this PDF file - Currents in Theology and Mission



this PDF file - Currents in Theology and Mission
Fe b r u a r y 2 0 1 2 Vo l u m e 3 9 Nu m b e r 1
Wilhelm Loehe:
Theological Impact and
Historical Influence
in Theology and Mission
in Theology and Mission
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Wilhelm Loehe: Theological Impact and Historical Influence
Craig L. Nessan and Thomas H. Schattauer
Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
Thomas Kothmann
Loehe’s Agende in America
Thomas H. Schattauer
Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
Cheryl D. Naumann
Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
Klaus Detlev Schulz
Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
Paul S. Chung
Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
From “Nein” through “Jein” to a Qualified “Ja”
John R. Stephenson
From Neuendettelsau to Frankenmuth:
In Search of Historical Connections
Matthias Honold
Wilhelm Loehe and Enlightenment Movements
Dietrich Blaufuss
Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
Mark A. Loest
Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
Craig L. Nessan 65
Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania: Wilhelm Loehe’s Reception
among Contemporaries in the Eastern United States
Martin J. Lohrmann
Book Reviews
Preaching Helps
Good Friday
Craig A. Satterlee
Sunday of the Passion to the Day of Pentecost
John Rollefson
Wilhelm Loehe: Theological Impact
and Historical Influence
The International Loehe Society (ILS) was founded in 2005 at Wartburg Theological
Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, with this expressed statement of purpose: “The International Loehe Society is to promote study of the life, theology, and work of Wilhelm
Loehe in historical context and to explore Loehe’s continuing significance for the
church in its life and mission today. The scope of Loehe’s work extends through the
institutions he founded in Neuendettelsau and their outreach throughout the world.”
The proceedings of the first meeting of the ILS were published in the February
2006 issue of Currents in Theology and Mission under the theme, “Wilhelm Loehe
and His Legacy.” The second meeting of the ILS was held in July 2008 in Neuendettelsau, Germany with the proceedings published as Wilhelm Loehe: Erbe und Vision
(Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2009), edited by Dietrich Blaufuss. The theme of the present issue, based on the proceedings of the meeting held in July 2011 at Fort Wayne,
Indiana; Frankenmuth, Michigan; and Frankentrost, Michigan, is “Wilhelm Loehe:
Theological Impact and Historical Influence.”
Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe [1808-1872] was pastor of the village church
in Neuendettelsau from 1837 until his death. From this humble location, Loehe
proceeded to have an astonishing impact on church and theology both in Germany
and around the world. During his years of primary service as a devoted parish pastor,
he simultaneously engaged in the theological debates of his time in Germany and the
organization of mission work in North America, among both German immigrants
and Native American people.
In his ministry and commitments, Loehe held together impulses that today are
often considered at odds with one another: liturgical renewal and mission, pietism
and orthodoxy. He was a scholar of the historic liturgy, who crafted orders of worship that have influenced the shape of the liturgy both in Germany and North
America. Loehe’s focus on the Inner Mission of the church led to the formation of an
order of deaconesses and diaconal institutions that have provided sacrificial service to
people in particular need to this day. His commitment to Outer Mission meant that
he engaged actively in the recruitment and instruction of many sent from Germany
to North America to serve as teachers and pastors of the Lutheran church, as well as
to lead fledgling efforts in ministry to the indigenous people of this country.
Both the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Iowa Synod (one of the
church bodies that eventually flowed into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America)—and theological institutions that trace their origin to these church bodies,
Concordia Theological Seminary at Fort Wayne and Wartburg Theological Seminary
at Dubuque—look to Loehe for their
origins. At the same time, Loehe was
influenced both by nineteenth century
pietism with its expectation of an active
faith and a focus on Lutheran confessionalism as came to expression in the
Erlangen theology.
This issue includes articles from
eleven contributors to the July 2011
ILS Conference. Thomas Kothmann,
Co-secretary of the ILS, offers a careful
examination of Loehe’s work as an
educator. Kothmann draws out the
implications of Loehe’s biography for
Christian education in three areas: family,
school, and congregation. Thomas H.
Photo: Archives of the Evangelical
Schattauer, Co-secretary of the ILS,
Lutheran Church in America
explores the impact of Loehe’s Agende in
North America. Schattauer shows how Loehe’s liturgical influence extended first into
the Missouri and Iowa Synods, then beyond through the Common Service of 1888.
Cheryl D. Naumann narrates the story of the female diaconate among Lutherans
in America as she looks for the influence of Loehe’s own efforts. Sifting the evidence
with care, Naumann finds some connections but resists unwarranted claims. Klaus
Detlev Schulz discusses Loehe’s missiological vision. Three aspects of this vision
come into focus in Schulz’s presentation: a confessional ecclesiology, the relation of
Inner and Outer Mission, and the congregation as center of mission. Paul S. Chung
discusses prominent trends in contemporary missiology, especially referencing
the work of David Bosch. Contemporary missiology would benefit from greater
engagement with the legacy of Wilhelm Loehe, particularly his integration of social
service and global mission in light of God’s word as event. John R. Stephenson
asks about Loehe’s ecumenical credentials. Stephenson’s dialectical approach to the
question helps us to see how Loehe held together strong confessional commitments
with an aspiration for the one church.
Matthias Honold provides a constructive introduction to using archival resources in research and practical suggestions for using the unique materials in several
archival collections in the vicinity of Neuendettelsau. An overview of these resources
is currently being compiled by the Loehe-Forschungsstelle. Dietrich Blaufuss offers
a brief summary of a longer research paper on the place of Loehe in relationship to a
variety of Enlightenment movements. The Enlightenment provides part of the intellectual and social fabric of the world in which Loehe worked. Mark A. Loest paints
a colorful picture of the times and region where colonists sent by Loehe to Michigan
found themselves. This article helps to set the historical context for some of the controversy surrounding the teachings of Loehe for the church in North America. Craig
L. Nessan investigates the relationship of Loehe to the Iowa Synod through the lens
of Johannes Deindoerfer’s history of that synod. The Iowa Synod and its leaders
understood Loehe and his theological commitments as originating and indispensable sources for their life and work. Martin J. Lohrmann examines Loehe’s influence
within the Ministerium of Pennsylvania among those who shared his confessional
and ecclesial vision. Lohrmann’s account gives significant attention to the impetus
from Loehe for liturgical reform.
A comprehensive edition of the 2011 ILS conference papers is to be published
in Germany under the editorial hand of Dietrich Blaufuss. We are grateful for his
partnership in this enterprise. The next meeting of the ILS is scheduled for 2014 in
The co-editors of this issue of Currents in Theology and Mission express our gratitude to those who facilitated a fine international meeting of the ILS in July 2011:
John Pless, Co-president of the ILS and meeting coordinator; Dietrich Blaufuss,
Co-president of the ILS from 2005-2011; Janice Hawley, student assistant; Judy
Zehnder Keller, generous hostess in Frankenmuth and supporter of the ILS; and all
of the gracious people at Concordia Theological Seminary at Fort Wayne and the
congregations in Fort Wayne, Frankenmuth, and Frankentrost who welcomed us in
various ways. We also thank colleagues at Wartburg Theological Seminary and the
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago who have offered support in the editorial
process: Ann Rezny and Tina Heise in the Currents office; Nancy Woodin, faculty
secretary at Wartburg Theological Seminary; and Deb Cote, student assistant.
Craig L. Nessan and Thomas H. Schattauer
Issue Editors
Currents in Theology
and Mission
Currents in Theology and Mission has a new website:,
whose purpose is to increase the visibility and accessibility of the journal. Members
and friends of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Pacific Lutheran
Theological Seminary, and Wartburg Theological Seminary will find the Currents
website conveniently linked from the partner schools’ websites. Ann Rezny serves as
web manager for the journal.
Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
Thomas Kothmann
Professor of Religious Education, Institute for Protestant Theology
University of Regensburg, Regensburg, Germany
Wilhelm Loehe considered a catechetical work
to be the most important piece of writing that
he left to posterity. This was the House, School
and Churchbook.1 In a letter, Loehe wrote: “The
Housebook is the fruit of my life and work in the
ministry; I have nothing better to bequeath.”2
This opus represents the indissoluble nexus
between life and doctrine that is essential
for Loehe’s work. He understood Christian
education as lifelong accompaniment and care
of souls on the basis of baptism, beginning in
the family, continuing during schooling, and
culminating with integration in the life of the
Lutheran church. This article follows the pattern of the three essential learning locations
for Christian education by considering Loehe’s
formative years, his educational praxis, and his
concept of a comprehensive catechumenate.
Loehe’s Religious
1. Christian education in the Loehe family
Loehe’s family was not only church-minded,
but exercised an active spiritual life, which was
1. Wilhelm Loehe, Haus-, Schul- und
Kirchenbuch für Christen des lutherischen
Bekennt­nisses, vol. 1 (Stuttgart: Liesching, 1845;
2nd ed. 1851; 3rd ed. 1857, 4th ed. 1877); vol.
2 (Stuttgart: Liesching, 1859; 2nd ed. 1900;
3rd ed. 1928).
2. Johannes Deinzer, Wilhelm Loehe’s
Leben. Aus seinem schriftlichen Nachlass zusammengestellt, 3 vols. (Neuendettelsau: Diakonissenanstalt 4th ed. 1935), 2:144.
informed by Lutheran as well as pietistic traditions. Barbara Loehe, in particular, exerted a
strong influence on the religious development
of her son. In reminiscing about his youth,
Loehe reports that his mother lived in “daily
preparation for her blessed homecoming; she
is constantly in the house of the Lord: she
reads, prays, and is increasingly receptive to
and refreshed by God’s Word.”3 Loehe liked
to sit at her feet and to learn and he “easily
learned” what she said and sang to him.4 His
abiding memories also included the daily
evening prayers with his mother, who not
only prayed with, but also over and for, the
children. Equally important to him was the
evening plea for God’s blessing and the experience of being blessed by both his parents. As
well as instruction in fundamental practices
of the Christian faith, Loehe’s experience of
loving care by his mother, who was “a benefactress to the family at every opportunity,”
was equally important.5
2. Encounter with Carl Ludwig Roth and Karl
von Raumer
When Loehe attended elementary school, he
was confronted with the rationalistic spirit
of the time. Religious education was taught
primarily as moral education in line with
the utilitarian bias of the Enlightenment.
Against this background, Loehe’s critical ap3. Ibid., 1:10.
4. Ibid., 1:12.
5. Ibid., 1:10.
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
preciation of his years in elementary school
does not surprise us: “I was annoyed by the
religious uncertainty and turmoil; the evil
spirit of that time had affected the schools
of my homeland more than my family.”6
The Textbook for Elementary Level Teaching
introduced the schoolchildren to Jesus as “the
most venerable teacher” whom they should
follow on the path of virtue.7 That is why
Loehe writes in his memoirs that religious
education at school was “purely related to
ethics” and “anything but evangelical.”8
Loehe spent his most formative school
years at the Melanchthon Gymnasium in
Nuremberg. Here he met Carl Ludwig Roth,
a teacher whom he held in high esteem all
his life. Roth came from Stuttgart and was
a representative of neo-humanism. In his
pedagogy, he combined classical and pietistic
traditions. His entire educational work aimed
at the restoration of the image of God in the
human person and thus communion with
God. One of his guiding principles reads:
“The only person educated for life is the one
who is trained for eternity.”9
Roth’s educational praxis centered on the
education of the will. Biblical anthropology
through a pietistic perspective had taught him
that the natural will of man does not seek to
do good, but rather, if left to its own devices
is attracted to evil. Education, according to
Roth, therefore aims at nothing less than
the total transformation of a human for the
better. Thus, “the most educational learning
material is that which, after having been
6. Ibid., 1:19.
7. Lehrbuch für den Anfangs-Unterricht
in den königlich-baierischen Volks-Schulen (Munich: Central-Schulbücher-Verlag, 1810), 122.
8. Deinzer, Leben, 1:19.
9. Carl L. Roth,“Von der Erziehung im
Unterrichte” (1822), in Carl L. Roth, Kleine
Schriften pädagogischen und biographischen Inhalts, mit einem Anhang lateinischer Schriftstücke
(Stuttgart: Steinkopf, 1857), 1:16.
absorbed by man, has the facility to bring
about this transformation. Religion is, as
generally accepted, such a learning material
and therefore is the only appropriate one.”10
Roth also introduced Loehe to pietistic
circles in Nuremberg and Erlangen. Among
their most important duties were mission
and social welfare work as expressions of an
active Christian faith. In these circles, Loehe
met Karl von Raumer, an educator, as well
as the Reformed theologian Christian Krafft.
Both of them, together with their wives, had
founded “salvation homes” in Nuremberg
and Erlangen. In these homes they took care
of neglected children and adolescents. The
term “salvation home” hints at the religious
objectives: both Raumer and Krafft were
primarily concerned with the religious salvation of the children. For both of them the
remoteness of God was the actual cause of
all social problems, which intensified with
the beginning of industrialization.11
Using a revivalist pedagogy, children
were to be trained for salvation through the
restoration of the image of God in conversion
and regeneration. In his first annual report on
his educational work in the “salvation home”
Raumer wrote programmatically: “Christian
education leads through penance to faith;
only this is truly educational, whatever else
may be regarded as education in the world;
because only Christian education…holds
fast to the only means of restoring the likeness of God in man.”12 Like his friend Roth,
10. Carl L. Roth, “Erlebnisse“ (1835), in
Carl L. Roth, Gymnasial-Pädagogik (Stuttgart:
Steinkopf, 2nd ed. 1874), 392.
11. Cf. Thomas Kothmann, Evangelischer Religionsunterricht in Bayern: Ideen- und
wirkungsgeschichtliche Aspekte im Spannungsfeld
von Staat und Kirche (Neuendettelsau: Frei­
mund, 2006), 1:46–51.
12. Horst Weigelt, Erweckungsbewegung
und konfessionelles Luthertum im 19. Jahrhundert: Untersucht an Karl von Raumer (Stuttgart:
Calwer, 1968), 53–54
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
Raumer was convinced that only the eternal
purpose of human life and the revelation in
Holy Scripture were the essential standards
for all educational work. Since no one by
one’s own power has an awareness of salvation, children should be made familiar with
the gospels and with the catechism, which
should be learned by heart.
3. The Comfort of the Holy Sacrament in Light
of a Deist Confirmation Class
Church instruction in Loehe’s youth was
mainly given in the form of confirmation
classes. In Fürth the confirmation instruction
lasted six weeks, from Easter to Pentecost.
Every day, except Saturday and Sunday, the
pastor would hold instruction for an hour.
For Loehe, however, the confirmation instruction was “of no use.” “All morals and
deist instruction,” he writes in his memoirs.
What he had hoped for, “positive, historical instruction; teaching about the facts of
salvation of the Lord, was never given…”13
Although the confirmation class was rather
ineffective and did not contribute to making
Loehe feel really at home, he was nonetheless
greatly attracted by the liturgy of the Holy
Sacrament each Sunday. Long before his confirmation, Loehe regularly attended the Lord’s
Supper service. In contrast to Pastor Georg
Tobias Fronmüller’s moralizing preaching
and catechetical instruction, his leading of
the liturgy left a permanent impression on
the young Wilhelm. Like his mother, who
regularly attended confession and partook of
the Holy Sacrament, he was attracted by the
solemn sacramental celebration.14 Alongside
the Sacrament of the Altar, the experience
of being blessed by the pastor also made a
lasting impression. Loehe later recalled the
13. Deinzer, Leben, 1:24.
14. Cf. Klaus Ganzert, “Einleitung,” in
Wilhelm Loehe, Gesammelte Werke (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1986) Henceforth cited as
GW, 1:150.
blessing the children received before private
confession on the Saturday before confirmation, which pierced him “to the heart.”15
Loehe as Religious
1. Loehe as Paterfamilias
Before Loehe had to shoulder responsibility for the religious education of his own
children, he commented on the education
of his nephews and nieces. In 1828, Loehe
wrote a letter to his sister, Dorothea, and her
preschool-aged children in which many of
the aspects we have already mentioned recur.
Among these are the spiritual and moral
example of adults, the unity of love to God
and love of neighbor, and the importance of
Bible-reading and prayer.16
These principles also informed his
educational praxis when he had to assume
responsibility for his four children after the
early death of his wife, Helene. “For the sake of
Jesus and his Church he wanted to have them
educated,” his biographer writes; and he hints
at Loehe’s emphasis on Bible study and worship as well as morning and evening prayers.17
It was important to Loehe for his children to
keep alive the memory of their mother in their
prayers. To this end he wrote this text:
Good savior, I give you thanks, that you
have given Your Holy Spirit to my dear
mother and my grandmother and have
made them blessed. I ask you, may you
comfort them eternally and delight them
with angels and elect ones and may you
remind them of us through your Spirit
that they may intercede for us in front
of your throne. Please bestow your Holy
Spirit upon me, my father, grandfather,
grandmother, both of my brothers, all my
aunts and uncles, the parish in Neuendet15. Ganzert, “Einleitung,” 150.
16. Cf. GW, 1:278 (12/24/1828).
17. Deinzer, Leben, 2:35.
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
telsau, and your whole church, that we,
too, may believe and become blessed
and may enter your presence, where my
beloved mother already is. Praise to You
eternally! Amen.18
In this prayer, the scope is broadened beyond the needs of the family. The parish in
Neuendettelsau and the church as a whole
are included. Loehe did that quite intentionally. This prayer says something about
the importance Loehe ascribed to the life
of the parish to which his children should
feel connected. They should learn to regard
themselves as living members of the church
who also should take interest in what was going on in the parish. Thus, in February 1848,
Loehe told his eight-year-old daughter that
the village of Reuth had been incorporated
in the parish of Neuendettelsau.
2. Loehe as Religious Instructor/Inspector of
Schools and Teacher Training Instructor
In the congregations where Loehe served, religious instruction and continuing education
of teachers played an important role. When
Loehe began his curacy in Kirchenlamitz, he
was also in charge of several schools.19 For
him the most important means of education
was the word of God, even if very few people
possessed a copy of the Bible. Loehe intended
to awaken the children and to convert them
to an active Christian faith: “May God help
the schools and awaken the children! Amen.”
he wrote in his diary.20 Loehe considered
repentance a necessary prerequisite in overcoming moral neglect. In his annual report
on parish life, he gives a detailed account of
18. Ibid., 2:36.
19. Cf. Anne Stempel-de Fallois, Das
diakonische Wirken Wilhelm Loehes: Von den
Anfängen bis zur Gründung des Diakonissenmutterhauses Neuendettelsau 1826–1854 (Stuttgart:
Kohlhammer 2001), 77–79 and 82–85.
20. Ibid., 83.
grievances and confronts them with Bible
study and the changing power of conversion
in the example of a young boy: “Impeding
causes:…disgraceful roaming about by a
great number of young people during the
night…Sunday dances; the shameful lust
with which brides are often being handed
over into the homes of the men long before
wedding…Sunday markets. Beneficial effects:…frequent reading of Holy Scripture;
…the good and respected example of people
who have been finally converted…”21
In 1835, Loehe came to Altdorf,
where he deputized the second pastorate.
At the same time, he was responsible for
the school as the local school inspector and
he had to teach religious instruction in the
teaching seminary. About twelve of these
seminarians visited Loehe once or twice a
week for counseling and private discussion
and Bible reading. The prospective teachers
found in Loehe a spiritual mentor. One of
them later wrote, “His conversations had a
bias to practical application. He talked to
us about the inclination and aspiration to
freedom and independence…about the sixth
commandment…and about the attacks of
the representatives of the spirit of the time
against Christianity…He always dismissed
us with his blessing.”22
When Loehe became pastor in Neuendettelsau, he was entrusted with the task
of continuing education of the teachers in
the church district of Windsbach.23 In the
speeches Loehe gave there, he outlined his
understanding of the office of a teacher and
his concept of education as primarily religious
Loehe was a pronounced opponent of
the complete nationalization of the school
system. Rather, he was convinced that “an
21. Ibid., 84.
22. Deinzer, Leben, 1:217.
23. Cf. Stempel-de Fallois, Wirken,
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
unchristian government in charge of the
whole education system would surely neglect
the impulses necessary for an education from
the point of view of faith. Thus, the child
would be exposed to a one-sided education
of reason. But an education reduced to the
common public interest, which disregards
religious concerns, would jeopardize the
human being and ultimately would harm
public welfare.” For this reason, the church
had to insist on the mandate for education:
“The church is the master of education.”24
Loehe emphasized that education on
earth takes place in relation to eternity. Therefore, it cannot be taken out of the context
of the church. Any theory of education that
is constructed separately from the doctrine
of the church is condemned to failure. Concretely speaking, the confessional writings of
the church carry normative weight for any
system of education. According to Loehe, in
a theory of education even if only “one of the
basic doctrines of church” is abandoned, one
will easily find the reason for its ultimate failure.25 Thus, Loehe was very much concerned
with unfolding the teachings of the church
in the advanced education conferences as far
as they had educational value.
In addition to the educational mandate
of the church, Loehe emphasized the religious
dimension of education in his teachers’ conferences. Human beings should be considered
primarily as God’s creatures. As such, each
person is destined to eternal communion with
God, even if they are under the power of sin.
True education therefore is always aware of
its religious dimension. “If anyone were to
be educated only for this time and not also
for eternity, they would rather be defrauded
24. Wilhelm Loehe, “Einige Worte
zum Anfange der Windsbacher SchullehrerKonferenz” (1838), in GW (Neuendettelsau:
Freimund, 1958), 3/2:374.
25. Ibid., 374.
of their education.”26
Thus at the heart of education is the
restitution of the image of God in humankind, which is why human relatedness to God
always has to be borne in mind. The task of
education sub specie aeternitatis therefore
has a much broader horizon than social and
economic applicability. That is why Loehe
always warned of a one-sided usurpation of
school through social and political force.
Repeatedly Loehe fundamentally challenged
compulsory education by the state. In this
respect, he referred to Norway and Iceland
where parents would instruct their children
themselves with the support of peripatetic
teachers. The state should have the right to
ask for:
“…a certain level of knowledge” from
all, “and those who aspire to a certain
profession should be rigorously examined, to see whether they have it at their
disposal. But apart from that, it should
be up to the father of the house how he
attains the necessary standard and how
he accounts for that. That means that
both would be necessary: the provision
of learning opportunities for adults and
the establishment of private schools.27
Loehe’s Instruction in the Pastoral Office
When Loehe walked through Neuendettelsau, quite often children playing in the
streets would go up to him and shake hands
with him. Sometimes Loehe would be drawn
into conversation with a child and he would
ask them, “Are you baptized?” The answer,
“Yes, of course!” “Who baptized you?”
There would be bewilderment in response
to this question, no answer or a shy response
such as, “You did, Pastor!” Next question:
“Were you there, when you were baptized?”
26. Ibid., 373.
27. Anne Hammer, “Wilhelm Loehe und
die Volksschule,” in Schule und Leben 9 (1958),
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
Again, there would be great bewilderment
or embarrassment: how should the child
respond? Then Loehe said, “Of course, you
cannot know anything about your baptism,
because you were too little then. But I know
that you were baptized, for I performed the
baptism. And your Godfather also knows
it. Go to him and let him tell you about it
and be glad that you became a child of God
through baptism.”28 This little story says
something about the foundation of religious
education in the home, school, and church.
It has its roots in baptism and therefore is the
responsibility of the church to ensure that
every baptized child responds to this gift by
living an active Christian life and making a
mature profession of faith.
Just after he assumed office in Neuendettelsau, Loehe established a childcare facility
where children were taken care of, so that
their mothers could attend Sunday worship.29
The local kindergarten later grew out of this
facility. It made it possible for mothers to work
in the fields unhindered. In the kindergarten,
the children were not only taken care of, but
they also received basic Christian instruction, which was intended to complement
their mothers’ instruction. In the booklet,
On Infant Schools, Loehe drafted a concept
of religious instruction in such institutions.
He writes about the importance of familiarity
and about obedience and tidiness, teaching
as the mother teaches—with the intention
of teaching and practicing prayer, observing
the feasts of the church-year, singing together,
and leading them to confess their sins and
to take part in church worship.30
Christian religious instruction on
Sundays played an important role. This class
lasted for two hours and was intended to
28. Deinzer, Leben, 2:140.
29. Cf. Stempel-de Fallois, Wirken,
30. Wilhelm Loehe, Von Kleinkinderschulen (1868), in GW 4:554–578.
expand and revise the knowledge the children
had acquired at elementary school.
