CHURCH AND MINISTRY
by Dr. George F. Wollenburg
In 1838 a group of
Saxons from Germany, under the leadership of The Rev. Martin Stephan, left
Germany to settle in America, either in Illinois, Indiana, or Missouri. The
decision was made to select Missouri. Four ships left Germany with the
colonists who came in order to establish an orthodox Lutheran Church in
America, free from the errors of the Union churches in Germany.
On New Years Eve,
1838, Stephan delivered a long harangue to a group of his followers on the
ship, Olbers. It was reported by candidate Brohm: "I ask little for
myself... l must concern myself with lice and bedbugs - tormented and downtrodden
man that I am - must concern myself with chamber pots. I do not desire to lead
the Gesellschaft, ...but so long as I am the one to do it, I demand obedience. ...I
have forsaken my children (a reference to leaving his wife and seven children
behind him in Germany.) I would also forsake you, although I love you. ...I do not
wish to rule, but also do not wish to permit another to rule."
On January 14, 1839
The Rev. O.H. Walther prepared the document for the investiture of Stephan as
bishop. In this document we find the following reference to Stephan. "...you
have for a long time already occupied the position of bishop ...this has become
even more apparent since the plan, considered according to God's word, of
transplanting the Lutheran Church from Germany to the United States has been
put into execution. ...an abiding conviction has resulted in us that an episcopal
form of polity, in accord with the Word of God, with the Old Apostolic Church,
and with our Symbolical Writings, is indispensable." (1)
Stephan accepted the
office of bishop with a show of reluctance and hoped that his office would not
be made unduly difficult by the stubbornness and ignorance of the people.
Stephan had the full
support of the pastors and candidates. On February 16, aboard the Steamboat
Selma a "PLEDGE OF SUBJECTION TO STEPHAN" was signed. In this document
reference is made to the difficulties that the group was experiencing and the
lamentable spiritual estate of the people. The sins that were especially
mentioned, and caused distress to the clergy and others were, "...great
indifference to God's word and despising of the holy office of the ministry, in
particular a damnable spirit of mistrust and dissatisfaction toward our Right
Reverend Bishop ...a morbid tendency toward slander, vengefulness, envy, and ill
will, hypocrisy and disobedience to the orders given by His Reverence."
(2) They committed themselves to "...live, suffer, and die under the
episcopal method of church polity, ..." They committed themselves to
"...submit with Christian willingness and sincerity to the ordinances,
decrees and measures of His Reverence in respect to both ecclesiastical and
community affairs ...as the means of promoting our temporal and eternal
welfare." (3) This in effect was the creation of a cult, not merely of an
episcopal form of church polity. That which identifies a cult is total devotion
to a leader, and the willingness to have all interpretation of spiritual and
religious matters determined by the leader.
Upon their arrival in
St. Louis, plans were made for the proper episcopal accouterments. A staff, a
cap, and a cross and chain were prepared for the bishop. Appropriate clerical
vestments were planned, not only for the bishop, but also for the pastors. The
cost of this equipment was covered by obtaining contributions from the people,
who donated their jewelry to the cause. (Shades of Aaron and the golden calf.)
Plans for an episcopal residence in Perry County were also drawn up. Stephan
told his preachers to attend the dedication of the second Roman Catholic Church
in St. Louis to observe the proper liturgical procedures. It was reported that
the practice of kissing the bishops hand was introduced.
also plagued the colony. Among other matters, one of the causes for the
financial problems was the irregularities due to the control which Stephan
exercised. The bishop decided that he was entitled to live in a style suited to
his high office. He had attained absolute power within the "Gesellschaft."
Several examples may illustrate.
Stephan had purchased
a special coach in which to leave Dresden, Germany. This was freighted all the
way to St. Louis. It was not suitable for use in Perry County and was sold in
St. Louis at a loss of 200 Thaler. The bishop ordered quantities of the best
and most expensive wines for his use, which were paid for out of the funds of the
Gesellshaft. Cash advances were made to anyone who was in good standing with
the bishop. Mr. Vehese stated that 4000 Thaler were spent for the personal
expenses of the bishop in seven months from November 1838 to May 1839. The
pastors and candidates of the group also were well served by the Gesellschaft.
When Stephan was finally deposed the treasury was short by $1802.871/2. (4)
Evidence of the cultic
character of the Stephanite group is also indicated by the New York immigrants.
Under the leadership of a Layman named Sproede a group of immigrants, who were
also followers of Stephan, immigrated to New York in 1836. Sproede kept in
touch with Stephan by letter and continued to receive instruction from him.
Sproede founded a small group which conducted its affairs according to
instructions received from Stephan. Johann Friedrich Buenger, a candidate of
theology met with the New Yorkers following the 1839 immigration of the Saxons.
At a meeting on March 27, 1840, Sproede and Buenger prepared resolutions for the
group which were simply announced to the men attending the meeting. No
opposition was allowed and differences of opinion were not tolerated. One man
expressed the opinion that, "The word of God still existed in
Germany." He was one of the few who was getting financial assistance. This
was promptly withdrawn. Within 24 hours he repented of his rash opinion and
agreed that the Stephanites were the remnant of the true church. (5)
THE BISHOP DEPOSED
AND A NEW BEGINNING
We are all familiar
with the eventual deposing of Stephan and his expulsion from the Perry County
settlement in the summer of 1840. He was accused of sexual improprieties with
several women of the group. His deposition was led by lay members and
ultimately also by the clergy, who not only deposed him as bishop, but in their
deposition also excommunicated him.
The result of this was
theological chaos. The absolute conviction that they were the only remaining
true church and that Stephan was God's chosen leader coupled with a great zeal
for what they believed to be God's will led them to this tragic state of
affairs. The following questions plagued the Gesellschaft, not only in Perry
County, but also in St. Louis. Did the pastors have the right to serve
congregations? Had they been justified in leaving their congregations in
Germany? Had their idolization of Stephan deprived them of the right to claim
that they were Christians? Were they a church or a mob? Were they a Lutheran
Church or a Stepanistic association (cult)? Did they, if they were congregations,
have the right to call pastors? What is a church? What is the office of the
Ministry? What are the obligations of both clergy and laity? (6) Some still
believed that everything that had been done by the group was justifiable.
Others believed that they were no longer congregations, but separatistic mobs
and their pastors, impostors.
On April 15, and 21,
1841, C.F.W. Walther, after a prolonged illness of about a year, prepared 8
theses on Church and Ministry which became the focus of a debate. A Layman by
the name of Marbach was Walther's opponent in this debate. These theses later
became the basis for the Theses on Church and Ministry, adopted by the Synod
and published in the book, "The Voice of Our Church on the Question of
Church and Ministry". The eight theses are listed below.
The true Church, in
the most real and most perfect sense, is the totality (Gesamtheit) of all true
believers, who from the beginning to the end of the world from among all
peoples and tongues have been called and sanctified by the Holy Spirit through
the Word. And since God alone knows these true believers (1 Tim. 2:19), the
Church is also called invisible. No one belongs to this true Church who is not
spiritually united with Christ, for it is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ.
The name of the true
Church belongs also to all those visible companies of men among whom God's Word
is purely taught and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to the
institution of Christ. True, in this Church there are godless men, hypocrites,
and heretics, but they are not true members of it, nor do they constitute the
The name Church, and
in a certain sense, the name True Church, belongs also to those visible
companies of men who have united under the confession of a falsified faith and
therefore have incurred the guilt of a partial departure from the truth;
provided they possess so much of God's Word and the holy Sacraments in purity
that children of God may thereby be born. When such companies are called true churches,
it is not the intention to state that they are faithful, but only that they are
real churches as opposed to all worldly organizations (Gemeinschaffen).
The name Church is not
improperly applied to heterodox companies, but according to the manner of
speech of the Word of God itself. It is also not immaterial that this high name
is allowed to such communions, for out of this follows:
1. That members of
such companies may be saved, for without the church there is no salvation.
2. The outward separation
of a heterodox company from an orthodox Church is not necessarily a separation
from the universal Christian Church nor a relapse into heathenism and does not
yet deprive that company of the name Church.
3. Even heterodox
companies have church power, even among them the gods of the Church may be
validly administered, the ministry established, the Sacraments validly
administered, and the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven exercised.
4. Even heterodox
companies are not to be dissolved, but reformed.
The orthodox Church is
chiefly to be judged by the common, orthodox, public confession to which is
members acknowledge and confess themselves to be pledged. (7)
GRABAU AND THE BUFFALO SYNOD
J.A.H. Grabau was
confirmed in a Union church in Prussia in 1818. He was ordained at St. Andreas
church in Erfurt June 17, 1834. In 1836 he publicly declared that he could no
longer submit to the agenda of the Union church. He was suspended from office
in 1837. He continued to lead private services in the homes of individuals. On
March 1, 1837 he was arrested and imprisoned. With the help of Captain Heinrich
von Rohr he escaped from prison and spent nine months on the run. He was
arrested and imprisoned again in 1838. He was released in March of 1839.
