information. This is in accordance with the Word of God which tells us, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts; and BE READY ALWAYS TO GIVE AN ANSWER to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15). This is important, not only because God commands this of us, but also because many false charges were brought against us to the general public. Although the officials of the Missouri Synod could find no fault with our doctrine, practice, or life, yet we have been charged with being schismatic (inclined to separate from other Christians without Scriptural command, merely for personal reasons), sectarian, and fanatic. We must state the truth, both as to Scripture, and as to the facts. (See The Truth About Tinley Park and The Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference.)
In this connection we emphasize that we are not endeavoring in any way whatsoever to malign or cast aspersions an any individual’s character, whether we mention his name or his office in any certain place and time. Our history is based on facts properly witnessed and documented.
WHO WE ARE THE CONCORDIA LUTHERAN CONFERENCE
This is no doubt best explained by a quotation from the Preamble to the Constitution of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, adopted August, 1957, and approved May, 1958, which reads as follows: “In obedience to the Word of God (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10), a number of our original members withdrew from the Missouri Synod in the year 1951 for the following reasons:
A. Because of that Synod’s progressive deterioration in doctrine and practice during the two preceding decades, in spite of much patient admonition to the contrary on the part of many pastors and congregations in its midst. (Compare: Book of Reports and Memorials and the Proceedings, Missouri Synod, 1950).
B. More specifically because of
1) Its unionistic character evinced chiefly by the unretracted ‘A Statement’, Chicago, 1945, and the unscriptural, compromising ‘Common Confession’ of 1950.
2) Its tyrannical procedures against its own protesting pastors and congregations, in defiance of God’s Word, Matthew 23:8-12 Mark 10:42-45; and contrary to its own Constitution Article VII.” (These matters will be explained later.)
Now, while we are trying to keep this history a “popular” one, that is, comparatively easy to read and understand, it is necessary for a clear understanding of facts and developments to go into some detail. (For more proof and documentary evidence of what we present here, we are including at the end of this popular history a “Bibliography” for the serious student to study carefully.)
THE THREE LARGE “LUTHERAN” CHURCH BODIES IN THE U.S.A.
For many years there have been three:
I. The Synodical Conference founded in 1872, (dissolved after the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods left it in 1963), comprising in late years
A. The Missouri Synod (1847)
B. The Wisconsin Synod (1850)
C. The Norwegian Synod (1918)
D. The Slovak Synod (1902)
II. The American Lutheran Church, founded in 1960, (The ALC, sometimes designated, TALC), comprising
A. The American Lutheran Church (1930), an organic union of
1) The Ohio Synod (1818)
2) The Buffalo Synod (1845)
3) The Iowa Synod (1860)
B. And other synods. (See Wicke’s catechism of Differences.)
III. The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) organized in 1918, through a merger of the General Synod, General Council, and United Synod of the South. Note that it still further merged in 1962 to form the Lutheran Church in America, designated LCA. (See Wicke, p. 8-9; also Lutheran, Cyclopedia, 1954, page 1097, “U. S. Lutheran Theology”.)
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE MISSOURI SYNOD TO CAUSE OUR BREAK IN FELLOWSHIP AND MEMBERSHIP WITH THEM
Our concern in this popular history is mainly with the Missouri Synod, because that Synod was our original affiliation.
Since its founding in 1847, the Missouri Synod confessed and practiced God’s Word in its truth and purity for about seventy-five years. But then liberal tendencies and the popish or tyrannical procedures of circuit “visitors” began to invade its midst. (See: A Short History of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann.)
Ever since the 1929 convention of that Synod, there was definite agitation to promote the union of various “Lutheran” bodies in America. Specific interest was directed toward the American Lutheran Church, which had been divided from us because of at least seven false doctrines permitted in its midst. We were not able to make any progress toward unity and union with the ULCA (later LCA) because they were so blatantly corrupt in doctrine and practice that they did not even accept the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures.
At first a committee of faithful men, by Synod’s authorization, drew up the Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod, adopted in 1932, re-affirmed in 1947, which began work toward a God-pleasing union by setting forth the truly Biblical teachings and practices. (This document is a completely faithful witness concerning those doctrines in controversy with the ALC and should by all means be studied carefully by every reader of this history.)
The ALC did not however accept this truly Biblical Brief Statement and submitted to our Synod’s 1938 convention their own Doctrinal Declaration (See: Doctrinal Declarations, CPH); and our Synod’s Convention of that year agreed from there on to make the Brief Statement TOGETHER WITH the Declaration the doctrinal basis for future church fellowship between Missouri and the ALC, thereby declaring that disagreement in some Scripture doctrines is “not divisive” of church fellowship. This procedure, known commonly as the “1938 Resolutions”, was in clear violation of God’s Word in I Corinthians 1:10 and Romans 16:17. (See Proceedings of 1938, p. 231; Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, 1951, p. 3.)
Subsequent conventions showed conclusively that there actually was no full doctrinal agreement between the two bodies; and therefore the Missouri Synod, in 1947, retracted the “1938 Resolutions” as a basis for establishing fellowship. This was indeed a right move. But it was only a “sop” or empty gesture; for, in the nine years preceding this retraction, the leaven of false doctrine and practice proclaimed in the “1938 Resolutions” had continued to grow and spread throughout the Missouri Synod, as Holy Scripture warns, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
Meanwhile a group of forty-four men, prominent pastors and professors of the Missouri Synod with a liberal leaning, met in Chicago in September, 1945, adopted, and sent throughout Synod a document called A Statement.
