Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Concerning Church Fellowship: A Statement of Principle
Saturday, July 19, 2008
I don't know who wrote the following essay but it was most likely written by a CLC man some time after 1968.
The ELS Background of the CLC
Quotes of note:
"While relations were suspended with the LC-MS, no direct action was taken to withdraw from the SC. But there were indications in the suspension resolution that this was intended in the near future."
"The ELS position of long standing has been this, very briefly, that when a person or church body with whom we are in fellowship causes divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which we have learned, we mark them immediately, then admonish, and if this proves fruitless, avoid them."
Committee No. 2 Report, 1961 WELS Proceedings, p. 197-199
Quotes of note:
"WHEREAS, Our admonitions have largely gone unheeded, and the issues have remained unsolved..."
"WHEREAS, The Commission... reports that differences... have brought us to an impasse..."
"WHEREAS, ... we see no avenue leading to the removal of the difference in regard to church fellowship principles..."
"Resolved, a) That we now suspend fellowship ... on the basis of Romans 16:17,18..."
Is it not interesting that the WELS charged the LC-MS with divisions and offenses way back in 1955? The justification for suspending fellowship at this point in 1961 is because a majority believed that discussions were at an impasse.
1. The Doctrine of Fellowship
"If the Synod ever [breaks with the LC-MS], it will be making a long overdue right decision for the wrong reason."
2. The Doctrine of the Call
"One pastor after another has had his divine call terminated in one of two ways: either by direct vote on a motion to terminate said call or indirectly by rejecting the Scripture-based ministry of the pastor... In no case ... has any pastor been accused of false doctrine, scandalous life, or willful neglect of duty... Official representatives of the synod have ... been assuring [congregations] that they agree perfectly with the men who have left ... 'only they were a bit hasty!'"
3. The Doctrine of Scripture
"... in recent years [Rom. 16:17,18] has suddenly become most difficult and unclear..."
"... Satan used a very pious question to destroy the authority of the Word in the Wisconsin Synod. That question is: 'When is the time, the right time, to begin to obey?'"
4. The Doctrine of the Church
"The false proposition has been permitted to stand that withdrawal from the synod includes resignation of the call. Thus the synod is undermining both the right of ordination and and the rite of installation - both of which bind the pastor to the Scriptures and the Confessions, not to the Synod."
The Deepening Wedge of Error, Paul F. Nolting, 1960
Friday, July 18, 2008
Floor Committee No. 23, 1959 WELS Proceedings, p. 211-212
Quotes of note:
Not really any quotes except that this committee (and the Synod) disavowed any serious charges made by the memorial A Call for Decision.
Here it is again, with all 30 signers:
A Call for Decision, 1959 WELS Proceedings, p. 209-211
Report of Floor Committee No. 2 (Church Union), 1959 Proceedings, p. 194-197
Quote of Note:
"That we instruct our Church Union Committee to continue its efforts... until agreement on doctrine and practice can be reached, or until an impasses reached..."
1959, Memorial, Wisconsin Synod Proceedings, p. 181-182
Quote of note:
"Our failure to [sever fellowship with the LC-MS] has had this twofold effect:
1959, A Report of the Protest Committee, WELS Convention Proceedings, p. 177-179
Quote of note:
"Your committee does not find itself in a position at this time to present a solution to the problem which confronts the Synod.... That is due in part to the fact that the authors of very nearly all the protests consider only one solution to the intersynodical problem, namely a break with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod."
Thursday, July 17, 2008
April 13, 1959, Reim response to Lawrenz
Quote of note:
"It is the dark genius of unionism that it loves fraternal admonition within the framework of tolerance during continued and unabated divergence in doctrine and practice."
A Call for Decision takes great issue with Lawrenz's Report. Lawrenz makes the argument that they both "seek to say identical things though we emply different terminiology."
March 17, 1959, Lawrenz's letter to Rollin A. Reim.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
February 8, 1959, A Call for Decision, a memorial for the upcoming convention in August.
