It hath pleased Almighty God in His all-wise providence (Romans 11:33-36) and according to His gracious promises in Christ Jesus (John 11:25-26; 14:2-3) to call out of this vale of tears to Himself in heaven the soul of Melvin Louis Natterer, Pastor-Emeritus of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Oregon, who died peacefully at home on Friday morning, October 9, 2015, at the age of 89 years.
Melvin L. Natterer was born on September 3, 1926 in Cleveland, Ohio. Already as an infant, he was received into the kingdom of God’s grace in Holy Baptism and was brought up by his parents in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In his youth, he was instructed in the chief parts of Christian doctrine and was received by the rite of confirmation into the communicant membership of an orthodox Lutheran congregation. As a young man he attended Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois, and served his vicarage at Concordia Ev. Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) in Chicago, where he met his future bride, Waltraut Koenig. He graduated in 1949 and accepted his first call to a small congregation in Fessenden, North Dakota. After a short time there, he was called to Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church in Lansing, Illinois.
It was in Lansing that the young pastor, who had marked the Missouri Synod as a heterdox church body because of its persistent toleration of false doctrine and practice, was persecuted by the officials of the synod’s Northern Illinois District because he refused to join it. After its adoption in 1950 of the Common Confession and its refusal to exercise doctrinal discipline against the signers of A Statement, it seemed ludicrous that Pastor Natterer would be required to sign Synod’s constitution when the synod’s own officials refused to follow it. Instead, in September, 1951, he and other brother pastors became founding members of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference at a meeting in Okabena, Minnesota, even though they knew that they would pay a heavy price for doing so. On Reformation Day, 1951, the officials invaded Pastor Natterer’s congregation, falsely accused him of unfaithfulness, and tyrannically had him deposed from his God-given office as the shepherd and overseer of that flock (cf. Acts 20:28). Temporarily without a call, Pastor Natterer, his wife, Waltraut, and their two toddling daughters were members of Peace Ev. Lutheran Church in Tinley Park, Illinois (now Oak Forest), where for six months he served as secretary of the congregation. Then in May of 1952 he accepted a call to St. John’s Lutheran Church of Lebanon, Oregon, where by God’s grace he spent over sixty years as its faithful pastor.
In 1956, Pastor Natterer, together with the faithful remnant of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, joined in the reorganization of that body after a heartrending controversy over selective fellowship left her sorely wounded. Since the formation of the Concordia Lutheran Conference as the legitimate continuation of the parent body, Pastor Natterer held virtually every office of leadership at some time or other, including that of professor in its seminary program; and he contributed regularly for many years to the Conference’s official organ, the Concordia Lutheran, in a serialized column entitled “Around the World.” He continued, as the senior pastor in our fellowship since 2002, to be, by God’s grace, a role model of humble service, loving patience, and diligent faithfulness, both to his congregation and to his Conference brethren. At the age of 87 years, Pastor Natterer retired from the ministry but continued to serve his congregation in Lebanon as a faithful layman and as a valued help to his pastor.
His dear wife, Waltraut, preceded him to the glories of heaven in November, 2014. He is survived by eight daughters and two sons, as well as loving grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His body was committed to the ground in Lebanon, Oregon, after a funeral service at St. John’s Lutheran Church, the Rev. Paul E. Bloedel, Pastor. In addition to the members of his family and of the local congregation, brethren from our sister-congregation in Seattle were also in attendance; and expressions of brotherly sympathy and memorials of love were received from other brethren as well. While his physical presence will be sorely missed among us, we rejoice in his salvation by God’s grace for Christ’s sake through faith in His merits and joyfully await his sure and certain bodily resurrection on the Last Day. To God alone the glory!