Our Declaration – 1956 Statement
We acknowledge and declare that Dr. P. E. Kretzmann, by his declaration by his undated release received by our President and Vice-president on December 5 and 6, 1955, has terminated his fellowship with us as of December 31, 1955. Those who share this declaration of his, namely, “Unless the men (and Others) who share Pastor E. C. Hallstein’s position will withdraw their sinful. charges against me by December 31, 1955, I SHALL NO LONGER CONSIDER THEM, EITHER INDIVIDUALLY OR COLLECTIVELY, AS BRETHREN IN THE FAITH” have also terminated their fellowship with us. They have compelled us, therefore, in obedience to the Holy Scriptures, 1 Cor. 1:10, 1 John 2:19; Rom. 16:17,18, no longer to regard them as brethren in the faith.
We have been charged with the causing of this break. This cannot be the case since our fellowship was cut off at the very time when we were striving to meet together as brethren to discuss differences which had arisen between us. The fact that we charged Dr. Kretzmann with error gave him no Scriptural reason to refuse to consider us “either individually or collectively as brethren in the faith.” Even though Dr. Kretzmann should hold us to be in error, yet Romans 16:17 (to which he appeals against us) does not call for such hasty action, but the Lord requires much patience and long-suffering among acknowledged brethren, John 13:34; 1 Cor. 13:4; Tim. 2.24-26. This action is sinful separatism forbidden by the Word of God, Heb. 10:25; 1 John 2:19
The Orthodox Lutheran Conference is an organization for brethren united in the faith (Constitution, Art. V, 1, 2.). The membership is therefore disrupted when the fellowship is disrupted, otherwise the organization itself would be of a unionistic nature. Those members who support Dr. Kretzmann’s hastyaction have wrongfully disrupted the fellowship and can, therefore, no longer be recognized by us as bona fide members of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. For this reason our brethren could not Scripturally meet with them in the so-called Board Meeting of January 14, 1956, and in our Orthodox Lutheran Conference Special Pastoral Conference of January 18, 1956. For the same reason we cannot regard the convention which is proposed to be held by them on February 4, 1956, or any other meeting proposed or conducted by them as a bona fide, constitutional meeting of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference. We shall continue, God willing, to hold our own constitutional Orthodox Lutheran Conference meetings.
We declare that the congregations of our Conference, because they confess, teach, and practice the Word of God in its full truth and purity and use the Sacraments according to Christ’s institution, comprise the true visible church on earth, Matt. 28:20; John 8-31,32. We do not deny that there MAY BEothers, unknown to us, who truly share our Scriptural position in doctrine and practice. We hold those to be in error who apply to this doctrine of the true visible church Scripture passages which pertain only to the invisible Church, such as John 4:22; Luke 17:16; 10:33–thus confusing the two.
We recognize those only as true brethren in the faith who openly and publicly acknowledge our Scriptural position in doctrine and practice, I Cor. 1:10. This we designate by the human term:confessional fellowship. It is the Scriptural duty of such heartily to support our work and endeavors and thus to practice church fellowship with us, otherwise they are separatistic, 2 Tim. 1:8; 3 John 9.
Such true confessional fellowship does not necessarily require the immediate severance of membershipfrom a heterodox body, nor the joining in membership with an orthodox organization; but it does require a cessation of every kind of church fellowship with the corporate body in which outward membership isstill held, 2 Thess. 3:14,15. This Scriptural principle we designate by the human term: a true state of confession.
According to the Constitution of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, we, the undersigned congregations and their pastors, denounce the threatened Unscriptural impeachment proceedings of the faction. We still acknowledge the President and Vice-president elected by our last convention at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, August 20-22, 1955, as bona fide and faithful officers of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference.
Any who found it difficult to attend, or to send a statement of their position to, the Special Pastoral Conference, Tinley Park, January 18-19, 1956, as well as others, are herewith cordially invited still to join us in, our Declaration and thus continue in their original status with the Orthodox Lutheran Conference, “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” Eph. 4:3. Their subscription to our Declaration is to be sent to our President, and an announcement of their subscription will then be made promptly in the Orthodox Lutheran.
All practical matters pertaining to proper order and procedure in the work of the Orthodox Lutheran Conference which are necessitated by the present unusual situation, will be presented to our next OLC convention as recommendations of the Board of Directors (the vacancies on the Board and on various committees to be filled by the President according to the By-Laws of our Constitution-see 1954 Proceedings).
Inasmuch as the faculty of the Seminary in Minneapolis disavows us as brethren in the faith it is impossible for us any longer to regard and support them as our professors. It also follows that we do not recognize the treasury or any incumbents in office of the faction group.
If our former brethren communicate with us regarding our position in these matters, we stand ready to discuss these matters again with them as brethren as soon as they have retracted and repented of this unscriptural break in fellowship with us, Gal. 6:1.
This Declaration is unanimously subscribed to by the following congregations and their pastors:
Christ Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
E. L. Mehlberg, pastor
Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church, Tinley Park, Ill.
H. David Mensing, pastor
Holy Trinity Orthodox Lutheran Church, Oskaloosa, Ia.
J. Ernest Shufelt, pastor
St. Stephen Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilmot, S. D.
O. W. Schaefer, pastor
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Clark, S. D.
E. C. Hallstein, pastor
St. John Orthodox Lutheran Church, Lebanon, Ore.
M. L. Natterer, pastor
St. Paul Orthodox Lutheran Church, Empire, Ore.
P. R Bloedel, pastor