A Statement set forth the following false doctrines in its various points as indicated:
1. Deviation in doctrine or practice from certain teachings of the Bible ( “details of doctrine”) is not divisive of church fellowship. (Point 11)
2. Not all acts of joint religious work and worship with persistent teachers of false doctrine or their adherents are to be regarded as religious unionism forbidden by God’s Word. (Point 9)
3. Any two or more Christians may meet and pray together it they do so for a good purpose. (Point 8)
4. Romans 16:17-18 is not to be applied to all Christians who teach and support false doctrine, but this passage is limited in its application to those who are not Christians. (Point 5)
These false doctrines are in disagreement with and in opposition to God’s Word in Romans 16:17, 18; the Lutheran Confessions (Concordia Triglotta, p. 1095); the “Synodical Catechism” (Question 186, D); the Brief Statement of 1932, par 28; and the Constitution of the Missouri Synod (Art. II and III).
Note that in 1947 Dr. J. W. Behnken, then President of the Missouri Synod., announced an agreement of compromise with the “Statementarians” that A Statement was now withdrawn as a basis for discussion, but that this withdrawal “shall not be interpreted as a retraction.” Note also, however, that A Statement, printed out in full together with twelve theses in its defense, was published after this in a booklet under the title, Speaking the Truth in Love, and sold as late as December, 1948, on the campus of the Seminary at St. Louis. An exhaustive critical study of A Statement was published in the Confessional Lutheran magazine in November, 1949, and also reprinted that same year in tract form under the title The Statement Controversy Up To Date. (See also A Former U. L. C. Pastor Looks at the AGREEMENT, pp. 4 and 5, by Wallace H. McLaughlin; and Concordia Lutheran, May-June, 1975, pp. 36 and 37; July-August, 1975, p. 58.)
Now all this theological confusion and dishonesty had so fully spread as a leaven, that the Missouri Synod was ripe and ready for the adoption of The Common Confession at its Milwaukee convention in 1950. (This Common Confession is exhaustively treated in An Examination of the Common Confession, a pamphlet referred to in the bibliography.) The Common Confession is a document that had been prepared by a joint committee of the Missouri Synod and the American Lutheran Church, the latter body not having been satisfied with the Brief Statement of 1932. Even at the very first reading, “it was obvious…that this ‘Confession’ did not measure up to the standard set by Holy Writ and the Lutheran Confessions. …(But) not one of the gross errors which had been held in the American Lutheran Church was clearly and unequivocally removed, and some sections were definitely not in agreement with Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the `Brief Statement’. …Butit was adopted by a majority voice vote in the last session of the convention, and it was reaffirmed by the Houston convention in 1953.” (See: A Short History of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, p. 4, by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann.) Since God in His Word requires Christians to be unanimous in matters of doctrine and confession (I Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1-6), this arbitrary, forced adoption by a majority vote actually caused a break in fellowship within the Synod, all no longer confessing the same thing. (See: Concordia Lutheran, July-August, 1975, pp. 58-59.)
Meanwhile, for already several years, hundreds of pastors and laymen had been meeting regularly, particularly in the St. Louis and Chicago Study Clubs, studying these developments and voicing many protests to the Missouri Synod and its president. (Many of these are to be found. in the book Reports and Memorials, 1950, St. Louis, C.P.H., pp. 442-518. We urge all serious students of this history to study these materials.)
THE BEGINNING OF OUR CONFERENCE, FORMERLY CALLED THE “ORTHODOX LUTHERAN CONFERENCE”, 1951.
After the open break in fellowship which the Missouri Synod caused by its majority- adoption of the Common Confession in the summer of 1950, which confession was also adopted by the American Lutheran Church in the fall of the same year, “it was but natural, that…members of the Missouri Synod, who were aware of these conditions, should be in communication with one another while so many attempts were made to restore Synod to the former orthodox state. …It was thought that a consolidation of orthodox Lutherans was imperative. Upon an invitation issued, by the St. John’s Lutheran Church of Okabena, Minnesota, (George Schweikert, pastor), therefore, twenty-two men, chiefly pastors, met in that town for a two day session.” (Quoted from: A Short History of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, p. 8.)
While we declared our firm resolve to withdraw from the Missouri Synod, in view of God’s clear command in Romans 16:17, it was, nevertheless stated in an essay by Pastor H. F. Koehlinger, then of Detroit, that we were willing to dissolve our group whenever the Missouri Synod returns to the Brief Statement position. (See: Kretzmann, pp. 8-9; Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, September 25 and 26, 1951, Essay No.4, p. 30 ff.) At Okabena we reaffirmed our original subscription to Holy Scripture and the Confessions, including the Brief Statement of 1932, and rejected the false confessions aforementioned. We set forth our position particularly in our own documents, “Articles of Agreement and “Confession of Faith Professed and Practiced by All True Lutherans.” (See Proceedings, OLC, 1951, pp. 49-55; Concordia Lutheran, November-December, 1975 to March-April, 1976; see also Lutheran Cyclopedia, Revised Ed., CPH, 1975, p. 593, “Orthodox Lutheran Conference.”)