He led a group of
immigrants to America. They arrived in New York in July 1839. (The Saxons under
Stephan left Germany shortly after this.) Grabau was pastor of about 1200 Old
Lutherans. By the end of 1840 he had established a congregation and seminary.
In 1854 he organized the "Synod of The Lutheran Church Emigrated from
Prussia," later known as the Buffalo Synod.'(8)
Some isolated Lutheran
congregations in America were appointing some of their members to conduct
services since they had no pastors. This had also been done in Germany when
their confessional pastors were imprisoned. Grabau wrote a Hirtenbrief
(pastoral letter) in which he addressed this situation and explained his
understanding of the "rite vocatus" (ohne ordentlichen Beruf) of
Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession December of 1840. A copy of the letter
was also sent to the Saxons of Missouri.
The letter probably
did not reach the Saxons until early in the year 1841. At that time the Saxons
were busy with other matters. In May of 1839 Stephan had been deposed. The
confessional and theological chaos of the Saxons needed their immediate
attention. The issues of church and ministry which were contained in Grabau's
Hirtenbrief were also the primary concerns of the Saxons.
C.F.W. Walther was ill
for most of the year 1840. During this time he prepared himself for what later
became the Altenburg debate. He did this by a thorough study of the Scriptures,
the Lutheran Confessions, the church fathers, Luther, and the Lutheran
dogmaticians of the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the Hirtenbrief must have
reached the Saxons early in 1841, it is reasonable to assume that Walther was
acquainted with its content when he prepared the Altenburg Theses in April of
No reply was made by
the Saxons until 1843. The reply was drafted by Gotthold Heinrich Loeber at a
meeting of the Saxon Pastors in St. Louis in the summer of 1843 (9) In his
Hirtenbrief Grabau had set forth his understanding of the "rite
vocatus" of the Augustana to mean that a man must enter the ministry in
accordance with the old Lutheran church orders. The pastor "pledges
himself to the congregation in his faithfulness in doctrine and life, and the
congregation pledges itself to him in its faithfulness and obedience in all
things which are not opposed to the Word of God." (10)
specifically states that a man appointed or called by the congregation, but not
ordained by other pastors, cannot (not may not) administer the Holy Communion,
or absolve from sin. Such a person "can neither give absolution nor
distribute the body and blood of Christ, but rather he gives mere bread and
Regarding the calling
of pastors Grabau insists that the election and call of a congregation does not
confer the pastoral office. Congregations should do without the Lord's Supper
for years, if necessary, if they have no "real pastor". Only
emergency baptism should be done by the father of the family. Marriages ought
also to be delayed, if possible. He provided for a kind of emergency marriage,
where someone pronounced the couple to be husband and wife in the presence of
witnesses, provided the couple would promise to have a pastor solemnize the
marriage as soon as possible.
The Saxons response to
Grabau was rather mild. Loeber summarizes: "If we were to give a summary
evaluation of the content of the Hirtenbrief, it seems to us that in the first
place, with regard to the old church orders that you emphasize so much, what is
essential gets confused with what is nonessential, divine with human, so that
Christian freedom is restricted. Secondly, however, it seems that you attribute
more to the office of the ministry than is due, and that thereby the spiritual
priesthood of the congregation is diminished." (12)
The Saxons state their
understanding of "rite vocatus." Good order is necessary, but every
form of good order is contingent and conditioned, bound to specific times and
places. This includes the rite of ordination. (13) Grabau had stated that a man
could only be admitted to the holy ministry by those who are already
ministers of the church. By ordaining, the existing clergy commit to him
the ministry of the church in the name of the Triune God. (14) The holy
ministry is an estate in society which perpetuates itself by ordination.
The following is
summarized from a chapter in the book titled "Ebeneezer"
published for the 75th anniversary of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other
States, 1922. (15) The chapter is written by The Rev. Arthur Roth of Chicago,
III. He takes his information from a book by T.J. Grosse,
"Untersheidungslehren der hauptseechlichsen sich lutherisch nennenden
Synoden." (Distinctive Doctrines of the Principal Synods that Have Adopted
the Name Lutheran.)
1. The Buffalo Synod
teaches that the one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints, is a
visible church. The Buffalo Synod inserted the word visible into its quotation
of Article Vll of the Augsburg Confession.
2. The Buffalo Synod
also taught that the one holy Church are not meant "scattered believers
but those who gather about Word and Sacraments," and "that these
church gatherings are such as have the Word and Sacrament in purity in the
3. Buffalo denied the
doctrine "that even where the Word of God and the Sacraments are not wholly
pure, the Holy Church of the elect is gathered, so long as the Word and
Sacraments are not totally denied, but are retained as to their essence."
4. The Buffalo Synod
rejected the doctrine that "only communion with the invisible church is
absolutely necessary for salvation," teaching that "only then are we
saved when by faith we also confess with our mouth and thus come into the
visible true church."
5. The Buffalo Synod
explained its statement that "outside of the Lutheran Church no one can be
saved" in this way: "When we say that outside of the Lutheran Church
nobody can be saved, we mean to say that man must be a living member of this
6. Regarding the
Office of the Keys, Buffalo said: Christ did not give the keys of the kingdom
of heaven to the Church and to each true believer, but solely and exclusively
to the pastors." It called the teaching that the Keys are given to the
congregation an "anabaptistico-democratic folly." It taught that
"the members of a congregation do not have in their midst and for their
benefit the power of the Keys, except in the holy ministry and in the
present rightful pastors."
Regarding the Ministry
1. It is not the
congregation which gives or conveys the holy ministry, but the Son of God,
together with the Father and the Holy Ghost."
2. A congregation must
not, by itself, without the assistance and presence of a representative of the
ministry, elect and call a man as its pastor, "because this has not the
slightest validity before God..."
3. "We also
believe and confess that this office, as God's own institution in the Church,
forms a distinct and separate rank or class."
4. Lutheran Christians
know that when the Word of God says, 'Obey them that have the rule over you,
and submit yourselves,' this does not only pertain to the sermon, but to all
good Christian things ...which are requisite for the good government of the
5. The congregation
itself has no right to judge the doctrine of its pastor; only other pastors
have this right.
and consecration of pastors Buffalo said: "The ordination is part of the
divine order through which a person is lawfully inducted into office." and
"...the apostolic ordination is a perpetual command of the apostles to the
church, and in this sense must be held to be a command of the Holy Ghost."
government; "What is contrary to the Word of God or not, is not decided by
one single church-member, but by the Church itself in its symbols
(confessions), church rituals, and synods. Therefore the highest and final
tribunal ...shall be the incumbents of the holy ministry."
A REPLY TO GRABAU
On July 3, 1843
Gotthid Heinrich Loeber, C.F. Gruber, and C.F.W. Walther responded to Grabau's
Hirtenbrief with an evaluation.
Grabau had divided the
pastoral office into the public teaching part and a priestly part which had to
do with the administration of the sacraments. In the evaluation the three men
said, "...it ...seems that you place the administration of the sacraments as
the main part of the spiritual office, even above the teaching office.
When you list the requirements for one who is "rite vocatus," you
speak for the most part only of the ability to administer the sacraments;
..." They continue, "We must remind you that the real main part of the
priestly office is rather the preaching of the gospel, to which holy baptism... and the holy super are only attached as seals." (16)
They point out that
when scripture speaks of the pastoral office (particularly in the pastoral
epistles) it speaks almost exclusively of teaching and preaching. They quote
Luther's letter to the city of Prague in which Luther states that when the
preaching office is bestowed upon a man he may also baptize, conduct mass, and
carry out all the duties of pastoral ministry. (17)
They define the
"rite vocatus" as placing a man into the holy office in such a way
that neither the divine order nor the existing human order is violated. The
divine order is the unadulterated confession of the pure doctrine, the
testimony of a blameless life, and the necessary teaching gifts. The human
order is that he be installed in his office according to the ecclesiastical
order that exists in the congregation, i.e. he may not force himself upon them
against the will of the congregation. Ordination is "...to be retained as a
praiseworthy and beneficial general ceremony received from the earliest
Christian times, but not as an express divine command." (18) It serves the
purpose of unity and good order.
Grabau's position was
that the congregation owed the pastor obedience in all things which are not
expressly forbidden by the Word of God. In reply the three Saxon pastors said
that this opens the door to idolatry and putting the commandments of men on a
par with God's Word. (19)
They likewise rejected
Grabau's position that "...no single member of the church, but rather only
the church itself in its symbols, church orders, and synods can decide what is
and, what is not, contrary to God's word and cited John 10:5; "They (my
sheep) will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do
not know the voice of strangers." as the Biblical foundation for their
evaluation of Grabau's position. They quote Luther's tract "Against
Henry (Vlll) King of England (1522)." "If the sheep were not to
flee from the wolves until the wolves, through their Christian council and
official judgment would direct them to flee, then the sheepfold would soon be
empty, ..." (20) (The wolves would have devoured all the sheep.)
