A Short History of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE Orthodox Lutheran Conference
(Concordia Lutheran Conference)
by Paul E. Kretzmann
CHAPTER 1: The General Backround of the Movement
CHAPTER 2: The Specific Antecedents of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference
CHAPTER 3: The Okabena Meeting
- Confession of Faith Professed and Practiced by All True Lutherans
- Twelve Points with regard to the doctrinal controversies in the Lutheran church bodies of America
CHAPTER 4: Subsequent Developments
- With regard to the doctrine of the church…
- Regarding the doctrine of the Ministry…
CONSTITUTION of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference (1951) See also the current constitution of the Concordia Lutheran Conference
Article I – Name
Article II – Confession
Article III – Objectives
Article IV – Membership
Article V – Conditions of Membership
Article VI – The Polity of the Conference
Article VII – Officers, Their Rights and Duties
Article VIII – Meetings
Article IX – Changes in the Constitution
BY – LAWS
The General Background of the Movement
The ORTHODOX LUTHERAN CONFERENCE did not spring suddenly out of the ground, nor may it be said of this new body like of Topsy in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that it “just growed.” On the contrary, there is an antecedent history which goes back more than two decades, or, to name a fairly critical year, to 1929. In that year the Missouri Synod (now officially known as The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod) held its triennial meeting at the Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois. As is customary, matters of doctrine occupied a large part of the convention’s work, and in this instance there was evidence of a particular tension, which became evident particularly in the work of the floor committee on doctrine.
The chief task which confronted this committee was the evaluation of a series of theses which had been submitted to the convention by a joint committee consisting of representatives of the Synodical Conference (the Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Synod), the Iowa Synod, and others, a document which has since borne the name Chicago Intersynodical Theses. Even before the convention, several groups and examining committees had submitted negative criticisms of the theses, all of which were presented to the floor committee for action. After a most careful consideration of all pertinent points, the committee recommended to the convention that the theses should not be accepted, chiefly because they were not clear, being in part ambiguous, and they did not expressly reject the former false teachings of the Iowa Synod. Strange to say, the non-acceptance of the theses was subsequently interpreted, especially by colloquents of the Missouri Synod, as a non-rejection of the document, a position which, for more than two decades, wrought much havoc, particularly in furthering the “theology of confusion” which soon became a characteristic of the changing Missouri Synod.
But while the floor committee refused to recommend acceptance of the Chicago Intersynodical Theses, its report was not merely negative, since it suggested the appointment of a committee which was to draw up, for the Missouri Synod, a document which was to set forth the doctrinal position of that body and was to be submitted to the members of the Synodical Conference as well as the Iowa and Ohio synods (combined, in 1930, to form the American Lutheran Church). The other synods of the Synodical Conference readily acknowledged the Brief Statement (which represented the result of the committee’s labors) as being in conformity with the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. On the other hand, the American Lutheran Church was careful and emphatic to state that it accepted the Brief Statement only “in the light of the Doctrinal Declaration,” a document which was drawn up in answer to the Missouri Synod’s testimony. This step obviously made the Doctrinal Declaration the master document, and the weaknesses of this latter document have since that time caused most of the trouble which ensued, especially since the treatment of the so-called eschatological doctrines (the Antichrist, the millennium, the conversion of the Jews) were presented in an altogether unsatisfactory way and declared to be “not divisive” of church fellowship, also that the declaration was made that “it is neither necessary nor possible to come to a perfect agreement in doctrine.” The presentation of another document, the Doctrinal Affirmation, by the committee of the Missouri Synod did not mend matters to any degree, since the theses here offered showed too many inadequacies. At the 1938 convention of the Missouri Synod the situation had become so precarious that resolutions were adopted which might have opened the way to a union between the Missouri Synod and the American Lutheran Church. Fortunately, these compromise resolutions were set aside by the Centennial Convention of the Missouri Synod at Chicago, in 1947.
Meanwhile the leaven of error and compromise continued to work in the Missouri Synod. In September, 1945, forty-four prominent men of the Missouri Synod met in Chicago and accepted the so-called Chicago Statement [popularly known as A Statement], a document which promptly provoked consternation in the ranks of the conservative Missouri Synod members. The so-called “Ten-ten Committee,” appointed to discuss the entire difficulty, had almost finished its work (in favor of the traditional Lutheran position) when its work was rudely brought to an end by the adoption, on the part of the Missouri Synod praesidium, of the Fort Wayne Declaration of January, 1947, which, in effect, left everything in suspense and pointed the way to a greater growth of liberalism and unionism in the Missouri Synod, since there are several hundred subsequent signers of the Chicago Statement at the present time.
Meanwhile the “statementarian” group in the Missouri Synod was busy spreading the poison of unionism, indifferentism, and liberalism throughout the Synodical Conference. And it was undoubtedly under the influence of this group that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, at its convention in Milwaukee, in 1950, adopted the so-called Common Confession, a document which is not only inadequate, according to the demands of the Lutheran Confessions, but also contains manifest doctrinal errors. Just how precarious the situation presently became appears from the fact that a member of the Seminary faculty in St. Louis had the effrontery openly to declare, before three district conventions of the Missouri Synod, that not all doctrines of Holy Writ are divisive of church fellowship and that a wider latitude in this respect should be permitted. On the other hand, the Wisconsin Synod and the Norwegian Synod, having studied the Common Confession, joined hands with the small minority in the Missouri Synod in refusing to accept this document as sufficient for a basis for doctrinal unity. But the Lutheran Witness, which for years had brought articles and items assailing the sound Lutheran teaching on unionism and related subjects, continued its campaign with undiminished vigor, and even the Concordia Theological Monthly occasionally offered its readers material which was far from presenting the old, solid position of the Missouri Synod before 1929. The Wisconsin Synod and the Norwegian Synod, both having expressed their dissent over against the Common Confession, and both having called upon the Missouri Synod to discontinue negotiations with the American Lutheran Church, conditions gradually reached a state of tension when either the one or the other party must yield for the entire structure of the Synodical Conference was in jeopardy.