Coming home to our various congregations, we pastors continued to teach our people about the errors that had crept into our Synod and had gained wide acceptance, so that they might join us in helping the Synod back to its former orthodox state. When we insisted that we still wanted to be patient and teach our people about Missouri’s errors, such patient teaching was not permitted but the synodical officials actively began their tyrannical invasion of autonomous congregations. One pastor after another was told to “keep still and not tell the people what is going on in Missouri.” On one occasion at this time, the Rev. F. A. Hertwig of Detroit, a vice- president of Synod, visited the present writer and said, “We know Missouri is rotten. But I want to beg you not to tell your people so.” My answer to him was the substance of Ezekiel 3:17-21: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which lie hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul.” When the officials of various districts of Synod would not consent to this continued patient teaching, they began to invade congregations with the obvious backing of President J. W. Behnken. The three pastors still with us today whose congregations were first invaded are Pastors P. R. Bloedel; H. David Mensing, the present writer; and M. L. Natterer.
Let no one presume that any of our remarks are untrue or a libelous defamation of any character; because the facts have been published already for more than twenty five years, in print, without any challenge on the part of the guilty invaders, and with copious documentary evidence, properly attested! (For this, see the Orthodox Lutheran, December, 1951, pp. 18-19; also the fifth installment in the series, “Lest We Forget”, under the title, “V. The Missouri Synod Invades Autonomous Christian Congregations”, Concordia Lutheran., May-June, 1976, pp. 50-52; an “open letter” by M. L. Natterer under date of November 4, 1951 ; The Truth About Tinley Park by H. David Mensing, April, 1952. All this makes for informative but very sad reading.)
The writer’s congregation, Trinity at Tinley Park, Illinois, was the first invaded. On October 15, 1951 five Northern Illinois District officials appeared at a meeting of the Voters’ Assembly in spite of two resolutions of the congregation “not to come” because the Pastor and congregation were together still studying the Common Confession. Only one of the five is still living and is amazingly considered a conservative in Missouri today: Dr. Theodore Nickel, now retired. The record shows that these men told the congregation to discontinue the pastor’s office apparently for exposing Missouri’s false position and for his confession at Okabena. However, not even one of the three Scriptural reasons for ousting a Christian pastor was cited, neither false doctrine, nor willful neglect of duty, or ungodly living. Any reason now perhaps on the books was entered later, after the meeting, that is, “after the fact” (ex post facto). The Pastor and his family were given thirty days to vacate the parsonage, and his salary was stopped. A remnant of the faithful people comprised nine voting members and their families who continued to uphold the Scriptural validity of Pastor Mensing’s call. (See: The Truth About Tinley Park.)
To make the record more complete, especially regarding pastors and congregations now still with us, we mention several other particular cases. There was a repetition of meetings similar to that at Tinley Park at Corona and Wilmot, South Dakota; Lansing, Illinois; Minneapolis and Height of Land, Minnesota; Plymouth, Nebraska; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (See: The Orthodox Lutheran, February, 1954, p. 24.)
“The Officials of the South Dakota District, Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod, through the Visitor of the Circuit, arranged to hold special meetings, with the members of Christ and Centennial congregations on two consecutive evenings. These meetings were instigated behind the pastor’s back and without his knowledge. … Rev. (P. R.) Bloedel could no longer be pastor of the congregation because he had refused to sign the constitution of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and because he had signed the Articles of Agreement of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. They advanced no Scriptural reasons whatever and, because of their action, violated the Scriptural doctrine of the Divine Call.” (Orthodox Lutheran, December, 1951, p 18.)
Similarly, under the intervention of Dr. Theodore Nickel of the Northern Illinois District, “the Rev. Melvin L. Natterer of Trinity congregation, Lansing (Oak Glen), Ill., was declared …to be out of the Gospel ministry. The basis for the action against Pastor Natterer, was that he had not signed the Constitution of the Missouri Synod.” (Orthodox Lutheran, Dec. 1951, p. 18.) It is interesting but disturbing to know, furthermore, just how cunningly but unscripturally the Missouri Synod officials operated in these cases. For the formerly named official said to the congregation at Lansing that he found a term in Webster’s Dictionary, “fraud in equity,” which should be the cause of the Pastor’s ouster, since he had accepted a call to a congregation. of the Missouri Synod, but he himself did not want to sign the constitution. (See: “Open Letter” by the Rev. M. L. Natterer, November 4, 1951; Orthodox Lutheran, December, 1951, p. 18.)
Both of the above-mentioned pastors refused to sign the Synod’s constitution, simply because they held that the Synod itself ignored it by tolerating error in doctrine and practice, thus making such signing of the constitution a “unionistic” act. These pastors were, of all things, ousted on Reformation Day, October 31, 1951!
In like manner, Missouri Synod officials led Trinity Lutheran Church of Corona, South Dakota to oust Pastor E. C. Hallstein from his Ministry, contrary to Scripture, giving their reasons for this ouster nine days “after the fact”. He was given three days to vacate the property. (See Orthodox Lutheran, August, 1952, pp. 132 and 133.)