(It may be of some
interest to note that in a letter dated May 5, 1998 I received a letter
informing me that the quarterly "Gottesdienst" in the third issue of
1997 published a suggested service with a prayer for Martin Stephan as the
first martyr of the Lutheran Church.)
We are familiar with
the urgent appeal of Friedrich Wyneken begging for men from Germany to minister
to the spiritual needs of the German immigrants in America. Pastor Johann
Konrad Wilhelm Loehe of Neuendettelsau, Bavaria responded to the appeal. He
began to train "Nothelfer" (emergency helpers) to prepare them to be
sent to America. In 1842 Adam Ernst, a cobbler's apprentice and Georg Burger
went to America after a year's instruction by Loehe. Others followed them.
When the Missouri
Synod was organized in 1847 it had a total of twenty-two pastors, twelve voting
and ten advisory. Of these twenty-two pastors five were Saxons who had a
thorough theological training, one additional pastor had a doctorate in
philosophy. Most of the rest had minimal instruction. Nine had been sent by
Loehe. By 1854, seven years after the Synod was organized the number of pastors
was one hundred twenty-five. Of these more than eighty were men sent by Loehe.
In 1853 Loehe broke
with the Missouri Synod. After the organization in 1847 Loehe commented
concerning the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States; "We fear,
certainly with a perfect right, that the fundamental strong mixing of
democratic, independent, congregationalistic principles in your constitution
will cause great harm, just as the mixing of princes and secular authorities in
our land has done." (22) Loehe did not agree with the doctrine of church
and ministry which the Synod held. Loehe said that the Office of the Ministry
begets the churches, not the other way around. He said, "The office stands
in the midst of the church like a fruitful tree that has its seed in
itself." He held that the office perpetuates itself from one generation to
the next, as one pastor examines and ordains another. He specifically rejected
the Missouri Synod's understanding that the Office of the keys have been given
to the church or congregation, and that the church confers the office of the
public ministry upon a man by a call. (23)
The Synod invited
Loehe to attend its 1851 convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When he could not
come the Synod decided to send Walther and Wyneken to Germany to discuss their
differences. Loehe remained unconvinced. The final break came in 1852. In 1854
Loehe organized the Iowa Synod.
At the 1851 convention
Dr. C.F.W. Walther presented his theses on Church and Ministry in eight
sessions. The handwritten minutes of the 1851 convention obtained from the
Concordia Historical Institute contain the following: The theses were adopted
"with their proofs and testimonies accepted." They were
"recognized by the Synod as correct." They "received full
acceptance of the Synod." The 1851 Convention then directed the essay to
be put in book form, which Walther did.
The proceedings (1851)
state that the theses (Kirche und Amt) are supported by, a) the Holy
Scriptures, b) the Symbolic books, c) the recognized orthodox teachers of our
church and the ancient church, in order to refute the accusation that our
doctrine is a novelty and to demonstrate that the overarching consensus of the
entire church, from the beginning, agrees with our church. The convention
directed the essay to be put in book form, which Walther did.
The Synodalbericht of
the 1852 Convention read, "The Synod declared itself open to this subject
matter. Since it is most important, in accordance with God's will, to be in
agreement, first of all in doctrine with the Buffalo Synod, in particular with
Pastor Grabau, therefore the Synod's response of pure doctrine regarding Church
and Ministry, compiled by Professor Walther on Synod's behalf, should be sent
to the latter (Grabau) with the request that, if possible, this book should
be read in its entirety and thereby they convince themselves that our
apology is nothing else than the voice of the LUTHERAN CHURCH! It is important
to note that this was not declared to be the Synod's voice, but the voice of
the Lutheran Church.
It is clear from this
that the Synod was not saying that this is one opinion out of several which may
be considered true biblical doctrine, but that it was saying that the doctrine
which is articulated in Walther's "Kirche und Amt" (Church and
Ministry) is the true and correct doctrine of Holy Scripture and that the
charges of false doctrine which both Grabau and Loehe made against the Synod
were in fact contrary to the doctrine taught in the Scriptures, the
Confessions, and by the recognized orthodox teachers of the Lutheran church as
well as the ancient church.
Several years later
(1859) Loehe conceded that the doctrine of the Missouri Synod was he doctrine
of the ministry held by Luther and the Lutheran confessions. In his
"Church News From and About North America" - (Kirchliche Nachrichten
ous und ueber Nord-Amerika), no. 8:1859 he writes, "The sad experiences
which the former Stephanites had with their hierarch, Stephan, have made their
hearts very receptive to the doctrine of the ministry held by Luther and
subsequent theologians, a teaching also reflected in the Lutheran symbols,
especially since this doctrine not only commends itself highly to the Christian
mind, but also seems made to order for American circumstances." (24) Loehe
makes it clear that he regards the conception of the ministry that he held and
practiced to differ "from the specific-Lutheran and Lutheran-theological
course" but opines that his position has a more "artless attachment
to Holy Scripture and antiquity and (by) greater truth in practice."
Thus the Missouri
position was that the doctrine presented in Walther's theses on Church and
Ministry, together with the testimony and witness of the scriptures, the
confessions, and the testimony of the orthodox teachers of the Lutheran church
and the ancient church, is the true and correct teaching of Holy Scripture,
"das reine Lehre." Loehe regards it as one position among several, each of
equal weight in terms of being the doctrine of Holy Scripture.
Before we begin to
examine Walther's theses, I will also present some of the present day
theological opinions being advanced in our Synod which do not agree with the
official position of our church.
An attack upon the
office of the public ministry has come unintentionally from some who wish to
emphasize the priesthood of all believers. In 1974 Concordia Publishing House
published a book by Oscar E. Feucht, "Everyone a Minister: A guide to
Churchmanship for Laity and Clergy."
He discusses the role
of the pastor; "What then is the pastor's role? He is a member and leader
of the Christian community. In a democratized society such as we have in our
age, he can be authoritative but not authoritarian. He will serve as inspirer,
moderator, animator of the congregation. He will discover and liberate the
hidden talents and energies of his people. He will inspire confidence and
arouse enthusiasm. He will not be an "answer man." (25)
The influence of this
book, even after more than twenty-five, years may be seen in the bulletins of
many of our congregations. A sentence such as the following is printed,
"This church has one pastor and 300 ministers." The influence of the
Church Growth movement also has adopted some of the same principles. C. Peter
Wagner writes, about mission-minded congregations that they, "...refuse to
hire pastors for their churches. They believe that the Holy Spirit provides
each church with all the gifts needed for healthy church life, and that when
members are properly using their gifts, a professional minister is simply
excess baggage." (26)
Also, some of the
methodologies promoted by the Pastoral Leadership Institute emphasize that the
pastor is primarily a facilitator to inspire, animate, and motivate. No longer
is the pastor one who is called to be a faithful proclaimer of the Gospel, and
faithfully to give the sacraments, as well as being an example to his flock.
Instead, he must find ways to discover how he can accomplish the goals of
inspiration, motivation, and animation.
A reaction to this has
come from those who wish to correct this emphasis. The reaction, however, is no
better than the error they seek to correct. The following material is from my files,
gathered over the past several years.
In an article titled,
"Only Playing Church" Douglas Fusselmann wrote concerning the
celebration of Holy Communion. "It seems that the young Luther's view of
the sacraments was correct: A lay person may perform all the actions of the
Holy Communion quite reverently and correctly, yet he/she can only offer
ordinary bread and wine; for without Christ's presence through the office of
the ministry, (my emphasis) his command and institution simply cannot be
A similar view of the
pastoral office was expressed to me in a letter from a young pastor following
my presentation on the subject of Church and Ministry in another district in
February 2000. He said that he would attempt to pass on to me the theology
which he has learned at seminary. I quote: "To say that clergy speak in
the stead of the church which speaks in the stead of Christ is wrong. ...It is
not given to all Christians to speak in the stead and by the command of Christ
to one another. ...It is not every Christian's vocation to stand in the stead of
Christ and, as St. Paul says, beget children through holy sacraments.
(my emphasis) ...He (Christ) puts a man in His stead to meet with His bride. ...As
the water remains water and bread remains bread, so the man remains sinful
human nature, yet there in the Office is Christ speaking to His bride and
comforting Her while procreating through her. ...When the church is viewed as the
Bride, the Pastor is found doing what grooms do; cleansing, praising, feeding,
and comforting the Bride as in Ephesians 5. ...Jesus must be present
incarnationally with His Bride, in a way that She can see, hear, touch and
In a taped record of
an interview with another pastor the pastor several times stated, "Christ
is present bodily in the office." I have also heard the same kind of
language regarding the distribution of the Holy Communion. Pastors insisting
that only the ordained pastor is to distribute the bread and the wine, since
everyone is to receive the sacred species from the hand of Jesus, that is, the
hand of the pastor. For the same reason the pastor insists that he must commune
himself, since he too must receive the body and blood of the Lord from the hand
of Jesus, that is, from his own hand.