All these developments had been noted and followed by a goodly number of old-style conservatives in the Missouri Synod, both among the clergy and the laity, women as well as men, and there was an increasing apprehension regarding the gravity of the situation. Men hoped that the liberals would withdraw and join their friends on the other side of the fence, and thus permit the conservatives to rally their forces against liberalism and unionism. Meanwhile, however, another aberration of the Missouri Synod and of some of its leading spokesmen was causing increasing concern. For almost one hundred years the body had professed and, in a large degree practiced, a congregational polity, which made the individual congregation sovereign and autonomous, to all intents and purposes independent of the synodical organization, subject only to the law of love. Since early in the century, however, there had been a notable shift in emphasis. Individual visitors began to lord it over congregations, especially such as were not yet self-sustaining. They contended that synodical resolutions were binding upon all congregations. This situation was aggravated to a very large extent by the fact that Article VII of the Missouri Synod’s constitution was practically suspended by the adoption of several articles in the By-laws of the body, the claim being made that officials of Synod, including in particular visitors, were obligated to visit the congregations of their circuit and could demand admission to meetings of councils and of voters’ assemblies. Moreover, the refusal of a pastor to sign the amended constitution was said to make such a pastor ineligible for office and subject to deposition by Synodical authorities. It is an historical fact that such depositions were actually engineered in Lansing and in Tinley Park, Illinois, in Plymouth, Nebraska, in Wilmot and in Corona, South Dakota, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and elsewhere. In Florida, those who were faithful to the former orthodox position of the Missouri Synod and opposed the increasing unionism of certain pastors were given no alternative but that of leaving the congregation. Moreover, in certain cases where a majority of members stood by the conservatism of their pastor and tried to hold the church property, the legal department of the Missouri Synod did not hesitate to bring suit against the faithful members. The power of the civil courts was invoked in ousting pastors from their parsonages, in attempting to wrest church property from the rightful owners, and in other tyrannical acts. In a few cases even the praesidium of the Missouri Synod was involved in such hierarchical activities. The situation finally reached the stage that certain officials of the Missouri Synod, not satisfied with sheep-stealing, tried to force their way into the property of congregations opposing them and brought court action to obtain such property.
By the late forties this was the situation. The former firm stand of the Missouri Synod had been undermined by the “Statementarian” movement; the trend toward liberalism and unionism was evident in many parts of the organization; doctrinal discipline was conspicuous by its absence; the leaning of prominent Missouri Synod clergymen (and laymen) toward the aberrations of the American Lutheran Church became more pronounced; and the polity of the body had swung toward the synodical side.
And then came the convention of 1950, held in Milwaukee. The chief business in the line of doctrine before this convention was that pertaining to the Common Confession, a document which had been prepared by a joint committee of the American Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod. Just as soon as this document had been published, it had been examined by hundreds of members of the Missouri Synod, as well as by members of other Lutheran bodies. It was obvious, almost at first glance, that this “confession” did not measure up to the standard set by Holy Writ and the Lutheran Confessions. The committee had been instructed to iron out the difficulties in doctrine, as they had existed for more than seven decades. Instead of that the Common Confession professes to set forth the points of doctrine in which the two church bodies were in agreement. 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. Members of the joint committee practically boasted that they had succeeded in drawing up this document without stirring up old animosities. It was, and is, a “confession” of compromise and appeasement, neither clarifying nor settling the differences which had existed till then and are now existing still. It presented to the whole world the condition of doctrinal bankruptcy in the Missouri Synod; it was, and is, a product of theological amateurism; it stands in its relation to the Brief Statement as did the Variata of Melanchthon to the Invariata of 1530. But it was adopted by a majority voice vote in the last session of the convention. And it was reaffirmed by the Houston convention in 1953. Such are the historical facts. And these few paragraphs present the general background of the movement which led to the formation of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference.
The Specific Antecedents of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference
The issue of the St. Louis Lutheran of Saturday, October 1, 1949, presented, on its very first page, an article bearing the caption: “Engagement Not Tantamount to Marriage, Opines Faculty.” This article, and the events pertaining thereto, proved to be the spark that ignited the powder keg of popular indignation against the aberrations that were becoming more and more apparent in the Missouri Synod. A few days before, the Pastoral Conference of the Western District had heard a paper which indicated that there is “no definite pronouncement regarding engagement or betrothal which would bind us to the position held by our fathers.” This was In connection with an “opinion” released by the faculty of the St. Louis Seminary, concerning which the President reported: “While Holy Writ clearly states that holy matrimony was instituted by God (Genesis 2:18-24; Matthew 19:4-6a), there is no indication that He ordained betrothal or engagement. The latter therefore is of human origin. While Holy Writ likewise states with all clarity that holy matrimony is a life-long institution (Romans 7:2-3), divorce being permissible only upon the grounds of fornication and of malicious desertion (Matthew 19:6b, 9; 1 Corinthians 7:10-15), there is no such pronouncement with respect to betrothal or engagement. Since the Church must not bind upon the consciences of the people that which the Lord does not Himself expressly demand, it is our opinion that betrothal or engagement must not be tantamount to marriage.”