A little more than a year later, on November 8, 1953, officials of the Wisconsin Synod, in a similar manner, ousted Pastor Hallstein from his Raymond/Clark, South Dakota parish. Predictably this occurred shortly after the Wisconsin Synod at its Milwaukee Convention in October of that same year had demonstrated its unionistic character by deciding still to stay with the Missouri Synod. (See: Orthodox Lutheran, February, 1954, pp. 24 and 25.)
What ungodly actions on the part of Missouri and Wisconsin Synod officials! For, the pastors, having been ousted simply on the basis of a kind of “synoditis” on the officials part, were immediately without income and were told to vacate their parsonages anywhere from three to thirty days hence, We indeed prayed that the tyrannical officials and those who followed their wicked ways repented of these crying sins and found grace for Jesus’ sake. But why, then, didn’t they give evidence of their repentance? With thanks to God, who graciously was with us, almost every pastor maintained a minority congregation still recognizing him as their shepherd; and others received calls from other faithful flocks. For obvious reasons, most of these pastors had to find full or part-time secular employment for some time to help the faithful maintain their flock and ministry and to provide for their own households. Yet it was constantly brought to the people’s attention, and they agreed thereto, that secular work on a pastor’s part is not God’s ordinance but an expediency (Acts 18:3; etc.); for “even so hath the Lord ORDAINED that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” (I Corinthians 9:14) Consequently, as soon as possible, our faithful people salaried their pastors as well as they could.
Pastor O. W. Schaefer, an associate pastor of the Missouri Synod church in Milwaukee, continued to testify to his congregation and to his associate against Missouri’s false position. Finally, he resigned on January 17,1955 from his pastorate at Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, confessing our position. Fortunately, there was at that time a vacancy in our sister congregation at Wilmot, South Dakota; and Pastor Schaefer was installed there on March 13, 1955, having however been spared the inhuman treatment of some of us.
FOLLOWING OKABENA AND THE FORMATION OF THE CONCORDIA LUTHERAN CONFERENCE (CLC)
For several years true peace and harmony reigned under God within the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. Pastors and people rejoiced in their unity and mutual endeavors for the Lord. But then a sad event occurred which disturbed this blessed unity. There developed a controversy in January, 1955, regarding a matter of “selective fellowship”.
Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, a professor at the Orthodox Lutheran Seminary in Minneapolis and well beloved of us all, had made a statement in a seminary class that he could preach for a pastor who was at the time a member of the heterodox Wisconsin Synod. Dr. Kretzmann considered himself to be in doctrinal and confessional fellowship with him although the pastor was not in a “true state of confession” over against his Synod, having refused publicly to acknowledge us and our position in doctrine and practice as Scripturally correct. The professor’s statement was challenged as being unionistic by Pastor E. C. Hallstein of Clark, South Dakota.
Despite earnest requests to retract his statement, Professor Kretzmann refused to do so, kept on defending it, and even declined to discuss the matter with the Committee on Theological Education, which was entrusted with the supervision of the Seminary. He chose rather to proceed into lengthy correspondence over the issue in defense of his false position and made erroneous and unbrotherly charges against Pastor Hallstein and the brethren who supported his challenge. This arbitrary attitude defeated every effort to resolve the matter in a God-pleasing way because Dr. Kretzmann considered himself answerable only to the local congregation in Minneapolis of which he was a member; and, although he had been called in the name of all the congregations of the Conference to teach in the Seminary, Dr. Kretzmann would not even discuss the matter with the President and Vice President of our Conference, who in a brotherly manner sought to guard its confessional position.
Finally, Dr. Kretzmann set a date (December 31, 1955) beyond which, he declared, he would regard no one his brother in the faith who did not withdraw the “sinful charges” of unionism against him. Subsequently a special pastoral conference was convened in Tinley Park, Illinois, in January, 1956, at which a document called “Our Declaration” was drawn up, repudiating the separatistic action of Dr. Kretzmann and denouncing his arbitrary and unbrotherly conduct. It clearly stated that it was Dr. Kretzmann and his adherents (chiefly men of Minneapolis) who had terminated the fellowship and that we, for our part, continued to hold to the Scriptural principles of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. (See: A Brief History of the Concordia Lutheran Conference by Rev. O. W. Schaefer, pp. 4 and 5; and “Our Declaration”, Orthodox Lutheran, February and July, 1956.)
With two church bodies now bearing the same name and for several months both publishing the Orthodox Lutheran, it was deemed advisable that we consider reorganizing and changing our official name. The Board of Directors therefore proceeded to draw up a document entitled “The Agreement”, which recognized that, although the faction in Minneapolis had caused the break in fellowship, our retaining the name “Orthodox Lutheran Conference” would only cause practical problems and perhaps even hinder the free course of the Gospel in our midst. This document emphasized that we were determined to abide by the orthodox teaching and practice of God’s Word; but, to prevent any striving before the world for temporal advantages, we were reorganizing ourselves, relinquishing the name Orthodox Lutheran Conference, and taking for ourselves the name Concordia Lutheran Conference. All our congregations voted in favor of this action by the Board, and with the year 1957 the change went into effect. In due time a revision of the Constitution was made and adopted unanimously. (See: Title and Preamble of the Constitution of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, adopted August, 1957, and approved May, 1958; “The Agreement”, Orthodox Lutheran (ours), January, 1957; and the Concordia Lutheran, January-February, 1977. On the new constitution, see our Proceedings, 1956 and 1957.)