This view of the pastoral
office defines ordination as a sacrament by which a sacramental presence of
Christ in the pastor is effected. It is stated in the following quote:
"Bishops and priests are sacramentally ordained to actualize the presence
and power of Jesus Himself in the Church, Christ's own personal and individual
presence and actuality as the good pastor, the great high priest, the head of
the body, the husband of the churchly spouse, the bridegroom of his pure bride.
In order for the bishop and priests to complete this sacramental task for the
whole church, therefore, he must be one who can actualize the Lord's presence
as husband and father of the flock." This definition is stated by a
subcommittee of the Ecumenical Task Force of the Orthodox Church in America in
its book, "Woman and Men in the Church"(1985). (28 )
Dr. Michael Toten in
an article ("What Priesthood do all Believers Possess"
Confessional Concerns (8,28,95) wrote "...it is from Jesus as high
priest that the New Testament officers in charge of public worship receive
their commission. The administration of the sacraments especially, is presented
as having been given directly to those who would administer them and not
to the community of the believers (Matt. 28:16-20; Luke 22:14-20; John
20:21-24)." He also implied that there is no biblical and confessional
foundation for the priesthood of all believers. "The lack of a biblical
and confessional foundation for the universal priesthood concept assumed by
"Forward," explains why they and others like them rely so heavily
on the nonconfessional statements of Luther and Walther." Again, "the
Brief Statement made a similar error when it asserted that in Matthew 28:19-20
Christ's "commission (is given) to all believers to preach the Gospel and
to administer the sacraments." At a convocation at the Ft. Wayne Seminary
in 1996 I was told in no uncertain terms by one of the students that no parent
could absolve or forgive the sins of their children on behalf of God, only the
pastor can absolve. Parents may extend personal forgiveness, but in order for
their child to receive God's forgiveness, they must bring the child to the
A pastor in Iowa wrote
the following. In answer to the question, "If I confess my sins before God
in prayer are my sins forgiven or must I make confession in church before the
pastor to be sure?" The answer given was "yes you must." He
continues, "Recently I've heard statements about these sins being in a
'state of forgiveness'."
In a letter written to
me by a lay person the following is relayed: The pastor "...told me that
only through him could I receive absolution. I specifically asked, `You are
saying that if I kneel in prayer beside my bed, sorrowfully and ask God to
forgive me, He will not forgive me?' `That's exactly right. You must receive absolution
from me before your sins are forgiven!' he answered."
Directly related to
this is the insistence that the Office of the Keys has not been given directly
to the church, but to the pastors who pass it on from one generation of pastors
to another by ordination. The words of the Treatise, 24 are interpreted to mean
that the Office of the Keys is the office of the Holy Ministry and since the
office of the ministry belongs to the church, the Keys belong to the church by
virtue of the pastor's presence in the church. The sentence "...because the
Keys are nothing else than the office whereby this promise is communicated to
everyone who desires it (the promise of the Gospel)..." is quoted as the
confessional support for the fact that the keys are given to the office of the
holy ministry. This argument is also used to support the assertion that the
pastor alone may excommunicate and is supported by the argument that Luther's
Small catechism stated, "I believe that when the called ministers of
Christ deal with us by his divine command, especially when they exclude
manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian congregation, ...this is as
valid and certain in heaven also, as if Christ our dear Lord dealt with us
Himself (SC Keys)."
This brings us to
Walther's Theses on the Church.
"IT IS TO THIS
TRUE CHURCH OF BELIEVERS AND SAINTS THAT CHRIST GAVE THE KEYS OF THE KINGDOM OF
HEAVEN, AND IT IS THE PROPER AND ONLY POSSESSOR AND BEARER OF THE SPIRITUAL,
DIVINE, AND HEAVENLY GIFTS, RIGHTS, POWERS, OFFICES, AND THE LIKE THAT CHRIST
HAS PROCURED AND ARE FOUND IN HIS CHURCH."
Kirche der Glaubingen und Heiligen ist es, welcher Christus die Schluessel des
Himmelreichs gegeben hat, und sie ist daher die eigentliche und allein
Inhaberin und Tragerin der geistlichen, gottlechen und himmelischen Guter,
Rechte, Gewalten, Aemter, u., welche Christus erworben hat, und die es in
seiner Kirche gibt.")
I will not examine
Walther's witnesses and testimonies. Instead I will bring additional testimony
and witnesses to support the thesis that the Keys are given to the church.
I begin with an
examination of the above referenced paragraph from the Treatise. I will quote
the entire paragraph. "In addition to this (that the keys are given to all
the apostles, (John 20:23) and that Peter is spokesperson for the entire number
of the apostles (Matt. 16:18f; Matt. 18), it is necessary to acknowledge that
the keys belong, not to the person of one particular man, but to the Church, as
many most clear and firm arguments testify. For Christ, speaking concerning the
Keys, Matt. 18:19, adds: "If two or three of you shall agree on earth,
Therefore he grants
the keys principally and immediately (principaliter claves ecclesia et
immediate, sicut et ob eum causam ecclesia principaliter habet jus vocationis.
Denn gleichwie die Vereheisung des Evangelii gewiss und ohne mittel der
ganzen Kirche zugehoert, also gehoeren die Schluessel ohne Mittel der
ganzen Kirche.) just as also for this reason the church has principally the right
of calling, ...so the keys belonged immediately to the entire Church, because the
keys are nothing else than the office whereby this promise is communicated to
everyone who desires it, just as it is actually manifest that the Church has
the power to ordain ministers of the church." (Tr. 24)
clarifies this in the Treatise. "Therefore it is necessary for the Church
to retain the authority to call, elect, and ordain ministers. And this
authority is a gift which is in reality given to the church (Tr.
67)." Further, "Here belong the statements of Christ that testify
that the keys have been given to the Church, and not merely to certain persons,
Matt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together in My name, etc."
Lastly, the statement
of Peter also confirms this, 1 Pet. 2:9: Ye are a royal priesthood. These words
pertain to the true church, which certainly has the right to elect and ordain
ministers, since it alone has the priesthood (Tr. 69)." Since the church
has the right and authority to call ministers, it is clear that the church is
John 20:22-23 is
quoted as the biblical basis for maintaining that the Keys have been given to
the apostles and those whom they appointed to succeed them. Jesus appeared to
his disciples the evening of the resurrection and said to them, "Receive
the Holy Spirit, whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven, and whosoever
sins you retain, they are retained. "I was told by a group of students,
the Keys were given to the eleven apostles. They in turn give them to their
successors." This offers a kind of apostolic succession as the basis for
possessing the power of the keys.
Luther comments on
John 20:22-23 "Here it is clearly said that no one has the keys except he
who has the Holy Spirit. ...Therefore they ought to paint into the pope's coat of
arms something I would be happy to suggest and cancel the keys. The escutcheon
belongs to quite another person than the pope. However, would I have
forgiveness of my sins if my pastor did not have the Holy Ghost (and no one can
be certain that another person actually has Him)? How, then, could I be sure of
my absolution and have a quiet conscience? In that case it would be as it was
before (the confession). Answer: I have cited this in order that we might have
the right foundation of this matter. There is no doubt that no one binds or
forgives sins except only he who has the Holy Spirit so surely that you and I
know it, as these words of Christ here testify. But that is no other than the
Christian Church, i.e. the communion of all believers in Christ; that alone has
these keys, and you must not doubt. And everyone who appropriates to himself
the keys beyond it (the church) is an arch knave and a church robber, be he
pope or anyone else. Of the church everyone is certain that it has the Holy
Spirit." (29) Again from Luther's comment on Matthew 18:15-18: "The
keys belong to the entire congregation of all Christians and to everyone who is
a member of the congregation, and this not only according to its power but
also according to its use."(30)
Since some want to
distinguish between the young Luther and the more mature Luther with the
suggestion that he in fact changed his position, l quote from several sermons
of Luther. From a sermon on the Sunday after Easter on John 20:19-21 preached
in the year 1522. "...He (Christ) gives spiritual power and rule ...when ye
shall speak a word concerning a sinner, it shall be spoken in heaven; for He is
in your mouth, therefore it has the same force as if He himself spoke it. This
same power belongs to every Christian, since Christ made us all
partakers of His power and dominion." (31)
In a second sermon
preached in the year 1522 on the same text; "This power is here given to
all Christians, although some have appropriated it to themselves alone, like
the pope, bishops, priests, and monks have done: they declare publicly and
arrogantly that this power was given to them alone and not to the laity."