The culmination of catechetical instruction for Loehe was the confirmation class,
which he taught from Ash Wednesday until
“Low Sunday” for one hour per day. This
class was based on the catechetical instruction
in schools and in a pastoral way introduced
the children to the sacramental life of the
church. In terms of content, the classes dealt
with the important themes in the context of
confirmation: baptism, confession, absolution, and communion. In addition to that,
Loehe inculcated in the young people the
importance of prayer for an active Christian.31
At the beginning of a confirmation class,
some hymn verses were sung, followed by a
prayer. A brief homiletical introduction to
the topic of the Holy Sacrament followed
next; then a brief lecture on the catechetical
contents; then the corresponding paragraph
in the catechism was read; then exposition and questions and answers tested by
questions and answers from Loehe (which
are also included in the House, School and
Churchbook). A summary, admonition, and
closing blessing completed the class. For
the female confirmation candidates, Loehe
scheduled a “silent half-hour” during Lent
(between 12:00 and 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays)
for meditating on God’s word.32
Loehe’s Concept of
a Comprehensive
Loehe compiled the House, School and
Churchbook in 1845 for the sake of brothers
and sisters in the faith overseas. It was not
only in the context of the situation in the
North American colonies that Loehe was
convinced that Christian education in the
family was of fundamental importance to
the religious and social development of the
31. Cf. Deinzer, Leben, 2:147–152.
32. Deinzer, Leben, 2:148.
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
children. Just as he criticized the emancipation of school from church, he found fault
with the delegation of the task of education
by the parents to schools. He was convinced
that this contributed to the decline of the
general level of education. This is why he
considered the Housebook to be helpful for
training teachers for the colonies. His major
intention was to bring together for Christian
life and worship those fundamental materials
most useful in uniting home, school, and
church. One can learn from the materials,
Loehe asserted, that some parts could be
learned at home, some could be used in
Christian religious instruction, and some
could be used in schools. While he regarded
his Three Books about the Church as a casual
work, he considered “the explanations and
questions on the catechism” to be the summa
of his pastoral work.33
1. Christian Education in the Family
correctly. Loehe also considered the Christian
week from two perspectives: first, the children
should learn each of the works of creation
so that they would be able to say “what happened on each day.” As soon as this aim was
achieved, parents should allocate the events
of Jesus’ last week to each day of the week
and impress them on their children.36 The
course of the Christian year should be made
accessible to the children from two points of
view: first, they should experience Christian
feast days in terms of the life of Jesus; and
second, they should become acquainted with
the “story of his saints,” which Loehe assigned
to individual months.37
An important prerequisite for the success
of the educational efforts in the home is the
mother’s love for her child. In his “Prayer
Booklet for Childhood” addressed “To the
Parents, Particularly the Mothers,” Loehe put
together a collection of prayers and biblical
prayer verses for children. He wrote:
Love awakens and educates children to
love. The love of the mother, the first
love which a child can understand, is
imperceptible, awakening and educating
the child to childlike and any kind of love,
even the love of God.38
The focus of “religious instruction for the little
ones” is the biblical story, along with prayers
taught by the mother and the first verses of
the catechism.34 These biblical texts should
follow the pattern of each day, week, and
the church year. They should be illustrated
through appropriate pictures.
For Loehe, learning throughout the
day meant learning the daily verses, along
with specific morning and evening hymns.
“The specific Christian sanctification of the
day” occurred, while “remembering the last
day of Jesus’ life.”35 That means he assigned
each of the seven hours of Christ’s suffering
to one of the seven last words: for each of
the words the corresponding story should be
told, so that each word might be understood
Loehe goes on to speak about the necessity of
the mother’s praying over and with the child
and emphasizes the mother’s prayer “makes
the child recognize the path to God, yes,
even to walk on this path. In the mother’s
path to God, the child finds its own way to
God. The prayer over and in the presence
of the child leads to the child praying with
[his/her] mother” and ultimately to the child
praying autonomously.39 Although the child
33. GW 3/1:718
34. Cf. Wilhelm Loehe, “Aphorismen
über die Schule und Schulunterricht” (185459), in GW 3/2:392.
35. Loehe, Haus-, Schul- und Kirchenbuch, 4th ed., 1877, 1:311.
36. Ibid., 1:312–315.
37. Cf. Loehe, Haus-, 315.
38. Wilhelm Loehe, “Betbüchlein für das
kindliche Alter. Eltern und Kindern gewidmet”
(1845), in: GW 3/1: 354.
39. Ibid. 354.
Kothmann. Wilhelm Loehe as Religious Instructor
should be introduced to the prayers of the
church, a child also should be encouraged
to pray with its own words, to pray from the
heart. In any event, the child should not be
forced to pray.40
2. Religious Instruction at School
According to Loehe, Bible instruction in
schools should start with the “story of the
Lord and his apostles” for logical reasons.41
In the second edition of his work on “The
Protestant Clergyman” (1866) and in accordance with the catechetical theory of his time,
Loehe places more emphasis on the salvationhistorical direction of biblical teachings than
in his earlier writing (in line with the influence of the salvation-historical theology of
Erlangen). Loehe now emphasized that Bible
stories should be selected in a manner that
would later enable the salvation-historical
connection to be illustrated. From an early
age, children should be told “history in the
form of stories.”42
Catechetical instruction begins with
the memorization of the text of six sections
according to ipsissima verba of Luther, which
Loehe considered to be the “clear reflection
of the divine Word.”43 Subsequently, the
questions and answers should be read and
then memorized.
When the child has reached the point
of being able to prove the statements of the
catechism in “lucid and clear” biblical words,
there is just one more level left for the child
to attain: the introduction to the harmony
between the individual chapters of catechism.
However, the systematic interpretation of the
40. Cf. Loehe, “Betbüchlein,” 357.
41. Wilhelm Loehe, “An die Freunde!”
(1844), in GW 3/1: 145.
42. Wilhelm Loehe, “Der evangelische
Geistliche” (1858), in GW 3/2:228.
43. Wilhelm Loehe, Drei Bücher von der
Kirche (1845), Study Edition 1 (Neuendettelsau: Freimund 2006), 192.
catechism on the basis of the central principles of Lutheran theology is assigned to the
catechetical instruction in the confirmation
class, which should especially point out:
that the first chapter deals with the law
and brings about penance; the second
concerns the gospel and brings about
faith; the third demonstrates the human
means of grace in prayer; and the fourth
to sixth deal with the divine means of
grace in Word and sacrament. A child
who recognizes the harmony of these
chapters in addition to the knowledge of
the texts has without doubt achieved a
level of Christian knowledge which not
many adults achieve.44
3. Religious Instruction in the Congregation
Learning does not come to an end when
schooling ends. Adults should also accumulate a store of memorized texts, especially the
prayers and hymns that are used in church.
Loehe writes that in fact “…one should
memorize everything liturgical and be able to
use it without a book. That includes primarily everything concerning the ultimate needs
of the heart, the various forms of confession
and absolution.”45 Moreover, adults should
memorize the liturgical parts of the Eucharist
and the prayers for confirmation, wedding,
and burial services. Loehe says that this is a
recommendation for those who are willing
to learn and have the ability to do it. What
matters is active participation in the life of
the church and the fervent desire “that all
individuals consider themselves in union
with the whole congregation, feeling and
praying together.”46 Wherever and whenever this occurs, religious instruction in the
union of the home, school, and church has
achieved its goal.
44. Loehe, “Aphorismen,” 396.
45. Loehe, Haus-, 321.
46. Ibid., 322.
Loehe’s Agende in America
Thomas H. Schattauer
Professor of Liturgics and Dean of the Chapel
Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa
Wilhelm Loehe has been called “the greatgrandfather” of the Common Service of 1888,
which provided English-speaking Lutherans
of German descent an order of worship for
the principal service of the congregation.1
It is regarded as the high-water mark of Lutheran liturgy in nineteenth-century North
America. From the Common Service of 1888,
there are lines of development that extend
into the worship books used by most North
American Lutherans today.2 How was it that
the German Lutheran pastor Wilhelm Loehe
became a progenitor of liturgical orders and
practice in North America? The answer lies
in the story of Loehe’s Agende für christlichen
Gemeinden des lutherischen Bekenntnisses
(Agenda for Christian Congregations of the
Lutheran Confession).3
1. George R. Muenich, “The Victory of
Restorationism: The Common Service, 18881958,” chapter in a manuscript textbook in
liturgics, ed. Patrick R. Kiefert (Luther Northwestern Theological Seminary, 1984), 32.
2. Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and
Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) in the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and
Lutheran Worship (1982) and Lutheran Service
Book (2006) in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.
3. (1st ed., 1844; 2nd ed., 1853/1859);
see Wilhelm Loehe, Gesammelte Werke (henceforth GW) 7/1, ed. Klaus Ganzert (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1953), with commentary and
notes in GW 7/2:675–690, 719–728.
Wyneken’s Distress Call and
Loehe’s Response
The story begins with Friedrich Wyneken.
Loehe’s Agende (1844) is dedicated to this
missionary pastor in northeast Indiana who
would become the second president of the
Missouri Synod. The preface begins:
To you, beloved friend and brother, I
dedicate this agenda. It was developed
in heartfelt love to my brothers in North
America, and among these you were the
first one I joined in the holy work of love
which builds God’s Zion beyond the
ocean. Please receive kindly my gift and
heartfelt, respectful greetings. I worked on
this book for the sole purpose of serving
the brothers beyond the ocean such that
I really could have entitled it “Agenda for
the German Lutheran Congregations of
North America”…4
Wyneken had issued calls to German Lutherans to come to the aid of their German
brothers and sisters settling in American
cities and on the frontier. The immigrants
were often poor and desperate and, most
importantly from Wyneken’s viewpoint, they
lacked the spiritual care of pastors and the
spiritual life of a congregation. Given this
situation, Wyneken raised concern about the
susceptibility of the immigrants, on the one
hand, to the American “sects” (Methodists
4. Wilhelm Loehe, “Prefaces to the
Agende für christlichen Gemeinden des lutherischen Bekenntnisses,” trans. Frank C. Senn, Logia
27, no. 3 (2008): 32.
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
and frontier evangelicals) and the emotional
appeal of their “new measures” (revivalism)
and, on the other hand, to the institutional
presence and power of the Roman Catholic
Loehe became aware of Wyneken’s call
through a Protestant group in Stade seeking
to form a mission society for the support
of Germans in North America. Their appeal contained quotations from Wyneken’s
writings, which moved Loehe to respond.6
The result was that Loehe began to train
“emergency helpers” (Nothelfer) or “missionaries” (Sendlinge) to serve as teachers and
pastors on the American frontier. During an
extended journey to Germany in the years
1841–1843, Wyneken met personally with
Loehe. Addressing Wyneken in the preface
to his 1844 Agende, Loehe recounts that at
the time of their visit “you [Wyneken] voiced
the wish to have one of the older agendas
reprinted for yourself and your brothers over
there.”7 Wyneken was no doubt impressed
with Loehe’s knowledge of the early Lutheran
church orders and his “uncommonly rich
liturgical library,”8 which Loehe had gathered
in the preparation of his three-volume Sammlung liturgischer Formulare (1839–1842), a
sourcebook for his own liturgical work.
The conversations with Wyneken
helped Loehe to understand the American
situation, including the need for liturgical
orders. Loehe’s comments in the preface to
the 1844 Agende evidence Wyneken’s own
5. Friedrich Wyneken, The Distress of the German Lutherans in North America, ed. R. F. Rehmer,
trans. S. Edgar Schmidt (Fort Wayne, Ind.: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1982).
6. James Schaaf, “Wilhelm Loehe’s Relation to the American Church: A Study in the
History of Lutheran Mission” (ThD dissertation, Heidelberg University, 1961), 6ff.
7. Loehe, “Prefaces to the Agende,” 32.
8. Hans Kressel, Wilhelm Löhe als Liturg
und Liturgiker (Neuendettelsau: Freimund,
1952), 39–40.
concerns about the challenge presented to
the Lutheran immigrants by the Protestant
revivalists and the Roman Catholics. Loehe,
however, is dismissive of the sectarian revivalists and sees his efforts to provide Lutheran
orders of worship as a counter to the liturgical
strength of the Roman Church. Loehe surveys
the North American liturgical scene in this
way: the liturgical practice of the Roman
Catholics is “a strong, if not the strongest
weapon” in their “systematic plan of conquest
in North America;” the Episcopal Church
has the Book of Common Prayer, which Loehe
indeed admired, but that church “does not
come close to the Roman Church in liturgical
power because its doctrine, especially that of
the sacraments, is too poor for a single, simple,
deep, rich thought to be able to permeate its
liturgy;” the sects are a powerful force at the
moment, but they have little to contribute
and, in Loehe’s estimation, their long-term
influence would likely serve the Roman
Church.9 In this context, the spiritual well
being of the German immigrants depends,
according to Loehe, upon a rich, historic
Lutheran liturgy:
I see the liturgies of the so-called Lutheran
Church—coming from the same historical roots as the Roman one, Western like
them, but not serving false doctrine, not
cloaked with trifles like those—in their
holy, rich, deep simplicity could become
a weapon for the truth—against the Romans—for the salvation of our German
brothers in North America.10
Loehe intended to fill the need for such
liturgy with his Agende.
Instead of reprinting an older agenda as
Wyneken had requested, Loehe prepared his
own. In the Agende preface, Loehe explains
to Wyneken that there was no older agenda
as serviceable as the one he was providing,
9. Loehe, “Prefaces to the Agende,” 32.
10. Ibid.
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
nor anything as comprehensive. Loehe
reports that he “sought to compile from
approximately two-hundred older agendas
and church orders, what seemed best to
me.”11 What seemed best to Loehe was a
thoroughly historic and catholic liturgy built
from evangelical sources.
Loehe was ready, even eager, to do the
work of preparing an agenda for North American Lutherans in their chaotic circumstance
because he was at that same time working
to help define the confessional and liturgical
identity of his own church in Bavaria. While
the focus here is on the story of Loehe’s Agende
in America, there is also the story of Loehe’s
Agende in Germany, and in particular, its
place in the discussions and controversies
that unfolded throughout Loehe’s ministry
in regard to the preparation of a new Agende
for the Bavarian Landeskirche.12 Though the
situations in North America and Germany
were quite different, Loehe’s churchly, confessional, and liturgical aims in preparing
the Agende played themselves out in both
The Agende in Loehe’s Early
Mission Efforts
After 1844, the missionaries that Loehe
prepared and sent to Ohio, Indiana, and
Michigan carried with them Loehe’s Agende
as a help to them in their work. The written
instructions carried by these men contained
words such as these: “The agenda which we
will place into your hands can be of use to
you in arranging your order of service. Perhaps the longer you and your brethren over
there will be able to hold it, the better.”13 The
11. Ibid.
12. See Irmgard, Pahl, ed., Coena Domini
II: Die Abendmahlsliturgie der Refomationskirchen vom 18. bis zum frühen 20. Jahrhundert
(Fribourg: Academic Press, 2005), 119–123,
13. Wilhelm Loehe, “General Instruc-
Loehe missionaries were well instructed and
well formed in liturgical matters, but as this
instruction shows, Loehe was aware that the
introduction of his Agende with its full and
rich liturgical orders would be a long-term
project for these pastors new to the situation
on the American frontier.
oehe was ready,
even eager,
to do the work of
preparing an agenda
for North American
Lutherans in their
chaotic circumstance
because he was at that
same time working
to help define the
confessional and
liturgical identity of
his own church in
Starting in 1845, in the Saginaw Valley of
Michigan, Loehe founded several mission
colonies, comprised of immigrants organized
tions for Our Friends in America,” in Moving
Frontiers: Readings in the History of The
Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, ed. Carl S.
Meyer (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House,
1964), 99–100.
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
by Loehe ahead of their departure from
Germany and provided with a pastor and
orders for the organization of church and
community life. The model church order
authored by Loehe for the congregations at
Frankenmuth, Frankentrost, Frankenlust,
and Frankenhilf contained provisions for
their adherence to confessional Lutheranism,
commitment to the exclusive use of the German language in perpetuity, and provisions
Photo: Archives of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America
Nevertheless, a number of Native American
children learned German, were instructed
in the Christian faith, and participated at
worship with the German congregation.15
Through the Loehe missionaries and the
mission colonies, the seed of Loehe’s Agende
was sown in North America, and sometimes
in surprising places.
In 1846, having broken ties with the
Ohio Synod seminary in Columbus over the
use of the English language, Loehe established
a seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, under
the leadership of Wilhelm Sihler to provide
for the on-site theological education of his
missionaries in America. Like the preparatory
mission school in Neuendettelsau, the Fort
Wayne Seminary would have offered instruction in liturgical matters and worshiped as a
community using Loehe’s Agende.
The formation of the Missouri Synod in
1847 included most of the pastors and congregations in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan
with ties to Loehe, together with the Saxon
Lutherans of Missouri. These congregations
continued their use of Loehe’s Agende until
1856, when the new synod published its own
Kirchen-Agende, based on Saxon liturgical
orders. The influence of Loehe’s Agende no
doubt persisted in the spirit of worship among
the Loehe pastors and congregations. That
influence would once again return to the
Missouri Synod in 1911 through the merger
with the English Missouri Synod and its use
of the Common Service of 1888.
for the organization and worship life of
the congregation, including the statement
that “Loehe’s Agende and the order therein
contained are to be used for our church
One of the aims of the Michigan colonies was to establish a mission to the Native
American population. For many reasons,
this effort did not meet with great success.
The Agende in the Iowa
14. Frankenmuth church order, in Meyer,
Moving Frontiers, 115.
15. Friedrich August Craemer, letter, August 1848, in Meyer, Moving Frontiers, 119–120.
Loehe’s impasse with the Missouri Synod
over the doctrine of ministry led to a break
in his relationship with that synod and the
formation of the Iowa Synod in 1854 with a
seminary in Dubuque. This new synod and
seminary now became the focus of Loehe’s
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
efforts in North America. It is among the
pastors and congregations of the Iowa synod
that Loehe’s Agende continued in use well
into the twentieth century.
The church order for congregations
first adopted by the synod in 1856 took as
its model the church order of the Saginaw
Valley colonies.16 The Iowa Synod church
order insisted on a confessional standard
for all liturgical materials, and it expressed
commitment to the use of Loehe’s Agende in
its congregations: “At our worship services
and occasional rites, we use the Loehe Agende
and recognize the order of service contained
in it as the goal to which our congregations
strive.”17 Note, however, the qualification:
the practice of worship envisioned in the
Loehe Agende was a goal, not something that
could be immediately attained. The founders
of the synod recognized what had been and
would continue to be the practical reality
of worship among the German immigrants
on the American frontier, and they wished
to preserve appropriate freedom in matters
of liturgical forms. Nonetheless, a rich use
of Loehe’s Agende remained the goal. In this
way, too, the synod was following Loehe’s own
lead: a purposeful, but nonetheless pastoral
approach to liturgical enrichment.18
Johannes Deindoerfer’s history of the
Iowa Synod provides further insight into
the practice of worship and use of Loehe’s
Agende in the synod’s first four decades
(1854–1896).19 In the first decade, according
to Deindoerfer’s summary, “it was the rule
16. Schaaf, “Loehe’s Relation to the
American Church,” 180, n. 61.
17. “Kirchenordnung der EvangelischLutherischen Synode von Iowa,” in Johannes
Deindörfer, Geschichte der Evangel.-Luth.
Synode von Iowa und anderen Staaten (Chicago:
Wartburg Publishing House, 1897), 86.
18. Loehe, “Prefaces to the Agende,” 33,
19. For more on Deindörfer’s Geschichte,
see the essay by Craig Nessan in this volume.
that newly formed congregations should
use the Loehe Agende and should introduce
and utilize the wonderful forms of service
offered in it, at least in their essentials.”20
The qualification that the Loehe Agende was
to be used “at least in [its] essentials” points
to the pastoral situation, which Deindoerfer
goes on to explain:
Of course, it could neither be expected
nor attained that congregations would
immediately appropriate or even tolerate
the beautiful and rich liturgies, which the
Loehe Agende offers, since members of the
congregations, for the most part, came
from very different Landeskirche, and the
liturgical life of these churches had fallen
into disrepair through the long reign of
unbelief [the period of Rationalist influence]. In many places, there were serious
fights over this, especially when pastors
coming out the Loehe school had a great
love for services arranged liturgically and
expected too much of congregations
inexperienced in it. Through many sad
experiences at first, we were compelled
into appropriate sobriety and prudence.
More and more, a principle came to
bear: that in these matters nothing may
or should be forced upon congregations
against their will. In the introduction of
liturgical practices unknown to the people,
one has to lead slowly and wisely and
seek to gain their agreement by way of
patient instruction, and for the moment
to be satisfied with the essentials. At the
same time though, the wonderful order
of service prescribed in the Agende must
be the goal toward which one strives.21
The problems encountered in introducing
Loehe’s Agende were pushing the leaders to
adopt a pastoral approach and to underscore
their respect for Christian freedom in matters
of liturgical practice.
20. Deindörfer, Geschichte, 104.
21. Ibid.
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
Nonetheless, Deindoerfer sought to
assure his readers that the order of service
in Loehe’s Agende had gained general acceptance in the synod. This was due in his
estimation to two things. He points first
to the liturgical training of its pastors and
their “lively sense of the beauty of worship”
from their experience at Neuendettelsau, a
legacy that he notes continued at Wartburg
Seminary.22 Secondly, he points to Loehe’s
Agende itself as “such a wonderful aid for the
worship service of the congregation and the
occasional rites.”23 These were indeed great
strengths in support of the synod’s worship
life. The question remains to what extent
Loehe’s Agende as an “aid” provided orders
for the worship of congregations, not merely
a selectively used resource.
In the decade from 1865–75, Deindoerfer reports that the order of worship in most
congregations was taken from Loehe’s Agende.
Few pastors, however, were able to introduce
the liturgy “in more completeness” according
to Deindoerfer, and he adds: “[M]ost pastors
have to be satisfied with the introduction
of the essential pieces; some may well even
gladly be satisfied with this.”24 Deindoerfer’s
reporting about the celebration of the Lord’s
Supper tells us something about how the
Agende was being used. Smaller congregations celebrated the Supper on major feast
days and on the Reformation festival; larger
congregations every four to six weeks. In
most congregations, individual members
participated in the Supper twice a year, in
accord with the predominant practice in the
German Landeskirche.25
For the next two decades, 1876–1896,
Deindoerfer reports a slight upswing in
participation at the Lord’s Supper: “The
holy Supper with confession and absolu22. 23. 24. 25. Ibid., 105.
Ibid., 183.
Ibid., 182–183.
tion preceding is enjoyed two to four times
a year by most confirmed members of the
congregations.”26 Deindoerfer’s claim not
to be able to assess how it goes with the
introduction of richer liturgical forms suggests there had not been substantial change
in how Loehe’s Agende was being used.27
In this period, Deindoerfer reports
two important matters regarding the use
of agendas in the Synod. The first concerns
Loehe’s Agende, which by the end of the
1870s was out of print. Responding to a
request from the Synod, Johannes Deinzer,
a co-worker of Loehe in Neuendettelsau and
at the time mission inspector, prepared what
Deindoerfer calls “an excellent new edition
of the Agende.”28 The Synod purchased 250
copies. The major changes in this third
edition of Loehe’s Agende (1884) had to do
with making the Agende even more complete
and arranging the materials of the principal
service in a way more useful to the pastor as
leader of worship.29 Such changes indicate
that synod pastors and congregations were
using the Agende. It was part of a living
liturgical tradition.
Deindoerfer also reports on the approval of the General Council’s Kirchenbuch
(1877) for use in the synod.30 Though not
a member of the Council, the Iowa Synod
maintained relations with this federation of
eastern Lutheran synods of German descent.
Loehe’s Agende had been an influence in the
preparation of the General Council’s 1868
Church Book, and the 1877 Kirchenbuch was
a German version and expansion of that
agenda. Sigmund Fritschel, a synod pastor
and founder, one of Loehe’s students, and
professor and president at Wartburg Semi26. Ibid., 306.
27. Ibid., 307–308.
28. Ibid., 307.
29. Agende (1884), iii–v; Deindörfer,
Geschichte, 307.
30. Deindörfer, Geschichte, 307.
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
nary, served on the committee that prepared
the Kirchenbuch. Thus in the latter part of the
nineteenth century, two significant agendas
were available to Iowa synod pastors and
congregations: Loehe’s Agende itself and
another that carried his liturgical spirit, the
General Council’s Kirchenbuch.
The Iowa Synod’s success among recent
German immigrants made it one of the most
German of the American synods, and the use
of its German-language agendas continued
well into the twentieth century.31 When
Loehe’s Agende again went out of print, this
time the Iowa Synod itself published a new
edition in 1919. This fourth edition of the
Agende was a beautifully rendered book. Its
adaptations to the current needs of synod
pastors and congregations demonstrate once
again the distinctive place of Loehe’s Agende
in the ongoing life of the Iowa Synod.
At that same time, the spread of the English
language in the worship of synod congregations
led the synod to adopt the Common Service of
1888 for the Wartburg Hymnal (1918).32 With
the language change and a merger that would
form The (old) American Lutheran Church in
1930 (Iowa, Ohio, and Buffalo Synods), the
story of Loehe’s Agende was coming to a close.
The Common Service itself, however, owed much
to Loehe, and in that way the influence of his
Agende continued. Even more important was
the liturgical spirit that Loehe and his Agende
had implanted on American soil and nurtured
to growth, most especially in the pastors and
congregations of the Iowa Synod.
The Agende among Eastern
Lutheran Synods
German Lutherans on the eastern seaboard of
the United States were neither the bearers of
31. Schaaf, “Loehe’s Relation to the
American Church,” 186; Muenich, “Victory of
Restorationism,” 32.