OUR SEMINARY AND ITS WORK
With the reorganization of the Conference under its new name but with an unchanged doctrinal and confessional position, we were determined under God’s grace not to be a temporary organization but to make arrangements that would help us preserve and carry forward God’s Word and Luther’s doctrine pure for the generations still to come (Psalm 78:6). Therefore we decided to establish a theological seminary since the seminaries of the Missouri Synod, infiltrated with heterodoxy and supported by a heterodox body, were not schools to which we could, with good conscience, send our young men.
In the fall of 1959, the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was installed as professor in the first seminary; and our student, Mr. Julius Schmitt, was graduated in 1962. Due to the unfortunate lack of continuing students, however, the Seminary was discontinued in 1968. Pastor Mehlberg accepted a call to St Paul’s Lutheran Church, Coos Bay, Oregon, in August, 1969; and Christ Lutheran Church was disbanded for lack of growth.
Nevertheless, in spite of this set-back, we remained determined to prepare for the future. Therefore we reorganized our theological training program and reestablished our seminary on a permanent basis in Tinley Park, Illinois in 1969. Pastor O. W. Schaefer was called by the congregations of our conference as president and full professor, and Pastor H. David Mensing was called as associate professor. Simultaneously, Peace Ev. Lutheran Church, Tinley Park, called Professor Schaefer as assistant to Pastor Mensing because of shared seminary duties. The faculty was installed on August 24, 1969; and our Concordia Theological Seminary, housed in the facilities of Peace Congregation, opened its doors in the fall of that same year with four students.
From its inception and throughout the years, our seminary carefully followed a curriculum similar to that of Synodical Conference seminaries in the days of orthodoxy. Although scheduling of classes was kept flexible to accommodate students who had to maintain secular employment, we never permitted our academic and theological standards to be compromised in any way. In full compliance with the law, we operated the institution in Tinley Park with the express approval of the State of Illinois and with their authority to grant not only certificates of completed study but regular diplomas of certification for our Ministry.
Over the years we graduated three students: One in 1975, one in 1978, and one in 1980. Of these, only the last one graduated, the Rev. David T. Mensing, still remains in the pastoral ministry of our Conference.
[While our Concordia Theological Seminary was restructured since the writing of this history to diversify the faculty and to make the best use of the training and experience of all our pastors, our standards and comprehensive curriculum remain of the highest quality. Our need, of course, continues for more students, young men desiring the ministry and at the same time talented and academically equipped to undertake these studies. Although we occasionally have inquiries regarding admission from men of other church bodies, we are obviously limited by our confessional standards (See I Corinthians 1:10 etc.) to accept only those of our own faith and confession.]
SOME SAD DISAPPOINTMENTS
From the time of our separation from Missouri in 1951 and throughout the years, we were determined that the terrible tyrannical procedures which we had experienced in that Synod would not influence us to overreact to proper authority and order in our Conference arrangements. Yet, in spite of our best efforts, some in our midst, beginning with Dr. Kretzmann, did just that and caused much confusion and sadness among us.(For further information see Our Declaration).
On June 25, 1961, The Concordia Lutheran Conference in its convention had to expel the Rev. E. C. Hallstein from membership in the Conference and to suspend fellowship with his congregation, Trinity of Clark, South Dakota. This action was necessary because he and his congregation persistently and without valid reason refused to be governed, in a grievance, by the Scriptural objectives and Christian procedures outlined in the Conference Constitution. On June 26, the same convention recognized that Pastor J. E. Shufelt and his congregation, Trinity of Sigourney-Muscatine, Iowa, had also broken fellowship with the Conference by their vote against the expulsion of Pastor Hallstein and the fellowship suspension of his congregation.
After both congregations, with their pastors, had however been given several months to reconsider their position but gave a negative response, it was officially recognized that both of these congregations and their pastors were no longer in fellowship or in membership with the Conference. (For further details, see: Proceedings, 1961, Presidential Report, p. 13; Minutes, pp. 22-26; Board Minutes, April 4-5, 1961, pp. 1-5; Board Minutes, June 23–24, 1961, pp. 1-2; Concordia Lutheran, July, 1961, “Convention Digest”, p. 103; Concordia Lutheran, October, 1961, “Official Notice”, p, 151; Proceedings, 1962, Presidential Report, p. 10.)
In 1969, it became openly known that Pastor A. J. Cordes, then pastor of St. Paul’s Coos Bay, Oregon, was dealing with his congregation in an arbitrary and self-willed manner. Both the Conference President and other brethren trying to correct him found no cooperation on the pastor’s part. Correspondence and various attempts to meet with him to this end brought no fruit at all. At length, instead of accepting the Christian admonition of his brethren, he resigned his membership in our Conference on March 31, 1969. (See: Proceedings, 1969, President’s Report 1). 15, and Minutes, p. 44.) Pastor E. L. Mehlberg of Milwaukee accepted a call to St. Paul’s in August of that same year.