This opinion was subsequently supported by the President of the Seminary in an interview with three laymen who had requested authentic information on this denial of Synod’s position as set forth so clearly in its exposition of the Catechism and in the writings of its former leading theologians. A group of laymen, under the leadership of Mr. Herman A. Strumpler, sent out thousands of pieces of literature, chiefly to clergymen, but also to laymen, their coverage of Synod being almost 100%. Several papers on the question were multigraphed and distributed broadcast, namely, “The Obligations of a Scriptural Betrothal” and “2 Peter 1:20 and the Obligations of a Rightful Betrothal.” Other letters and papers in support of the Scriptural truth appeared very soon, in fact, the matter became a burning issue in many parts of the Missouri Synod. A fairly large number of clergymen came out in favor of the established teaching of Luther and the fathers of Synod, among them Pastors E. T. Lams, D,D., A. C. Dahms, H. W. Romoser, J. Bertram, J. Buenger, A. H. Constien, Eldor Mueller, P. H. Melzer, Paul H. Burgdorf, J. F. Boerger, Sr., F. W. Leyhe, H. A. Quitmeyer, H. D. Mensing, Theo. Dierks, S. T. D., Edw. Kraus, H. E. Vomhof, G. G. Schupmann, O. E. Heilman, E. A. Brauer, the professors R. C. Neitzel, E. W. A. Koehler, J. T. Mueller, and others. On the other side we find Pastors B. H. Hemmeter, H. G. Brueggemann, and others. A few were more or less non-committal, like E. Roschke, F. E. Mayer, Jr., and a few others.
It was encouraging to find that the letters endorsing the stand of the St. Louis laymen were absolutely unequivocal in their testimony for the truth, while those on the negative side were, for the most part, evasive, with some men questioning the application of many Scripture passages and refusing to accept the directions of God as a part of the Moral Law. This point was most effectively treated by Pastor Guckenberger, his paper, however, not having a very wide circulation. Meanwhile voices were heard from the faculty in St. Louis stating that the question was being “re-studied,” that “a new approach” was being sought, and similar attempts at reassurance. (It should be noted here that the faculty, also in a joint session with the faculty of the Springfield Seminary, did not change its unscriptural position and actually managed to have a series of compromise theses adopted, which, of course, are not acceptable. See The Orthodox Lutheran, June, 1953, p. 121.) The criticism expressed on the conservative side when the controversy was at its height will stand to this day: “What you are getting, and will continue to get, from the Seminary, will be reams of theological confusion. The word of the prophet may well be applied to them: `The wise men are ashamed, they are ashamed and taken: lo! they have rejected the Word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them?’ Jeremiah 8:9. And the worst of it is that they will give you the run-around, stating, as they do, that the matter is being studied, that they have not yet reached a final decision, etc., etc. It is disgusting! Since when do we arrive at the truth by approaching it from the standpoint of human reason or expediency? How is it that thousands of Lutheran Christians could see and accept the truth of God’s Word on the question through the centuries? The fact remains, and that cannot be changed by all the specious arguing in the world: If a betrothal is entered into according to Scriptural precept and example, it has the binding force of marriage itself. On this fact we must stand and hew to the line, and let the chips fall where they may. The truth of Scripture will stand, and neither man nor angel can change it.”
As a result, following the negotiations in the matter of a Scriptural betrothal, a score or more laymen living in or near the city of St. Louis formed “The St. Louis Study Group,” which was usually attended also, because of its informal character, by a few pastors. After a few renegade clergymen, who obviously favored the new, liberal trend which was becoming increasingly manifest in the Missouri Synod, caused disturbances of a rather serious nature, a regulation was drawn up which denied such men the privilege of the floor. This much having been accomplished and the disturbers of the peace discontinuing their attendance, the group was able, in more or less monthly meetings, to draw up a Confession of Faith Professed and Practiced by All True Lutherans, the discussion of which occupied a large part of the time until shortly before the Milwaukee Convention of the Missouri Synod, in June, 1950. As time went on, more and more grievances were registered, for there was hardly a month which did not produce evidence of the progressive deterioration of the Missouri Synod, both in doctrine and practice. There was abundant evidence for the most disturbing fact that conditions in Synod were being influenced by a new attitude toward the Holy Scriptures, that its objective certainty was no longer endorsed, but that subjective considerations came into the picture, that the only proof for the inspiration of Scripture was the testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men. To this was added the statement openly advocated by the American Lutheran Church, that not all doctrines of the Bible are divisive of church fellowship, and that it is neither necessary nor possible to be in agreement on all teachings of the Bible. In other words, the authority, inerrancy, and inviolability of Holy Writ had been placed into jeopardy on account of the position taken by certain spokesmen of the Synod.