Again preaching on the
same text the Sunday after Easter in the year 1540: "This (whosoever sins
ye forgive etc.) is not said alone to ministers or servants of the church, but
to every Christian. Here each may serve another in the hour of death, or
wherever there is need and give him absolution. If now you hear from me
the words, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," then you hear that God wants to
be gracious to you, deliver you from sin and death and make you righteous and
blessed. ...If thou, therefore art sad and worried on account of thy sins, and
art afraid of death, with which God eternally punishes sin, and thou hearest of
thy minister, or if thou canst not have access to him, of a Christian
neighbor comforting thee with these or similar words: ..." (33)
Also from Luther's
treatise, in which he addressed the controversy in the city of Leisnig, 1523.
"For no one can deny that every Christian possesses the Word of God and is
taught and anointed by God to be a priest. ...But if it is true they have God's
word and are anointed by Him, then it is their duty to confess, to teach, and
to spread (His word) ...it is certain that a Christian not only has the right and
power to teach God's word, but has the duty to do so on pain of losing his soul
and of God's disfavor. Indeed a Christian has so much power that he may and
even should make an appearance and teach among Christians - without a call from
men - when he becomes aware that there is a lack of teachers, provided he does
it in a decent and becoming manner." (34)
Again from Luther in
his letter to the Senate and people of the city of Prague (1523). "Christ
gives the power and use of the keys to each Christian, when he says, `Let him
be to you as a gentile' (Matt. 18:17). For who is this `you' to whom Christ
refers when he says, `Let him be to you?' The pope? Indeed, he refers to each
and every Christian. (35) The keys belong to the whole church and to each of
its members, both as regards their authority and their various uses." (36)
That this also refers
to the power to consecrate the bread and wine in the Holy Communion is also
clear from what Luther writes. The third function of the priesthood is to
consecrate or to administer the sacred bread and wine. "...We hold that this
function, too, like the priesthood, belongs to all, and this we assert, not on
our own authority, but that of Christ who at the Last Supper said, `Do this in
remembrance of Me.' ...Christ spoke this word to all those then present and to
those who in the future would be at the table, to eat this bread and drink this
cup. So it follows that what is given here is given to all. Those who oppose
this have no foundation on which to stand except the fathers, the councils,
tradition, and that strongest article of their faith, namely, `We are many and
thus we hold: and therefore it is true.'" (37)
The meaning of the
terms, "principaliter et immediate" in the treatise have the meaning
of "originally and without means." The English word principal
(principally) is from the Latin "princeps" (prince) and means highest
in rank, authority. The other English word is "principle" which stems
from the same Latin word and has the meaning of source or origin. Thus the
Treatise affirms that the keys are not given to the church mediately, that is
through an ordained ministry, or through some other human agency.
This is reflected in
the hymn of the church: "So Wahr Ich Leb' Spricht Gott Der Herr."
Nikolaus Herman 1560 cento:
is the power of Holy Keys
It binds and does again release
The church retains them at her side,
Our mother and Christ's Holy Bride.
(see translation in "The Handbook of the Lutheran Hymnal, No. 331, stanza
9, p. 237) (38)
A. THE MINISTRY OF THE
WORD (PREDIGTAMT) IS CONFERRED BY GOD THROUGH THE CONGREGATION AS THE POSSESSOR
OF ALL ECCLESIASTICAL POWER, OR THE POWER OF THE KEYS, BY MEANS OF ITS CALL,
WHICH GOD HIMSELF HAS ESTABLISHED.
(Das predigtamt wird
von Gott durch die Gemeinde, als Inhaberin aller Kirchengevalt oder der
Schluessel, und durch deren von Gott vorgeschriebenen Beruf uebertragen.)
There is no question
or doubt that God has commanded the church to establish the ministry of the
Word and to call suitable men to fulfill that ministry. We will not examine all
of Walther's scriptural witnesses, but will instead look at the witness of some
of the Confessions as well as other books of teachers of the church.
Article V of the
Augustana is the foundation for discussing the confessional doctrine of the
Ministry of the church. The title of the article is "Vom Predigtamt"
in German, and De Ministerio Ecclesiastico, in Latin. The English translation
reads, "That we may obtain this faith (which justifies before God) the
ministry of the Teaching of the Gospel and Administering of the Sacraments was
We will briefly
examine the original languages. At one time it was generally held that German
was the original and the Latin was a later translation or gloss on the German.
Today this is questioned. Whatever the situation, the same man, Phillip
Melancthon, is the author of both the German and the Latin. The German version
reads, "...hat Gott das Predigtamt eingesetzt, Evangelium und Sacramente
gegeben..." Literal translation: God has established the office of preaching
and given the Gospel and the Sacraments in order that we might obtain such
faith. It is significant to note that the name given to the office is
Predigtamt, preaching office, not Pfarramt (pastoral office).
particularly Luther, laid great emphasis upon preaching. Priority was
attributed to the preaching of the word. The sacraments were regarded as
visible signs which confirmed the preached word. The function of the one who is
called by the congregation is given in the Latin, "Docendi evangelii et
porigendi sacramenta." Docendi is the Latin for teaching which originates
in the Latin word "doctor." Preaching or teaching is the primary duty of
the one who occupies the ministerial office. The Lutherans primarily referred
to those who held the ministerial office as preacher. Not until the time of
Pietism did the term pastor become prominent.
In his letter to the
city of Prague (The Bohemians) Luther writes, "If the office of teaching
be entrusted to anyone, then everything accomplished by the Word in the church
is entrusted, that the office of baptizing, consecrating, binding, loosing,
praying, the judging of doctrine. Inasmuch as the office of preaching the
gospel is the greatest of all and certainly is apostolic, it becomes the
foundation for all other functions which are built upon it." (39) Most of
us are familiar with Luther's reference to the church as a
"maul-haus" - mouth house. The primary function of the church's
ministers is the preaching of the Word. The Apology speaks of the sacraments
and their relationship to the preaching of the Word in the following manner,
"...God at the same time, by the Word and by the rite, moves hearts to
believe and conceive faith, just as Paul says, Rom. 10:17: `Faith cometh by
hearing.' But just as the word enters the ear in order to strike our heart, so
the rite itself strikes the eye, in order to move the heart. The effect of the
word and of the rite is the same, as it has been well said by Augustana that a
Sacrament is a visible word..." (40)
Luther also insists
that "Publicly one may not exercise a right without the consent of the
whole body or of the church." (41 ) While the Keys have been given to all
Christians, no one may assume the public performance of these functions without
the call of the congregation. Here the word public does not mean something
which is done in front of other people. Instead it means to do something on
behalf of others. This is the intent and meaning of the Latin "publicus."
The English word
public means; "of or pertaining to the people." "A pastor
administers the office of the keys, baptizes, preaches, administers the
sacrament, and performs other ministerial functions by which he serves the
congregation, but not on his own account (that is, according to his own
authority) but on account of the congregation (that is, as one to whom the
congregation entrusted it so that he does it by its commission). For He is the
servant of the whole congregation, to which the keys have been given, though he
may be a rascal. If he does it in place of the congregation, then the church
does it." (42)
"For the church
has the command to appoint ministers which should be most pleasing to us, because
we know that God approves this ministry and is present in this ministry (that
God will preach and work through men and those who have been chosen by men,
Gr);" writes Melancthon in the Apology. (43) That Article XIV of the Augustana
is written as a defense against the opinion of the Anabaptists is indicated in
the words that follow, "...against the fanatical men who dream that the Holy
Ghost is given not through the Word, but because of certain preparations of
their own, ...as the Enthusiasts formerly taught and the Anabaptists teach
The right to call into
the ministry of the Word belongs primarily to the congregation. To say that the
Office of the Keys is given to the whole church, not specifically to
congregations reduces the church to an abstraction. This abstract church cannot
call anyone. The congregation is the church in a specific place. This should be
obvious from the words of our Lord in Matthew 18:17,20. "...and if he
refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. ...For where two or three are
gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." In the
same way the Letters of Paul are addressed to local churches.
The keys are not only
given to the congregation as a community, but also to each individual member.
This is evident from the fact that in an emergency even the baptism done by a
woman is a valid and true baptism through which God the Holy Spirit works. Such
a baptism is not done by the individual on the basis of a personal authority,
but on behalf of the church, the Holy pure Bride of Christ to whom He has given
the keys to his house, his authority.