Sadly, however, on June 23, 1972, the Concordia Lutheran Conference, in convention assembled, had to expel also Pastor Mehlberg and his congregation, St. Paul’s, Coos Bay, from membership in the Conference. Pastor Mehlberg himself precipitated this action by making public judgments and accusations concerning a matter of marriage under private study by the Pastoral Conference, by hastily suspending fellowship with his fellow pastors as he forced a private matter to be made public, and by acting arbitrarily instead of following the proper order set forth in the Conference Constitution. Throughout the controversy, Pastor Mehlberg gave gross offense to his fellow pastors, the Board of Directors, his own congregation and all Conference congregations by showing himself to be untrustworthy, vacillating, and arbitrary. He also invaded the flocks of other pastors by circularizing his materials among laymen in our congregations contrary to God’s Word (I Peter 4:15); and he refused, with the support of his congregation, to remove his sinful and unconstitutional actions and to continue in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). (See: Board Minutes, May 28, 1971, pp. 1-2; Board Minutes, June 22, 1972; Proceedings, 1972, pp. 52-54.)
HAPPILY, CONTINUED BLESSINGS!
In our Conference we have however steadily experienced many gracious blessings from on high. As of the date of this history we have five congregations with many faithful lay members, six pastors, a seminary, a publishing house, our own periodical, and Sunday School literature. We are joined together in “one mind and one judgment” (I Corinthians 1:10) in the “unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:1-6). This of course we attribute not to our being “better than others”, but alone to the marvelous grace of God. We, who are personally sinful like all men and in constant need of our Savior’s forgiveness, rejoice to confess with the Lord’s Psalmist, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth’s sake.” (Psalm 115:1)
Our Conference, as briefly noted above, maintains its own publishing house called Scriptural Publications. Its purpose is to provide for the needs of the Conference as far as the printed Word is concerned in the interest of advancing Christ’s Church here on earth. It is owned exclusively by the Conference. Self-sustaining and organized not-for-profit, it is operated under the direct supervision of the Conference by an elected Board of Control. (See: Constitution of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, 1980 Revised Edition, pp. 14-16.) One of its chief activities is the publication of our official organ, the Concordia Lutheran, a bimonthly periodical for the edification of our people and for a cons istent confession to other Lutherans and to the world. Its statement of purpose is given at length on the inside cover of each issue. Scriptural Publications also produces our own Sunday School materials for the various congregations and prints our constitution, seminary catalog, various tracts, and other literature that is needed from time to time.
OUR OVERTURES TO OTHER PROTESTING LUTHERAN GROUPS
We have indeed made such overtures to seek out church bodies and isolated individuals who may be in the unity of the faith with us but who are presently unknown to us. The reason why we include this in our history is to show that our Conference is not isolationist or separatistic but is genuinely interested in God pleasing union based on true unity in doctrine and practice.
In May of 1968 our Committee on Lutheran Union met with a similar group representing the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CoLC), which had withdrawn from the Wisconsin Synod (WELS) because of its persistent unionistic adherence to the Missouri Synod at that time. However, the fact that the CoLC still held the same false doctrine of the Church and Ministry as the WELS stood in the way of our progress in finding unity with them. Although we had friendly meetings with them over two days, we had to adjourn acknowledging that we were not agreed regarding the doctrine of the Church and Ministry; for the CoLC still today holds that any chance gathering of Christians, including a synod, comprises “Church” and it denies the unique divinely- ordained status of the local congregation. (See our confessional document on the Church and Ministry: This Scriptural Position We Still Hold, 1968.)
We also held, over several years, meetings with the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation (LCR). These too were held in a friendly spirit; but, because of a recent split in that church body, we considered it wise not to continue meeting with them for the present, since there are yet some unresolved questions as to what had actually caused the division in their midst. As to the group which left the LCR, now known as the Fellowship of Lutheran Congregations (FLC), our overtures have not yet borne fruit, as they tell us they will not meet with us until we have settled matters with the LCR. This, of course, puts us in a most difficult position since our Committee on Lutheran Union is now unable to make progress with either group.
HAS THE MISSOURI SYNOD IMPROVED SINCE WE LEFT IT?
Instead of obeying the command of Christ, “Beware of false prophets” (Matthew 7:15) and “avoid them,” (Romans 16:17-18), many Missourians through the years and still today cling to the vain hope that Missouri is going to return to orthodoxy. Thus they ignore the Savior’s warning and say instead: “Don’t avoid, but stay in and fight.” (But see: Synodical Catechism, Question and Answer 186-D; Brief Statement of 1932, paragraph 28.)
This human philosophy is untrue because it is contrary to God’s Word. But it is untrue also on the basis of plainly observable facts. We note here some observations from the last two decades [namely, the 60’s and the 70’s Ed.]:
a) declared fellowship with the ALC by majority vote without having achieved full doctrinal unity with that church body.
b) approved woman suffrage in congregations and on Synodical boards despite the clear Word of God in I Corinthians 14:34-35 and I Timothy 2:11ff. (See: Convention Proceedings, 1969; Christian News, July 5, 1971.)
Pastor Richard Neuhaus of the Missouri Synod holds that Jews can be saved without belief in Jesus as their Savior. (See: Christian News, May 20, 1968.)