Quotes of note:
"Termination of fellowship is called for when Scriptural correction has been offered and rejected and the erring brother or church body have continued in their error despite admonition. This is the persistence which distinguishes an errorist (Romans 16:17-18) from an erring brother (Galatians 2:11-14)."
"We affirm that the document entitled A Report to the Protest Committee is in its nature and content divisive, despite its conciliatory tone, becaue it does violence to clear Scripture."
"In its historical presentation, the Report distorts plain, documented facts relative to the action of the Saginaw Convention of 1955. We consider this distortion of historical facts to be a lesser offense, however, than the abuse of Scripture upon which it is based."
January 14, 1959 Board for Information and Stewardship Newsletter
Quote of note:
"Your Committee wants to reemphasize what it recently stated in its Report to the Protest Committee that the Saginaw resolutions do contain certain unclarities which have made possible a number of conflicting interpretations as to how Rom. 16:17,18 was applied to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod..."
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Oscar J. Naumann was the newly elected Wisconsin Synod president in 1955 and here is the part of his report dealing with the topic of the Missouri Synod.
1955 Report of the President, Oscar J. Naumann
Quotes of note:
"I believe it can truthfully be said that [the WELS and LC-MS] have been growing apart instead of being drawn closer together."
"The differences that have arisen between us... have not been removed. They have increased."
"For those of us who have been closest to these problems, it appears quite definite that we must now obey the Lord's Word in Romans 16:17."
"Yet I am sure that each of us diligently and fervently prayed that some ray of hope might appear."
"...whether the Lord would now have us apply His definite command 'Avoid them!' or whether we still have an unpaid debt of love to those whose fellowship we cherished for so many years."
Here is their first report to the convention in 1957.
1957 A Report from the Protest Committee (WELS proceedings, p. 146-148)
Quotes of note:
"... nor let it be forgotten that in resolutions of earlier conventions our Synod did speak the kind of language concerning the gravity of the issues involved and concerning the interpretation and application of Romans 16:17,18 which gave the protesters reason to expect final action at Saginaw."
"... yet we would plead that hte protesters in charity trust that there was an honest uncertainty at Saginaw concerning Missouri's having received ample opportunity in convention assembled to react to the testimony which our Synod had given since Missouri's 1953 convention..."
1957 Winfred Schaller, Jr. Resignation
Quote of note:
"Since Romans 16:17,18 is a clear passage of Scripture and a sedis doctrinae, the confession of the Wisconsin Synod is wrong, and I cannot confess before men that I in any way approve or tolerate the false views held by the Synod."
1957 Paul Albrecht Statement at the end of Convention.
Quotes of note:
"I shall never be through with the Wisconsin Synod as little as I can ever be through with any member of my own family. BUT I cannot follow the course which the Synod has chosen..."
"While I do not refuse the hand of fellowship to all members of the Synod, I cannot fellowship with those who have advocated the position which the Synod made its own last night. II Thess. 3:6, 11, 14, 15."
Monday, July 14, 2008
The two pastors', Jonathan P. Schaller and John H. Lau, chief concern is that the 'official interpretation' is NOT the one that Carl Lawrenz put forth and subsequently the Protest Committee promoted, but that the official interpretation is the one the whole synod was working under and clearly understanding from 1955 to 1957. Their argument is also that there is "a clear and definite distinction between the action of the Synod pertaining to the Preamble and the action of the Synod in dealing with the Resolutions."
Quotes of note:
"... no other interpretation of the 1955 Convention had ever come to our desks from the Praesidium preceding the Recessed Session of 1956."
"... official interpretations of the SAME Synodical resolutions cannot be changed from year to year. Once officially given, such interpretations stand."
"The Recessed Session in 1956 did NOT interpret the meaning of the 1955 resolutions. That is no where IMPLIED, INTIMATED, or PLAINLY STATED... This also explains why the DEBATE throughout the Synod after August 1955 was NOT in regard to what the Synod said, but in regard to this: Is there a TIME ELEMENT between 'mark' and 'avoid'?"