Wilhelm Pauk in an
essay titled, "Ministry in The Time of The Continental Reformation"
(45) writes, "In Wittenberg, ...until then, (1535) ordination was nothing
else than the confirmation of the call to the ministry in a particular
congregation." Also, "At the very beginning of the Reformation,
Luther had argued that the ministry made sense only in relation to a local
congregation. Rejecting, therefore, the Roman Catholic sacrament of Ordination
as an induction into the status and order of the priesthood, he insisted that
no one should be ordained into the ministry unless he had a call from a
congregation." (46) Not only the Lutheran church, but also the ancient
church rejected absolute ordination, that is, ordination without a call of
assignment to a specific place. The Council of Chalcedon (450 A.D.) adopted the
following canon: "For teachers (doctors), pastors, bishops, presbyters are
called to certain churches, and have not absolute power of teaching everywhere
or in all churches (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). And thus, God through a special
call, is accustomed to show in what place He wishes to use the service of
anyone. Therefore, by virtue of this call, they do not have the power to teach
in other churches to which they do not have a special call. Hence, in
the Council of Chalcedon (Canon Vl, and according to the Gratian Canon XVI),
there was a statute that no one ought to be absolutely ordained, unless to a
certain work and a certain church" (47)
THESIS Vl B
THE ORDINATION OF THE
CALLED (PERSONS) WITH THE LAYING ON OF HANDS IS NOT A DIVINE INSTITUTION BUT
MERELY AN ECCLESIASTICAL RITE (ORDNUNG) ESTABLISHED BY THE APOSTLES; IT IS NO
MORE THAN A SOLEMN PUBLIC CONFIRMATION OF THE CALL.
Those who disagree
with this often point out that the Apology article Xlll (Vll).11 speaks of
ordination and is willing to allow it to be named a sacrament. "But if
ordination be understood as applying to the ministry of the Word, we are not
unwilling to call ordination a sacrament." I call your attention to the
words that follow in Article X111.16 Melancthon writes that matrimony, since it
has both God's command and promises, likewise prayer, alms, and afflictions may
be called sacraments. (I have yet to find any individual who eagerly sought the
sacrament of affliction.) However, Melancthon says that if these are to be
called sacraments, they ought still to be distinguished "...from those
preceding ones (the two former ones - Baptism and the Lord's Supper), which are
properly signs of the New Testament."
Article V of the
Augustana (Vom Predigtamt, De Ministerio Ecclesiastico) does not use the
terminology, office of the Pastor, as I pointed out above. It refers to the
office of preaching in the German text and the gifts given to the church, i.e.
the Gospel and the sacraments, "through which the Holy Spirit is given,
who works faith in those who hear the gospel, when and where it pleases
God." The Latin text uses two participles, The Latin of the text uses a
passive verb, "That we might obtain such faith the ministry of teaching
the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted (...institutum est
ministerium docendi evangellii et porrigendi sacramenta)."
That these actions are
done by a human agent in the church belongs to Ecclesiastical Order,
(Kirchenregiment, De ordine Ecclesiastico (Augustana XIV, "Of
ecclesiastical order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the church
unless he be regularly called (ohne ordentlichen Beruf, nisi rite vocatus)."
The English translation: "Without a regular call."
In the Confutation the
Roman theologians responded, "It ought to be understood that he is rightly
called (rite vocatus) who is called in accordance with the form of law and
the ecclesiastical ordinances and decrees hitherto observed everywhere in
the Christian world. In the Apology, article XIV, Melancthon correctly
understands them to mean that they would approve the word "regular
call" if this included the provision "...that we employ canonical ordination."
canonical ordination he states that the Lutherans "were willing to
maintain church-polity (old church regulations and the government of bishops) even
though they have been made by human authority." (49) It is evident
from this and from the fact that there is no discussion of a single passage
from Holy Scripture, that the ordination referred to is a matter of human rules
and according to the title of Article XIV of the Augustana and of Article XIV
of the Apology in both the Latin and the German (De Ordine Ecclesiastico, Von
Kirchenregiment) is a matter of human rules and not a divine command.
That this is not a
misinterpretation of Melancthon is clear from his words in the Treatise.
"These words (1 Peter 2:9 `you are a royal priesthood') pertain to the
true church, which certainly (certe) has the right to elect and ordain
ministers, since it alone has the priesthood." (50) He refers to
ordination as a most common custom (gemeine Brauch, communissima ecclesiae) of
the church: "For formerly the people elected pastors and bishops. Then
came a bishop of that church or a neighboring one, who confirmed (confirmabat
electum, besteetigte) the one elected by the laying on of hands; and ordination
was nothing else than such ratification." (nisi talis comprobatio,
nichts anderes gewesen denn solche Besteetigung). (51)
Heinrich Schmid in his
book, "The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church"
(52) quotes that most eminent of the Lutheran Dogmaticians, Johann Gerhard,
"Ordination is a public and solemn declaration or attestation, through
which the ministry of he church is committed to a suitable person, called
thereto by the church, to which he is consecrated by prayer and the laying
on of hands, rendered more certain of his lawful call, and publicly in
the sight of the entire church, solemnly and seriously admonished concerning
his duty (Gerhard Xll,b.145 Loci Theo. de Eccl.)." (53) Again (Gerhard
Xll,b.163); "We make use of the cheirothesia (laying on of hands), not as
though it were a sacramental symbol, appointed by Christ Himself, and commanded
to be employed in this rite, but we use this ceremony according to our freedom,
because it descends to us from the practice of the apostolic church
(Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14; 5:22; 2 Tim. 1:6) ...and because it affords useful
admonitions. Ordination is, therefore, no sacrament (Gerhard Xll,b.147). Again,
(Gerhard Xll,b.146) "We deny that ordination is necessary by reason of any
special divine command, as this cannot be produced; or by reason of any
absolute and pure necessity." (54)
"The necessity of ordination is "ordinate," for the sake of good
order or decorum, and because of the divine command (Acts 13:2), although the
number and form of the ceremonies vary according to the judgment of the church;
nevertheless, the necessity is not absolute." (55) Quoting
Chemnitz, (Loci, De Ecc1.126) "Although ordination does not constitute the
call, if someone has been rightly called it is a custom which publicly
attests that the call is a rightful one." (56)
The Council of Nicea
(canons 8,9,10) left open the question as to what constituted valid ordination
and what constituted the difference between election (eklogee), recognition or
installation (katastasis), imposition of hand (cheirothesia, and ordination
proper (cheirotonia.) (57) St. Augustine (b. 354,d.430) "...by separating
the question of orders from the nature of the church and schism (in order to
contribute to the healing of the North African schism - Novatinism), made ordination
wholly a possession of the individual apart from the community in which and
through which it was conferred. In thus individualizing ordination, Augustine
witnesses indirectly to the extinction in the West (c.400) of the older
Catholic feeling for the corporate ministry of the local church." (58)
"Prior to this,
Gregory of Nyssa (c. 367) gave expression to an Eastern view of ordination when
he compared the change of a cleric at ordination to the sacramental action
whereby bread becomes the Body of Christ." (59)
summarizes the position of the confessions and teachers of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church. "Indeed, neither the examination administered by a duly
appointed extra-congregational commission and to which a candidate called to
the pastoral office submits himself and which he passes, nor the ordaining he
likewise receives from duly appointed persons outside the congregation, make
the vocation valid; however, both procedures belong to the most salutary
arrangements of the church and have particularly in the case of the latter,
among other purposes he weighty one of publicly certifying the vocation as
one recognized by the whole church as legitimate and divine (rechtmaessig
und goettlich). Anyone, therefore, who, except in the case of necessity, omits
one or the other, acts schismatically and lets it be known that he belongs to
those who "having itching ears ...accumulate for themselves teachers to suit
their own liking", 2 Tim. 4:3.) (60)
The constitution of
the Synod contained the following by-law until 1962; "Ordination shall be
accorded only to him who has received a regular call from and to a particular
congregation." In 1962 this requirement was amended. The words, "...a
call extended through the proper channels" was substituted. In 1969 the
present wording, "...shall have received and accepted a call, through an
assignment by the Board of Assignments" was adopted. The principal reason
for the 1969 amendment was the Herman Otten case.
Carl Mundinger in his
book, "Government in the Missouri Synod" points out the fact
that the synod does not place men into the ministry, neither can it remove
them. "When a pastor, after repeated admonition, refuses to change
(immoral living, false doctrine) the President must report the facts to the
assembled synod, which in turn must make a last effort to win the sinner from
the error of his ways. If this is not successful - he is expelled from
membership in the Synod and the congregation must deal with him on the basis of
Matthew 18:17-20, including excommunication, if necessary. The right to
depose a pastor from office remains in the hands of the congregation. This
differs from all other Lutheran Synods in America. The call of a congregation
places a man into the ministry and the congregation also removes him." (p.
186) This is in keeping with Thesis Vll(p), "the Holy Ministry
(predigtamt) is the power conferred by God through the congregation as the
possessor of the priesthood and all church power, to exercise the rights of the
spiritual priesthood in public office in the name of the congregation.
A. TO THE MINISTRY
THERE IS DUE RESPECT AS WELL AS UNCONDITIONAL OBEDIENCE WHEN THE PASTOR
(Prediger) USES GOD'S WORD. B. THE MINISTER MUST NOT TYRANNIZE THE CHURCH.HE
HAS NO AUTHORITY TO INTRODUCE NEW LAWS OR ARBITRARILY TO ESTABLISH ADIAPHORA OR
CEREMONIES. C. THE MINISTER HAS NO RIGHT TO INFLICT AND CARRY OUT
EXCOMMUNICATION WITHOUT HIS HAVING FIRST INFORMED THE WHOLE CONGREGATION."