Two Valparaiso University professors (Krekeler and Bloom) have published a biology text book which defends evolution. (See: Christian News, May 20, 1968.)
A recent poll showed that about 1,000 pastors of the Missouri Synod reject the inerrancy of the Bible. (See: Christian News, May 4,1970.)
The Concordia Theological Monthly in its September, 1970 issue attacked the historicity of the Genesis account of creation.
Dr. Norman Habel and Dr. Walter Bartling of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, deny the inerrancy of Scripture. (See: Christian News October 4, 1971 and June 26, 1972.)
Pastor Robert Hoyer, author of Missouri Synod literature for Bible classes, denies the inerrancy of the Bible and the vicarious atonement of Christ and questions St. Paul’s authorship of the letters to Timothy and Titus. (See: Christian News, October 25, 1971.)
At its 1969 convention, the Missouri Synod:
The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), a group of so-called “moderates” but actually hard-core liberals of the Missouri Synod, left the Synod and was incorporated in Illinois on April 27, 1976. At its founding there were 150 congregations with 75,000 members. 1979 statistics indicate that it had grown to 267 congregations, 659 ordained ministers, 359 pastors serving congregations, and over 112,000 baptized members. While we left the Missouri Synod in the early 1950’s because of its heterodoxy, that is, its persistent false doctrine and practice, it is important to note that the AELC people left it for the exactly opposite reason. They held the existing Missouri Synod still too “orthodox.” (See: Concordia Lutheran, January-February, 1977, p. 14; Lutheran Sentinel, January 22, 1981, pp. 24-25.)
Christ Seminary-Seminex (Seminary-in-Exile), St. Louis, Missouri, was founded in 1974 when a large contingent of professors and some 500 students left Concordia Seminary to form their own seminary because they did not agree with the doctrinal stance of Dr. J. A. O. Preus, President of the Synod, and part of the Seminary Faculty. They also deplored the lack of “academic freedom” in matters of Bible criticism. At present Seminex has a faculty of twenty professors and a student body of 200. What shows the current liberal character of the Missouri Synod is the fact that, as late as 1980, some Missouri congregations were calling Seminex graduates as their pastors. (Christian News, Dec. 8, 1980, p. 11.)
Dr. Oswald Hoffman, Lutheran Hour speaker, joined with Archbishop Hurley of Anchorage, Alaska, in a worship service there on October 24, 1980, celebrating the 450th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession. Letters of protest were sent to the President of the Missouri Synod and to the Lutheran Laymen’s League, but no action was taken against him. (See: Christian News, Dec. 8, 1980, pp. 1 and 15.)
On October 26 and 27, 1980, a joint Reformation service with Lutherans and Catholics was held at St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, California. Among the participants was the Rev. Orval Oswald, President of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District of the Missouri Synod. Again, no action was taken. (See: Christian News, January 5,1981, p. 3.)
A joint Lutheran-Catholic service was held in the Tucson, Arizona Cathedral on November 2, 1980. Participating was the Rev. Herbert Schmidt, campus pastor at the University of Arizona, a member of the Missouri Synod. Again, no action was taken. (See: Christian News, January 26, 1981, p. 10.) The President and four vice-presidents of the Missouri Synod hold the position of Dr. Walter Maier, Jr. on objective justification to be at variance with the doctrinal position of the Synod. Despite various meetings, the matter apparently has not yet been resolved. (See: Christian News, various issues from December 8, 1980 to April 20, 1981.)
On Good Friday of this year, a special service was held at Sherman Park Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Missouri Synod), which featured seven speakers from the following denominations: Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Serbian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran. The theme of this service was: “All OneAt the Cross!” Once more no action was taken. (See: Badger Lutheran, April 3, 1981, p. 4.)
The Concordia Lutheran Conference is an advisory or service body to the congregations which comprise its membership. It is not a “church.” or church government equal to or over its congregations. Its chief objective, internally, is to guard its confessional stand; and therefore, as past history shows, it consistently practices “doctrinal discipline” so that error is not permitted to exist in its fellowship.
It is our fervent hope that all who read this history and find themselves on pathways leading them away from the truth may return to the pure Word and Doctrine and join us in upholding Scripture in these last days of sore distress. With the Psalmist we again declare: “Thy testimonies I have taken as an heritage forever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform Thy statutes alway, even unto the end” (Psalm 119:111-112).
Anyone who has read this history, who therefore knows what severe trials we have already undergone to keep the Lord’s testimonies and who recognizes our Christian resolve still to perform His statutes even unto the end, will also recognize the fact that we were able to endure what we did and now still continue in faithfulness under difficult conditions, not by virtue of our own wisdom and strength, but only in the faith of our dear Lord and Savior. Jesus tells us this, saying, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). And His Apostle teaches us the same in positive words, saying, “It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13)
Therefore, as we now look to the future, we rejoice that we can still join with the Apostles of old and confidently pray to the dear Savior, in the motto of our 30th Annual Convention [June 1981]: “Lord, increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5).
Soli Deo Gloria
Tinley Park, Illinois; 1981 Prof. H. David Mensing, Chairman
Faculty Committee for this History
(Accepted and adopted by resolution of the 30th Annual Convention of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, Wilmot, South Dakota, June, 1981.)