During all this time, the so-called “Chicago Study Club” was having more or less regular sessions, and a few members of the St. Louis group attended the Oak Park [west suburban Chicago, Illinois] meeting, as often as they could. The papers read at the meetings of this Club and the discussions which followed were almost invariably instructive and edifying. In the course of time not only were the aberrations of Synod presented in detail, but the discussions also turned inevitably to the topic of actual steps to be taken, according to the Holy Scriptures, to give positive support to the criticisms. Upon several occasions officials of Synod, including the President, were present to give first-hand information on burning issues. The activity of the Club, also in arranging meetings for laymen, resulted in many blessings to those in attendance. However, there were no tangible results, there were no deeds following fine papers and speeches, although several essayists presented the Scriptural requirements pertaining to the situation, chiefly on the basis of Romans 16:17ff.; Titus 3:10, and other passages. Fires were constantly being kindled, but no conflagration was started; the group heard the word of the Master that He had not come to bring peace, but the sword, and they were handed the sword, yet they did not use it. One left the meetings glowing with fervor; but, with a hidden dissatisfaction, something ought to be DONE about it! At the same time overtures were being prepared, and every one looked forward to the convention held in Milwaukee in 1950, a meeting which, it was fondly hoped, would bring about a definite change in the situation. And then, after all was said and done, the convention adopted the Common Confession! That meant that all objections and protests were overruled, with only the faint hope that Synod’s committee on church union might make such additions to the document as would satisfy the conscientious objectors. The result is by this time well known: The Common Confession, as Part I of a larger document, was reaffirmed and is not to be changed; however, additions such as Part II (and III) are to be integrated with Part I, to make them all one document. In the course of another year the number of aberrations in the Missouri Synod showed a steady growth, so that the sum total was really formidable. By an interesting parliamentary procedure, overtures against erroneous teaching and practice, and directed specifically against public declarations which echoed the position of the American Lutheran Church, were ordered to be “adjusted” by being funneled “through the existing channels.” They were later submitted to a committee appointed by the President, “The Advisory Committee on Doctrine and Practice,” whose report is dated August 15, 1951. This report rejected practically every criticism which had been submitted. at Milwaukee and severely censured the critics for “brandishing ecclesiastical cliches.” The report abounds in such phrases as “a question of terminology,” “a question of interpretation,” “need not be divisive,” and “may be understood to be correct.” The trumpet’s “certain sound,” as demanded by the holy Apostle, is missing almost entirely. The unequivocal declaration of the Brief Statement that “the Pope is the very Antichrist” (No. 43) and that this doctrine is clearly defined in Scripture (No. 44b) was disposed of by one sentence: “The statement that the Pope is the Antichrist, e. g., is not a clear doctrine of Scripture, but an historical judgment based on Scripture.” (p. 42.) This position has since been vehemently defended by at least one member of the committee.
In the course of a few years, therefore, there was such an accumulation of aberrations from the Word of God that the expression progressive deterioration is not one bit too strong. It clearly states the condition which obtained early in the fall of 1951.
The Okabena Meeting
It was but natural that the men (and women), 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. But since all these attempts were of no avail, and since the bruise was apparently incurable and the wound grievous (Jeremiah 30:12), and since the Lord Himself had given definite directions about “avoiding” those who caused divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which was set forth in Holy Writ (Romans 16:17) and “rejecting” a heretic after the first and second admonition (Titus 3:10), and since the Lord warned all true confessors not to become partakers of other men’s sins (I Timothy 5:22; 2 John 11), therefore it was inevitable that the faithful Lutherans must come to the parting of the ways. All excuses alleging the need of expediency and further patience not in conformity with the Word of God must be compared with such commands as 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14 (“withdraw yourselves … have no company with him”) which are not removed by 1 Thessalonians 5:14. “Go ye out! Come ye out!” these are the directions which should determine the position of conscientious Lutherans. By remaining in a body which can no longer be regarded as orthodox a person weakens the position of orthodoxy and is in constant danger of contamination. There is no such thing as a perpetual state of confession while one maintains fellowship with the enemies of the truth. The statement of the Apostle in Galatians 5:9: “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” is God’s everlasting truth. To suppose that one good apple, or even several, in a barrel of rotten apples will remove the rottenness is the height of folly.
These and other considerations prompted members of the St. Louis Study Group to contact clergymen and lay members throughout the United States, who had endorsed the Confession of Faith Professed and Practiced by All True Lutherans, among whom were 74 professors and pastors and 45 laymen of the Missouri Synod. It was thought that a consolidation of orthodox Lutherans was imperative. Upon an invitation issued by the St. John’s Ev. Lutheran Church of Okabena, Minnesota, (George Schweikert, Pastor), therefore, twenty-two men, chiefly pastors, met in that town for a two-day session. In the opening session, on Tuesday, September 25, 1951, the sermon was delivered by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, then of Cuba, Missouri, his text being Ezekiel 13:1-16, and his topic: “Ezekiel’s Message for These Trying Times.” The meeting was organized under the chairmanship of Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, with Pastor Walter R. Buhl serving as secretary. The following essays were presented to the meeting: Pastor W. H. McLaughlin spoke on the purpose of the meeting, that of organizing a conservative group on the basis of Part I of the Confession of Faith, and discussing “The Confessional Principle Established by Holy Scripture in Ephesians 4:1-3 and in Romans 16:17,” “The Principle of Not Being Partaker of Other Men’s Sins Inculcated by Holy Scripture, 1 Timothy 5:22” and “Practical Measures for Organizing a Conservative Confessional Group in Affiliation with the Synodical Conference.” In this connection the action of the Norwegian Synod on the Common Confession and that of the Wisconsin Synod on the same document were read, whereupon the basis for the proposed organization, namely the Confession of Faith, Part I, was set forth.
Essay No. 2, “Our Duty with Regard to Missions,” had been prepared by Pastor G. Schupmann, of Chesterfield, Missouri. It was an urgent call to be about our Father’s business. Essay No. 3: “Suggestions for a Church Paper,” was read by Pastor O. G. Schupmann of Minneapolis, Minnesota, full of practical suggestions for such a venture; and Essay No. 4 was presented by Pastor H. F. Koehlinger, then of Detroit, Michigan, his topic being: “Our Willingness to Dissolve the Group Whenever the Present Missouri Organization Returns to the Brief Statement Position, Especially When It Rejects the 1945 Chicago Statement and the 1950 Common Confession and Causes the Individual Adherents of These Documents to Reject Them or Expels such Adherents from Membership in Synod,” the somewhat lengthy topic giving the chief points of its discussion, which brought some rather damning evidence collected from many sources.