(...alleini ohne vorhergehendes Erkenntniss der ganzen Gemeinde zu verhangen und
auszuueben - without a previous verdict of the entire congregation (W.H.T.Dau))
We need to give our
attention to the thesis that unconditional obedience is due to the preacher
when he proclaims the word of God. It is important to understand that the
pastor's personal opinions and his own personal interpretation of the
scriptures is not the same as the word of God. Private interpretation of
scripture is forbidden by 2 Peter 1:20-21, "...no prophesy of Scripture is
of any private interpretation, for prophesy never came by the will of man, but
holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." Only when
there are clear passages of Holy Scripture, and there must be more than one
clear passage which plainly teaches the same thing, is it possible to say, this
is what God clearly teaches.
To insist that the
pastor's personal opinions are binding on the congregation is a sin against the
second commandment which forbids the use of God's name in order to lend
authority to my words, unless there is a command of God. False doctrine is not
only failing to teach what the scriptures teach, or altering the teaching of
Holy Scripture, it is also teaching as God's Word and command that which is not
taught clearly in the scriptures. Nor does the fact that a number of pastors
hold the same opinion give it any authority. An opinion of a theological
faculty is an opinion: and, an opinion is an opinion is an opinion. My
dictionary defines opinion as: "belief stronger than mere impression, less
strong than positive knowledge."
Recently a number of
opinions which pastors have imposed on their congregations have come to my
attention. An example is that of declaring that a chalice must be used to
administer the holy blood of our Lord in the Eucharist, or it is not a true
communion. This insistence that a chalice must be used or it is not a true
communion burdens the conscience of Christian people by calling into question
whether or not they have blasphemed the word of God by not receiving the blood
of Christ from a chalice. The same is true when the pastor states, that
although it may not be sin to receive from an individual cup if one is afraid
of transmitting a communicable disease to another person, but if this is not
the case, the person who communes from an individual cup may be a schismatic.
Another opinion that I
hear in some circles is that the bread and wine are changed into the body and
blood of Christ. That this change is a permanent change and that the wine
remaining after a celebration is still the blood of Christ, also the wafers.
For this reason the pastor, either alone, or together with the elders, must
consume the wine that remains. I have not heard this argument with respect to
the wafers that remain. (Do you think that there may be some sort of attributing
of greater holiness to the alcohol in the wine than to the unleavened bread?)
I quote from Dr.
C.F.W. Walther's essay of 1879, delivered at the opening convention of the Iowa
District. "When the word of God has neither commanded nor prohibited
something, then the congregation must decide, not some synod, not some pastor,
not some presbytery, not some consistory, but the congregation." (61)
"A congregation is not required to obey the pastor not only when he
teaches false doctrine, but also when his teaching is sound but he proposes
something which God has not commanded. Then his congregation must assert its
independence and say, ...we'll do what seems best to us." (62) Again;
"...no one can let another tyrannize his conscience, for every individual
must say, 'show me where that is written in Scripture!'" He continues,
"The proverb has always been true, `A know-it-all is a know nothing' (Je
Gelehrter je Verkerter) ...That is why such a person must be humbled, and like a
child must be taught by the word of God, otherwise he cannot be saved."
(63) And Luther wrote to Melancthon: "...a bishop has no power to impose on
his congregation any rule or ceremony without having the clear consent of
the congregation in writing. ...when a pastor tries to force a congregation
to do something that God has not commanded, though it is not sinful in itself,
and he says, 'By virtue of my office I command you to do that, for have you not
read Hebrews 13:17, "Obey your teachers?", then the congregation must
respond, `we would be denying Christ by obeying you!'" (64)
In the February 2,
1882 issue of Lehre und Wehre Dr. C.F.W. Walther wrote concerning his
opponents in the predestinarian controversy, "Within the Evangelical
Lutheran Synodical Conference, as is well-known, a controversy on the doctrine
of predestination has erupted within the past two years. In this controversy
one of the parties (Ohio Synod) not only desires to base the truth of its
teaching primarily on the private writings of a number of Lutheran dogmaticians
and calls its opponents heretical for dissenting from certain statements of
these dogmaticians, but it also attempts to interpret and understand our
church's official confession in the light of these "private
Not only may no
doctrine be based upon one passage of scripture without support from other
clear passages, but it has also been the universal rule of the church that the
"sedes doctrinae" may not be taken from the antilegomena of the New
Testament, but must be found in the homolegoumena. Although this distinction is
no longer emphasized as it once was, it remains an hermeneutical rule. An
illustration is the words from the Epistle of James; "Is anyone among you
sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him,
anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14)." While this
may be done in Christian freedom, the pastor must be certain that the people
understand that this is not a divine command, and that this anointing with oil
is not a kind of sacrament which has a promise attached to it.
B. EXCOMMUNICATION IS
AN ACT OF THE CHURCH, NOT A DECISION OF THE PASTOR WHICH HE ALONE, OR EVEN WITH
THE CONSENT OF HIS ELDERS, IS AUTHORIZED TO CARRY OUT.
When our Lord (Matthew
18:20) describes how love works to rescue a brother from the sin which would
destroy him, he does not say, "If someone sins against you, tell the
pastor." Instead, he tells us we are to go to the one who has sinned and
seek to restore him. If this effort is not successful, then take several witnesses
in order to persuade and convince the sinner. If this is not successful, Jesus
says, "...tell it to the church," not "tell it to the
pastor." And "If he does not listen to the church [not if he does not
listen to the pastor], let him be to you like a heathen and a tax
collector." When St. Paul deals with the incestuous adulterer in Corinth,
he writes to the church in Corinth, "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
when you are gathered together, ...deliver such a one to Satan for the
destruction of the flesh (1 Cor. 5:4,5)." He does not say "I command
you to obey me." Also in St. John refers to Diotrephes who unjustly put
people out of the church. (3 John 9,10)
tyranny in the church Phillip Melancthon writes in his "Treatise on The
Power and Primacy of the Pope;" "...that the keys belong not to the
person of one particular man, but to the Church ...For Christ, speaking
concerning the keys, Matt. 18:19, adds: `If two or three of you shall agree on
earth,' etc. Therefore he grants the keys principally and immediately to the
church. ...Likewise Christ gives supreme and final jurisdiction to the Church
(Item, Christus gibt das hoechste und letzte Gericht der Kirche,), when he
says, `Tell it to the church.'" (66). In speaking of the papal claim to
ultimate and final authority over the church Melancthon says, "...the Pope
does not want to be judged by the Church or by any one, and puts his own
authority ahead of the decision of councils and the entire Church. But to be
unwilling to be judged by the church or by any one else is to make oneself God."
(67) Of this sort of tyranny in the church the Treatise further says, "The
pope exercises a twofold tyranny: he defends his errors by force and by murders
and forbids judicial examination. The latter does even more injury than
any executions, because, when true judgment of the church is removed,
godless dogmas and godless services cannot be removed, and for many ages they
destroy innumerable souls." (68) This is based upon canon law (Quest. 9,
canon 3) which says, "No one shall judge the first seat; for the judge is
judged neither by the emperor, nor by all he clergy, nor by the kings, nor by
the people." (69)
Johann Gerhard wrote
concerning excommunication; "Excommunication is public, when to all
the impenitent and unbelieving, the wrath of God and eternal condemnation are
declared from the Law; private when to any obstinate wicked one in
particular, the retention of sins is announced." With respect to degrees,
excommunication is said to be twofold, the less and the greater. The former is
exclusion from the use of the Lord's Supper, the latter is expulsion from the
communion of the Church. The former is called kathairesis (purifying), the
latter apharismos (excommunication in the proper sense). To the latter degree
of ecclesiastical censure we dare not progress hastily, without serious
deliberation, and without the consent of the Church, and especially of the
Christian magistrate, but the order prescribed by Christ, Matt. 18:15, must be
carefully observed." (70) Hollaz writes, "The power that ministers of
the Church have to retain sins is not principal and independent, but
ministerial and delegated the right to the key of binding, Christ has entrusted
to the Church, as the spiritual mother of a family." (71)
Finally, let every
pastor understand clearly that he is privileged to be the servant of those who
are the brothers and sisters of Christ, his own brothers and sisters as well.
They are, as he is, born from the womb of the Bride of Christ, to whom Christ
has given his own authority, for He has given her the keys to his house. The
preacher stands before people who are named "Saints of the Most High"
when he preaches. And, he has been given the great privilege and grace of being
their servant. They are the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation,
a people who have been purchased with the blood of God's Son. "To Him who
washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to
His God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen"
From a paper, "Current issues on Church and Ministry" prepared for
the Council of Presidents by Dr. Wilbert J. Sohns, April 1, 1988.