32. Muenich, “Victory of Restorationism,”
Loehe’s Agende to America, nor its intended
recipients, as had been the case among pastors
and congregations that formed the Missouri
and Iowa Synods. Instead, individuals discovered Loehe’s Agende and made use of it. The
Agende from Loehe arrived on the American
scene at an opportune moment for those in
the eastern synods who desired to establish
a confessional Lutheran church over and
against an “Americanized” Lutheranism.
These Lutherans, like Loehe himself, aimed
to provide the church with a Lutheran version
of the historic liturgy of the western church
as a check against American Protestantism
in its Reformed, rationalist, and revivalist
forms. Loehe’s Agende gave them what they
needed: historically grounded, Lutheran
liturgical orders and texts, deep knowledge
about the liturgy in its history and practice,
and a liturgical theology that linked Lutheran
teaching about word and sacrament to the
liturgy as practiced in the congregation.
We have already dipped into this part
of the story of Loehe’s Agende in America
with mention of the General Council’s
1868 Church Book and 1877 Kirchenbuch,
and the 1888 Common Service produced by
the General Council, the General Synod,
and the United Synod South. Each of these
critical milestones of liturgical development
in America bears in some way the mark
of Loehe and his Agende, a mark made by
individuals influenced by their knowledge
of Loehe’s Agende. These eastern Lutherans
encountered Loehe’s Agende primarily as a
liturgical document to be studied and mined
for its riches rather than as a liturgical book
to aid the actual practice of worship in congregations.
Apart from its broad outline, this part
of the story of Loehe’s Agende in America is
more difficult to write because it involves
identifying how it was that particular individuals came into contact with the Agende,
what they did with it, and where the mark
of Loehe can then be seen in the liturgical
Schattauer. Loehe’s Agende in America
work they produced. Martin Lohrmann
has shown the result of Beale Schmucker’s
encounter with Loehe’s Agende and its impact
on the liturgies and liturgical books of the
General Council, both English and German,
leading up to the joint work with other eastern synods to produce the Common Service
of 1888.33 Many of the important figures
of the confessional and liturgical renewal
among eastern Lutherans had knowledge
of Loehe’s writings and liturgical work. Of
the three most important figures associated
with the Common Service, at least two—Beale
Schmucker and Edward Trail Horn—have
demonstrable links to Loehe’s work that show
their high regard for his Agende. One final
indication of interest in Loehe’s Agende is the
partial English translation that appeared in
1902, based upon Deinzer’s third edition.34
The Common Service was the pre-eminent
English-language Lutheran liturgy from the
time of its publication in 1888 until the
middle of the twentieth century. Eventually
nearly every Lutheran synod, whether of German or Scandinavian ancestry, incorporated
this liturgy into a worship book.35 This is a
33. See Martin Lohrmann’s essay in this
34. William Loehe, Liturgy for Christian
Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, trans. F. C.
Longaker (Newport, Ky., 1902; repr., Decatur,
Ill.: Gerhard Institute, 1997).
35. Muenich, “Victory of Restorationism,” 33.
significant part of Loehe’s legacy in America,
and it came about through the efforts of
English-speaking Lutherans of German
ancestry who studied Loehe’s Agende, learned
from it, and drew upon it as a sourcebook.
It is somewhat ironic that Loehe, the strong
proponent of a German Lutheranism in
America, became the “great-grandfather” of
English-speaking Lutheran liturgy. Indeed
Loehe did promote the German language
together with the confessional theological
tradition that it transmitted. Nevertheless,
he did not oppose the development of an
English-speaking church. Rather it was his
conviction that “an English Lutheran Church
can build itself only upon a German Lutheran
Church.”36 It is arguable that the Common
Service proved his point. The influence of
Loehe’s German-language Agende continued
along the trajectory of the English-language
Common Service and its progeny into the
North American Lutheran liturgical books
of the twenty-first century. Alongside the
pastoral, liturgical spirit and rich experience
of the liturgy implanted by the Agende in
pastors and congregations of the Missouri
and Iowa Synods, the spread of the Common
Service and its broad impact culminate the
story of Loehe’s Agende in America.
36. Wilhelm Loehe, article in Kirchliche
Mittheilungen (1846), cited in Meyer, Moving
Frontiers, 110.
Lutheran Deaconesses in North
America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
Cheryl D. Naumann
President, Concordia Deaconess Conference
Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, Oakmont, Pennsylvania
Female Diaconates in
The resurgence of female diaconates in
nineteenth-century Germany was closely
related to the Inner Mission (innere Mission)
movement, championed by Johann Heinrich
Wichern to relieve mounting physical, moral,
and spiritual wretchedness in the wake of the
industrial revolution. In September 1848,
Wichern challenged all Protestants in Germany to adopt the work of the Inner Mission.
As a result, the German Evangelical Church
organized the Central Committee for the Inner
Mission at Berlin in January 1849 and similar
associations formed in every part of Germany,
Scandinavia, and later in North America.1
While Wichern concentrated on educating men for God’s service, Pastor Theodore
Fliedner of Kaiserswerth, played a major
role in reviving the New Testament office of
deaconess for Protestant women. In 1836,
Fliedner opened a hospital and a deaconess
motherhouse. Fliedner’s charitable work
quickly grew to include a Christian kindergarten, an orphanage, a girls’ high school, a
home for mentally ill female Protestants, a
home for invalid or lonely women, a school
for teachers, and a training school for deaconesses. The Kaiserswerth-based Institution
of Protestant Deaconesses also purchased
1. J. F. Ohl, The Inner Mission (Philadelphia: United Lutheran Publication House,
1911), 13–14.
and staffed hospitals, homes, orphanages,
and schools in other parts of Germany and
around the world. When Fliedner died in
1864, there were 425 deaconesses in Kaiserswerth and one hundred outstations on
four continents. The Kaiserswerth network
included thirty-two motherhouses, with a
total enrollment of 1,600 deaconesses.2
In September 1849, a year after Wichern
called the hearts of German Protestants to
engage in the Inner Mission, Pastor Wilhelm
Loehe and his supporters founded a quite different society, the Society for Inner Mission in the
Spirit of the Lutheran Church, which entailed
four parts: 1) service of traveling preachers, 2)
spreading of literature, 3) care for emigrants,
and 4) Diakonie. Obvious from the new
organization’s title, Loehe had some reservations about Wichern’s grand plan for a Central
Board for Inner Mission, which would establish
multiple societies throughout Germany. Loehe
sympathized with the need to resolve desperate
social issues, but feared that the country was
working with a confused concept of mission,
which was an intrinsic part of the church.
Loehe was also concerned that Wichern’s
plan encouraged a union of state churches
on the basis of cooperation in providing aid
to society rather than on the basis of a true
2. C. Golder, History of the Deaconess Movement (Cincinnati: Jennings & Pye,
1903), 63; Frederick S. Weiser, Love’s Response
(Philadelphia: ULCA Board of Publication,
1962), 41.
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Naumann. Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
Christian confession. Thus, he and his followers proceeded with Inner Mission in the spirit
of the Lutheran Church. Erika Geiger explains:
The care of the poor and sick, the social
work, the Diakonie, formed a part, a
division of Inner Mission. It was subject
to the preaching of the Word. As a result,
in ranking the tasks of the Society, Loehe
gave it the fourth and last place. For the
time being, the Diakonie should be limited
to the local congregation and be under
the pastoral office. Its status had to first
develop and grow. Loehe imagined that
something like an arch-deaconate could
result later from this fourth division.3
In 1853, seventeen years after Fliedner established his first deaconess motherhouse,
Wilhelm Loehe finally published his thoughts
concerning a female deaconate within the
Protestant Church of Bavaria. That same
year, under Loehe’s leadership, the Lutheran
Society for the Female Deaconate was formed.
It was hoped that this “mother society” would
engender other daughter societies, all serving
a common purpose: “A reawakening and
formation of a concern, especially among
women, for the service of suffering humanity
among the Lutherans of Bavaria.”4
At this point, Loehe wished to establish
nothing more than an educational institute
for daughters of the middle class in Neuendettelsau. These women were to be trained in
nursing and other diaconal arts and receive
a general Christian education, after which
they would return to their hometowns to
care for the sick and needy, theoretically in
cooperation with one of the local daughter
societies for the female diaconate. Once they
were out in the field, there would be no more
connection with the mother society. This
3. Erika Geiger, The Life, Work, and
Influence of Wilhelm Loehe (1808–1872), trans.
Wolf Knappe (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing
House, 2010), 142.
4. Ibid., 145.
Neuendettelsau deaconess institute became
a reality on May 9, 1854, and a deaconess
house was built that same year.
In the rest of Bavaria, the daughter deaconess societies did not emerge as Loehe had hoped.
In 1857, Loehe conceded that his original
concept for the propagation of Diakonie was
not practical. It was not a good idea to send out
the deaconesses to places of service and leave
them on their own. Their training center needed
to maintain constant contact with them, and
to serve as a place of refuge, a family to which
they could return. Thus, with himself acting
as the first Rector, Loehe adopted Fliedner’s
motherhouse model, intending Neuendettelsau
to be “more churchly” than the Kaiserswerth
Institute.5 According to Emil Wacker’s 1893
review of the first half-century of the work of
deaconess motherhouses, Loehe’s fundamental
rules became the same as those of Kaiserswerth.
However, in addition to practical efficiency,
the mental and spiritual culture of the sisters
received most careful nurture.To this end served
the regular preaching and instruction, the rich,
liturgical form of worship, and emphasis upon
noble simplicity and sanctified beauty of form
in all the relations of woman’s life.6
Loehe kept abreast of the advancement
of Fliedner’s work throughout the world. In
1865, he wrote:
We do not want to set our goal too far away.
We certainly would love to have a mission
like Kaiserswerth has one in the orient. For
the mission is, when the deaconess matter
is rightly understood, closely related to the
task of the deaconesses. From the outset,
the deaconesshood is joined to the preaching office as Eve is to Adam, and a church
which does God’s work among the Gentiles
without deacony seems to me like a onelegged man. This is why it seems quite right
to us that Kaiserswerth works not only in
Prussia, but also in Jerusalem, in Smyrna,
5. Ibid., 151–52.
6. Emil Wacker, The Deaconess Calling
(Philadelphia: Mary J. Drexel Home, 1893), 72.
Naumann. Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
in Cairo. Yes, if we had our way, we would
go to Jerusalem right away and buy the
“Upper Room” and would serve peacefully
alongside those from Kaiserswerth as much
as we could. Yes, we would go to Slovakia
and serve the Lutherans there in every way
possible. Yet, as already said, all this we do
not have in our hand, and to date we still
do not have a call for mission, not even in
America, which is familiar for Dettelsau,
where all deaconesses whom we have sent
there have gotten married. Contrariwise, we
have a sure and certain call in our Bavarian
homeland. The title given to the deaconess
house by the supreme authorities of our
sainted King Max II ten years ago reads
black and white, ‘Deaconess House for the
Protestant-Lutheran population of Bavaria
on this side of the Rhine.’7
At Loehe’s death in 1872, 147 deaconesses
were working in Neuendettelsau, Polsingen,
and thirty-one other outer stations.8
Emergence of North
American Diaconates
In 1846, William Alfred Passavant, pastor
of First Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, visited Kaiserswerth, where he
became convinced that American churches
should establish the same type of female diaconate he observed there. Passavant wanted
to open a hospital in Pittsburgh, and since
the Kaiserswerth deaconesses were primarily nurses, he begged Fliedner to send some
deaconess to him. In July 1849, Fliedner
personally delivered four young deaconesses
to Passavant, who opened the first Protestant
hospital in the United States, and incorporated The Institution of Protestant Deaconesses
7. Wilhelm Loehe, “The Tenth Year of the
Deaconess Institution Neuendettelsau” (1865),
trans. Holger Sonntag, n.p.; from Wilhelm
Löhe, Gesammelte Werke (GW), vol. 4, ed. Klaus
Ganzert (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1962).
8. Geiger, Wilhelm Loehe, 213.
in the state of Pennsylvania.9 Thus, five years
before Loehe established the Neuendettelsau
Deaconess Institute, Fliedner already had his
foot in the door of North America. Passavant
adopted Fliedner’s motherhouse model, while
also practicing churchmanship that was not
consistent with Loehe’s understanding of
confessional Lutheranism.
As a real pioneer in the ministry of mercy,
Passavant established hospitals and orphanages
in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and
opened a deaconess motherhouse in Milwaukee. In 1892 (twenty years after Loehe’s death),
the Rev. Herman Fritschel of the Iowa Synod
became the general director and rector of Passavant’s Milwaukee deaconess motherhouse,
and from 1926 to 1930, the Iowa Synod took
responsibility for operating the motherhouse.
Here is a distant connection with Loehe, in as
far as his men were instrumental in founding
the Iowa Synod.
In her 2008 dissertation, titled “The
Phoebe Phenomenon: The Protestant
Deaconess Movement in the United States,
1880–1930,” Jennifer Wiley Legath thoroughly examined the deaconess archives
of the Episcopal, Methodist (including the
former German Methodist) and Presbyterian
churches, as well as the United Church of
Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America. In the whole of Legath’s dissertation, Loehe is never mentioned. However,
she writes, “The Deaconess Reformation, as
it were, had to wait until the 19th century,
with Fliedner hailed as the diaconal Luther.…
The motherhouse diaconate of Kaiserswerth
served as the prototype for all the denominations that followed, but it was adapted to
the group’s culture and theology.”10 Legath
9. Herman L. Fritschel, A Story of One
Hundred Years of Deaconess Service 1849-1949
(Milwaukee: Lutheran Deaconess Motherhouse, 1949), 27.
10. Jennifer Wiley Legath, “The Phoebe
Phenomenon: The Protestant Deaconess Movement in the United States, 1880–1930” (PhD
Naumann. Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
does cite A Handbook for the Instruction of
Probationers, written by the Rev. Friedrich
Meyer, who was Loehe’s immediate successor
as rector of the Neuendettelsau deaconess
institute, but again, no reference to Loehe,
his writings, or his work. She asserts, “For
the duration of the American deaconess
movement, Kaiserswerth remained the
primary institutional model and spiritual
Missouri and Iowa
A resurgence of interest in Loehe within the
Missouri Synod has, unfortunately, produced
some romantic inaccuracies about his vision
for North America. This statement concerning the Fort Wayne seminary, that “Loehe was
committed to the training of deaconesses for
service in the church as part of the seminary’s
mission, and that when the seminary began
its deaconess program in 2003 it was simply
continuing a tradition begun by Pastor Loehe
over 150 years ago,” would be a good example
of the type of Loehe extrapolation that is not
historically plausible.
The Fort Wayne Seminary was founded
in 1846 and deeded to the Missouri Synod
in 1847, along with three stipulations from
Loehe: that the language of instruction
should be German; that the seminary should
provide pastors only for the confessional
Lutheran church; and that it would continue
to train pastors, as quickly as possible, to
serve the immigrants in German-speaking
congregations. Loehe also hoped that the
seminary would train missionaries to work
among native American Indians.12 There is
absolutely no reference to deaconesses here
dissertation, Princeton University, 2008), 41,
11. Ibid., 35.
12. John Hellwege, “Wilhelm Loehe:
American Lutheranism’s Distant Father,”
Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 83, no.
1 (Spring 2010), 8.
by Loehe or in any literature associated with
the handover of the seminary, which is not
surprising because it wasn’t until 1853, six
years later, that Loehe helped establish the
Lutheran Society for the Female Deaconate.
Similarly, Erich Heintzen’s Prairie School
of the Prophets, a thorough and definitive history of the seminary, makes no mention of the
possibility of deaconess training. Biographies
of men who were closest to Loehe—such
as Friedrich Wyneken, Wilhelm Sihler, or
Friedrich Craemer—mention nothing about
deaconesses or a possible knowledge of
Loehe’s desire to establish deaconess training
in North America.
If Loehe had considered establishing a
deaconess institute in North America, which
would certainly have included a motherhouse, one of the Franconian colonies would
have provided a more logical context, perhaps
in conjunction with the hospice Loehe established in Saginaw.13 Alternatively, in light
of the timing, it would have made sense to
start something in Iowa, given the fact that
Loehe’s emissaries moved from Michigan to
Iowa in 1853, the same year that Loehe began
to articulate his ideas on how to organize
deaconess training in Bavaria.14
In 1857 and 1858, Loehe sent five
deaconesses to Dubuque, Iowa, not to
initiate deaconess training, but to serve as
parish deaconesses and housemothers for the
students at Wartburg Theological Seminary.
By 1860, all five of the women had married,
and Loehe was not surprised. Three years
earlier, he wrote:
The student that gives up the close connection with the motherhouse and her peers
will always get into the same trouble. She
forgets the motherhouse, the ideas she
13. James L. Schaaf, “Wilhelm Loehe
and the Missouri Synod,” Concordia Historical
Institute Quarterly 45, no. 2 (May 1972), 63.
14. Craig L. Nessan, “Loehe and his
Coworkers in the Iowa Synod,” Currents in Theology and Mission 33, no. 2 (April 2006), 139.
Naumann. Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
received there, the high opinion of her
calling which has very little support in the
present congregations; and so gradually
sinks to the state of a hired servant and
becomes a child of this world…Therefore
we have begun to let go of our reluctance
for a sisterhood…All deaconesses should
recognize their motherhouse as their home
from which they go out and to which they
can return when they are sick or weak.
From it they should receive what is needed,
as children would from their parents.15
In 1868, Pastor Johannes Doerfler requested
that Loehe send deaconesses to assist in
establishing a motherhouse for the Iowa
Synod in Toledo, Ohio. Loehe promised to
send two deaconesses and the equivalent of
$2,500 when all was ready, but sadly, he died
before completing the arrangements for the
venture.16 Hence, Loehe’s diaconal model was
never realized in the Iowa Synod.
Although Missouri Synod pastors knew
about the work of deaconesses in Germany
and Pittsburgh, the doctrinal disputes between the Missouri and Iowa Synods formed
the context in which many Missouri Synod
members first considered the concept of
the female diaconate. In 1869, at about the
same time that Loehe began considering the
logistics for the Iowa Synod motherhouse
requested by Doerfler, the Missouri Synod’s
magazine, Der Lutheraner, printed a polemical article titled, “How a Light of the Church
in Iowa Synod Comments on the Way of
Deaconesses.” The article sharply criticizes
Iowa Synod pastor J .J. Schmidt as a “blind
adherent of Loehe” and reveals three major
issues regarding the subject of deaconesses
within the Missouri Synod in 1869: first,
15. Löhe, GW 4: 669.
16. Frederick S. Weiser, “Serving Love:
Early History of the Diaconate in American
Lutheranism” (Bachelor of Divinity thesis,
Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg,
Pa., 1960), 35.
that a diaconate is simply a copycat of the
reprehensible Roman Catholic nunnery;
second, that the nineteenth-century understanding of a deaconess promoted by
Fliedner, Passavant, and Loehe contradicts
the New Testament definition of a deaconess; and third, that problems inevitably arise
when people begin to extol the virtues of a
churchly profession instead of “Christ’s blood
and righteousness.”17
As C. F. W. Walther and other Missouri
Synod leaders challenged Loehe’s doctrine of
the ministry and the “open questions” of the
Iowa Synod, they assumed a link between
Loehe’s apparent Romanizing tendencies, his
doctrine of the ministry, and his diaconate.
Such an assumption would provide another
reason to delay the use of deaconesses in the
Missouri Synod.18 Speaking plainly, it can be
asserted that reservations about Loehe had a
negative—or at the very least, a deterring influence—on the introduction and progression
of the deaconess movement in the Missouri
Synod at this juncture in the Synod’s history.
In 1872, the year of Loehe’s death, the
Missouri Synod joined the Ohio, Wisconsin,
Minnesota, Illinois, and Norwegian Lutheran
Synods to create the Evangelical Lutheran
Synodical Conference of North America.
There is no historical evidence to suggest
that members of the Missouri Synod had any
interest in a female diaconate at this time,
even though other denominations around
them increasingly supported their charitable
work with skilled deaconesses.
In 1904, Associated Lutheran Charities
(ALCh) was founded by several Missouri
Synod pastors for the mutual instruction and
encouragement of agencies engaged in charity
work within the Synodical Conference. The
first person to be elected as president of the
17. “Wie sich ein Iowaisches Kirchenlicht über das Diakonissenwesen auslegt,” Der
Lutheraner 26.5 (November 1, 1869): 35–36;
trans. Arthur H. Baisch, 2004.
18. Ibid., 14–15.
Naumann. Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
organization was Pastor Johannes Philipp
Wambsganss Jr., the son of one of those first
four deaconesses whom Theodore Fliedner
had escorted from Kaiserswerth to Pittsburgh
fifty-five years earlier.19 Pastor Frederick William Herzberger, another founding member
of ALCh and the Missouri Synod’s first
city missionary, noted that other Christian
denominations had a distinct advantage in
inner city work because they used devoted
and well-trained deaconesses.
For many years, Wambsganss and
Herzberger promoted the idea of deaconesses in the Missouri Synod. At the Synod’s
1911 convention, Herzberger appealed for
the establishment of a deaconess home in
Minnesota. During his address, Herzberger
assured the delegates:
The representatives and supporters of this
Lutheran Deaconess Home do not want
it to be from the unbiblical Deaconess
existence such as found in the days among
the ‘schwaermer’ schismatics and pseudo
Lutherans who would have nothing more
than a Protestant nunnery. Truly the Lutheraner has warned about such Deaconess
existence in Issue 26, page 35.20
The article Herzberger referred to in 1911
is that same 1869 article in which the Iowa
Synod pastor is mocked as a blind adherent
of Loehe.
The Synod tabled the committee’s report,
without either rejecting or giving its blessing
to establishing the Lutheran deaconess home.
Eight years later, in 1919, not the Missouri
Synod, but ALCh took the initiative to
formally organize a new freestanding and
19. “Historical Sketch of the Associated
Lutheran Charities,” Der Bote aus Bethesda 17.6
(November 1926): 7.
20. F. W. Herzberger, “Errichtung eines
lutherischen Diaconissenheims,” Eingaben fur
die Delegatensynode 1911 zu St. Louis, Mo. (St.
Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1911),
131–33; trans. Otto Brillinger, 2004.
autonomous organization: the Lutheran Deaconess Association of the Evangelical Lutheran
Synodical Conference of North America
(LDA).21 Once again, Phillip Wambsganss Jr.,
the son of a Kaiserswerth deaconess, became
the first president of the LDA, serving in that
capacity for fourteen years, while also serving
as the first director of deaconess training.
Around 1920, at the LDA’s request,
Paul Edward Kretzmann wrote a Handbook of
Outlines for theTraining of Lutheran Deaconesses,
comprising a meaty syllabus for eight “Deaconess Work” courses. Among the sixty textbooks
used in the deaconess training, none contained
writings by Loehe and only a couple included
brief references to the deaconess institute at
Neuendettelsau.22 This was at a time when the
synod and its deaconess students still utilized
German and would easily be able to read Loehe’s
writings in their original language.
Loehe’s poem “The True Deaconess
Spirit” was published in German in 1924,
in the first issue of the LDA magazine, The
Lutheran Deaconess (TLD), and published
again in English in 1925.23 The LDA readily
perpetuated Loehe’s deaconess motto because
it stimulated a desirable attitude of servanthood. Loehe, however, is mentioned only twice
in two brief articles in the TLD during the
21. “Articles of Association of the Lutheran Deaconess Association of the Evangelical-Lutheran Synodical Conference of North
America,” January 31, 1920, recorded in the
Recorder’s Office of Allen County, Ind., Miscellaneous Record 54, 198.
22. Cheryl D. Naumann, In the Footsteps
of Phoebe: A Complete History of the Deaconess
Movement in The Lutheran Church—Missouri
Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House,
2009), 36–40, 518–519.
23. “Der Rechte Diakonissengeist,” The
Lutheran Deaconess 1, no. 1 (January 1924):
7; the title “Der Rechte Diakonissengeist” can
be translated as “The True Deaconess Spirit.”
“Deaconess Motto,” The Lutheran Deaconess 2,
no. 4 (October 1925): 31.
Naumann. Lutheran Deaconesses in North America: Assessing Loehe’s Influence
magazine’s entire fifty years of publication.
Though LDA leaders never publicly
stated that they disagreed with Loehe, some
assertions by the LDA superintendent around
the mid-1950s could be considered contrary
to Loehe’s teaching. The laying on of hands is
one case in point. The LDA superintendent
interpreted the laying on of hands as practiced
in the early church as “symbolic of the help
given the ordained deaconess by the Holy
Spirit.”25 In Loehe’s 1858 writing “On the
Deaconesses,” he attached more significance
to the rite, asserting that “through the laying on of the Episcopal hands as well as the
prayers of the church…the deaconess not
only gained the publicly recognized position
in the congregation, she also received her
particular divine blessing of office.”26
From 1958–1959, due to the illness of
the LDA executive director, a young Valparaiso
professor named Kenneth Korby agreed to act
as resident counselor for the LDA deaconess
students and to teach the class titled “The
Field of Deaconess Work.” After his year of
official work for the LDA was finished, Korby
engaged in an earnest study of Loehe and his
diaconate, spending the summer of 1969
working in the archives at Neuendettelsau.