The preliminary organizational meeting was held after the opening service, with Mr. Strumpler as chairman, since it was necessary to adopt the principles governing the privilege of the floor during the regular sessions. Those pastors of the Missouri Synod who had signed the Confession of Faith were admitted to these privileges. Pastors of the Wisconsin Synod and of the Norwegian Synod were admitted to the sessions and given the privilege of the floor. All laymen of the Missouri Synod, in particular those of the host congregation, were admitted to the meetings as observers.Top
The most important business before the regular sessions of the convention was that of the Confession of Faith Professed and Practiced by All True Lutherans, the full text of which reads:
I. In General
We recognize and accept, with our whole heart and without any reservations of whatever kind, the canonical books of the Old and the New Testaments as the Word given by inspiration of God.
We accept the Lutheran Confessions, as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, as a correct exposition of the Word of God regarding all the doctrines discussed therein.
The Brief Statement
We accept the Brief Statement of the Missouri Synod (adopted in 1932 and reaffirmed in 1947) as a correct presentation of the teaching of Holy Writ on all the questions therein discussed.
We do not accept the Doctrinal Declaration of the American Lutheran Church, as presented in 1938, nor the Doctrinal Affirmation, as presented in 1944, nor, the so-called Common Confession, adopted by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod by a majority vote in 1950. In all these cases, as in that of the Intersynodical Chicago Theses, submitted to the Missouri Synod convention in 1929 and not accepted, we find that there are clear reasons, found in and based on Scripture, which compel us to reject these documents as such and to adhere wholeheartedly to the confessions named in the three opening paragraphs.
With regard to the Common Confession, in particular, we declare that it has not accomplished its purpose of being clear, concise, and unequivocal in composing the differences which have separated the synods concerned for many decades. The Common Confession is incomplete, inadequate, and at times faulty in its teaching, and it lacks throughout the vigor of the BRIEF STATEMENT.
II. Twelve Points
More specifically and offering the main reasons for forming a dissenting group, we take the following stand with regard to the doctrinal controversies in the Lutheran church bodies of America, including the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod:
1. That the validity of a scriptural engagement is determined by clear texts of Holy Writ which do not pertain merely to the Ceremonial Law, but are in force at all times, e. g., Genesis 24:56-58; Genesis 29:21; Deuteronomy 22:23-26; Matthew 1:20, etc., and that the teaching in the exposition of our Small Catechism is definitely Scriptural. A Scriptural engagement initiates holy marriage and is not a mere vestibule.
2. That Romans 16:17-18 is, in both the original and in translations commonly in use, a clear passage, condemning all fraternizing in the religious field where there is no doctrinal unity, I Corinthians 1:10; Galatians 5:9, without restriction or modification as to the degree of aberration in doctrine. The warning of the passage applies not only to non-Christians or to non Lutherans, but to persistent adherents of aberrations within Lutheran bodies also.
3. That `selective fellowship,’ as advocated and practiced in certain parts of Lutheran bodies in America, even if not intentionally unionistic, is bound to involve those who practice it in a relation contrary to the fellowship which, according to the will of God, is to obtain between those who wish to be regarded as brethren; it is thus contrary to the law of love, which requires primary allegiance to those with whom honest confessors of the full truth are united in doctrinal fellowship.
4. That the National Lutheran Council and the National Council of Christian Churches are essentially unionistic church bodies with distinctive marks and functions of such organizations, also that the Lutheran World Federation and all other organizations of this type are contrary to Scripture, chiefly because of the unionistic nature of their Eucharistic services and other endeavors which are not in the field of externals.
5. That the phrase of Holy Writ, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God,” 2 Timothy 3:16, and “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,” Romans 15:4, declare not only the doctrinal sections of Holy Writ (specifically those pertaining to the redemption wrought by Christ), but also all other statements, historical accounts, geographical references, and even incidental remarks, to be the inspired truth of God. We hold the definition of our Small Catechism to be correct: “`By inspiration of God’ means that God the Holy Ghost moved the holy men to write, and put into their minds the very thoughts which they expressed and the very words which they wrote.” 2 Peter 1:21.
6. While Holy Writ itself distinguishes between more important and less important recorded facts (I Corinthians 3:3; Hebrews 5:12-6:2), the distinction between so-called fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, while in agreement with Scripture, has been introduced by theologians, and its abuse has caused much confusion. We dare not give up one statement of the Word. He who teaches that non-fundamental doctrines are not divisive of church fellowship thereby becomes guilty of separatistic teaching. We reject, in addition, the teaching that it is neither necessary nor possible to be agreed in all points of doctrine, or that complete agreement in details of doctrine and practice is not required.
7. To this point we are bound to add another: Since Scripture itself claims the attribute of clarity in all matters pertaining to faith and life (Psalm 119: 105; Psalm 19:7-8), it is dangerous and misleading to inject theories pertaining to so-called exegetical difficulties, theological problems, and open questions into any discussion regarding the unassailable truth of the Bible. Most of these difficulties are not within the scope of Holy Writ. On the part of God there is nothing dark in any part of the inspired Volume; it is merely the darkness of our minds, the difficulty of certain words and phrases in the original and a few archeological references which give, us trouble; all else pertains to man’s perversity. See 2 Peter 3-16; 1 Corinthians 13:9-12; 1 Corinthians 2:13-16; Matthew 11:25; 2 Corinthians 4:3. The regular study of Holy Writ by believing Christians will remove most difficulties.