November 11, 1958, A Response To The Protest Committee, by Jonathan P. Schaller and John H. Lau
Professor Lawrenz made the case that the Saginaw resolutions were not clear and that the Synod needed more evidence before they could now AVOID. The Protest Committee also said that a synod has the right to interpret its resolutions through subsequent conventions, therefore Professor Lawrenz's interpretation of the events was now rapidly becoming the 'official interpretation' for the WELS.
Edmund Reim (former professor and president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary) was one such protesting brother and he wrote an open letter to the synod. In this letter he criticizes Lawrenz's point by point. He makes the case that everybody at the 1955 convention was on the same page when it came to Romans 16:17-18 and marking and avoiding.
Quotes of note:
"... the real issue is not whether Synod has been consistent in its course, or whether the interpretation that is offered 'makes sense', but rather whether the course that has been followed is right, whether it is true to scripture."
"... if the evidence was not yet all in, how could they [Floor Committee No. 2, 1955] formulate a verdict so sert as that of the Preamble - to say nothing of it publicly? How could they even arrive at a verdict?"
"May I venture to suggest that your Protest Committee was a bit hasty in adopting Prof. Lawrenz's interpretation? It is after all an interpretation which is not borne out by a careful examination of the record."
"Is the record of the many years of patient dealing with Missouri to be so lightly set aside?"
"In 1956 our Synod faced an anomolous situation, finding itself in a sort of no-man's-land of its own creation, caught by the consequences of the failure at Saginaw to match its words with action."
October 29, 1958, An Open Letter to the Protest Committee, by Edmund Reim
The Protest Committee had also received a "wide variety of communications" from WELS President Oscar J. Naumann concerning severances of fellowship, protests, resignations, and other questions and misgivings that people had.
The Protest Committee found that all of the communications revolved around three basic matters:
1. The interpretation of the Saginaw resolution (1955)
2. A request for a special session of the Synod to reconsider the New Ulm resolution (1957)
3. The matter of continuing the meetings of the Church Union Committees of the four synods of the Synodical Conference.
The committee could not to respond to each individual letter they recieved, but instead they sent this letter to all of the protesting brethren. This letter quoted extensively from Lawrenz's report and each protester was sent a copy of Lawrenz's original Report to the Protest Committee.
Quotes of note:
Concering Lawrenz's letter stating that the judgment of the Saginaw resolutions were held in abeyance: "The members of your Protest Committee will need to admit that they did not understand it that way at the time... But our committee feels now that the presentation of the 'official interpretation' certainly is turthful to the record... a synod does have a right to interpret its resolutions through its Praesidium and through its subsequent conventions..."
June 27, 1958, A Letter to the Protesting Brethren, by the WELS Protest Committee, Chairman Pastor L. H. Koeniger
With Reim's resignation after the 1957 WELS convention, Professor Carl J. Lawrenz was to take his place as president of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, and also Lawrenz would become the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Church Union Committee.
Because there were quite a few pastors and teachers who were publicly protesting the synod's actions, a WELS Protest Committee was created to handle this whole matter. The Protest Committee asked the Standing Committee on Matters of Church Union for a report.
Some notable quotes from Lawrenz's essay:
"What our Synod therefore held in abeyance at Saginaw was not merely the 'avoiding,' the breaking of Fellowship, enjoined in Rom. 16:17f, but also the conclusive application of the very judgment of this passage, namely the judgment that the Missouri Synod was persistent in causing divisions and offenses. Not merely the judgment expressed in the resolution and the action recommended by it, but also the judgment expressed in the preamble was held in abeyance... Who would say that the Saginaw resolutions did not leave room for greater clarity?"
"Is there not an area of human judgment involved before a Christian comes to the conviction concerning a brother who has fallen into error that he can no longer treat him as a weak brother, to whom he owes further patient admonition, but that he must now be treated as a persistent errorist, from whom the Lord bids him to withdraw all further fellowship?"
"Termination of fellowship is called for when you have reached the conviction that admonition is of nor further avail and that the erring brother or church body demands recognition for their error."
1958 A Report to the Protest Committee - Carl Lawrenz
At the New Ulm, Minnesota, Pastoral Conference on September 25, 1957, Pastor Paul F. Nolting delivered this essay on Romans 16:17.