From 1969 until he returned to parish
ministry in 1980, Korby freely incorporated
Loehe’s thought in the theology classes he taught
at Valparaiso University. Those classes often
included women enrolled in the LDA deaconess program based at Valparaiso. However, one
should not overestimate Korby’s influence on
the deaconess movement, or on any decisions
24. “Wm. Loehe Trained Deaconesses,”
The Lutheran Deaconess 24, no. 2 (April 1947):
5; E.L. Roschke, “Deaconesses of Neuendettelsau,” The Lutheran Deaconess 28, no. 4
(October 1951): 2–3.
25. “Deaconess Consecrations,” The Lutheran Deaconess 31, no. 4 (October 1954): 7.
26. Wilhelm Loehe, “On the Deaconesses” (1858), trans. Holger Sonntag, n.p.; from
Löhe, GW 4.
made by deaconesses or the LDA, particularly
in terms of bringing any of Loehe’s thought to
bear. Korby certainly contributed to a renewed
appreciation for Loehe in the Missouri Synod,
but that contribution was made through an
influence on the Synod’s clergy, rather than
an influence on its deaconess community.
In 1979 The Lutheran Church—Missouri
Synod established its own synodical deaconess
training program at Concordia University
Chicago. Korby never lectured to deaconess
students at the Missouri Synod’s training program. However, at the 1998 annual gathering
of Concordia Deaconess Conference—LCMS,
a free association of confessional Lutheran
deaconesses who serve the Missouri Synod or
its partner churches, Korby taught four plenary
sessions focused on (1) the diaconate; (2) Loehe;
(3) prayer life; and (4) devotional life. 27
In 2006, the Missouri Synod’s department of World Relief and Human Care
published a series of pamphlets on the
church’s corporate life of mercy, including
Loehe’s Instruction on Mercy, Composed for
the Prospective Servants of Mercy Who Were
in Residence at the Neuendettelsau Deaconess
Home. Today this little gem is required reading in all of the Missouri Synod deaconess
training programs, with one program also
using Loehe’s Seed-Grains of Prayer: A Manual
for Evangelical Christians as a required text,
and all program directors looking forward to
accessing other materials by Loehe as they
become available in English.
Loehe’s influence on Lutheran deaconesses in North America was a long time in
coming; has almost always been in the shadow
of Fliedner; and in the Missouri Synod,
more often than not, has manifested itself
in a subtle manner, perhaps parallel to the
gradual resurgence of ecclesiastical interest
in Loehe over the last three decades.
27. Naumann, In the Footsteps of Phoebe,
Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological
Klaus Detlev Schulz
Professor and Chair of Pastoral Ministry and Mission
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
It is certainly astounding that the pastor of
a small village in central Franconia called
Neuendettelsau—Wilhelm Loehe’s only
parish—managed to create from there a
launching pad for worldwide mission, beginning in 1836, for the next thirty-five years.
Wilhelm Loehe (1808–1872) was for his
time exceptionally visionary, driven by the
will to provide those in need with the word
of God. That included reaching out both
to citizens in Germany and to immigrant
German Lutherans and Native Americans
in North America. Loehe’s accomplishments
in mission are significant in the history of
Lutheranism both in Germany and North
America, where many congregations—and
even denominations—owe their existence
to his influence. Oddly enough, Loehe’s
mission feat was treated for the most part
as a practical, even pragmatic, endeavor
much less as a theological and missiological achievement. That has changed largely
through Christian Weber’s Missionstheologie
bei Wilhelm Loehe in 1996,1 which came to
1. Christian Weber, Missionstheologie
bei Wilhelm Löhe: Aufsbruch zur Kirche der
Zukunft (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus,
1996). Other contributions on Löhe’s mission
preceding or following Weber’s study include
Georg Vicedom, “Mission als Kirche in ihrer
Bewegung,” in Wilhelm Löhe—Anstösse für die
Zeit (Neuendettelsau: Freimund Verlag, 1971),
89–102; Johannes Aagaard, Mission, Konfession,
Kirche: Die Problematik ihrer Integration im 19
Jahrhundert in Deutschland. Vol. II (Denmark:
that conclusion through a careful reading of
Loehe’s written statements on mission from
pamphlets, bulletins, articles, and journals
in Klaus Ganzert’s multi-volume work, the
Gesammelte Werke (GW) of Wilhelm Loehe,2
especially in the volumes IV and V.
In presenting Loehe’s perspective on
mission, I have decided to confine myself to
three aspects from his overall contribution to
mission at the expense of additional topics,
such as mission to the Jews or his contribution to diakonia: first, Loehe’s theological
discovery of a confessional ecclesiology for
his mission; second, Loehe’s concept of inner
and outer mission, particularly for North
America; and finally, as a third, particular
theological reflections by Loehe on his missionary perspective and strategy.
Gleerups, 1967), 652–676; Volker Stolle, Wer
seine Hand an den Pflug legt (Groß Oesingen: Verlag der Lutherischen Buchhandlung
Heinrich Harms, 1992); David C. Ratke, “The
Church in Motion: Wilhelm Löhe, Mission,
and the Church,” Currents in Theology and Mission 33:2 (April 2006): 145–156; James Schaaf,
Wilhelm Löhe’s Relation to the American Church:
A Study in the History of Lutheran Mission (dissertation, Heidelberg University, 1961).
2. Löhe’s writings on mission are bundled
in volume IV. See Klaus Ganzert (ed.), Wilhelm
Löhe. Gesammelte Werke IV (Neuendettelsau:
Freimund Verlag, 1962), 9–256. Henceforth
cited in abbreviated form as GW.
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
Mission through a Visible
and Particular Church
Loehe belonged to the Neo-Lutheranism
movement of the nineteenth century, which
included others such as the Breslau Lutheran
Johann Scheibel, who resisted the Prussian
Union and formed the Dresdener Verein;
the Hanoverian Pastor Ludwig Adolf Petri;
the Lutheran preacher and mission practitioner Ludwig Harms of Hermannsburg
(1808–1865)—with whom he oddly enough
had never corresponded; Andreas Gottlob
Rudelbach (1792–1862); Johann Georg
Wermelskirch (1803–1872); and Adolf
von Harless (1806–1879), the professor in
Erlangen, who stood as a friend at Loehe’s
side in his quest to define Lutheranism.3
Neo-Lutherans proposed a conscious return
to the Lutheran Reformation. However, that
return was not merely a repristination of
the past; it also embraced novel ideas about
certain theological doctrines.4 In varying
degrees, Neo-Lutheran figures embraced
and expounded on three important aspects
of theology: the understanding of church
3. For a discussion of representatives of
Neo-Lutheranism, see Friedrich Wilhelm Kantzenbach and Joachim Mehlhausen, “Neuluthertum,” in Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Vol. 24,
ed. Gerhard Müller (Berlin, New York: Walter
de Gryter, 1994), 327–341.
4. That was particularly evident in the
topics of the office (Amt), the visible church,
Lord’s Supper, and eschatology. Like others of
his time, Loehe described the progression in
the church’s insight by comparing her to an
organism. Just as a seed gradually grows into a
tree, so too a church may grow in insight in her
theological tradition. Loehe reflected that insight with this statement: “Sie [die Reformation]
ist vollendet in der Lehre, sie ist aber unvollendet
in den Folgen der Lehre.” GW V/1, 160. In the
end, his approach was understood to mean
doctrinal development, which sadly cost him
his relationship with the Missouri Lutherans
in 1853.
(including the office and the sacraments),
the role of the Lutheran Confessions, and
Loehe was a Lutheran all his life, but his
confessional perspective on mission came to
him over time. Throughout his student days
at Erlangen, where he had taken two courses
on missions with Prof. Christian Krafft, and
during his vicarage, he supported through
his own small mission society at Fürth (his
hometown) the non-denominational mission
society of Basel, which largely seconded pastors to the Anglican Church Mission Society
(CMS) in England.5 By 1835, however, when
Loehe had spent time in various “pastoral
roles” in St. Egidien, Behringersdorf, and
Lauf, he added confessionalism to his understanding of mission, which made support for
such a mission society no longer possible.
Loehe’s confessional approach was
strongly influenced through his contacts with
the Breslau Lutherans in the Lutheran Diaspora, who opposed the Prussian Union and
who had started a mission society in Dresden
to aid Lutheran Pommeranian emigrants to
North America. Here Loehe encountered
the practical consequences of Lutheran
convictions as confessed in an alien context
of Prussian unionism. He found particularly
inspiring the writings of Johann Scheibel on
the Lord’s Supper and his statements against
Prussian unionism. Loehe even visited this
society in Dresden twice and became friends
with its leader, Johann Georg Wermelskirch.
On the second visit, it seemed that he was a
possible candidate for leading that society.6
These visits compelled him to break with the
Basel mission society and instead provide
support for the Dresdener Verein.7
5. GW IV, 9.
6. GW IV, 20–58.
7. Loehe presented his position in “Mission unter den Heiden,” GW IV, 20–58. One
oft-mentioned incident that spurned Loehe’s
resolve to support Lutheranism was during
the so-called “kneeling controversy” (Kniebeu-
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
Loehe embraced an ecclesiology with
a confessional character against two trends
of his time: emotionalism and unionism.
To Loehe, Luther’s doctrine of justification
was important, namely that faith should not
rely on the inner emotions or feelings but
must cling to the word of God, which offers
salvation in Christ extra nos. Moreover, he
coupled that concern with a visible Lutheran
ecclesiology based on the signs of word and
sacrament and their correct interpretation
through the Lutheran Confessions. He
presented a particular and visible Lutheran
church set off from other denominations.
Loehe laid down this ecclesiology in his Three
Books about the Church8 published in 1845.
This is a very significant document regarding
why a particular Lutheran church—standing
on the apostolic roots—may exist and work
through her mission for the one church. Prior
to Loehe’s tract, Olaf Petri of Hannover9 had
gungstreit) in the years 1838–1845, in which
he sided with those who refused to genuflect
during the catholic military mass and at the
corpus Christi procession; instead he supported
the Lutheran understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Until 1853 there was no single Lutheran
body in Bavaria. The Lutheran and the few Reformed congregations east of the Rhine River
co-existed, next to Roman Catholicism. As the
Lutheran theologian Gottfried Thomasius once
commented: “At that time all were one. Moravians, Pietists, Lutherans, Reformed, Catholics
all coexisted peacefully.” Cited by Erika Geiger,
Wilhelm Löhe 1808–1872 (Neuendettelsau:
Freimund-Verlag, 2003), 132.
8. Wilhelm Löhe, Three Books about the
Church, trans. James Schaaf (Philadelphia:
Fortress Press, 1969).
9. Ludwig Adolf Petri (1803–1873)
was a pastor of St. Crucis church in the city
of Hanover and a leading theologian of the
Lutheran territorial Church of Hanover. In
his famous tract of 1841, Die Mission und die
Kirche, which may rightly be called the most
impressive programmatic treatment on the
church in the nineteenth century, Petri dis-
already made some observations in his own
treatment, Die Mission und die Kirche, as to
what it means to be a Lutheran church that
embraces mission.10 In his own tract, Loehe
included portions of Philip Nicolai’s De
Regno Christi, a seminal work that shaped
the ecclesiology of later Orthodox theologians and which, in terms of presenting the
universal church, played well into the arguments Loehe presented almost two hundred
and fifty years later.11 Loehe, like Nicolai and
other Orthodox theologians, shared the same
opinion about apostolic preaching, the vocatio
catholica, that completed its course around
the world. However, Loehe went beyond
Nicolai, who was set on proving through
historical evidence in De Regno Christi that
such apostolic proclamation had taken place.
For Loehe it made no difference whether
historical evidence could be furnished or
not; instead, he pressed for the continuation of the vocatio catholica offered to all
non-Christians though the mission of the
church. Thus, even if the vocatio catholica had
already been accomplished during the time
of the apostles, it did not pardon the church
in Loehe’s time to refrain from continuing
that call through mission.12
Loehe opened his book with an argument for community against an individual
spirituality that distances itself from the
church. For him it was evident that all humans desire fellowship with God and one
another, with the highest form of fellowship
(as desired and created by God for eternity)
through the church of God, the communion
cussed the essence of the church and whether
mission was a part of it. See Thomas Jan Kück,
Ludwig Adolf Petri (Göttingen: Vandenhoek &
Ruprecht, 1997).
10. GW IV, 20.
11. Willy Heß, Das Missionsdenken bei
Philip Nicolai (Hamburg: Friedrich Wittig
Verlag, 1962), 16–17.
12. GW V/1,112.
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
of saints. This church is found both here and
in eternity. The church here is on a pilgrimage toward the heavenly and eternal church,
the new Jerusalem on Mt. Zion, where there
will be triumph and no struggle. This church
is not confined geographically to a territorial church; it is “a church for all people, a
universal and catholic church.” Here Loehe
makes his famous statement:
It is the one flock of the one shepherd,
called out of many folds (John 10:16), the
universal—truly catholic—church which
flows through all time and into which all
people pour…This is the thought which
must permeate the mission of the church
or it will not know what it is or what it
should do. For mission is nothing but
the one church of God in motion, the
actualization of the one universal, catholic church. Wherever mission enters in,
the barriers which separate nation from
nation fall down. Wherever it comes it
brings together what previously was far
off and widely separated…Mission is the
life of the catholic church…The catholic
church and mission—these two no one
can separate without killing both, and
that is impossible.13
Loehe talks here of the one church, and yet
there are many particular churches divided
over the understanding of the word of God
and the administration of the sacraments, that
is, the confession. Which is the real church,
that is, the one that has the most truth? It
is the church that has as her distinguishing
mark its confession, not the marks of antiquity or duration or episcopal succession.
Loehe concluded that the Lutheran church
is in possession of the most truth (Wahrheit),
because it has the Lutheran Confessions.14
The Lutheran church is really the early
church of the apostles, whose confession
Luther brought to the surface from the
13. GW V/1, 96; Schaaf, 59.
14. GW V/1, 128–135.
abuses of the Roman Catholic church. The
Lutheran church stands for the succession of
true doctrine. For this reason, the Lutheran
church should really be called “Christian,
catholic, apostolic”:
Here on earth the true church temporarily
calls itself Lutheran until the better names
belong to it once again, but in heaven it
has always had those better names and
still has them.15
Based on the concept of truth, Loehe orders
churches in concentric circles in which the
Lutheran church takes central place: “If the
Lutheran Church has the pure Word and
sacraments in a pure confession, it obviously has the highest treasures of the church
What does this mean for mission?
This Lutheran church, being in possession
of word and sacrament and standing in the
true confession and truth, should become a
blessing to the heathen by carrying “the torch
of the pure truth to all people.”17 Heathen
are in need of the full truth and should not
be deprived of the full understanding of the
Lutheran church’s teachings and confession.
This does not mean that Loehe denied other
denominations the right for missions: “We
know that all other confessions which preach
to the heathen bring them the possibility of
salvation.”18 At the same time, it gives the
Lutheran church a right to exist and preach
the gospel. What makes the Lutheran church
attractive and rich, beyond its confession, is
its preaching, its catechism, its care for the
souls, its liturgy, and its hope.19
In this tract, Loehe’s ecclesiological
positivism comes through loud and clear:
15. GW V/1, 133; Schaaf, 111–112.
16. GW V/1, 134; Schaaf, 113.
17. GW V/1, 166; Schaaf, 162.
18. GW V/1, 166; Schaaf, 162.
19. GW V/1, 170-179. Aagaard, II,
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
an individual cannot be saved on his own
but is always in need of a community. That
community is not just an article of faith but
exists concretely and is visible to the eye. It
is the Lutheran church that, through her
mission, expands the church catholic. In fact,
mission takes place through a congregation
that brings blessing to the heathen at a specific
locality and point in time. To Loehe, church
and mission are connected in an essential and
dynamic relationship.20
Inner Mission Leads to
Outer Mission
A. Inner Mission in Germany
On September 12, 1849, the old circle of
Loehe’s friends met in Gunzenhausen and
formed the Gesellschaft für innere Mission
im Sinne der lutherischen Kirche (Society for
Inner Mission according to the Lutheran
Church).21 What was the reasoning behind
the formation of the Gesellschaft and the
choice of this somewhat cumbersome title?
The reason is found in Loehe’s reaction to the
great man of inner mission, Johann Hinrich
Wichern (1808–1881), who promoted inner mission as a social program assisting the
poor and needy, especially children, often
orphans, of impoverished worker families
in Germany. The revolution of 1848 in
particular revealed social discontent and
misery among German workers.
20. Whether Loehe’s ecclesiological
positivism signifies a shift from the Reformation emphasis on the individual’s faith and justification cannot be argued persuasively, given
that Luther also connected the individual to
the community, as he already did in the Third
Article of the Large Catechism.
21. By 1866 the Gesellschaft reached a
membership of 564, comprised of pastors and
teachers and wealthy lay people, farmers, and
craftsmen. It later also expanded mission to
Papua New Guinea and Australia, apart from
Loehe’s doing.
In his tract, “Innere Mission in allgemeinen,” Loehe argued that inner mission was
more than what Wichern proposed.22 Inner
mission included the commission of the Lord
to the church that the gospel is to be brought
to the already-baptized Christians, to those
who went to church, those who have fallen
away, or those in the process of falling away.
Outer mission focused on the unbaptized.
Both inner and outer mission were rooted
in Matthew 28:18–20. There is one message
from the Lord and that is to preach the gospel
to all creation, leading them to faith and
salvation. The means available to do that are
word and sacrament.23 This was the question
for Loehe: Is inner mission really only there to
address and improve social needs and abject
social conditions or does it have a higher
purpose? Obviously, Loehe did not despise
assistance to the materially needy or social
care itself, but he understood the plight of
people to be the result of turning away from
God’s word and a breakdown in morality. This
is why, according to Loehe, inner mission
must be concerned for the preaching of God’s
word and the proper care of souls before it
addresses the physical needs.24 Inner mission
had to deal holistically with body and soul.
To address that holistic concern, caring for
souls became a pastoral issue, whereas care
for the social and physical needs was placed
on the diaconate. Loehe extrapolated from
the New Testament in his understanding of
the continuation of apostolic ministry in the
offices of elders (presbyteroi) and deacons.
The presbyteroi are the pastors, whereas the
deacons are all those who wish to serve under
the ministry of the word by their loving care
for others. For Loehe, social work was done
22. “Innere Mission im allgemeinen“
(1850), GW IV, 178–188.
23. GW IV, 178–180.
24. GW IV, 182: “Es muß also vor allem
für die Seele gesorgt werden, das ist gewiß—und
mit dem Seelenwerk hat sich die innere Mission
vor allem zu befassen.”
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
through diaconal service within inner mission
and was subordinate to the preaching of the
word and pastoral ministry.25
In addition, Loehe feared that Wichern’s
approach would either run parallel to the
church or unite churches of various confessions at the expense of the Lutheran Confession. This explains the title of Loehe’s society
as the Gesellschaft fuer innere Mission “im Sinne
der lutherischen Kirche.” In summary, Loehe
approached mission with the clarification
that social care was inner mission, embraced
as an extension of spiritual pastoral care, in
order to maintain a Lutheran perspective.
B. Inner and Outer Mission in North America
From late 1840 onward, Loehe applied his
concept of inner and outer mission to the
context of North America. Inner mission
meant gathering the strayed Lutheran immigrants into congregations and freeing
them from the hands of the “Methodists”
and Roman Catholics. In terms of outer
mission, Loehe’s hope was that the inner mission of building congregations in established
colonies would lead to outer mission. Not
every congregation would be obliged to such
outer mission; rather it rested upon those
congregations at the fringes. Outer mission
was “border mission” (Grenzmission) by
congregations located at those fringes.26 This
was one of Loehe’s strategic principles. The
call to inner mission through strengthening
brothers and sisters in North America came
about through the letter of distress written by Friedrich Wyneken—whom Loehe
would also meet personally—seeking help
for Lutheran Christians in North America
from Germany.27
25. Ibid., 183.
26. In “Die Heidenmission in Nordamerika,” GW IV, 111.
27. GW IV,17 and 127. Wyneken had
traveled to Germany in fall of 1841, meeting the Breslau Lutherans and also Loehe and
Loehe took up this call for help personally and began to implement support for it.28
He did so by appealing to the mercy and
loving compassion of the German people
for their fellow countrymen who had left
for North America. Since the holy Christian
church embraces heaven and earth, Germans
should feel united by a bond of love for those
who settled beyond the seas in the forests of
North America. However, this was more than
a concern for their physical needs. Rather,
the urgency arose in that they were left to
die a slow spiritual death without pastors
and word and sacrament.29
The steps undertaken by Loehe to help
Lutherans in North America are well documented in his writings and by contemporary
scholars.30 It started strategically by sending
unordained Nothelfer (emergency helpers),
equipped with a basic education, to North
America and allowing local congregations to
issue the call and provide for ordination.31
At first Loehe assisted the Ohio Synod.
However, his connection with the Ohio
Synod, to which Ernst and Burger had
gone, was broken, leading to cooperation
with the Missourians by starting Fort Wayne
seminary and founding the mission colony
Christians in Franconia. The tract of Wynecken was titled “The Distress of the German
Lutherans in North America” (Die Noth der
deutschen Lutheraner in Nord-Amerika). See
Carl. S. Meyer, ed., Moving Frontiers: Readings
in the History of the Lutheran Church—Missouri
Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House,
1964), 91–97.
28. GW IV, 16.
29. Ibid., 17–18. In North America,
many Germans were living without a church,
school education, or Christian upbringing
for their children. For about 1200 Lutheran
congregations in North America, there were
only 400 pastors.
30. See Loehe’s own reports, GW IV,
126–178; 199–220.
31. GW IV, 23. 136, 126–127.
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
at Frankenmuth through August Craemer
in 1845.32 After some modest success with
Indian mission in Michigan33 and the eventual break with the Missourians in 1853,
Loehe’s final support of Native American
mission work was through the Iowa Synod
among the Upsaroka Indians, to whom the
missionaries Schmidt and Bräuninger went in
1858, and their mission station at the Powder
River in 1859. Unfortunately, the location of
this mission work was wedged between two
feuding Indian tribes with hostility to white
settlers. Sadly, on July 23, 1860 Bräuninger
was murdered and soon thereafter the focus
of mission for Loehe shifted to his diaconical
work at home.34
Loehe’s motive for reaching the Indians
was always clear, not to bring them civilization but salvation through the gospel of love
and compassion for their spiritual state. In
his sermon on 2nd day of Pentecost, Loehe
asked his audience a rhetorical question:
“What compels us to participate in the work
32. From Frankenmuth new land acquisitions were made, which led to the colonies of
Frankentrost, Frankenlust, and Frankenhilf.
GW IV, 142
33. Soon they had a school for Indian
children. On Christmas 1846, the first three
Indians were baptized. In the following year,
twelve more Indians received the sacrament.
The Leipzig Mission sent a missionary named
Baierlein, who took over the Indian school and
soon received the invitation of an Indian chief
to settle in his tribal region. There Baierlein
build a wooden block hut, in which he and his
family lived and which served both as a school
and church. That place came to be known as
Bethany. Unfortunately, not long thereafter,
Baierlein was called to India and with his departure, the Indian mission came to a complete
halt. The two other Indian mission stations
were Sibiwaiing (with missionaries Auch and
Röder) and Shebahyang, to which the missionary Auch was eventually called as pastor. GW
IV, 208–209.
34. Weber, 352–353.
of mission?” To this question, he responded:
“More than through example and success, our
participation in the work of mission is our
understanding of the temporal and eternal
fate of the heathen.”35 But also the confessional moment applied to outer mission: “For
it is of paramount importance that the new
converted heathen and congregations are
given the true Lutheran evangelical confession, especially on baptism (the sacrament of
admitting someone to Christendom) and the
Lord’s Supper. Thereby they will have their
peace and be unified.”36 Moreover, Loehe
felt compelled to reach out because he saw
in many reports about the Indians that they
had a deep desire for the truth. It was as if
many Indian tribes were “noble heathen,”
endowed with prevenient grace, a little spark
of truth that gave them a yearning to seek out
the fullness of God’s word from preachers.
The Indians in Michigan were from one of
those tribes.37
With all these motives in place—compassion, confession, and love for the Native
Americans—one can only feel sympathy
for Loehe that success eluded him both in
Michigan and in his work in Iowa. However, the same cannot be said for his efforts
in inner mission, which, despite personal
friction with the immigrant Lutherans, still
created flourishing Lutheran congregations
and denominations.
Missiological Reflection:
Mission through the Local
Loehe’s missionary perspective integrated
four interrelated topics, each one interpreted
in his own particular way: the role of congregations, the idea of sending emergency
helpers, the priesthood of all believers, and
35. GW IV, 60.
36. GW IV, 51.
37. Ibid.,104.
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
the pastoral office.
For Loehe the local congregation played
a crucial role in outer mission. The new
congregations among the colonists would be
strengthened through inner mission and then
these congregations would engage in outer
mission.38 That was how the apostles worked
first among the Jews (inner mission) before
they moved out from the Jews to the Gentiles.