8. While Holy Writ warns against a subjective isolationism that is, schisms and separations which are concerned with outward forms and customs that do not bear in themselves elements of confusion and disruption (I Corinthians 1:10-13; 14:33; 11:18-19), it does not sanction arbitrary modes of behavior which are apt to give offense to brethren (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:9); and the Formula of Concord is right (Art. X, especially Nos. 5, 7, 16) when it tells Christians not to identify themselves, also in outward forms, with customs which are associated with the enemies of the truth, specifically also in the matter of vestments and characteristic services. Separation is demanded by God when church fellowship with others, also within the Lutheran group, is equivalent to the condoning of error and the supporting of erroneous teaching (I Timothy 5:20-22; 2 John, 10-11). On such principles the Christian Church was founded and the Lutheran Church established, for the repudiation of error in doctrine and practice is an essential requirement in the case of all true members of the Christian Church.
9. We regard a church organization, such as a synod, a federation of congregations and certain individuals, as supreme and sovereign with reference to its own internal affairs, and its jurisdiction over its officials of every type. But the resolutions of a synod regarding doctrinal matters have validity in its constituent congregations and for its individual members only if such resolutions are in full agreement with the Word of God and do not infringe upon the sovereignty of the individual congregation. Any bureaucratic or hierarchical polity in which congregations or individuals are subjected to man-made rules or to government and direction of synodical officials cannot so function according to the Word of God. While a church body may, and should, publish its confessions and insist upon the use of orthodox textbooks by its constituents, it transgresses its functions if it attempts to bind on the consciences of its members any resolutions that are not supported by Holy Writ.
10. We recognize and honor the position of parish pastors and other leaders who labor in the Word and doctrine (Galatians 6:6-7; 1 Timothy 5:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13; Hebrews 13:17), and we acknowledge the fact that the Lord has safeguarded their office (I Corinthians 4:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 13:7). At the same time we emphasize the position of all Christians as kings and priests before the Lord of the Church (I Peter 2:19; Revelation 1:6), and their right to judge all doctrine (John 10 5; 1 Corinthians 2:15; 1 John 4:1), as stressed especially by Luther in various monographs and expository writings (also the matters of regulating church ceremonies, vestments, etc.). When believers form a congregation they jointly exercise the Office of the Keys, forgiving and retaining sins and administering the Sacraments in the name of all, the public exercise of this power being in the hands of the pastor in his divinely instituted office.
11. According to Scripture all officials and pastors, in fact all members of Synod who are aware of the implications of the Chicago Statement of 1945 and of its doctrinal aberrations, also of the false teaching which appeared in the columns of the Lutheran Witness and elsewhere, and did not state their objections or inform their congregations of the growing doctrinal discord in the Missouri Synod, are remiss in their duties and have become guilty of other men’s sins (Romans 16:17-19; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 1 Timothy 5:22.).
12. Without our solicitation we find ourselves supported in our objection to the Common Confession by the results of searching studies of brethren in our own country and in other countries, the general agreement in the criticism being that the Common Confession has weakened and even nullified many parts of the BRIEF STATEMENT. To try to uphold them both is equivalent to halting between two opinions. If the BRIEF STATEMENT, in all doctrinal teaching, is right, then the Common Confession in the corresponding parts is wrong because of its vagueness and omissions. And since repeated efforts to halt the progressive deterioration of the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod have brought no results, the time has come when, for the sake of hundreds of troubled consciences, the actual status of affairs must be proclaimed to the whole world, lest we be condemned by the Lord of Truth together with those who persistently teach falsehood.
It was expressly stated that the acceptance of this Confession of Faith meant an unqualified agreement with Part I and no dissent from Part II.
Among other resolutions of the initial meeting of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference the following should be noted:
An acknowledgment of the action of both the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church and of the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States, both of which rejected the so-called Common Confession.
A plan to issue a paper as an official organ, which was to bear the name The Orthodox Lutheran.
Adoption of Articles of Agreement which were to serve as the basis and nucleus of a permanent constitution. The signatories to these articles were:
Pastors: P. R. Bloedel, Wilmot, South Dakota; Herbert F. Koehlinger, Detroit, Michigan; P. E. Kretzmann, Cuba, Missouri; Wallace H. McLaughlin, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; H. David Mensing, Tinley Park, Illinois; Melvin L. Natterer, Lansing, Illinois; Albert M. Schupmann, Plymouth, Nebraska; Gustav G. Schupmann, Chesterfield, Missouri; Otto G. Schupmann, Minneapolis, Minnesota; George Schweikert, Okabena, Minnesota (who subsequently withdrew his signature).
Laymen: Fred J. Niebruegge, Clayton, Missouri; H. A. Strumpler, St. Louis, Missouri; O. E. Reimnitz, St. Louis, Missouri; Warren H. Osterloh, St. Louis, Missouri; William Koslowske, St. Louis, Missouri; Emil L. Weis, Winter Haven, Florida.
The following men were elected as officers of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference: President: Pastor Wallace H. McLaughlin; Vice-president: Dr. P. E. Kretzmann; Secretary: Pastor Albert Schupmann; Treasurer: Fred J. Niebruegge; Editorial Committee: Pastor George Schweikert and Pastor Herbert F. Koehlinger; Member-at-Large of Board of Directors: H. A. Strumpler.