Some notable quotes near the end of the essay:
"Where in God's Word does God give us the right to disobey NOW because of the possiblity of change in the situation of the FUTURE... But that hope within me dare not prevent me from obeying a specific Word of the Lord that applies NOW... If love becomes the grounds for disobedience, then such love is not from the true love of the Word and of the brother, but a love which springs from the flesh and is of the devil. To obey always has been, ever is, and always shall be better than sacrifice. Our God says, 'Mark and avoid.' He does not say, 'Mark, wait and see, live in hope, and if at length all fails and hope is finally extinguished, then resign yourselves and avoid.'"
September 25, 1957 Paul F. Nolting Romans 16:17, (warning: dust off your greek lexicon!)
Friday, July 11, 2008
Pastor M. J. Witt and his church, Trinity Lutheran Church of Spokane, Washington, had been protesting members of the Wisconsin Synod since either 1953 or 1955. The reason for the unknown date is because his letter says, "Since the 1953 convention at Saginaw...". The 1953 convention was in Watertown, Wisconsin, and the 1955 convention was in Saginaw, Michigan.
Either way, here is his resignation letter.
He said, "I take this step, not in anger, but in deepest sorrow, and because I am constrained by the Word of God."
Here is his letter of resignation.
The vote failed 61 to 77 with eight delegates abstaining. The WELS then resolved to keep vigorously protesting the LC-MS.
Because of the rejection, some started leaving the WELS.
1957 Committee No. 2 Report
... ... These take a long time to type up. I may get to them yet. Until then, below you will find just the...
Committee No. 2 Report, 1956 Convention of the WELS, Northwestern College, Watertown, Wisconsin, August 21-23
Remember, in 1955 the WELS said that the LC-MS was guilty of causing division and offenses but wanted to wait until Missouri's 1956 convention to see how they would respond. The WELS Standing Committee on Matters of Church union recommends to "hold the judgment of the Saginaw resolutions in abeyance" and the Floor Committee No. 2 agrees.
They also contend to have their relationship with the WELS be "one of vigorously protesting fellowship". What is this exactly?
Thursday, July 10, 2008
ALC Sandusky Resolutions, 1938
He is one that signed a protest of the WELS delaying the action of 'avoiding' the LC-MS at their 1955 Convention. Because of this delaying, he resigned as secretary of the Standing Committee in Matters of Church Union and also as a professor and president of the seminary. The convention reiterated their confidence in him in all three of these positions but he resigned as the secretary of the Standing Committee in Matters of Church Union in 1955, and would later resign as both professor and president of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.
Here is his 1955 letter to the convention, and the convention's response:
Saginaw, Michigan, August 17, 1955.
The Ev. Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States
The decision of the Synod to continue its fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod pending a vote to follow the convention of that body in 1956 (even while recognizing that there is full reason for a separation now) compels me to declare that I can continue in fellowship with my Synod only under clear and public protest. I hope and pray that the eventual decision concerning our relations with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will be such as to remove the occasion for this protest.
I realize that under these conditions I can no longer serve as Secretary of our Synod's Standing Committee in Matters of Church Union. I therefore hereby resign this office with all its functions.
I also realize that this declarations raises the question concerning the value of my further services at the Seminary, since I cannot change my stand and teaching in order to conform to the synodical policy that has been laid down for the coming year. Because this is a question which is not for me to answer, I herewith put my resignation as president of our Seminary and as professor at the same, at the disposal of the Synod and its Board, to act on as it sees fit.
Assuring you that this action is taken in the fear of God, and only after much thought and prayer, even prior to our convention, I remain
By unanimous vote the Convention reiterated the confidence of the Synod in Professor E. Reim as Secretary of the Standing Committee in Church Union and asked him to continue to serve in that position. In the same vote the Convention asked the Board of Control of the Theological Seminary not to accept the resignation of Professor E. Reim as professor and as president of the Theological Seminary.
(WELS 1955 Proceedings, p. 87-88)
Things to note while reading this report:
1. Paragraph 3 of the Preamble uses some very strong language with regard to divisions and offenses perpetuated by the LC-MS. They are of "long standing".