The line between inner and outer mission was
drawn by baptism. As soon as the heathen
would come to faith and be baptized, mission work would switch from outer to inner
mission and new outer mission would need
to ensue.39 In this way, inner mission led to
outer mission. Inner mission is the first step
and outer mission the second. Mission must
emanate from the center of the congregation
and return back to it, to the preached word
and the sacrament of the altar. To Loehe, the
society in Neuendettelsau was not the true
bearer of mission. It was the congregation at
the edge of heathendom that would carry out
and govern her mission.40 No model based
on society should control mission from a
distance. His local parochial model was a
far better option and in his case was to be
realized best through colonist mission.41
Loehe’s emphasis on helping North
America with unordained, emergency helpers
also had its theological reasons; it was not
just a pragmatic decision. Behind the training and sending of emergency helpers was a
complex theological struggle over ministry
and whether it included the ordained office of
38. Ibid.,111: “Wer die Kirche stärkt,
stärkt sie auch für die Mission.”
39. Ibid., 51.
40. Ibid., 109; 149; Aagaard, 655–657.
41. Across Germany in Hermannsburg
similarities with Ludwig Harms were striking.
See Hartwig Harms, “Die Bedeutung der
Gemeinde für die Mission bei Wilhelm Löhe
und Ludwig Harms,” in Eschatologie und Gemeindeaufbau (Hermannsburg: Ludwig-HarmsHaus-Verlag, 2004), 114–128.
a missionary distinct from pastoral ministry.
In his Aphorismen (1849) and Neue Aphorismen (1851), Loehe conducted an exegetical
study of Ephesians 4:11, concluding that
the particular offices of the apostles and
evangelists were not handed on to the church.
The pastoral office continued only in those
of the elder and teacher.42 In 1852, Loehe
offered a similar exegetical conclusion, this
time written in response to the writings of
the Lutheran dogmatician, Samuel Schelwig,
from the year 1602. Schelwig’s arguments in
short were: There is no public teaching office
without a proper call (ordentlichen Beruf =Vokation); the church can only call shepherds
and teachers, not apostles (or missionaries),
for only Christ has sent missionaries to the
heathen.43 Thus, like Schelwig and many
of his predecessors in Lutheran Orthodoxy,
Loehe was reluctant to affirm the office of an
ordained missionary that stood apart from
the office of pastor. The church may only
“send” shepherds and teachers, however, in a
way “that presupposes a properly established
sphere of activity (Wirkungskreise) and Christian conditions to which they are called.”44
In his Kirche und Mission, Loehe elaborated:
“Even though the church has the apostles’
honor, she cannot pass it on, which also is
there where she wishes to ordain, etc. It is no
longer permissible to ordain to the apostolic
calling; all ordination is tied to localities and
a flock and not to the unlimited expanse of
the world.”45
It seems that Loehe had too much
respect for Luther and the Lutheran Orthodox tradition, which kept him from calling,
ordaining, and sending missionaries. He thus
42. GW V/1, 278–541; also GW IV, 195.
43. GW IV, 651. His defense is entitled
“Zum Schelwigschen Aufsatz“ in Nr. 12 of the
Kirchliche Mitteilungen von 1851” (1852), in
GW IV, 196.
44. Ibid., 195; Aagaard, 675.
45. GW IV, 627.
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
disavowed an increasing and insufficiently
reflected practice among the Reformed and
some Lutherans of calling, ordaining, and
sending missionaries. With Olaf Petri, Loehe
held that this simply was not Lutheran (“Aber
lutherisch war das nie”).46
Therefore, Loehe fell back on emergency
helpers, who served more in the fashion of
the Moravian laity.47 These emergency helpers were not sent; they went as volunteers
to a church and congregations overseas that
would issue the call and ordain them. In one
of his first instructions in 1843, specifically
to his third helper, Paul August Baumgart,
Loehe addressed him with these words: “Your
decision [to go] is a free one, its fulfillment
voluntary (freiwilliger Entschluss). The risk
and danger are yours.” 48 With that approach
came two consequences: 1) Loehe’s volunteers
would have to submit themselves to the office of the local pastor and 2) the mission
society thousands of miles away would not
assume responsibility over them but rather
the churches in the new territory.
Yet for Loehe outer mission generated
by the congregation offered the solution.
He held that the apostolic moment applies
“loosely” to all Christians, the priesthood of
46. A similar opinion was voiced earlier
by Ludwig Petri in 1841, who considered the
first Protestant mission efforts of sending missionaries a period of innocence (eine Zeit der
Unmittelbarkeit und Unschuld) and that now
the time of clarification had arrived (Die Zeit
dieser Entscheidung scheint mir jetzt gekommen),
in Werner Raupp, Mission in Quellentexten (Erlangen: Verlag der Ev.-Lutherischen Mission/
Bad Liebenzell: Verlag der Liebenzeller Mission,
1990), 270.
47. GW IV, 651.
48. GW IV, 198. James L. Schaaf, “Paul
August Baumgart: Missionary to America,” in
The History of Lutheran Outreach to America:
Essays and Reports 1992 Lutheran Historical
Conference, ed. Marvin A. Huggins, issued by
The Lutheran Historical Conference. Vol. 15:
believers. What, says Loehe, prevents them
to go to the heathen, driven by love and
compassion, just as Luther had once said of
mission to the heathen in an emergency.49 Since
the “office” of a missionary does not exist, it
needs to be replaced by the priesthood of all
believers functioning around the office of the
shepherd. There is no “calling to a missionary
office” but a priestly calling for all Christians
that is a “calling to serve through love” in the
form of free preaching love (freie predigende
Liebe).50 Thus, Loehe proposed his concept
of mission from the congregation outward.51
The priesthood, which is conferred on all
Christians at baptism, obliges them through
the motive of love to the most holy voluntary
missionary obligation, especially those finding
themselves in heathen territories.52
With that concept in place, Loehe was
able (unlike Schelwig) to embrace foreign mission. What prevented him from sending whole
colonies out to heathen lands with pastors at
the center and Christians who volunteer “out of
free love” to proclaim the good news?53 Loehe
49. GW IV, 197. Luther once stated: “If
[a Christian] is in a place where there are no
Christians he needs no other call than to be a
Christian, called and anointed by God from
within. Here it is his duty to preach and to
teach the gospel to erring heathen or nonChristians, because of the duty of brotherly
love.” Cited by Volker Stolle, Luther Texts
on Mission (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing
House, 2003), 21.
50. GW V/1, 548.
51. GW IV, 628.
52. In his small tract on Die Mission und
die Kirche, Loehe states: “The church, the communion of saints, the greatest of all societies,
has the command and promise for mission
from the Lord…It is not enough that here or
there a few members unite; all members are,
by virtue of being members, rightly members
of the heathen mission.” GW IV, 19; GW IV,
53. GW IV, 198, 120; Aagaard, 676.
Schulz. Wilhelm Loehe’s Missiological Perspective
did precisely that! By the time Loehe wrote
his Innere Mission im Allgemeinen (1850) this
general principle, of working from within a
community of believers (colonists) toward the
outside, was argued against the backdrop of an
already extant colonist mission at Michigan
in North America.54
Though Loehe embraced the priesthood
of all believers for outer mission, he still tied
their work to the office of preaching and
teaching. Mission cannot ignore the pastoral
office, especially since mission leads to the
gathering of individuals into the fold.55 Thus
the voluntary missionary proclamation of all
members is complemented by the office. As
all believers equally pursue mission through
witness and acts of mercy, they may never
“emancipate” themselves from the office of
the church. The office of word and sacrament
in the congregation makes her a Heilsanstalt
(institute of salvation) into which new believers are gathered in her midst. Without such
an office, the church would lose much of its
missionary character; it would remain passive,
egocentric, and not be the instrument of God’s
hand as “gatherer” (Sammlerin).56 Loehe would
not place a stranglehold on the priesthood of all
believers. He resisted paternalism and its ways
of assuming monopoly over congregational
matters including her mission.57
54. GW IV, 178–188.
55. GW IV, 136–184; Aagaard, 672–673;
Weber, 293–298.
56. “Nichts, was zur innern oder zur
äußern Mission gehört, ist deshalb vom Amte
emanzipiert.” GW IV, 183; Aagaard, 661.
57. “Eine unwürdige, pfäffische Fassung des
heiligen Amtes.” GW IV, 184.
From his overview of the history of mission, especially of the early church and the
Reformation, Wilhelm Maurer concluded
“that congregational mission was the more
original and appropriate form.”58 Wilhelm
Loehe’s missiological perspective is not far
off from that observation by having made
the proprium of his mission the congregation (Gemeindemission) and not a society
(Gesellschaftsmission). If one were to engender
contemporary interest for Loehe’s missiology,
it would be here. Discussion of missional congregations and their strategic role in the missio
Dei would benefit from Loehe’s perspective.
His ecclesiological positivism, however, finds
less resonance in today’s age of ecumenism.
Yet the argument for a distinctly Lutheran
character in mission, as Loehe planned it,
has influenced several Lutheran communities
worldwide.59 Thereby Loehe’s missiological
legacy continues to find acclaim, albeit it for
different reasons.
58. Wilhelm Maurer, “Der lutherische
Beitrag zur Weltmission der Kirche Jesu
Christi,” Evangelische Missionszeitschrift (Aug.
1969): 181.
59. See here, for example, Friedrich
Wilhelm Hopf, “Lutherische Mission treibt
Lutherische Mission,” in Lutherische Mission
treibt Lutherische Mission (Bleckmar: Mission
Evangelisch-Lutherischer Freikirchen, 1967),
Confession and Global Mission:
Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
Paul S. Chung
Associate Professor of Mission and World Christianity
Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
Lutheran Theology as
Troubling Field of Mission?
The Lutheran contribution to mission has
been oftentimes unattended. The Reformer’s
understanding of the missional church is
not adequately interpreted and appreciated
in today’s studies of mission. According to
David Bosch, one of the most famous missiologists, the teaching of justification by
faith is sometimes paralyzed and continues
to exercise a negative input to any missionary
effort.1 In contrast to Bosch, I have a different
view on Luther’s notion of mission, which is
based on proclamation. This is a linguisticcreational approach to mission.
In his exposition of John’s Prologue,
Luther conceived of God as the Subject of
divine Speaking in dialogue and relation, a
relational Triune God. Theological hermeneutics is grounded in God as the Speaker of
the Word who is in dialogue with the Son in
the presence of the Holy Spirit. God as the
speaking Subject in the divine life of communion underscores Luther’s notion of gospel
as viva vox evangelii. God is living, effective,
life giving, and emancipating in the gospel,
since God’s Trinitarian being is framed in the
internal structure of speech-event. 2
1. David Bosch, Transforming Mission:
Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Mary­
knoll: Orbis, 2004), 244–245.
2. Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theol-
“What urges Christ” plays a hermeneutical role in dialogue with the world of the
entire Scripture. The meaning of the incarnation achieves its full truth in the medium
of language. In the doctrine of Christology,
the hermeneutical experience finds its special
ground. We can believe God when God
binds God’s Word to us through the Spirit.
Thus, faith can be seen as the word-event in
which God comes to us in the presence of
the Spirit.3
Accordingly, Luther maintains that
God’s act of speech is not only present in the
ecclesial and confessional sphere, but is also
working in the world of creation. In light of
God’s speech-event, Luther proposes in the
“Smalcald Articles” the mutual colloquium
and consolation of brothers and sisters as an
objective and necessary form of the gospel
alongside preaching, the sacrament, and the
ecclesial office. 4 Luther grounds his concept
of the fifth form of the gospel in Matthew
ogy: A Contemporary Interpretation, trans.
Thomas H. Trapp (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
2008), 340, note 47.
3. Hans Joachim Iwand, “Theologie
als Beruf,” in eds. Helmut Gollwitzer et al.,
Glauben und Wissen. Nachgelassene Werk (Munich: Kaiser Verlag, 1962), 1: 243.
4. Luther, “Smalcald Articles,” in Book of
Concord: Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church, eds. Robert Kolb, et al. (Minneapolis:
Fortress, 2001), 319.
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Chung. Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
18:20, “For where two or three are gathered
in my name, I am there among them.”
Luther’s theology of the word-event
in a communicative sphere corresponds to
an important explanation of Hebrews 1:1:
“God spoke to our ancestors in many and
various ways by the prophets.” The Word of
God in Jesus Christ cannot be understood
apart from God’s act of speech throughout
all the ages in their plural horizons of effect.
Luther’s fifth form of the gospel is appropriate for the historical effect of God’s word as
event. For Luther, evangelization is just as if
one throws a stone into the water. It makes
waves and circles or wheels around itself,
and the waves always roll farther outward.
The waves do not rest, but they continue
forward. Thus, the kingdom of God stands
in becoming, not in being.5
(September 22, 1848) he called for the entire
Protestant church of Germany to undertake
the work of inner mission to ameliorate moral
disintegration and heal social maladies in the
aftermath of the social revolution of 1848.6
The name of his contemporary, Wilhelm
Loehe (1808-1872), is also woven into the
history of the Lutheran church in Bavaria
of Germany and North America through
his missional church, liturgy, diakonia, and
global mission. In his writings and public
ministrations, Loehe represented Lutheran
confessional theology.7 He is known as a
founder of social institutions and the mission
department in Neuendettelsau. Even more,
he may be regarded as a church father for
the Bavarian Lutheran Church.
Inner Mission and Diakonia
Loehe began theological studies in the winter
semester of 1826-27 at Erlangen. Erlangen
theology enjoyed its pinnacle, culminating in
personal faith and personal spiritual experience with a deep immersion into the theology
of Luther through the reappropriation of the
Lutheran confessions. Loehe appropriated
David Hollaz (1648-1713), the last great
dogmatician of Lutheran orthodoxy in
the eighteenth century. Hollaz avoided the
subject of Pietism, but he did not condemn
Pietism as hostile or even heretical. Rather,
active piety is essential in the true theologian.
Several friends of Loehe among the Erlangen professors took a step from the Revival
Movement to confessional Lutheranism,
especially Karl von Raumer and Adolf von
Harless (1806-1879), a friend of Loehe from
the days of his youth. The concept of Neo-
Following in the footsteps of Luther, there
is a vital example of diaconal ministry and
social engagement in the German Protestant
context of the nineteenth century. The inner mission movement was a new program
of social activism and domestic evangelism.
Mission concentrated on renewing churches
with the focus on social outreach and responsibility to the poor and marginal of society.
The inner mission movement provided a new
form of the diaconate for Johann Wichern
(1808-1881) of Hamburg and Theodore
Fliedner (1800-1864), a Lutheran pastor in
John Wichern employed the term “inner mission” in connection with his mission
work at the Rauhe Haus in Hamburg, which
began in 1833. Wichern is called the father
of the inner mission. He focused on domestic evangelization and social reform. In his
famous address at the Wittenberg Kirchentag
5. Volker Stolle, The Church Comes from
All Nations: Luther Texts on Mission, trans.
Klaus D. Schultz and Daniel Thies (St Louis:
Concordia, 2003), 24, 26.
Loehe and Hollaz
6. Paul S. Chung, “John Wichern: A
Theologian of Social Diakonia,” in Paul S.
Chung, Christian Mission and a Diakonia of
Reconciliation (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2011), 83–99.
7. Wilhelm Loehe, Three Books about the
Church, ed. and trans. James L. Schaaf (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 1–40.
Chung. Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
Lutheranism spread in Erlangen.
It is meaningful to briefly mention
the significance of Hollaz’s theology and
confessional piety for Loehe’s confessional
development. According to Hollaz, God’s
promises, which are sworn and sealed in
Christ, are “a safe and sure anchor of faith.”9
In the gospel all promises are powerful assurances and the Holy Spirit opens the heart
by appropriating it. This is because Hollaz
argues that “we must not build justification
upon sanctification.”10 The grace of justification enters into all the works, not vice versa.
The forgiveness of sins, which the promise
of God obtains, should be the foundation
of Christianity.11 Furthermore, Hollaz’s
confessional theology incorporates Pietist
concern about spiritual life into his confessional model of Christ’s dwelling and living
in our faith. Appropriating Luther’s notion
of happy exchange, Hollaz creatively mediated confessional theology of God’s promise
outside of us with Christ’s living in us, so
that the living Christ engenders the image,
mind, and imitation of Christ in our lives.
This is the property of faith in which “the
bride takes and receives the disposition, and
the manner of the bridegroom.”12 Hollaz’s
theology runs deeply in Loehe’s confessional
orientation to spirituality, discipleship, and
mission. Here theology was a life issue,
personally experienced, but expressed in the
confessional theology. A personal faith is lived
out and nourished by the faith community
in which Christ dwells and lives and finds
its public vocation in the world.
Confession and Mission
8. Erika Geiger, The Life, Work, and Influence of Wilhelm Loehe 1808-1872, trans. Wolf
D. Knappe (St. Louis: Concordia, 2010), 85.
9. David Hollaz, Evangelic Order of Grace:
In Four Dialogues, trans. Charles Erdmann
(Charleston: 1810), 62.
10. Ibid., 63.
11. Ibid., 97.
12. Ibid., 103.
13. Loehe, Three Books about the Church,
152, 156.
14. Ibid., 163.
15. Ibid., 59.
16. Thomas H. Schattauer, “The Loehe
Alternative for Worship, Then and Now,” in
Word & World 24 (Spring 2004): 145–156.
17. Loehe, Three Books about the Church,
The Lutheran church for Loehe was considered to be the unifying center of the confessions of Christianity.13 Loehe’s conscious
decision for the Lutheran confessions and
his challenge to the state church do not
mean excluding the significance of other
denominations. Loehe acknowledged that
people in other denominations become
better and paved the way for the mission of
all confessions. Missional identity is deeply
connected with ecumenical relevance and
cooperation. In fact, the universal grace of
God in Jesus Christ is a foundation for Loehe’s
commitment to Lutheran particularity and
global mission as well.14
Dealing with church in the one, holy,
catholic, and apostolic sense, Loehe sees the
church on a pilgrimage toward God’s blessed
eternity. We are born into fellowship with
God and into the church. The church is one in
all generations, so mission is the actualization
of the one universal, catholic church. Church
and mission are not separable.15 The people
of God dance in worship around the triune
God who guides their steps. The true faith
is expressed not only in the sermon but also
in the liturgy.16
The church is rooted in the fountain
of the apostolic word, based on the apostles’
teaching. To the degree that the center of
the church is the apostolic word, “apostolic”
means “founded on the apostles’ teaching.”17
A congregation can be apostolic to the extent
that it holds to the word of the apostles. The
Chung. Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
principal name of the church is apostolic;
built on the apostles’ word. The church is
the candlestick while the word is the light.
Thus the church is the child of the word of
God.18 According to Loehe, the Lutheran
Reformation is partly complete and partly
incomplete. It is complete in doctrine and
confessional writings (The Formula of Concord
and the Book of Concord), but incomplete
in their missional consequences.19 Loehe
understands living out God’s mission as a
vocation in light of Luther’s teaching of the
priesthood of all believers.
The unchangeable promise of the
word of God is divine assurance, related to
all people. The church is asked to convey
God’s universal call to every nation. The
word “catholic” is understood in the sense
of God’s universal grace. In Loehe’s teaching
of the church, mission plays a significant
role in the characterization of the church as
one holy catholic and apostolic. The church
sprang up from the manifestation of the Holy
Spirit at Pentecost and the sacrificial death
of Jesus Christ. It is like a beautiful, lovely,
and wonderful river and flows throughout
all ages until it is consummated into “the
famed sea of eternal blessedness.”20
Universal Call and Global
In the image of the gathering of the multitude
from every nation (Rev 7), Loehe defines mission as “the one church of God in motion,
the actualization of the one universal, catholic
church.”21 Loehe’s passion for mission is motivated notably by the community model of
the early church in Jerusalem: commitment
to the apostolic teaching and fellowship, to
the breaking of bread and the prayers, and
18. 19. 20. 21. Ibid., 64, 73.
Ibid., 152.
Ibid., 55.
Ibid., 59.
to the diakonia to reach out to others (cf.
Acts 2:42-47). Mission is the responsibility
of Christians, and its impulse is born out of
Christian vocation grounded in the universal
priesthood. Global mission is an extension
of the communal blessing to the “pagans.”22
Loehe takes the encounter between
Peter and Cornelius as a model of mission
(Acts 10:34). Mission pays attention to God’s
tolerance and impartiality toward the people
outside the walls of the Christian church. The
Hindu, the outcast, and the accursed should
not be excluded from God’s blessing. The
peace of God brought by the gospel should
grasp and consecrate every heart. Love should
pass from person to person and the thought
of brotherliness and humanity should draw
the desolate hearts of the “heathen” into one
family of God.23
In Die Mission unter den Heiden, Loehe
writes: “We must be driven by compassion
for these Indian tribes who are disappearing
from the world scene and give them at least
this benefit to let the light of the everlasting
Gospel shine from them into eternity.”24
Loehe was aware that great harm had been
done toward the blacks in Africa, as well as
in the American colonies. Africa lost more
than a half million of its population because
of the slave trade.25
Loehe supported Pastor Schmidt in Ann
Arbor, Michigan, who had a relationship
with the Native Americans. The establishment of the mission colonies in Michigan
was an important event as a springboard
for evangelizing Indians in the American
West. It was unfortunate that the Native
22. Ibid., 162.
23. Loehe, Die Mission unter den Heiden:
Zwei Gespraeche (Nordlingen, 1843), 67.
24. A. M. Bickel, Our Forgotten Founding
Father: A Biography of Pastor William Loehe
(Napoleon, Ohio: 1997), 31.
25. Loehe, Die Mission unter den Heiden,
56, 59.
Chung. Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
American mission came to an end because
of the government policy of implementing
reservations. By January 1865, the entire
missionary team to the Native American
mission had withdrawn. In 1885, the Iowa
Synod began to transfer mission funds
from the Native American mission to the
Neuendettelsau Mission Society work in
Papua New Guinea. It is also interesting to
see that on the seventy-fifth anniversary of
the Frankenmuth Colony, James Gruest,
a seventy-three-year-old Native American,
thanked the Frankenmuth pioneers for their
help and kindness to the Native Americans.26
Vocatio Catholica as Mission
of Word-Event
The dogmatic, confessional claim of a
universal call (vocatio catholica) can be actualized in the global, missional context. A
concept of missional church depends on the
doctrine of universal grace, since the gospel
has been preached to every creature under
heaven (Col 1:23). In commenting on Matt
24:14, Loehe contends that the gospel and
its call could come to all people and nations
in its own age. In light of the doctrine of a
vocatio catholica, Loehe provocatively argues
that the people of America, even before the
discovery of Columbus, must have received
this universal and irregular call.27
As all nations and all people have a calling from God, it is important to encourage
and invite the religious others to engage in
this call. A Lutheran sense of evangelization
can be actualized and deepened in terms of
a vocatio catholica, recognizing and embracing those outside the churchly sphere. This
26. Bickel, Our Forgotten Founding
Father, 32.
27. Loehe, Three Books about the Church,
85; Heinrich Schmid, The Doctrinal Theology of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. Charles
A. Hay and Henry E. Jacobs (Philadelphia:
Lutheran Publication Society, 1899), 443.
perspective helps further refine God’s mission
as word-event. It emphasizes the grace of
justification, missional discipleship, social
diakonia, and recognition of the others. As
Loehe states, “They [our Christian forebears]
teach a catholic calling of all people on earth.
They admit that the form and manner of
this call may be different, but they hold that
neither before Christ, and much less since
Christ, has any nation or generation been
without this call.”28
Paul’s concept of natural knowledge of
God is redefined in Loehe’s confirmation of
vocatio catholica in the sense of God’s speech
or word-event in an ongoing manner, in the
sense of creatio continua. This perspective
would become a missional principle in the
inclusion of people of other cultures as the
children of God. God’s universal grace is
connected with the freedom of God’s word,
which makes the first function of the law
dynamic in the missional context. Along
this line, Luther also affirmed God’s irregular
grace in his commentary on Ishmael and his
descendants, and God’s universal grace for
the Turk. As Luther said, “God has subjected
and submitted secular rule to reason, because
its purpose is not to control the salvation of
souls or their eternal good, but only bodily
and temporal goods, which God subjects to
man…That is why the pagans…can speak and
teach well on this subject…They are far more
skilled than Christians in such matters…For
God is a gentle and rich Lord who subjects a
great deal of gold, silver, riches, dominions,
and kingdoms to the godless…[God] also
makes lofty reason, wisdom, languages, and
eloquence subject to them…”29
Accordingly, Loehe emphasizes a universal dimension of the Spirit in his theology of vocatio catholica. God reaches out to
28. Loehe, Three Books about the Church,
29. Gerhard Ebeling, Luther: An Introduction to His Thought, trans. R.A. Wilson (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 186–187.
Chung. Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
everyone and desires them to experience the
benefit of salvation. The Ethiopian eunuch
(Acts 8:26-40) and the Roman centurion,
Cornelius, (Acts 10:1-33) are important
examples for Loehe’s missional vision of the
universal work of the Holy Spirit.