The convention closed its sessions on the afternoon of September 26, 1951.
Since matters moved rather rapidly following the initial convention of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, it was deemed necessary to call a special convention, preceded by a Pastoral Conference. By the kind invitation of Trinity Lutheran Church, Chesterfield, Missouri, the meetings were held in that church building, where the ladies of the congregation also served the noon and evening meals. Most of the time of the pastoral conference was devoted to the discussion of a doctrinal paper on “The Church-Ministry Difficulty” presented by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann; it was completed in the evening session.
The convention proper began with a confessional-Holy Communion service in which the pastor of the host congregation, G. G. Schupmann, delivered the confessional address on the text Acts 4:12, and President Wallace H. McLaughlin gave the sermon on Galatians 4:1. The representatives of five congregations signed The Confession of Faith for their respective congregations. On Wednesday evening, a special divine service in honor of Pastor G. G. Schupmann on the occasion of his 35th anniversary in the holy ministry was held. Three of his sons participated in this anniversary service: Pastor Otto Schupmann delivered the sermon, Pastor Albert Schupmann presided at the organ, and Pastor Francis Q. Schupmann served as liturgist.
A large part of the convention’s time was devoted to the reading and discussion of the proposed constitution of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. The convention also adopted a double resolution:
1. With regard to the doctrine of the Church…
While the Greek word for church or assembly (ekklesia) according to its etymology may be applied to any group of Christians, and such a group has the rights of the universal priesthood, the specific usage of the word in the New Testament clearly indicates that Holy Writ applies the designation to a group of Christians in a limited locality, with a permanent organization, and. with specific functions associated with the local congregation. (The use of the plural in Revelation 1-3; the naming of congregations according to cities–Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Philippi, etc. Note in particular the “churches” of Galatia and the distributive use of the term ekklesia; rights and functions spoken of only in connection with churches bearing a permanent character.)
A synod is a federation of congregations (and individuals), a service organization, not a super-church. We have no instance of a synodical organization in the New Testament, but only of cooperative efforts under apostolic supervision.
2. Regarding the doctrine of the Ministry…
While the individual Christian possesses the rights of the universal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and may exercise these rights also in a group, as an individual bearing the keys, within the limits indicated by the Word if God, the public exercise of the Office of the Keys is in the hands of the parish pastor, who holds an office established according to God’s will and order. This office, as the best teachers of the Lutheran Church have correctly stated, is the highest office in the Church, and all other congregational and ecclesiastical positions and offices are auxiliary to this office, as clearly indicated in the New Testament (Acts 6:1-6; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:17, etc.).
Another resolution of the Conference planned the printing of the very fine study, Examination of the Common Confession, by Pastors H. D. Mensing and A. T. Kretzmann.
The second regular convention of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference was held at Minneapolis, Minnesota, upon the invitation of the Holy Trinity Orthodox Lutheran Congregation, on August 23-25, 1952, preceded by a Pastoral Conference on August 22. A number of laymen also attended the pastoral conference as guests. Two essays were presented to the meeting: “Inspiration, Inerrancy, Inviolability of Holy Scriptures,” by President W. H. McLaughlin, and “Distinguendum Est” by P. E. Kretzmann, a call for clearness in teaching some of the important doctrines of Holy Writ.
In the opening service of the convention on August 23, President W. H. McLaughlin delivered the sermon in which he emphasized in particular the truth of the Word of God. The same thoughts were presented also by the leaders of the devotions at the beginning of every session. Dr. P. E. Kretzmann preached the sermon in the Sunday morning service, urging all those in attendance to “continue in the Word of the Savior” in its full truth and purity. The local pastor gave the address in the confessional service.
The essays read and discussed at the sessions of the convention were the following: “Baptismal Grace,” by Pastor O. G. Schupmann; “Woman’s Position in the Church,” by Pastor A. M. Schupmann; “Galatians, Chapter 5,” by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann. All of the essays elicited a good deal of pertinent discussion and strengthened the delegates in grace and knowledge. A special report on “Young People’s Work” was submitted by Pastor M. L. Natterer; this emphasized the practical side of church work in this field.
The customary reports of the Treasurer and the Auditing Committee were submitted, together with reports from the field. Three more congregations were received into membership. A most interesting report was given by President McLaughlin on the recent meeting of the Synodical Conference in St. Paul. It is evident that the cleavage between the orthodox and the heterodox groups in the Synodical Conference has widened; and, unless the Missouri Synod persuades its sister synods in her favor, or the other synods yield to the pressure of equivocal testifying, the Synodical Conference as such must cease to exist. The Public Relations report was submitted by Mr. Strumpler and threw some interesting sidelights on conditions now obtaining in the various Lutheran groups of our country. In this connection inter-synodical relationships were also highlighted.
Much time was devoted to the proposed Constitution of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, a copy of which, as adopted, is appended to this short history. In this connection a proposed model constitution for congregations was presented and received, as was a model for the call of a pastor, both of which may be obtained from the office of the President.
The staff reported on the status of The Orthodox Lutheran, and a number of comments were made. The convention was also given an account of the projected Orthodox Lutheran Theologian, a professional paper chiefly for our own clergy and for others who desire a frank discussion of the various doctrines and problems which are before the Lutheran churches of our country. The initial issue of this paper was issued in January, 1953. Its contents are by no means too difficult for the average advanced layman. The faculty of the Seminary constitutes the editorial board.