2. Paragraph 4 of the Preamble says that Dr. John W. Behnken, President of the LC-MS, has "intensified these divisions and offenses by attempting to justify the position of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod..."
3. The whole Preamble was adopted by a unanimous vote of the Convention, but the decision to terminate fellowship with the LC-MS was taken by a majority vote.
One would think that if the whole convention decided in the Preamble that the LC-MS was guilty of divisions and offenses as defined by Romans 16:17-18, the next step would be to AVOID, and not wait and see what the LC-MS would do in 1956. There were a number of protesters who thought the same.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
One man thought that the time for action was now. He submitted his own "Substitute Proposal." Here it is in its entirety:
SUBSTITUTE PROPOSAL IN MATTERS OF CHURCH UNION
We find that the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has left the scriptural position of the Synodical Conference in the matter of Scouting, of prayer-fellowship, of Chaplaincies, and the Common Confession.
We find that all efforts over the years to bring the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod back to the scripturally correct position in these matters have failed and that we have exhausted all avenues of admonition-opportunity.
We find that Scripture instructs us Romans 16,17 that we should avoid such who have caused division and offences contrary to the doctrine that we learned.
I therefore recommend
that the Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States, in obedience to God's command and in the hope that our action may still achieve what all other efforts have failed to accomplish, herewith declareds that it is now not in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod;
that we make every effort to liquidate our joint work in a decent and orderly manner;
that we transmit this our finding and resolution to our Districts called in special session this fall.
Prof. Winfred Schaller
(1953 Proceedings, page 105-106)
The Synod adopted the Floor Committee recommendations; a motion was made and seconded to adopt the Substitute Proposal; a motion prevails to refer this matter to a convention to be held in the early fall of 1953; a motion prevails to ask the District Presidents to call special sessions of the Districts to discuss the union matters; a motion prevails to provide copies of both the Standing and Floor Committee Reports on Church Union, and the Substitute Proposal to the Districts for their sessions; a motion prevails to recess convention until October 8, 1953. (1953 Proceedings, page 106)
However, at that convention, the Standing Committee in Matters of Church Union (Committee No. 2) had some historical notes outlining the years from 1938-1954. In order to gain some understanding of what the delegates were facing that summer, we need some historical perspective.
The following is taken directly from the Proceedings of Thirty-third Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States Held at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, Saginaw, Michigan, August 10-17, 1955 (pg. 82-84)
Conjunction with its Report to the Convention
1939 - In 1939 the Wisconsin Synod adopted the following: "Not two statements should be issued as a basis for agreement; a single joint statement, covering the contested doctrines thetically and antithetically and accepted by both parties of the controversy, is imperative; and, furthermore, such doctrinal statement must be made in clear and unequivocal terms which do not require laborious additional explanations." Proceedings 1939, page 60.
Also: "Under existing conditions further negotiations for establishing church fellowship would involve a denial of the truth and would cause confusion and disturbance in the Church and ought therefore be suspended for the time being." Proceedings 1939, page 61.
1941 - Missouri's Ft. Wayne convention instructs its Committee on Doctrinal Unity to prepare a single document of agreement with the A.L.C.
Missouri begins joint work with the A.L.C. in relief of missions and establishment of service centers.
Wisconsin Synod unanimously adopted the following resolution concerning the military chaplaincy: "The commissioning of Army and Navy chaplains by our Synod would conflict with Scriptural principles and established Lutheran practice," Proceedings 1941, page 77.
1943 - Wisconsin memorialized the Missouri Synod to halt its negotiations with A.L.C. because of hte false basis underlying those negotiations.
1944 - Missouri and A.L.C. publish a single document, the Doctrinal Affirmation.
Missouri abandons its former position on Scouting.
1947 - A.L.C.'s commissioners issue a "Friendly Invitation" to renew negotiations, contending for an allowable and wholesome latitude of theological opinion on the basis of the teachings of the Word of God."
Wisconsin adopts its theses on Scouting. 1947 Proceedings, page 106ff.