Drawing upon the universal activity of
the Holy Spirit and vocatio catholica, Loehe
understands Peter’s confession (Acts 10:3435) to mean that those who fear God and do
what is right are acceptable to God. It is the
Holy Spirit who converts people to the gospel
of Jesus Christ. As Loehe states, “Remember
that the almighty God wills and commends
the active participation of the church in the
work of heathen conversion. Remember that
God converts people through people and
will make humans co-workers in the work
of God’s grace.”30
By affirming God’s initiative in the
conversion of people, Loehe insists that the
universal call of God is extended equally to all.
It actualizes our vocation and discipleship as
God’s collaborators, sharing God’s universal
grace in Christ with those who were already
implicitly reached by God’s ongoing work
in the creation. The Lutheran confessional
teaching of justification affirms Loehe’s position, referring to God’s initiative, as it states
that “conversion to God is the work of God
the Holy Spirit alone.”31
Articulating that “mission is nothing
but the one church of God in motion,”32
Loehe envisioned a universal church through
the ages and claimed that the Lutheran
church, with its confessional clarity, becomes
the embodiment of that church for the sake
of the mission of vocatio catholica in the
globe. Theory (ecclesiology) and practice
30. Loehe, Die Mission unter den Heiden,
31. “Formula of Concord,” Book of
Concord, 561.
32. Loehe, Three Books about the Church,
(mission) in Loehe’s confessional theology
can be well articulated by his integration of
social service and global mission in light of
God’s word as event.
Reclaiming Confessional
Mission for World
Luther’s concept of viva vox evangelii gives
priority to the spoken word (God’s saying;
dabar in Hebrew) over the written word
(the Scripture). It is a voice resounding in
all the world, shouted and heard in all places
through the proclamation of the word of God.
Missional theology is thus for proclamation
of the word of God through the dynamism
of law and gospel, living, effective in us, and
emancipating our life.33
This perspective provides an important
hermeneutical resource for refining mission
as interpretation or translation. Mission is
neither mechanical conveyance nor repeating
certain words or statements from the Scripture to people in different times and places.
Even the same word can be said differently
to another context. Mission as translation of
biblical narrative (Lamin Sanneh) assumes a
central place in the context of world Christianity today.34 Mission as translation can
be enriched and deepened in light of the
Lutheran notion of word-event and interpretation. Luther’s theology of proclamation and
its hermeneutical effectiveness in the sense
of creatio continua finds its place in Loehe’s
confessional mission and vocatio catholica
in openness to world Christianity.35 In this
33. Gerhard Ebeling, “Word of God and
Hermeneutics,” in Gerhard Ebeling, Word and
Faith, trans. James W. Leitch (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1963), 78–110.
34. Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion is
Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).
35. See my study of God’s mission as
word-event. Paul S. Chung, Public Theology in
Chung. Confession and Global Mission: Contextualizing Wilhelm Loehe
light, I maintain that confessional theology
must be reclaimed and retrieved as upholding
God’s mission as word-event, incorporating
world Christianity’s perspective on mission
as translation into the confessional hermeneutics of word-event and creatio continua.
In this light, I also enter into conversation
with Bosch’s evaluation of Lutheran theology.
According to Bosch, the Lutheran orthodox
doctrine of vocatio catholica obscured mission
to “pagans.” According to his evaluation,
this doctrine affirms that God had revealed
God’s self to all people through nature and
the preaching of the apostles. This implies
a Lutheran teaching of general revelation in
the creation. It is true that Johann Gerhard
(1582–1637) contended that all nations had
long before been reached with the gospel,
since religions of all nations show Christian
elements. However, Bosch interpreted this
argument to mean that if the pagans remain
in their heedlessness and ingratitude, they
should not be given a second chance to be
evangelized.36 In Bosch’s argument, Gerhard’s
theology of the universality of the gospel,
which implies careful openness to God’s
inclusive salvation, turns into a Calvinist “in
or out” theory of double predestination. In
contrast to Calvinist double predestination,
the Lutheran Confessions affirm christological atonement in a universal scope.37 This
an Age of World Christianity: God’s Mission as
Word-Event (New York: Palgrave Macmillan,
36. Bosch, Transforming Mission, 251.
37. “Formula of Concord,” Book of
Concord, 645.
perspective undergirds the universality of
the gospel in recognition of the other in the
world of creation.
The universal call is extended equally to
all people, as much as saving grace is offered
to all people through word and sacrament.
Opportunity is given to all the living to
hear it. Although in the course of time some
people are found to be entirely ignorant of
the gospel, this does not militate against the
universality of the call (vocatio catholica).38
Loehe’s approach to mission centers around
the grace of justification, missional church
as communion, and recognition of nonChristian cultures in light of vocatio catholica. Confessional mission is centered on
the gospel, which should be spread like the
impact of a stone thrown into the water.
Taking place as word-event, evangelization
produces a series of circular waves; waves
do not rest, but continue to flow. Mission
as confession is a blessing to the other. Mission is nothing but the one church of God
in motion and the one universal, catholic
church being actualized. This confessional
mission still finds its validity, refining the
word-event embedded within God’s vocatio
catholica embracing the world. Lutheran theology makes an indispensable contribution to
missional church, congregational diakonia,
and global mission in light of God’s universal
calling, which also serves as an arbiter in the
postcolonial context of world Christianity.
38. Schmid, Doctrinal Theology, 443.
Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical
Lutheran? From “Nein” through “Jein”
to a Qualified “Ja”
John R. Stephenson
Professor of Historical Theology
Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario
On the face of it, applying the adjective
“ecumenical” to the flesh and blood Wilhelm
Loehe1 would be both anachronistic and inaccurate. Of the six tributaries that flow into
the sea of contemporary ecumenism,2 only
two were pumping water in the second half
of the nineteenth century. Moreover, Loehe
did all he could to dam the first of these
streams, nor is there any reason to suppose
that he would have assisted the course of the
second, which did not spring up until a good
decade after his death. As for the other four,
they simply were not on his radar screen.
Conversely, to consider a modern Lutheran influenced by Loehe, we may note
1. The chief resource used in my Loehe
research over the last several years has been
the three-volume biography penned by his last
“curate,” Johannes Deinzer, who later became
head of the Neuendettelsau mission institute.
See Johannes Deinzer, Wilhelm Löhe’s Leben:
Aus seinem schriftlichen Nachlaß zusammengestellt. I: (2nd ed.) Nürnberg: Löhe, 1874. II:
Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1880. III: Gütersloh:
Bertelsmann, 1892. These volumes are hereafter
quoted as D I, D II, and D III followed by
page number.
2. See John R. Stephenson, The Lord’s
Supper (St. Louis: The Luther Academy, 2003),
how Hermann Sasse (1895–1976) rubbed
shoulders with the ecumenical pioneers of
the second and third decades of the twentieth
century; that he wrote the German-language
report of the 1927 Lausanne Conference;
and that the last photograph taken of Sasse
shows him beaming across the table at the first
installment of dialogue between the Lutheran
Church of Australia and the Roman Catholic
bishops of that land. Notwithstanding his acid
critiques of the World Council of Churches
and the Leuenberg Concord, Sasse was an
ecumenist, an idiosyncratic ecumenist indeed,
an ecumenist sui generis, and yet truly a bona
fide ecumenist.
Mention of the Leuenberg Concord alerts
us to the brand of ecumenism stoutly resisted
by both Sasse and Loehe in their respective
contexts. The mid-nineteenth century saw the
rise of the Evangelical Alliance in the British
Isles and the United States, on the one hand,
and in continental Europe, on the other.
Deathly afraid of Roman Catholic resurgence
and of the Puseyite party in the Church of
England, supporters of the Evangelical Alliance
favored pan-Protestant rapprochement and
the practice of sacramental fellowship on the
basis of minimal doctrinal consensus. Samuel
Simon Schmucker famously flew the banner
of this movement on North American soil,
weeding five alleged errors from the Augsburg
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Stephenson. Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
Confession as he propounded a “Lutheranism”
drained of its lifeblood.
On August 2 in the tumultuous
revolutionary year 1848, Loehe politely but
firmly declined an invitation to endorse
a pan-Protestant conference (Kirchentag)
that an executive committee of clergymen
from Frankfurt am Main and surrounding
territories, meeting in that city on July 15,
had summoned to Wittenberg, which for the
past three decades had languished under the
Babylonian captivity of the Prussian Union.
The invitation saw the task of the proposed
conference as the “setting forth of the essential unity of the Protestant Church and the
cultivation of fellowship with all Protestant
churches of Europe and the whole earth.”3
In that same year 1848, Loehe began to
draft and publicize what Johannes Deinzer
described as his “churchly program” (kirchliches Programm),4 which consisted of a fourplank platform advocating radical change in
the public life of German Lutheranism. The
second of these planks developed into the
determined campaign waged by Loehe for the
last twenty-five years of his ministry to secure,
within a Bavarian Territorial church freed
from State control,5 realization of the twin
goals that he termed the “rightly understood
quia” subscription and “unmixed eucharistic
fellowship” (ungemischte Abendmahlsgemeinschaft). Deinzer significantly titled the chapter
in which he related Loehe’s efforts to realize
these aspirations “The Churchly Struggle”
(Der kirchliche Kampf),6 a term redolent of
the better known Kirchenkampf of the 1930s.
3. D II: 275.
4. D II: 273.
5. We may skirt Löhe’s request that Germany’s secular sovereigns relinquish the status
of “supreme bishop” (summus episcopus) of the
Lutheran churches in their territories, since it
is not directly relevant to the broad theme of
6. D II: 273.
To cut a long story short, Loehe and his
allies barraged the Bavarian General Synods
of 1849, 1853, and 1861 with a series of petitions demanding the implementation of the
just-named goals. So much anger did they
arouse, especially in the early stages of this
process, that by late 1851 Loehe and some
like-minded colleagues came within a whisker
of suspension from the ministerium of the
territorial church, an eventuality that would
likely have led to his taking up a post among
the Prussian Old Lutherans. Remarkably, the
personal intervention of the Roman Catholic
King of Bavaria secured breathing space for
Loehe within the territorial church, which
became officially Lutheran, “Evangelical
Lutheran” (evangelisch-lutherische), as opposed to a “Protestant Total Congregation”
(protestantische Gesamtgemeinde) in 1853
after Maximilian had appointed his (and
Loehe’s) friend Adolf von Harless as the first
ordained president of the supreme consistory in Munich. However, on the matter of
“Lutheran altars for Lutheran communicants
only,” that is to say, “unmixed eucharistic fellowship” Loehe fought a losing battle, with
even Hermann Bezzel, his second successor
as rector of the deaconess institute, taking
the other side a generation after his death.
To this point I have demonstrated
Loehe’s impassioned “No” to the Prussian
Union, to the Evangelical Alliance, and hence,
down the road, to Leuenberg also. Given his
sacramental understanding of missiology,7
7. “We wanted to prevent the members
of Christ on the other side of the ocean from
being separated from the body of Christ. ...We
wanted to preserve eucharistic fellowship with
our abandoned brothers in faith in America.
We wanted to prevent a state of affairs where,
on the sod of earth on which they were building, our brothers who had gone across the
ocean would forget the holiest and best heritage
of the homeland, the sacrament of the altar.
They ate one bread with us in the homeland, so
also in the far distance they should be one body
with us. What moved the Society for Inner
Stephenson. Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
Loehe would sympathize with the plight of
Matthew Harrison, the current president of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,
who as a young graduate went against the
unionist grain in Northern Canada.8 Since
“Lutheran mission must plant Lutheran
churches,” Loehe could not endorse the
lowest common denominator, pan-Protestant
brand of ecumenism that took institutional
form in the twentieth century in the wake
of the International Missionary Conference
held in Edinburgh in 1910.
As Thomas Aquinas develops his arguments
in every article of every quaestio, he invariably counters “it appears to be the case”
(videtur quod) with an “on the other hand”
(sed contra dictum est). So, after showing
that Loehe set his face against one of the
six components of contemporary ecumenism, the only one to have surfaced in any
measure during his lifetime, permit me to
present some evidence to suggest that he
may have cherished a certain openness to
some of the other forms, had these been on
the market prior to 1872.
As we venture to show Loehe’s “other”
side, it might help for us to supplement the
Mission, and what the leaders of this whole
enterprise became increasingly conscious of
in the course of years, was nothing other than
the wish to keep the American brethren in the
communion of faith and of the sacrament. We
cannot conceive our intention in higher or holier terms. And yet this very aim, dear brothers,
has miscarried in so many ways. Just think how
in America entire hosts have turned from us,
how they have rescinded eucharistic fellowship
with us and thereby torn up the most beautiful
and holiest bond that could have joined brethren on both sides of the ocean. This fills the
soul with sorrow.” From a sermon of Trinity XX
1866 on Matt 22:1–14; D III: 140f.
8. Matthew C. Harrison, “Lutheran Missions Must Lead to Lutheran Churches,” Logia
7, no. 3 (Holy Trinity 1998): 29–33.
adjective “ecumenical” with its venerable
sister, “catholic.” In this context, let us go with
the definition that the “authentic meaning
of catholicity” consists of “two elements,”
namely, “membership in (or subordination
to) Christ and universality.”9 It will not be
hard to prove that Loehe nourished “universal” sympathies both outside and inside of
Lutheran Christendom. Consideration of
these data might lead to the conclusion that a
Loehe duly briefed on the century of church
history following his demise would concur
with Hermann Sasse’s claim, made in 1963,
that the ecumenical movement is “essentially
…a process going in the innermost soul of
Christendom, a new discovery of the Una
Sancta in the common experiences, defeats
and victories of all Christendom.”10
Among Loehe’s “universal sympathies”
we might mention in passing the connection
that doubtless exists between himself and the
charismatic movement—let us not overlook
Deinzer’s eleven pages on “Loehe’s Charismatic Endowment” (Loehes charismatische
Begabung).11 So, for example, in a letter of 1867
to a Lutheran pastor within a Union church,12
Loehe put on his “prophetic” hat. The pastor
had sent his daughter for deaconess training
in Neuendettelsau, and Loehe explained that
the young lady’s receiving Holy Communion
at his altar was not a done deal. The sentence
I wish to quote sets forth the videtur quod of
9. Joseph Ratzinger, On the Way to Jesus
Christ, trans. Michael J. Miller (San Francisco:
Ignatius Press, 2004), 132.
10. Hermann Sasse, “Rome and the
Inspiration of Scripture,” Reformed Theological
Review 22, no.2 (June, 1963): 44.
11. D II: 201–213
12. Not named by Deinzer (“a clergyman
in b., who at that time occupied a prominent
place among the so-called ‘Lutherans in the
Union,’” D II: 523), but most likely Pastor Steffann in Berlin; see Wilhelm Loehe,
Gesammelte Werke (GW) (Neuendettelsau:
Freimund, 1986), 2: 497.
Stephenson. Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
Loehe’s quaestio on fellowship:
I am convinced that, when the Church
becomes free [of the shackles of the State],
two distinct currents will show themselves,
the one large and broad, the other small
and narrow. The large, broad current
would perhaps flow into the still larger
and broader current that pours forth like
an ocean from America to England, France,
Italy, and the Protestant colonies around
the Mediterranean. In this sphere people
like Spurgeon will have much to say, to the
effect that all Protestant parties should unite
at the Sacrament and let all the different
doctrines about it be reduced to the level
of inessential private opinions. The small
current, to which I would entrust my boat,
would consist of people who hold fast to
the fruit of the Reformation, accept the
Sacrament as church-divisive, seek not a
merely external union at the Sacrament
but rather the most intimate spiritual union
in faith in Jesus’ sacramental words, and
who wish to understand the Church as
eucharistic fellowship in spirit and in truth.
The last thing I can think of for the future
is a union in the Sacrament without agreement in confessing the Lutheran doctrine
of the Sacrament. These are the thoughts
that fill me.13
Remarkably, this same letter also starts to
formulate a certain sed contra dictum est on
the issue in question. The Lutheran pastor in
a Union church is addressed eirenically as a
brother, and it is not clear that his daughter
will be denied the Blessed Sacrament at
Loehe’s hand. In the final paragraph quoted
by Deinzer, Loehe speaks of “noble friends”
that he has in Reformed territories and also
of how he acknowledges “highly regarded,
dear brothers” even in the Prussian territorial church.14
Plagued with recurrent illnesses dur13. D II: 524.
14. D II: 526.
ing his later life, royalties from his books
enabled Loehe to follow medical advice
by convalescing at certain resorts outside
Bavaria. Thus, on one of the two occasions
when he took the waters in Karlsbad, Loehe
developed a “lifelong friendship” with
two Reformed Christians from Heiden in
Switzerland, standing in “a certain prayer
fellowship with them,” notwithstanding
the “Calvinist obstinacy in their view of
the sacraments.”15 As he spent some time in
Zurich likely under similar circumstances,
Loehe attended an Ascension Day service
in the Minster. “Although the preacher said
nothing about the Sacrament and its connection with the Ascension,” Loehe rejoiced
over the bottom line of his proclamation and
seems to have had no scruples over praying
the Our Father with these separated brothers
of Reformed stripe; he was obviously poles
removed from the understanding of “prayer
fellowship” that we associate today with the
Wisconsin Synod, even though the Missouri Synod took the same approach for a
couple of generations following the election
controversy that occurred in the last decade
of Walther’s life. Loehe’s low key, unofficial,
yet open approach to Christian dealings
with the Reformed should occasion not the
least surprise, given his lifelong veneration
for Christian Krafft, the Reformed member
of the Erlangen theological faculty who
exercised a great influence on him, and with
whom he enjoyed a friendship that ended here
below only with his teacher’s death in 1845.
In his autobiographical fragment, Loehe
wrote how “this my teacher, who needs no
further praise from me, I hope one day to
see shine like the brightness of heaven and
as the stars forever and ever.”16
In 1858, on his first trip outside
Germany, 17 accompanied by Reverend
15. D III: 302.
16. D I: 62.
17. Erika Geiger, The Life, Work, and
Stephenson. Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
Mother Amalie Rahm from the deaconess house, Loehe took his sickly daughter
Marianne to begin a lengthy stay in Cannes
on the French Riviera. On the sole Sunday
that he and Reverend Mother spent with
Marianne in Cannes, Loehe indulged in a
bout of pan-Protestant ecumania:
attending, one after another, the chapel of
Mr. Roussel, one of the most significant
speakers of the église libre in France, then
the divine service in the Scottish Free
Church, and finally the evening service in
the Anglican chapel, where things pleased
him best and he felt “at home.”18
That Church of England evensong abroad was
well within Loehe’s comfort zone attests the
large amount of common ground shared by
the Anglican and Lutheran traditions at their
best. Even so, Loehe’s letter to his daughter
of February 2, 1859, makes it impossible
to claim him as a proleptic patron of the
Porvoo Agreement, that is, as a proponent
of Anglican-Lutheran eucharistic fellowship.
Although he expressed his preference for
an episcopal polity (yet not as a matter of
dominical mandate) and would thus have
been open in principle to the fourth item
of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of
1886–88, Loehe would have balked at its
imprecisely worded third proposal concerning the two chief sacraments:
May you often go to the “Lutheranizing
Church” (lutherisierende Kirche), as the
Anglican Church is called, in order to get
to know her and to learn to rejoice in her
gifts, but may you then also realize that
there is nevertheless good cause to stay
away from her altars.19
Influence of Wilhelm Loehe 1808-1872, trans.
Wolf Knappe (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing
House, 2010), 167.
18. D III: 308.
19. GW 2: 313. Erika Geiger’s insinuated
reproach as she alludes to (but does not specify)
Ja—sort of!
Since Loehe steadfastly set his face against
the movement that would become, in Alec
Vidler’s terminology, the “first prong”20 of
twentieth-century ecumenism, and given
that he cannot be convincingly pressed into
service as a fan of the specifically Anglican
contribution to the quest for worldwide
Christian reunion, the prospects do not look
good for positively associating him with the
other four tributaries that have flowed into
ecumenism’s ocean. Well, perhaps he might
have signed off on Vidler’s “second prong,”21
which took the form of Nathan Søderblom’s
First World Conference on Life and Work,
held in Stockholm in 1925: the caritative
work of the deaconess institute would fit
nicely into this picture, after all. Moreover,
I shall shortly set forth an argument for why
he should have been open to Vidler’s “third
prong”22 by attending the Faith and Order
Conference in Lausanne in 1927, had he
achieved the improbable feat of living on
until his 110th year, with all mental faculties intact. But the ecumenical involvement
of Eastern Orthodoxy since 1920 and the
increasing Roman Catholic participation
in ecumenism following the Second World
War, which went into top gear following
the papal election of John XXIII in 1958,
could not possibly have registered on Loehe’s
radar screen, notwithstanding what Deinzer
this letter (Geiger, 167) is itself anachronistic,
given that the Anglican chaplain in Cannes
would likely have thought twice before communing a German Lutheran who had not
undergone episcopal confirmation. “Eucharistic
hospitality” is a phenomenon that began in
earnest only two generations after Löhe’s death;
many Anglican priests in England resisted its
practice until well into the 1960s.
20. Alec Vidler, The Church in an Age of
Revolution (Penguin Books, 1976), 258.
21. Ibid.
22. Ibid., 260.
Stephenson. Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
describes as his “charismatic endowment.”
Permit me, in closing, to state three
reasons why it may be fitting to follow the
answers “Nein” and “Jein” to the question of
Loehe’s ecumenical credentials with the for-
sense of the unity of
the earthly church
with the church on
the other side of the
altar at the Holy
Eucharist is arguably
reflected in his love
for Christendom
beyond the Lutheran
mulation of a qualified “Ja.” I wish to suggest
that the deep structure of Loehe’s whole grasp
of the Christian faith entails certain kinds
of ecumenical concern and involvement for
all who would apply his heritage in today’s
context, which is so different from what he
left behind on January 2, 1872.
First, Loehe’s universal sympathies
began right at home with the German
Lutheranism that had developed since the
Reformation. During my first serious read
through of Deinzer’s three-volume biography,
I was bowled over by the nourishment Loehe
gladly and knowingly received from the
Pietist tradition throughout his life. Spener
was one of his heroes; he was no stranger to
the devotional manuals of Stark and Scriver;
the Herrnhut Losung of the day formed part
of his “spiritual breakfast”; and he happily
regaled the children of Neuendettelsau with
tales from Zinzendorf ’s “love-rich life.” As
Loehe described his ecclesial aspirations as “a
further development of Lutheranism” into an
“apostolic episcopal brethren Church” (apostolisch episkopale Bruderkirche),23 some will
predictably trip over the adjective “episcopal;”
but I think it would be more interesting by
far to dig into the Zinzendorfian dimensions
of what all Loehe meant by Bruderkirche.
Loehe’s Martyrology is not included in
the Freimund Verlag publication of Loehe’s
collected works, and the only time I have
briefly held a copy in my hand was some
years ago in Lowell Green’s living room. But
unless I am mistaken, the range of Loehe’s
commemorations across time and space—
and also confession—attests his universal
generosity of spirit. His pronounced sense
of the unity of the earthly church with the
church on the other side of the altar at the
Holy Eucharist is arguably reflected in his
love for Christendom beyond the Lutheran
Secondly, some remarks from a letter
of January 15, 1860, to Princess Elise of
Hohenlohe-Schillingfuerst set forth the rationale for Loehe’s tendency to view the ecclesial
glass of other confessions as half-full rather
than half-empty. The daughter of a mixed
marriage and the Lutheran sister of a Roman
Catholic prime minister of Bavaria, Princess
Elise was dissuaded by family pressure from
acting on her inclination to enroll in the
Neuendettelsau deaconess house. But she
was a major benefactress of the deaconesses,
and she helped Loehe get a handle on court
etiquette when he paid a triumphal visit to
Munich after being awarded the knighthood
of St. Michael, first class, in recognition of
23. D III: 328.
Stephenson. Wilhelm Loehe, an Ecumenical Lutheran?
the deaconesses’ care for the wounded of
the Austro-Prussian war of 1866. As he responded to the recurrent charge against him
of Romanizing tendencies, Loehe averred to
his “most serene Princess” that:
I am Protestant from the heart, but I also
protest against a kind of Protestantism
that does not notice that we had a single
history until 1517, and that we did not
wish to separate ourselves from what is
fundamentally true, but only from rampant abuses. There is a concord (Einigkeit)
above the confessions, which can bestow
comfort in the tattered condition [of
Christendom] and which is so much
older than the conflict that it could even
produce a practical peace strategy (eine
Friedenspraxis) with respect to the latter, if
only we had an inkling for such a thing.24
“Openness to a peace strategy within
Christendom”—this loose and undoubtedly
questionable translation of some German
words hard to render into English suggests
that Sasse’s words of 1963, quoted earlier in
this paper, might find a warm reception in
Loehe’s heart, had he lived in an age when
they could be appreciated and acted upon.
Thirdly, and finally, remember how in
his Three Books about the Church of 1845,
Loehe had, somewhat triumphalistically,
pictured Lutheranism as the “unifying center
of the confessions” (die einigende Mitte der
Confessionen).25 Since the other confessions
could never be persuaded of the truth of this
claim unless one were prepared to sit down
and talk things over with them, it goes without
saying that, had a Loehe living into his 110th
year with mental faculties intact received an
24. GW 2: 373. These words could easily
be amply paralleled by apposite quotations
from Hermann Sasse and Joseph Ratzinger.