Since it had become evident, even after so short a time, that the Orthodox Lutheran Conference must train its own pastors in order to be reasonably sure that the full truth would be upheld in all our congregations and the projected mission fields, the Board of Directors drew up a plan for this project, which was then submitted to and. supported by all the constituent congregations. The school was opened on September 22, 1952, preceded by a solemn service in which Pastor O. G. Schupmann delivered the sermon. The Seminary offers a full course of training for the ministry in the Orthodox Lutheran Conference; and, due to circumstances, the instruction is practically on an individual basis. Work in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew was offered in afternoon classes, and special normal classes were conducted on several evenings a week. The number of theological students at the end of the school year was seven. The Seminary has the use of hundreds of books from the library of Professor McLaughlin and of a smaller number from the shelves of Dr. P. E. Kretzmann. In addition, gifts received from several friends of the institution enabled the Seminary to purchase a fine number of recent publications, together with some theological classics; and the hope has been expressed that further gifts of the same nature will enlarge the facilities of the school which is conducted in the spacious basement of the parsonage.
It was a matter of special encouragement that numerous members of the clergy and a few of the laity from among the brethren of the Wisconsin and Norwegian synods visited the convention and the Pastoral Conference, as did two brethren of the Missouri Synod and one Finnish brother. One Missouri brother and two Norwegian brethren gave public expression of their sympathy with our cause, which is the cause of Christ and His truth and of all true confessors of Christ. We, on our part, thank God the Holy Spirit for leading these men to give open encouragement to us. What a joya warm and deep joy! it is to remember such men as standing in public view and showing before men that they are not ashamed of Christ nor ashamed of those who are maligned and despised for His name’s sake. 2 Timothy 1:8.
The result of the election was as follows: Professor W. H. McLaughlin, President; Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, Vice-president; Pastor F. Q. Schupmann, Secretary; Mr. Fred J. Niebruegge, Treasurer; Mr. A. P. Beug, Board Member-at-large; Mr. H. A. Strumpler, Director of Public Relations; Pastor O. G. Schupmann, Editor of The Orthodox Lutheran; John H. Meier, Business Manager of The Orthodox Lutheran.
(Thus far the early history of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference through 1952)
On John 8:31-32
Continue, faithful Christians,Continue in His Word,Which, from your early childhood,You from His lips have heard;When, in Baptism’s water, Your sins were washed away,He made you His disciples To be His own alway. Continue, faithful Christians,Disciples of the truth, Whereby you are partakers Of His eternal youth; For only by His mercy You shall be His indeed, True children of the Father, As His commands you heed.;Continue faithful Christians, Free children of the Lord, Nor let yourselves be driven From His inerrant Word; Let not men’s laws enslave you Who were by Him set free, By pow’r divine protectedHold fast your liberty.;Continue, faithful Christians, Continue till the end, When He His holy angels By grace to you will send To take you to the mansions Prepared for you above, Where you are safe forever As children of His love.
( Note: This “Short History of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference” was compiled by Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, chiefly from sources which were available in print. The material used in Chapter I was culled from the voluminous files kept by Mr. H. A. Strumpler. All of the material, as it accumulated during these years, is available to honest searchers for the truth. In other words: We have the letters and documents which bear out every one of the statements made in the body of this brief summary.)
The Constitution of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference is appended.
Orthodox Lutheran Conference
founded at Okabena, Minnesota, September 25-26, 1951, and adopted by that church body in Convention at Minneapolis, Minnesota, August 23-25, 1952.
WHEREAS, the theology of the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod has shown a progressive deterioration and unscriptural character for the past two decades:
a. In many articles appearing in the Lutheran Witness, the Concordia Theological Monthly, the American Lutheran, and elsewhere, as well as in published pamphlets;
b. Specifically in the so-called Chicago Statement of 1945, with regard to which neither the responsible officials of Synod nor Synod itself ever took decisive Scriptural action, and that in spite of obvious, doctrinal errors; and in the Common Confession of the Milwaukee Convention as a corporate body, a document which is definitely inadequate for the purpose of resolving differences of doctrine obtaining in the various Lutheran bodies of America, especially the American Lutheran Church, and is in part out of harmony with Holy Writ; and
WHEREAS, some of the Missouri Synod’s leading theologians and clergymen have repeatedly become guilty of flagrant unionistic practices (see Memorials 603-622, 625-630, submitted to the Milwaukee Convention of 1950);
HENCE, we, under the compulsion of the Word of God, find it necessary to declare that the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod has left its former orthodox position, as a corporate body, destroying unity of doctrine and practice and separating itself from our fellowship. However, since we see no hope of cleansing the corporate body of the Missouri Synod of its leaven of false doctrine and ridding it if the presence of false teachers, and since Scripture commands us to “mark and avoid” (Romans 16.17), we have withdrawn from said Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod for reasons set forth in this Preamble and in our Confession of Faith appended to this constitution.
ARTICLE I Name
The name of this body shall be the ORTHODOX LUTHERAN CONFERENCE.
ARTICLE II Confession
The confessional platform of the ORTHODOX LUTHERAN CONFERENCE is laid down in the document known as the Confession of Faith Professed and Practiced by All True Lutherans, whose first part provides for the acceptance, without modification or reservation, of:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, that is, all the canonical books of the Bible, as the Word of God given by inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and the only norm and rule of faith and of practice;
2. The Lutheran Confessions, comprising the Book of Concord of 1580, as a correct exposition of the Word of God regarding all the doctrines discussed therein;
3. The Brief Statement of the Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod (adopted in 1932 and reaffirmed in 1947) as a correct presentation of the teaching of Holy Writ on all the questions