The Holy Bible (King James Version)
Badger Lutheran. Milwaukee, Wisconsin (April 3, 1981), p. 4.
Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod’. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1932.
Christian News, New Haven, Missouri (Various issues as cited: May 20, 1968; May 4, 1970; July 5, 1971; October 4, 1971; October 25, 1971; June 26, 1972; December 8, 1980; January 5, 1981; January 26, 1981; April 20, 1981).
Concordia Lutheran-Official Organ of the Concordia Lutheran Conference. Seattle, Washington (Various issues as cited: July 1961; October 1961; May-June 1975; July-August 1975; November-December 1975; January-February 1976; March-April 1976; May-June 1976; January-February 1977).
Concordia Theological Monthly–LCMS (September 1970).
Concordia Triglotta: The Lutheran Confessions. Tr., Bente and Dau. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1921, p. 1095.
Confessional Lutheran, Elizabeth, Illinois (November 1949).
Constitution of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, Revised ed. 1980.
Constitution of the Missouri Synod. St. Louis: Concordia, n.d.
Convention Proceedings, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, St. Louis, 1969.
Doctrinal Declarations. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, n.d.
Kretzmann, A. T. (Rev.), and Mensing, H. David (Rev.). An Examination of the Common Confession. N.p., 1950. Pamphlet reprinted 1952.
Kretzmann, P. E. (Dr.). A Short History of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. N.p., n.d.
Lutheran Sentinel-Official Organ of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (January 22, 1981), pp. 24-25.
McLaughlin, Wallace H. (Rev.). A Former U. L. C. Pastor Looks at the AGREEMENT (Undated tract).
McLaughlin, Wallace H. (Rev.). and Mensing, H. David (Rev.). The Statement Controversy Up To Date. Elizabeth, Illinois; Confessional Lutheran Publicity ‘}Bureau, 1949 (Tract).
Mensing, H. David (Rev.). The Truth About Tinley Park. Tinley Park, 1952 (Mimeographed).
Natterer, M. L. (Rev.). “An Open Letter” (November 4, 1951).
Orthodox Lutheran-Official Organ of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. Organization no longer in existence (Various issues as cited: December 1951; Aug. 1952; Feb. 1954; *Feb. 1956; *July 1956; *Jan. 1957).
* Reference is to issues of the Orthodox Lutheran published by the bonafide Orthodox Lutheran Conference, and not to any publication by the Minneapolis faction.
“Orthodox Lutheran Conference,” Lutheran Cyclopedia, Revised ed. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1975, p. 593.
Proceedings, Missouri Synod. St. Louis, 1938, p. 231.
Proceedings, Missouri Synod. St. Louis, 1950.
Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Convention, Concordia Lutheran Conference. Wilmot, 1957 (Mimeographed).
Proceedings of the Eleventh Annual Convention, Concordia Lutheran Conference, Wilmot, 1961, esp. “Presidential Report,” p.13; and “Minutes,” pp. 22-26 (Mimeographed).
Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Convention, Concordia Lutheran Conference, Milwaukee, 1962., esp. “Presidential Report,” p. 10 (Mimeographed).
Proceedings of the Nineteenth Annual Convention, Concordia Lutheran Conference, Lebanon, 1969, esp. “Presidential Report,” p. 15; and “Minutes,” p. 44, Resolution 9 (Mimeographed).
Proceedings of the Twenty-first Annual convention, Concordia Lutheran Conference, Seattle, 1972, pp. 52-54 (Mimeographed).
Proceedings of the Thirtieth Annual Convention, Concordia Lutheran Conference, Wilmot,, 1981, esp. “Convention Essay” and “Minutes” re: the adoption of this historical essay (Mimeographed).
Proceedings of the First Annual Meeting of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. Okabena, 1951, p. 3, pp. 30ff. and pp. 49-55.
Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Convention, Orthodox Lutheran Conference. Wilmot, 1956 (Mimeographed).
Reports and Memorials, Missouri Synod. St. Louis, 1950, pp. 442-518.
Schaefer O. W. (Rev.). A Brief History of the Concordia Lutheran Conference, N.P., n.d. (Mimeographed).
A Short Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism (Commonly known as the “Synodical Catechism”). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1943.
Speaking the Truth in Love. Chicago: The Willow Press, n.d.
This Scriptural Position We Still Hold–Theses on the Doctrine of the Church and Ministry. Ratified by the member congregations of the Concordia Lutheran Conference. Seattle: Scriptural Publications, 1968.
“U. S. Lutheran Theology,” Lutheran Cyclopedia. St. Louis, 1954, p. 1097.
Wicke. Catechism of Differences, 2nd Ed. Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1961.
NOTE: References to “Board Minutes” in the body of this history are to the minutes of the Board of Directors, Concordia Lutheran Conference. These are not published but remain the property of the Conference. They are cited to show the existence of further material in the official record.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The above history covers the approximately thirty years between the founding of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference in 1951 to the adoption of this document in 1981. Its author, who wrote from personal knowledge and experience, as well as from the documents in which written testimony resides, retired from the ministry in April, 1986, and died in August, 1994. The contemporary history of the last two decades will be added to this document as it is prepared and after it has been approved as the official record of the Concordia Lutheran Conference.]