25. Wilhelm Löhe, Drei Bücher von der
Kirche 1845, ed. Dietrich Blaufuss (Neuendettlsau: Freimund, 2006), 170.
invitation to attend the First World Conference on Faith and Order in Lausanne in 1927,
his response would have been different from
the brusque refusal he gave to the invitation
to co-sponsor the pan-Protestant Kirchentag
of 1848. Were he to participate in this aspect
of modern ecumenism, Loehe could hardly
forget his intention to sail his boat in the
smaller current that kept its distance from the
Union and all its works and all its ways. And
before anyone tries to conscript him as an
advocate of the modern practice of eucharistic
hospitality, let us recall Thomas Schattauer’s
detailed reminder that even good German
Lutherans had to undergo a rigorous process
of in-depth spiritual care from him before
being admitted to the Neuendettelsau altar.26
Moreover, as Loehe portrayed Lutheranism
as the unifying center of the confessions, he
obviously perceived a superiority over the
Romans, on this side, and the Reformed,
on the other. But, as Loehe differed from
Walther in holding a somewhat different
understanding of quia subscription and
in longing for a “further development” of
Lutheranism in doctrine and practice over
what had been codified in the Confessions,
he signalled an openness to future ecclesial
developments that might issue from the hand
of God. As we research his life and doctrine
and, through translation, permit him to
make a post-mortem contribution to the
theology of the Anglosphere, we wonder what
contribution Loehe may yet have to make to
the Christendom of all confessions for which
the Bridegroom may have surprises in store
before the Last Day dawns.
26. Thomas H. Schattauer, “Announcement, Confession, and Lord’s Supper in the
Pastoral-Liturgical Work of Wilhelm Löhe:
A Study of Worship and Church Life in the
Lutheran Parish at Neuendettelsau, Bavaria,
1837–1872” (PhD dissertation, University of
Notre Dame, 1990), 41ff., 106ff.
From Neuendettelsau to Frankenmuth:
In Search of Historical Connections
Matthias Honold
Archivist, Central Archives of Diakonie Neuendettelsau
Neuendettelsau, Germany
On April 20 at midday, we sailed on the
ship “Caroline” toward the sea. It was a
happy view. Up to this moment we have
had friendly wind and weather. After an
hour the wind came in front of us. We
had hoped that we would leave the Weser
River into the North Sea in six hours. After
four hours we saw that we were deceived,
because the pilot, who commands the ship,
looks like he was drunk and piloted the
ship to a sandbank. There it had to wait.
While the ship was no longer moving,
Pastor Craemer married five couples. This
was his first official business. Everybody
on the ship was present.1
With this quotation, Hans Roeßler began
his research about Wilhelm Loehe and his
work on immigration to North America
in the nineteenth century. It comes from a
report that was written by the first group of
immigrants under the leadership of Pastor
Friedrich Craemer and was sent to Wilhelm
Loehe after their arrival in North America.
The report about their experience was published in the paper “News about and from
North America,” which was established in
1843 by Wilhelm Loehe and his friend,
Friedrich Wucherer, a pastor in Noerdlingen,
to get financial resources for what was referred
1. Reiseabentheuer, Kirchliche Mittheilungen aus und über Nordamerika, hg. V. Wilhelm
Löhe u. Johann Friedrich Wucherer, 3 (1845)
Nr. 9 und 10.
to as “North America work.”
This article is about immigration to
Frankenmuth and North America employing
the resources of archives. I will demonstrate
some different possibilities about how one
can do such research employing the materials
in different archives. A glance at the material
in libraries and archives shows us that there
are many different resources for this theme.
The Collected Works
of Loehe and Archival
Resources in Neuendettelsau
Of primary importance are the writings of
Wilhelm Loehe, the Gesammelte Werke (Collected Works), published by Klaus Ganzert
from 1951 to 1986. The first and the second
volumes are especially valuable, in which the
letters (Briefausgabe) are published. Wilhelm
Loehe’s letters to North America are included
in these volumes. However, not all of the letters are transcribed in full. This is one of the
limitations of the Gesammelte Werke. Volume
4 of the Gesammelte Werke is also noteworthy,
which covers the themes of mission and
diakonia, published in the year 1962. Kurt
Schadewitz worked in cooperation with
Klaus Ganzert on this project. This volume
includes Loehe’s reflections and papers on
the theme of inner mission.
Whoever desires to go deeper into these
topics needs to go directly to the archives.
The first archive I have to mention is called
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Honold. From Neuendettelsau to Frankenmuth: In Search of Historical Connections
the Loehe-Archiv of the Society for Inner
and Outer Mission in Neuendettelsau. The
head of this archive is Dietrich Blaufuss, copresident of the International Loehe Society.
This archive is very important for Loehe
research. Here one can find the published
letters of Loehe—some original, some as
copies, and some as duplicates. Also very
important for research about the North
American immigration is the large collection
of letters from Friedrich Bauer and the letters
sent to him by correspondents from North
America to Neuendettelsau.
Another important archive belongs to
MissionEineWelt in Neuendettelsau. Here
one finds the personal files of the emergency
helpers (Sendlinge), who received their training and education in Neuendettelsau (also in
Nuremberg between the years of 1846 and
Immigration Records
Another important collection of letters and
files is found at the archive of the Bavarian
state in Nuremberg. Here one finds in a card
index many biographical and genealogical
materials of the immigrants from Mittelfranken. In this collection, named the
Staatsarchivs Nürnberg, you will also find
the “Intelligenzblätter der Regierung für Mittelfranken,” which can be accessed by an
alphabetical index.
It is important to understand some of
the historical background about the materials
in the Nürnberger Staatsarchiv. From 1868
until 1870 immigration was prohibited by
law. This legal provision was in the constitution of the Bavarian kingdom already, since
the year 1808. However, the provision was
not enforced because the social situation of so
many people in Bavaria and other Germans
states was very marginal. This law gave way
to the “rules of exception” (Ausnahmeregelungen), which resulted in more than 200,000
people from Bavaria being able to immigrate
to North America. At that time there was
widespread pauperism, which meant that
a large part of the population was living in
mass poverty. Before one could appeal to the
rules of exception for immigration, one had
to go to the governmental administration.
Therefore, the Staatsarchiv Nürnberg has a
complete listing of all legal immigrants to
North America. One would need to obtain
travel documents, including a passport from
the administrative court (Verwaltungsgericht),
or, at a later time, from the county administration (Bezirksamt).
It is because it was so difficult to secure
the travel documents that there are so many
resources in the Staatsarchiv Nürnberg. To
obtain the necessary travel documents, you
first had to show verification that you had
purchased a valid ticket for the journey to
America, something you had to buy through
an official trader. Furthermore, you had to
produce a reference, which was from the
political community or from the pastor of
the congregation of your hometown. The
reason for this reference was to ensure that
no one be allowed to immigrate who was in
legal proceedings.
The immigrant also had the duty to
publish his immigration in the public announcements (Intelligenzblättern). Everyone
was to have access to the information, if
someone wanted to immigrate. Thereby
creditors could have the possibility to get
their money back. Furthermore, you had
to show your birth certificate and a record
of your smallpox vaccination, which was a
duty in Bavaria after 1807. Another required
record verified that you had finished school
and Sunday school.
The final step in the immigration process
was a hearing before the judge of the county
court (Landgericht). Prior to this, all the
necessary documents had to be shown. The
judge of the county had the duty of trying
to persuade the immigrant to remain in
Germany. If this was not possible, the judge
had the duty to warn the immigrant of the
Honold. From Neuendettelsau to Frankenmuth: In Search of Historical Connections
risks of immigration. After this procedure,
the documents went to the government
administration, which had to grant final
approval. After this extensive process, the
immigrant received travel documents, much
like a passport. Many of these documents are
still to be found in the Staatsarchiv Nürnberg, where you can use these files for your
genealogical research.
he Mittheilugen
the situation of the
German Lutheran
church in North
America, while also
seeking support for
and improvement of
this endeavour from
people in Germany.
As you see, there was an extensive bureaucracy
overseeing the immigration process. Records
exist in other locations as well. The county
administration (Bezirksamt) in Heilsbronn,
for example, has complete documentation.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for all
county offices. For Neuendettelsau and the
other villages and towns in our region, we
are fortunate to have such fine records of
what archivists call “closed documentation”
(geschlossene Überlieferung). In this instance,
you can research particular individuals, their
motivation to immigrate, and even their social
Newspapers and Periodicals
Another way to conduct research is through
published sources, such as newspapers or
periodicals. Regarding immigration to
Frankenmuth and North America there is
the periodical, Kirchliche Mittheilungen aus
und über Nordamerika, which is of great
importance. Copies are preserved in the
archive of the Diakonie Neuendettelsau, the
archive where I work. Other such sources of
information include the Korrespondenzblatt
of the Gesellschaft für innere Mission, the
Korrespondenzblatt of the Neuendettelsau
deaconesses, or the publications of the
Freimund Verlag.
On February 16, 1843, Wilhelm Loehe
and Johann Friedrich Wucherer established
the Kirchlichen Mittheilungen aus und über
Nordamerika. This was a crucial step taken
by Loehe in the first days of the immigration
work. He wanted to bring more attention to
the needs of immigrants. More than 5,000
copies were to be printed. Loehe had several
goals in publishing the Mittheilungen. On the
one hand, he hoped to earn more than 700
Guldens in one year, which would be used for
the work in North America. Thereby he wanted
to finance the education of the emergency
helpers in Neuendettelsau. In this way, he
hoped to avoid the Bavarian law of the time
that prohibited donations for such a purpose.
On the other hand, the Mittheilungen would
inform concerned people about the situation
and misery of the German Lutheran immigrants in North America. Moreover, Loehe
wanted to share information about the church
in North America and the work of the synods.
The first edition of the Kirchlichen
Mittheilungen was published shortly after
this particular type of print media had been
introduced. On the inside cover of the collected edition from the first year, you can read
about the motivation of both editors and gain
a very clear understanding of their intentions
in publishing the Mittheilungen. The Mittheilugen describes the situation of the German
Honold. From Neuendettelsau to Frankenmuth: In Search of Historical Connections
Lutheran church in North America, while
also seeking support for and improvement
of this endeavour from people in Germany.
Naturally, reports were also included about
the civil arrangements and foreign context,
insofar as these were of interest for the main
purposes of the publication, which was to
increase active participation in the cause of the
German brothers and sisters overseas with the
intention that the financial proceeds would go
toward facilitating the education the Sendlinge,
who either were already in North America or
soon to be sent. For this reason, the price was
12 Kreuzer per issue. To this end, Loehe and
Wucherer write: “If hearts are open to this
matter, it is permissable to give more.”
Until the year 1866, the Kirchlichen
Mittheilungen was comprised of many
letters and reports about the social condition of the immigrants, including the
situation of individuals, different synods,
and other religious congregations. The
success of the Mittheilungen can be attributed to the commitment of Loehe to
portray the immigrants in North America
as near and dear to the people of Germany
by providing more information about
their situation. He also wrote that he had
many American publications in his office
(Amtsstube). These included publications
like the American calendar, papers in the
English and German languages from North
America, American laws, ministry rules,
the writings of Samuel Schmucker, and
much more. The Kirchlichen Mittheilungen
encompasses one of the most important
sources on the developments among
German immigrants in North America,
whether about the social situation or about
the development of churches and synods.
In conclusion, I would like to present some
additional information about the archives
of the Diakonie Neuendettelsau and the
resources you will find there. In addition to
the material found in the Kirchlichen Mittheilungen, one can find in these archives
information about the financial aspects of the
immigration. Two files are very important:
the “Gademansche Stiftung” and the “Kolonisationskapital II.” Both of these collections
give us insight into the problematic financial
situation of that time. Even more important
is the file, “Nordamerika 1868 to 1886.” In
this file, one discovers the history of the attempt to establish a Lutheran Motherhouse
in North America. This was initiated by
Pastor Johannes Doerfler from Toledo. The
Motherhouse was never realized (also due
to the attitude of Wilhelm Loehe), but it
presents a wealth of information about the
Lutheran church in North America and the
situation there. This file gives an overview
both of the social situation in the northern
states and the attitude of Loehe and Bauer
toward this initiative in North America.
An overview of this material is being
prepared by Dr. Liebenberg and is to be
published by 2012. He has compiled the
letters and documents and complemented
them with more letters from other sources.
The edition will have an index in the English language, so that this edition will also be
useful in the United States. This edition is a
project of the Loehe-Forschungsstelle. The
Loehe-Forschungsstelle, represented by Dr.
Liebenberg, the Diakonie Neuendettelsau,
representatives of the Augusta Hochschule,
the Lutheran church in Bavaria, and
Diakonie Bayern, intends that this edition
will be another significant contribution
to research about immigration and the
relationship between North America and
Neuendettelsau. This is but one of many
projects yet to be accomplished.
Wilhelm Loehe and Enlightenment
Dietrich Blaufuss
Co-President, International Loehe Society
Erlangen, Germany
During his lifetime, Wilhelm Loehe often encountered misunderstandings, accusations,
and attacks. In Nuremberg, one congregation
declined to be directed by this pietistic choir
director and another announced that they
would impolitely show him the city gate.2
One vividly recalls the albeit short tenure
of Loehe’s activity at St. Egid in Nuremberg.
However, because of his principle that
“scripture is the rule of every judgment,”
Loehe could not be made to overreact.3 On
the other hand, Loehe could not be drawn
into controversial disputes. He expressed
strong words for David Friedrich Strauss, but
had no further engagement with him in spite
of a long drawn-out dispute in the Homiletisch
Liturgisch-Pädagogisches Correspondenzblatt
(1836/1837).4 Counselling had urged Loehe
not to close his eyes to the enlightenment
movements. He realized how strongly this
1. This is an abbreviated version of the
complete article to be published in Dokumentationsband from the Loehe Theological Conference III held in July 2011.
2. Gesammelte Werke (GW) 6/1:145 (June
22, 1834). J. Deinzer, Wilhelm Loehes Leben:
Aus seinem schriftlichen Nachlaß zusammengestellt. Vol. 1–3 (Nürnberg: Gottfr. Loehe;
Gütersloh: Bertelsmann, 1873–1892), 2:324;
cf. 234–235.
3. Deinzer, Löhe’s Leben, 2:249. GW
4. GW 1:465 (11.5.1836).
“new” way of thinking occupied people’s
minds even in villages.5
The attack on the Augsburg Confession
by E.F.C. Oertel in 1831 challenged Loehe.
The faithful could not and should not be
without protection against either the denial
of the significance of the person and work
of Christ for our relationship with God, or
against the negation of the importance of
the Eucharist. Loehe responded and among
other points he referred to the unwavering
reliability of the Word of God.6
Loehe was not occupied by the discussion of the main works of the Enlightenment
critique of religion. By necessity he went a step
further, because the small literary products
(such as tracts, printed sermons, and pamphlets) made an impact on the congregations.
Even future pastors had not always concluded
their studies. For example, Heinrich Bomhard wrote, “Badly burnt, I succeeded in
escaping the flames [i.e., the enlightenment
attempt to tear down the faith].”7 Moreover,
the public discussions about faith in God the
creator and judge, notions which supposedly
could not stand up to reason, made Friedrich
Hoefling, at that time pastor in Nuremberg,
5. Handwritten diary, 12.12.1831; LA
40 [LA: Loehe-Archive of the “Gesellschaft” in
6. GW 3/1:241–244, 683.
7. M. Simon, Evangelische Kirchengeschichte Bayerns (München: Paul Müller 1942),
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Blaufuss. Wilhelm Loehe and Enlightenment Movements
attack the allegation made against Loehe that
he espoused “mysticism.”8 On topics such as
these, Loehe could work in a pastoral way
by guiding his elder fellow pastor Friedrich
Karl Georg in Kirchenlamitz, who repeatedly
encountered spiritual crises in finding his
own way to a living faith.9 From the pulpit,
edifying the congregation with teaching
and admonition, Loehe treated the issue of
“mysticism” and warned about confounding
faith and feeling. In matters of counseling, he
questioned the validity of a theology coming
out of the Enlightenment and rationalism.
In opposition to the Enlightenment, which
supposedly brings things into light, Loehe
intentionally articulated the “Word of God
as the…light [!] which leads to peace.”10
Loehe’s programmatic ecclesiological
publication of 1848, “Vorschlag des apostolischen Lebens” (“Proposal of an Apostolic
Life”) must also be seen as part of the struggle
against the supremacy of Enlightenment
movements in Nuremberg. In Nuremberg
Friedrich Bauer’s ecclesial career concluded
at the level of a vicar. Loehe announced in
these battles the idea of an apostolic church,
which cares for the souls, grounded in the
confessions because it is guided by Scripture;
sacrificial, and constituted by church services.
It should not be surprising for the present
and the future that Loehe emphasized the
8. M. Kießig, Johann Wilhelm Höfling—
Leben und Werk (Gütersloh: Gütersloher
Verlagshaus 1991), 32, 35.
9. Handwritten diary, 24.1.1832; LA 41.
10. W. Loehe, Von dem göttlichen Worte,
als dem Lichte, welches zum Frieden führt..., Ps.
119:54 (1835), GW 3/1:34–41, 626–631.
strengthening of the faithful through word
and sacrament. Both these possibilities come
into focus here: renewal of the church out of
its existing forms and “apostolic life” beyond
the collapse of the existing churches—a
church informed by the apostolic direction
and a gospel pronounced according to the
apostolic witness.11
t should not be
surprising for
the present and the
future that Loehe
emphasized the
strengthening of the
faithful through word
and sacrament.
11. W. Loehe, Vorschlag zur Vereinigung
lutherischer Christen für apostolisches Leben.
Sammt Entwurf eines Katechismus des apostolischen Lebens, ed. Dietrich Blaufuss. Wilhelm
Loehe—Studienausgabe Band 2 (Neuendettels­
au: Freimund, 2011).
Loehe’s Michigan Colonies:
Then and Now
Mark A. Loest
Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church
Frankentrost, Michigan
In the summer of 1865, Ferdinand Sievers, pastor of the German settlement at
Frankenlust (today Bay City), Michigan,
determined to take a missionary trip to scattered Lutherans in the region of Big Rapids.
Because of the remoteness of the location,
he was making the majority of the journey
on foot. He brought in tow two ministerial
students, Adolph Biewend and Heinrich
Partenfelder, as well as his own two sons,
Friedrich and Bernhard Sievers.
Heading out on July 19, 1865, the first
twenty miles to Midland were by wagon on a
narrow road through a swamp in the virgin
forest. While they hardly met a living soul the
entire way, they nonetheless had innumerable
travel companions: mosquitoes! Many years
later, the youngest son of missionary Sievers
No one met us for long distances at a
time. Nonetheless, we had numerous
travel companions—more than we cared
for—a company that would not let
themselves be easily waved off. Bands of
blood-thirsty wolves? No, not that, but
rather mosquitoes swarmed and covered
man and horse. Never before or since has
the author of this mission report seen this
kind of tormentor in such a quantity and
size. It was no use to try and ward them
off. Slap one dead and there came, as a
plain spoken Minnesota Farmer said,
ninety-nine to the funeral.1
1. Bernhard Sievers, “Eine Missionsreise
Virgin forests, swamps, mosquitoes, and
even Indians would not prevent Sievers and his
fellow companions from reaching the scattered
Lutherans of mid-Michigan. They made their
goal of reaching Traverse City and back home
(a total distance of 250 miles) in thirty days.
Today the entire round trip would take you
less than five hours by car.
De Tocqueville Visits
Thirty years before Sievers made this mission
trip from the Saginaw Bay to the Traverse
Bay, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French
political thinker and historian best known
for his Democracy in America, explored the
expanding American wilderness. Along with
his travel companion, Gustave de Beaumont,
he traveled through Michigan to Saginaw,
recording his journey, which later was published posthumously as Memoir, Letter and
Remains. His report gives a good idea of the
land into which men and women, such as
Sievers, would eventually settle. It also reads
much the same as Sievers’ recollection a
century later: mosquitoes, Indians, and all.
Sailing from France to America, De Tocqueville made his way first to Detroit and then
to Pontiac. Arriving at the best inn, he settled
in the barroom and inquired of the landlord
the possibilities of traveling to Saginaw:
in Michigan im Jahre 1865,” Der Lutheraner
87, no. 8 (1931): 132.
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Loest. Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
“You want to go to Saginaw!” exclaimed
he, “to Saginaw Bay! Two foreign gentlemen, two rational men, want to go to
Saginaw Bay! It is scarcely credible.” “And
why not?” we replied. “But are you well
aware,” continued our host, “what you
undertake? Do you know that Saginaw is
the last inhabited spot towards the Pacific;
that between this place and Saginaw lays
an uncleared wilderness? Do you know
that the forest is full of Indians and mosquitoes; that you must sleep at least one
night under damp trees? Have you thought
about the fever? Will you be able to get
on in the wilderness, and find your way
in the labyrinth of our forests?”2
Their host could not prevent them. They
were determined to leave the next day for
Saginaw Bay. De Tocqueville later recounted
how nothing could have prepared them for
what they experienced:
We noticed the resemblance of the forest to the ocean. In each case the idea of
immensity besets you. The succession of
similar scenes; their continual monotony
overpowers the imagination. Perhaps even
the sensation of loneliness and desolation which oppressed us in the middle
of the Atlantic was felt by us still more
strongly and acutely in the deserts of the
New World.3
Between the sightseeing trip of the tourist De
Tocqueville and the journey of missionary
Sievers, Franconian colonists came to the
Saginaw Valley, sent by Wilhelm Loehe of
Neuendettelsau, Germany.
Loehe, who has been described as a man
of “manifold genius” for his mission mindedness and pastoral care4, would respond to the
2. Alexis de Tocqueville, Memoir, Letter
and Remains, 2 vols. (Boston: Ticknor and
Fields, 1862), 1:160–161.
3. Ibid., 1:178.
4. Kenneth Korby, “Loehe’s Seelsorge for
Macedonian cry for help that came from the
American settlements on the frontier from the
1840s through the mid-1850s. He answered
that cry by recruiting and training pastors
and missionaries—Sendlinge [“sent ones”], as
they were called—establishing a seminary and
sending settlers to plant Lutheran churches
and establish colonies. Also in their later
accounts, they too were to confess that nothing could have prepared them for what they
found as they arrived in Michigan’s Saginaw
Valley, with its grassy prairies, swampy forests,
Indians, and mosquitoes.
Friedrich Wyneken’s Plea
It was not the eccentric musings and fantastic
descriptions from the travel diary of a liberal
French political philosopher, however, that
caught the attention of Loehe. Instead, it was
the desperate spiritual cry echoed by a fellow
servant of the word with a passion for those
who found themselves drowning—especially
spiritually!—in the immense ocean of prairie
and forest. Loehe responded to the plea of a
Lutheran missionary in North America by
the name of Friedrich Wyneken. Born in
1810 at Verden, Hannover, Wyneken studied
theology at the universities of Göttingen and
Halle. In 1838, he came to America to serve
the scattered Lutherans about whom he had
read in a missionary paper.
Wyneken’s missionary journeys in
northeastern Indiana, southern Michigan,
and Ohio led him to discover that there were
many scattered Lutheran immigrants who
lacked the spiritual care of a pastor. 5 Arriving
first at Baltimore, Wyneken was extended a
call to Fort Wayne, Indiana, to serve in that
territory. At Fort Wayne, he succeeded Jesse
his Fellow Lutherans in America,” Concordia
Historical Institute Quarterly 44, no. 4 (1972):
5. William G. Polack, How the Missouri
Synod was Born, ed. Mark A. Loest (St. Louis:
Concordia Historical Institute, 2001), 17–22.
Loest. Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
Hoover, who had only arrived in 1837 from
out east and had organized congregations in
the area. Hoover’s untimely death evidently
was the result of a heart attack, probably from
the difficult missionary work he conducted in
northern Indiana. He was only twenty-eight
years old and had described the labor as hard:
I am laboring here to build up a church,
but it is hard work. I have a few good
substantial members; but many who call
themselves Lutherans are a disgrace to the
church…I sometimes think of giving up
the work and retiring to the East; but as
I came out here to raise the standard of
Lutheranism, by the help of God I’ll do it!6
Once settled in Fort Wayne, Wyneken began
his missionary journeys both on foot and on
horseback. He soon realized the enormity
of the undertaking. He was compelled to
write an urgent plea titled Notruf (Call of
Distress), which pled for help from Lutherans in Germany on behalf of their fellow
Lutherans in need:
Come now, reader, and enter the settlements and log huts of your brethren:
Husband, wife, and children must work
hard to fell the giant trees, to clear the
virgin forest, to plow, to sow, to plant,
for the pittance of money runs low or is
already gone. Bread must be obtained; but
this can be gotten only from the ground
which they till.
Alas, Bible and hymnal have in many cases
been left in the old country, as the people
under the influence of Rationalism had
lost taste for them. No preacher arrives
to rouse them from their carnal thoughts
and pursuits, and the sweet voice of the
Gospel has not been heard for a long time.