SELECTED POSITIONS ON CHURCH AND MINISTRY
RESOURCES: A Century
of Grace, 1947, Baepler, The Congregation's Right to Choose its Pastor, CFW
Walther; Lutheran Cyclopedia, 1954, 1975; An unpublished B.D. thesis, Concordia
Seminary, St. Louis, 1959, Schmelder: "The Office of the Pastoral Ministry
and the Priesthood of all Believers," Sam Nafzger, Fall 1995, Lutheran
Education: Walther and the Church, 1938, Dallmann, Dau, Engelder.
A WORD OF CAUTION:
It is important to interpret or understand the following within the context of
"official" writings/articles as well as within the context of the
above listed resources.
Ordination (according to the old church orders) is a
divine and necessary institution, performed by previously ordained men, which
gives validity and efficacy to the work of a pastor.
Only properly called pastors can administer the
Absolution from pastors alone is valid.
Congregations owe obedience in all things not forbidden
in God's Word to rightfully called pastors.
What is forbidden in Scriptures is to be answered not
by individual Christians but by the church.
The One Holy Christian Church is a visible church;
members of the true Church are not found in communions that teach error;
external fellowship with a visible orthodox church is necessary for salvation.
The Son of God together with the Father and the Holy
Ghost gives or conveys the holy ministry not the congregation.
A congregation has no right to call a pastor without
the assistance and presence of a representative of the ministry.
The ministry forms a distinct rank of class.
Only the ministry, not the congregation, has the right
to judge doctrine.
Christ did not give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven
to the Church and to every true believer but solely and exclusively to the
The pastor alone has the power to excommunicate.
The congregation has no right to call any man as pastor
except one who has been divinely ordained by the laying on of hands of
accredited clergymen. The official acts of one not so ordained are invalid.
From a paper,
"Current issues on Church and Ministry" prepared for the Council of
Presidents by Dr. Wilbert J. Sohns, April 1, 1988
The rights and privileges of the office of the keys are
not given to every Christian.
The office of the ministry is not derived through the
spiritual priesthood of the believers but from Christ directly.
Only in exceptional cases may a congregation call a
pastor without the presence of an advising pastor.
Through the Church, the congregation and the clergy,
not simply and only the location congregation, the Lord calls and ordains men
for the ministry.
Ordination is more than a church ceremony that publicly
attests the validity of the call.
The Church is a visible institution.
Loehe did not agree with Grabau on the obedience of the
pastor issue nor did he agree on the papistic doctrine of excommunication.
Not all doctrines of Scripture were fixed in the
confessions. Many doctrines including the doctrine of the Church (and
Ministry???) were open questions (Loehe's subscription was conditional).
Pastors constitute an autonomous special estate and
privileged class of people (a sacred aristocracy).
Only a pastor can create a pastor (succession of elders
or ministerial succession). Only ordination by a clergyman can make a clergyman.
Church governance is part of the office of the
The sacred office (pastoral office) begets
From a paper,
"Current issues on Church and Ministry" prepared for the council of
Presidents by Dr. Wilbert J. Sohns, April 1, 1988.
The old church orders do not exist by divine right.
Ordination is a wholesome ceremony but has not been
ordered by God and is therefore not essential to the ministry.
Only when and inasmuch as the pastor proclaims the Word
of God can he expect obedience.
The decision whether or not the pastor is proclaiming
God's commands rests with the individual Christian.
The efficacy of the means of grace does not depend on
the office of the public ministry but on Christ" Word.
The church in its true sense is invisible, true
believers are found in churches that hold false doctrine but who do not deny
the Word of God; salvation is not dependent upon communion with any visible
church but justification by faith in Christ.
Since Christians are called a royal priesthood, they
must have the power to elect ministers.
While congregations will consult with ministers before
calling a pastor, its call is valid without their presence or cooperation.
All Christians are priests and therefore the ministry
does not form a distinct rank.
The pastor is not a ruler of the church whom all
members must obey.
The laity share the right of judging doctrine in accord
with the Word of God.
The Keys have been given to the whole Church originally
The local congregation has the right and power to call
pastors and shepherds who in the name of the congregation are to administer
publicly the means of grace.
The clergy are not above the laity.
The Holy Spirit through the means of grace begets
1. Walter O. Foster, Zion
on Mississippi. St. Louis, MO, Concordia 1953 p.289
2. ibid. p. 293
3. ibid. p. 294
4. ibid. p. 363
5. ibid. p. 407
6. ibid. p. 516, 517
7. ibid. p. 523, 525
8. William Schumacher,
Grabau's Hirtenbrief and The Saxons Reply in Soli Deo Gloria-Essay on C.F.
W. Walther Thomas Manteufel & Robert Kolb 15-5050
9. ibid. p. 137
10. ibid. p. 136
11. ibid. p. 136
12. ibid. p. 138
13. ibid. p. 136
14. ibid. p. 144-145
15. Arthur Roth, The
Missouri Synod and The Buffalo Synod, Essay upon observing 75th anniversary
of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other states published in the book Ebenezer
ed. W H T Dan, St. Louis, Mo Concordia 1922. p. 124f.
17. Luther's Works
vol. 39 That a Christian Assembly has the Right to Judge. p. 314
19. ibid. p. 161
20. ibid. p. t74
21. George V. Gude, C.F.
W. Walther as Spokesman to the Current Church Essay in Soli Deo Gloria
supra p. 31
22. Carl S. Meyer
(ed), Moving Frontiers St. Louis, MO Concordia 1964 p. 122
23. Kenneth Schurb,
unpublished essay at the 1997 Montana District Convention.
24. Editorials from
Lehre and Wehre Hubert J. A. Bouman translator, Aug Sueflow, Editor St
Louis, MO Concordia 1981 p. 75,76
25. Oscar E. Feucht,
Everyone a Minister: A Guide to Churchmanship for Laity & Clergy St.
Louis, MO Concordia 1974, p. 51
26. Quoted in The
Office of the Holy Ministry. Unpublished essay by Armand Boehme Delivered
at the National Free Conference in St. Louis, MO Feb 16 & 17, 1990. P. 14
Fusselmann, Only Playing Church published in Logia, Journal of Lutheran
Theology Epiphany 1994
28. Charles F.
Caldwell, Head and Glory Sacred Orders or Secular Chaos, Swedesboro, NJ.
Preservation Press, 1966 p. 89
29. C.F.W. Walther, The
Form of a Christian Congregation Tr. John Theodore Mueller, 1963 St. Louis,
MO Concordia p. 15,16
30. ibid. p. 16
31. Sermons of
Martin Luther Vol. 2 Ed. John Nicholas Lenker. 1983 Grand Rapids, Ml Baker.
32. ibid. p. 375
33. ibid. p. 393
34. Luther's Works
vol. 40 Church and Ministry. Instructions for the Parish Visitors ed.
Conrad Bergendoff. 1958 Philadelphia, p. 310
35. ibid. Concerning
the Ministry p. 22
36. ibid. p. 27
37. ibid. p. 24
38. Supra Form of a
Christian Congregation p. 15
39. Luther's Works
vol. 40 supra p. 36
40. Ap. Xlll (Vll) 5
41 Luther's Works Vol.
40 supra p. 39
42. Form of a
Christian Congregation supra p. 17
43. Ap. Xlll (Vll 12
44. Ap. Xlll (Vll) 13
45. Wilhelm Pauck, The
Ministry in the Time of the Continental Reformation essay in The Ministry in
Historical Perspective ed. Richard Niebuhr and Daniel D. Williams 1956 New
York, Harper & Brothers p. 140
46. ibid. p. 139
47. Chemnitz Loci
Theologici De Eccl. iii, 124
48. Ap. XIV 24
50. Heinrich Schmid, The
Doctrinal Theology of the Lutheran Church Tr. Charles A. Hay & Henry E.
Jacobs, Minneapolis, MN Augsburg p. 609
52. SA Tr 70
53. Schmid - 609-supra
54. ibid. p. 611
57. George H. Williams
essay, The Ministry in the Late Patristic Period contained in The
Ministry in Historical Perspective supra p. 75
58. ibid. p. 75
60. C.F.W. Walther, Pastoral
Theology 1877 St. Louis, MO Concordia p. 62
61. C.F.W. Walther, Duties
of an Evangelical Lutheran Synod Essay for First Iowa District Convention
1879. Translated by The Rev. Everette W. Meier 1988. Published by the Wyoming
District of the L.C.M.S. p. 47
62. ibid. p. 49
63. ibid. p. 50
64. ibid. p. 52
65. Editorials from
Lehre and Wehr supra p. 175,176
66. SA Tr 24
67. ibid. p. 40
68. ibid. p. 51
69. ibid. p. 50
70. Schmid supra p.
71. ibid. p. 614