1949 - The Wisconsin Synod addressed six questions to the Missouri Synod (Lutheran Men of America, Cooperation with Welfare Agencies, Cooperation with the National Lutheran Council, first Bad Boll, the booklet "Scouting in the Lutheran Church," applicability of Romans 16:17 to all errorists, whether Lutheran or not).
It also stated: "With deep concern we note that the ties which have united us particularly with the Synod of Missouri are being loosened." (1949 proceedings, page 117.)
1950 - Missouri and the A.L.C. adopt the Common Confession.
1951 - Concerning Missouri's reply to our letter of 1949 our synod stated: "The reply of the Praesidium of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is in part conditional, in part incomplete, and sometimes evasive." (1951 Proceedings, page 145.)
Wisconsin rejects the Common Confession as "inadequate" and creating "a basically untruthful situation" and requested the Missouri Synod to repudiate its stand that the Common Confession is a settlement of the doctrines treated by the two committees.
It furthermore stated: "That we further inform the President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod through our President that, if the appropriate action in the matter treated in this report is not forthcoming, at least through the Praesidium of that body, we shall feel constrained to carry the issue to the Synodical Conference at its next regular convention." (1951 Proceedings, page 148.)
1952 - At the Synodical Conference session at St. Paul, Minnesota the delegates of our Wisconsin Synod declared themselves in a state of confession because they felt that the issues had not been met at all.
1953 - No favorable action was taken by the Missouri Synod at tits meetings in Houston, Texas on the request of our Synod.
a. by affirming its acceptance of the Common Confession as a "settlement of past differences which are in fact not settled" (Proceedings 1951, page 146), and
b. by its persistent adherence to its unionistic practices (the Common Confession, joint prayer, scouting, chaplaincy, commnunion agreement with the National Lutheran Council, cooperation with unorthodox church bodies in matters clearly not in the field of externals: negotiating with lodges and Boy Scouts of America with the plea that this gives the opportunity to bear witness, under the same plea taking part in unionistic religious programs and in the activities of unionistic federations; negotiating for purposes of union with a church body whose official position that it is neither possible nor necessary to agree in all matters of doctrine and which contends for an allowable and wholesome latitude of theological opinion on the basis of the teaching of the Word of God), has brought about the present break in relations that is now threatening the existence of the Synodical Conference and the continuance of our affiliation with the sister Synod.
"2. That we herewith approve the Protest agreed upon by our representatives immediately following the St. Paul convention of the Synodical Conference, 1952.
"3. That we prevail upon the President of the Synodical Conference to arrange a program for the convention in 1954 that would devote all its sessions to a thorough consideration of our declaration in Point 1 and of the doctrinal issues involved." (1953 Proceedings, pages 104-105.)
1954 - Printed testimony distributed by both Wisconsin and Missouri synods.
Doctrinal discussions held at Synodical Conference meetings at Detroit and Chicago.
Monday, June 30, 2008
The point of this blog is to provide documents and commentary on a little-known portion of Lutheranism in the 1950s.
For quite some time there was doctrinal agreement among conservative Lutherans in America. Most notable were the Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod (LC-MS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS).
In the 1940's, the LC-MS began to hold meetings with the more liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCS) and actually produce joint documents of agreement with each other. This was alarming to those in the WELS and they spent much time admonishing the LC-MS for its behavior. In a nutshell, the LC-MS didn't listen to the WELS's admonishment and there were those in the WELS that were calling for a decision based on Romans 16:17-18 that it was time to mark and avoid the LC-MS.
In 1955 the WELS did mark the LC-MS as false teachers, but failed to do the avoiding. In fact, they finally did avoid in 1961 because talks with the LC-MS were at an 'impasse' and a majority of WELS delegates voted to avoid the LC-MS.
During the period from 1955-1961, some pastors, their churches, and professors left the WELS because although they believed that the synod was correct in marking the LC-MS as false teachers, they also believed that synod erred by not doing the subsequent avoiding. These men and congregations would join together in 1960 to form and new church synod called the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC).
Hopefully, this blog will be useful for those doing research and to those who are just plain curious about the history of either their synod, or conservative Lutheranism in general.