Picture to yourself thousands of families
scattered over these extended tracts of
land: The parents die without hearing the
Word of God, no one stirs them up and
6. Ibid., 18.
admonishes them, no one comforts them!
Ever greater become our difficulties in the
task of surveying this enormous field and
of granting these people spiritual aid, and
hence with ever-greater insistence the call
of the Lord addresses itself to your hearts:
“Help! Help! In the name of Jesus!”7
Wyneken’s description was no exaggeration.
De Tocqueville had similarly noted the
desperate spiritual state of the settlers: “In
the wilderness men are seized with a hunger
for religion.”8
Loehe’s Response
Wyneken returned to Germany in 1841
for health reasons. While there, he spoke
to interested groups including some in Bavaria, where he met Loehe. Loehe had read
Wyneken’s Notruf and started training his
Sendlinge in response to the appeal. 9 Later,
when Wyneken learned of Loehe’s colonies in
Michigan, he is reported to have exclaimed,
“Thank God! There are more Lutherans
in America! New hope inspires me for the
church of this land. I can see daylight after
the dark night.”10
Although Loehe never came to the
United States, his energetic work from
the homeland led to missionary endeavors
directed at Lutheran immigrants and Indians in the Midwest, and the establishment
of churches, seminaries, and synods. The
Sendlinge enterprise turned out to be quite
an undertaking. Publishing his own plea,
first in the Nördlingen Sonntagsblatt and, in
1843, in his own Kirchliche Mittheilinungen
7. Ibid., 20–21.
8. De Tocqueville, Memoir, Letter and
Remains, 1:159–160.
9. Polack, How the Missouri Synod was
Born, 23–28.
10. St. Michael’s Lutheran Church,
Frankenhilf: 150 Years of Heritage (Richville,
Mich.: 2001), 3.
Loest. Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
aus und über Nord-Amerika, Loehe recruited
men who were not university-prepared but
basically home-schooled—quite a venture
for the times. While it is not possible to
give an exact count of workers recruited and
amount of money collected,11 eighty-four of
these men would enter the ministry of the
Missouri Synod.12
Further Mission Endeavors
While Loehe was preparing his Sendlinge or
Nothelfer (emergency helpers, as they were
also called), he laid the groundwork for a
missionary colony to the American Indians.
A student of his parsonage seminary, August
Craemer, was chosen to lead the first group
of settlers to Michigan. They founded the
colony of Frankenmuth. The congregation
organized itself as St. Lorenz. From Frankenmuth, mission work began among the
Ojibwa Indians.
Loehe determined that part of the
missioners training had to be in America.
So he founded a seminary at Fort Wayne in
1846—Concordia Theological Seminary.
Wilhelm Sihler was its first head; in 1851,
Craemer was called from Frankenmuth.
Three more colonies were to follow.
In 1847, Loehe sent Philip Graebner to
found a colony no closer than six miles
from Frankenmuth, which was to be called
Frankentrost. The congregation organized
itself as Immanuel. In 1848 Sievers was
commissioned and sent to found a third
colony, Frankenlust, near present day Bay
City, Michigan. That congregation was organized as St. Paul’s. Later, in 1851, Sievers
and Craemer helped establish the colony
of Frankenhilf, known today as Richville,
11. Carl S. Meyer, ed., Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of the Lutheran
Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia,
1964), 97.
12. James L. Schaaf, “Wilhelm Loehe
and the Missouri Synod,” Concordia Historical
Institute Quarterly 45, no. 2 (1972): 64.
lthough Loehe
never came
to the United States,
his energetic work
from the homeland
led to missionary
endeavors directed at
Lutheran immigrants
and Indians in the
organized as St. Michael’s. Moreover, Loehe
founded in Saginaw a Pilgrim House and a
seminary for the training of teachers and
supported the start of another congregation
in Saginaw, Holy Cross, promising to send
them communion ware.
In addition to the founding of German colonies and Lutheran congregations
to support one another and to reach out to
scattered fellow settlers, there was to be mission work among the Indians. For this work
Loehe sent Eduard Raimund Baierlein, first
to Frankenmuth and then to live among the
Indians. About fifty miles west of Saginaw,
the Bethany Indian Mission was founded.13
The four colonies—Frankenmuth, Frankentrost, Frankenlust and Frankenhilf—were
established according to Loehe’s guidelines and
13. This amazing story is told in the
wonderful account by Baierlein himself as,
E. R. Baierlein, In the Wilderness with the Red
Indians: German Missionary to the Michigan
Indians, trans. Anita Z. Boldt (Detroit: Wayne
State, 1996).
Loest. Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
vision for transplanting Germany to America.
Almost no detail was overlooked in this regard.
The congregations and communities were to
be Lutheran. Article XII, Concerning Apostasy
from the Confession, read:
Apostasy from the confession necessarily
includes leaving the community. We are
founding a political commonwealth which
consists only of Lutherans. 14
When the first colonists arrived in 1845
with Craemer, they neglected to lay out
the community in sufficient proximity to
prevent others from buying land and settling
between them—jeopardizing the German
community Loehe had hoped to establish.
With Frankentrost, the community was set
up in such away that the farms were located
near enough together, with the church and
parsonage central. This original plan can still
be seen today.
Franken Difficulties
Tragically, a break came between Loehe and
his beloved colonies. A number of factors
played into this, including frontier life, the
inevitable Americanization process, the religious make-up of the country, unreasonable
expectations, and even Loehe’s unfamiliarity with the situation on the frontier. For
example, the second group of colonists, at
Frankentrost, chose as their leader young
Graebner. Having briefly studied some English, Graebner had been prepared in Loehe’s
Neuendettelsau parsonage and arrived just as
Craemer was leaving for Michigan to start
Frankenmuth. Years later, Graebner would
recall the beginnings of Frankentrost in
his memoir, The Franconian Colonies of the
Saginaw Valley, in the State of Michigan.15
14. Meyer, Moving Frontiers, 110–115.
15. J.H.P. Graebner, “Frankentrost,”
from The Franconian Colonies of the Saginaw
Valley, in the State of Michigan trans. Esther Meyer Stalke, (n.p.: 1996). This is an
Graebner was chosen with the understanding that upon arrival, they would seek
ordination for him and that neighboring
Pastor Craemer would help him with counsel
and further training. This eased Graebner’s
mind considerably. Arriving in Frankenmuth
in the summer of 1847, the Frankentrost
colony not only faced the difficulties and
hardships in establishing themselves in the
dense forests of mid-Michigan, they were
also confronted with the real difficulties that
fellow Frankenmuth colonists experienced in
implementing the model constitution drawn
up for them by Loehe and imposed upon the
American situation. Yet they had promised
to abide by it.
Not only did the Community Constitution call for all things to be done in decency
and good order (Article I), it also included a
large number of other demands. For example,
every member of the community was to
contribute to the expenses of the church,
including the pastor’s and cantor’s salary (II).
Each member was to work one day a year
and deliver a cord or more of chopped wood,
small enough for burning, for the pastor
and cantor (III). Even roads were prescribed
and land owners were to pay for them and
keep them clear of fallen trees (IV). Other
regulations related to partition fences (V),
damage done by a neighbor’s animal (VI),
and the eventuality that a neighbor’s animal
was killed when felling a tree (VII). A chairman was to conduct meetings and deputies
served as his assistants. Finally, “No one can
be a member of our community who does
not subscribe to the Lutheran Confession or
is under excommunication.”16
Perhaps already by the time the Frankentrost group had arrived, pressures were
beginning to mount. Upon first arriving at
Frankenmuth, Graebner handed a letter to
unpublished portion from P. Graebner, Die
frankischen Colonien des Saginaw Thales, im Staate Michigan.
16. Meyer, Moving Frontiers, 106–109.
Loest. Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
Craemer from Loehe, consisting of paragraphs Loehe had dictated to him. Craemer’s
reaction was to disregard it completely.17 No
doubt, such a reaction informed Loehe’s
reaction to the Frankenmuth colonists’
adjustments to the American situation.
The difficulties in the provided Church
Constitution also became apparent. Graebner
Although in those early years growth
in the Frankentrost area was very slow,
every year brought a few settlers who
joined the congregation. Among those
who settled in our area there were those
who remained unattached to the church
because they didn’t agree with our church
and congregation constitution. Yes, this
congregational constitution caused a bitter
dispute within the congregation. In our
congregation constitution among others
this sentence was present: “We are building
a political congregation which consists of
Lutherans only”; besides this remark was
also there: “Where love no longer rules,
there justice or law lives.”18
Missouri Synod Affiliation
When Graebner and the first Frankentrost
settlers arrived in Frankenmuth, Craemer
was not home. He was attending the organizational meeting of the Missouri Synod in
Chicago. Loehe’s later response to the synod’s
Constitution is quite revealing:
One thing is regrettable. When our good
people arrive over there and breathe the
American air they become imbued with
democracy and one hears with amazement
how independent and congregational they
think about church organization. They are
in danger of forgetting the high, divine
honor of their office and becoming slaves
to their congregation.19
17. Graebner, The Franconian Colonies.
18. Ibid.
19. Loehe, writing to L. A. Petri, dated
Loehe had great difficulty with the idea of
a democratic model for church polity. This
second issue strained matters even more. But
underlying his difficulties with a democratic
constitution for congregation and synod was
the impact he saw it would have upon the
pastoral office.
Indeed, the Office of the Ministry (Amt)
became the third divisive issue between Loehe
and his colonies. Graebner relates that Loehe
already had expressed his doubts about the
Lutheran teaching of Church and Ministry
to Graebner before he had left for Michigan.
The situation did not improve with time.
Graebner recalls:
Already the necessary discussion took
place frequently since the relationship
with Loehe and us was becoming more
and more trying and uncertain. In fact,
in late fall, 184[9], we had received from
Loehe his Aphorisms20 wherein it was evident that there was a difference between
Loehe and the Missouri stand not only
on the “Constitution Question” but also
the false doctrine concerning ordination
and the ministerial office was frequently
brought to light.21
In 1851(about which time Loehe also had
published his Church and Office which he
titled New Aphorisms), after a visit to Loehe
in Neuendettelsau by Wyneken and the
influential Saxon-Missouri leader C. F. W.
Walther, both sides expressed hopefulness
about their meeting. However, a break came
in 1853, when Loehe defended Grabau of
the Buffalo Synod on matters concerning the
Office of Ministry. With Walther’s own Kirche
und Amt as the Synod’s official doctrinal
December 16, 1847, in Schaaf “Wilhelm Loehe
and the Missouri Synod,” 60.
20. Wilhelm Loehe, Aphorisms: On the
New Testament Office and their Relationship to
the Congregation, trans. John R. Stephenson
(Malone, Texas: Repristination Press, 2008).
21. Graebner, The Franconian Colonies.
Loest. Loehe’s Michigan Colonies: Then and Now
position, Missouri rejected Loehe’s view.
The Franconian colonies were to follow
the Missouri Synod away from Loehe, except
for a group at Frankenhilf that was just being
organized. Along with Pastor Deindörfer,
they removed themselves and went to Iowa
to found the Iowa Synod. The break between
Wilhelm Loehe and his fellow Lutherans in
the Missouri Synod was in fact over doctrine. Loehe seems to have been the more
liberal-minded on the issue. He was willing
to concede different views where he believed
Scripture had not spoken definitely. This was
his view on church political structure.
In many ways, Loehe was not treated
as well as he deserved, considering all he had
done for the Missouri Synod. Granted, the
Synod generously had provided Walther and
Wyneken the funds to travel to meet with
Loehe and other partners. Who knows what
the impact might have been on these matters
had Loehe come to America? Perhaps rashness and youth—maybe even inexperience
on the part of young pastors—played an
unfortunate part in the reactions by those
in the colonies.
Loehe’s Mid-Michigan
How much of Loehe’s legacy remains in
Michigan? As far as Frankentrost is concerned,
Loehe’s picture hangs in the narthex with the
title “Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe, Father
of the Franconian Colonies 1808–1872.” In
the pastor’s study, along with another picture,
are the collected works of Loehe. In neighboring Frankenmuth, Loehe appears in the stained
glass window of the St. Lorenz Church. In the
tourist district of Frankenmuth, the portrait
of a younger Loehe from his vicarage years is
painted on an outside wall of the Historical
Museum. There are also streets named “Loehe”
22. Walter A. Baepler, A Century of
Grace (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House,
1947), 144.
and “Neuendettelsau.” Even at the assisted care
facility, one of the wings is called “Loehe.”
The four “Franken” congregations are very
much aware of their relationship to one another
through their shared founder and benefactor.
Because of the less distance to one another, the
three colonies of Frankentrost, Frankenmuth,
and Frankenhilf are closer in relationship to one
another than with Frankenlust (Bay City). Nevertheless, this does not preclude their continued
sharing of their common heritage. Whenever a
congregation celebrates an anniversary, invitations are extended to the others. Each time a
history is published, a copy is shared with the
sister churches.
German services are still held. Frankenmuth holds a monthly Sunday morning
German service, although it has been known
to include both German hymns and an
English sermon. Frankenmuth also regularly
holds German heritage services on special occasions, such as at the beginning of Advent.
Frankentrost recently held German Good
Friday services. Other German services have
included Reformation and Christmas. Frankenhilf holds Kirchenweih service each year
on or close to St. Michael’s (September 29).
Mission-mindedness has always been
part of the Loehe spirit in the Saginaw Valley.
Each of the four congregations operates a
Christian day school. Mission teams regularly
are sent out all over the world. Frankentrost
sent its eleventh annual short-term missionary group on August 4, 2011, to Panama.
Dozens of pastors and teachers have come
from the area.
The Saginaw Valley “Franken” colonies
remain strong reminders of the faithfulness
of the past: God’s continued faithfulness to
his people and those who have faithfully,
by God’s mercy, carried out God’s work. In
this regard, they witness to that man of God
named Wilhelm Loehe, whose extraordinary
pastoral heart continues to serve as a blessing
to the church.
Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s
History of the Iowa Synod
Craig L. Nessan
Academic Dean and Professor of Contextual Theology
Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa
Every community is shaped by its story of
origin. For a church body, the story of origin
communicates significant information about
that body’s identity and mission. For the
Iowa Synod (formed in 1854), classic form
was given to its story of origin in the historical account of Pastor Johannes Deindoerfer
(July 28, 1828–May 14, 1907), one of the
four original founders of the Iowa Synod
and author of Geschichte der EvangelischLutherischen Synode von Iowa und anderen
Staaten (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing
House, 1897). The three most distinguishing
sources of authority in Deindoerfer’s account
of the Iowa Synod are Holy Scripture, the
Lutheran Confessions, and Wilhelm Loehe
(1808–1872). This article focuses on the
influence of Loehe on the Iowa Synod’s
identity and mission.
Johannes A. Deindoerfer was born
at Rosstal, near Nuremberg, in 1828 and
educated at Nuremberg and Neuendettelsau,
where he studied under Wilhelm Loehe. He
was ordained at Hamburg in 1851 and sent
as an emissary (Sendling) by Loehe to the
colonies in Michigan, where he became pastor
of the congregation at Frankenhilf in 1851.
Deindoerfer joined the Missouri Synod in
1852. However, theological controversy soon
led to his departure from both Michigan and
the Missouri Synod to Iowa, together with
Georg Grossmann and eighteen others in
1853. Deindoerfer subsequently served as a
pastor of the Iowa Synod at St. Sebald, Iowa;
Madison, Wisconsin; and Toledo, Ohio. He
was elected president of the Eastern District
and later president of the entire Iowa Synod,
in which office he served from 1893–1904.
Deindoerfer’s Geschichte encompasses the
founding and first four decades of the Iowa
Synod. Significant for his writing of the synod
history, he also edited the synodical publication, the Kirchenblatt, from 1878–1904.
The countenance of Wilhelm Loehe graces
the opening pages of Deindoerfer’s history.1
Clearly, Loehe is depicted as the “father”
and guiding light for the Iowa Synod from
its beginning. Loehe’s influence informs already the forty-six pages of material devoted
to Deindoerfer’s depiction of the synod’s
“Vorgeschichte” (pre-history). From the outset
Loehe was deeply concerned both for the
spiritual care of German immigrants to North
America and mission to Native Americans.
Regarding “inner mission” to German immigrants, Loehe was concerned about three
main challenges: 1) doctrinal indifference
among existing Lutheran bodies, 2) “Methodist” (that is, “free church”) influences on
church praxis, and 3) insufficient numbers
of teachers and pastors. In response to the
1. In its review of historical developments, this article closely follows Deindoerfer’s
account: Johannes Deindörfer, Geschichte der
Evangelischen-Lutherischen Synode von Iowa und
anderen Staaten (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing
House, 1897).
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Nessan. Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
plea for help published by Pastor Friedrich
Wyneken (1810–1876) in 1840, Loehe issued
his “Address to the Reader” in January 1841.
As a consequence of this passionate appeal,
both donations of money and volunteers
began to arrive. Loehe took it upon himself
to train the first two volunteers, Adam Ernst
and Georg Burger. This was the beginning
of the Neuendettelsauer Missionsanstalt,
which would continue to prepare and send
candidates as teachers and pastors to North
America throughout the nineteenth century.
Beginning in 1843, Loehe composed
regular messages about the work in North
America that were published as Kirchliche
Mitteilungen aus und über Nordamerika
(Church News from and about North
America), which Deindoerfer reports gained a
circulation of eight thousand copies. This effort generated even more support in the form
of financial donations and human resources.
In 1845, Loehe wrote and published his “Call
from the Homeland to the German-Lutheran
Church in North America.” Thereby Loehe
built a strong constituency of support in
Germany for the North American outreach.
His initial efforts at cooperation with the
Lutheran seminary at Columbus, Ohio (supplying books and supporting the continued
training of Ernst and Burger for the pastoral
ministry) eventually led to a parting of the
ways over matters of confessional interpretation and use of the English language.2
Loehe next turned his attention to
Lutheran mission efforts in Michigan,
including support for both German immigrant congregations and Indian mission
at Frankenmuth and the related colonies.3
In cooperation with Loehe, Pastor Wilhelm
Sihler (1801–1885) organized a Lutheran
seminary at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1846,
and Loehe also engaged in preparatory work
2. Deindörfer, Geschichte, 10–12.
3. For the following, see Deindörfer,
Geschichte, 13–28.
with C. F. W. Walther (1811–1887) toward
the founding of a new synod, the Missouri
Synod.4 At an organizational meeting at Fort
Wayne in July 1846, no less than twentyfour participants had been sent by Loehe to
North America. Deindoerfer commented
that this development was surprising in light
of the unresolved differences over the office
of ministry.5 Although Loehe, according
to Deindoerfer, had reservations about its
constitution, he approved and released his
Sendlinge (emissaries) to the work of the
Missouri Synod. Loehe and Wucherer agreed
also to hand over the Fort Wayne seminary
to the Missouri Synod upon receiving the
pledge that the language of instruction would
remain German, while they were asked to
provide continued support.
A bitter controversy soon broke out
between Walther and Johannes Grabau
(1804–1879, founder of the Buffalo Synod)
over the nature of the church and the office of
ministry. While Loehe pleaded for reconciliation and tried to mediate their differences,
he was soon drawn into the controversy, as
his position was perceived to be closer to
Grabau than to Walther. Loehe’s publication
of Aphorisms about the New Testament Offices
and Their Relationship to the Congregation in
1849 further exacerbated the controversy
with the Missouri Synod. Deindoerfer commented that already in 1850 it had become
clear that cooperation between Loehe and
the Missouri Synod would need to come to
an end.6 Seeking to reestablish positive relations, Walther and Wyneken visited Loehe
in Neuendettelsau in fall 1851, but hope
for renewed understanding soon collapsed.
Even so, the Missouri Synod made an
appeal to Loehe to support a seminary for
4. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod will be referred to as “the Missouri Synod”
in this article, following Deindoerfer’s usage.
5. Deindörfer, Geschichte, 17.
6. Ibid., 23.
Nessan. Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
the preparation of teachers. Loehe offered to
support a Pilgerhaus (pilgrim house) in Saginaw, Michigan, to serve as the first refuge for
German immigrants arriving there. He also
pledged continued support for the four colonies in Michigan (including Frankenmuth
and Frankenlust), with the aim of preserving
German church, language, and culture in
North America. These colonies would also
be used as the base for outer mission to Native Americans. The teacher seminary would
initially be housed in this Pilgerhaus. While
a frame building was being constructed in
Saginaw, five students began their study
with Pastor Georg Grossmann (1823–1897)
as director in a rented storefront in summer 1852. This is noteworthy as the first
German-Lutheran teacher seminary in North
America (as well as the beginning of what
would become Wartburg College). The local
pastor in Saginaw, Pastor Cloeter, however,
charged Grossmann as a “Loeheaner” with
false doctrine regarding the office of ministry
and threatened him with church discipline.
As the conflict intensified, Grossmann was
pressured to leave the congregation.
Pastor Johannes Deindoerfer of the
Frankenhilf colony, sent by the Gesellschaft
für innere Mission in 1851, had developed
a strong bond with Grossmann. Together
they understood themselves as the loyal
representatives of Loehe and his theological
commitments. This included the claim that
the matters regarding the church and the office of ministry currently in dispute were not
essential doctrines but subordinate teachings,
not to be considered church dividing. This
was the origin of the Iowa Synod’s prominent position regarding the validity of “open
questions” (that is, allowable differences that
ought not to be church dividing). In spite of
the interventions of Wyneken, a local pastors’ conference demanded that the teacher
seminary should either be handed over to the
Missouri Synod or dissolved. As an alterna7
7. Ibid., 28–33.
tive, Grossmann and Deindoerfer submitted
to Loehe that his ongoing mission work in
North America needed to be separated from
the Missouri Synod and transplanted to a location where it would be unhindered by such
conflict, perhaps in Iowa. Under the charge
that the teacher seminary was a “schismatic
institution,” Loehe became convinced that
continued cooperation with the Missouri
Synod was impossible and wrote a passionate letter of farewell dated August 4, 1853.
that already in 1850
it had become clear
that cooperation
between Loehe and
the Missouri Synod
would need to come
to an end.
Supported by the lay founder of the
Frankenhilf colony, Gottlob Amman (1812–
1877), an exploratory journey to Iowa was
undertaken by Deindoerfer and Amman.8
To them the conditions appeared advantageous to relocate to Iowa for the purposes of
colonization and mission. Dubuque seemed
a strategic location and, moreover, land for
homesteading was available for a reasonable price in Clayton County. At the end of
September 1853, twenty people departed
for a new beginning in Iowa. Although
8. Ibid., 31–36.
Nessan. Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
their finances barely held out, by God’s
providence and the assistance of a banker
in Dubuque (Mr. Jesup) the party arrived in
Iowa to reestablish the teacher seminary in
Dubuque and founded a colony in Clayton
County, named “St. Sebald” after the beloved
parish in Nuremberg. Grossmann reopened
the teacher seminary in a rented house on
November 10, 1853, in Dubuque. Worship
services were held in the local community,
from which the congregation of St. John was
organized. It became apparent that there was
a more urgent need for the preparation of
pastors to serve congregations than teachers for parochial schools. Therefore, plans
were made to expand the seminary into
a Predigerseminar (preacher seminary) to
supply pastors for the new congregations
that were emerging through the mission
efforts. While financial gifts from Germany
were less plentiful, due to discouragement
about the controversy in Michigan, Loehe
continued to send candidates for ministry to
Iowa. Among them was a gifted young man,
Sigmund Fritschel (1833–1900), who arrived
in 1854 and immediately took up the calling
as seminary teacher.
Identity and Mission
The Iowa Synod was founded on August
4, 1854, at St. Sebald, Clayton County,
Iowa, with four founding members—
Georg Grossmann, Johannes Deindoerfer,
Sigmund Fritschel, and Michael Schueller
(who was ordained at this meeting).9 The
synod subscribed to the Lutheran Confessions, interpreted according to the Word of
God toward the greater fulfillment of the
Lutheran church, and dedicated itself to the
preservation of the ancient catechumenate,
the apostolic life, and the exercise of church
discipline. Thereby the founders of the Iowa
Synod aimed to establish a distinctive confes9. For the following, see Deindörfer,
Geschichte, 40–55.
sional hermeneutic, one that distinguished
between doctrinal essentials and secondary
matters about which full agreement would
not be necessary for maintaining church
unity (“open questions”). The Iowa Synod
articulated a distinctive confessional direction, open to God’s unfolding work in history. This confessional position set the Iowa
Synod apart from other Lutheran bodies in
the several doctrinal controversies, which
ensued in the late nineteenth century. In
this, the Iowa Synod also established itself
loyal to the legacy of Wilhelm Loehe. The
emphases on the catechumenate, apostolic
life, and church discipline carried forward
into congregational life these aspects of
Loehe’s program of renewal. Deindoerfer
gives attention to how these characteristics
came to expression in church life over the
early decades of the Iowa Synod.
The primary focus of the Iowa Synod in
the nineteenth century was on inner mission,
establishing and building up German-Lutheran congregations. From humble beginnings, the Iowa Synod demonstrated steady
and significant growth in the period covered
by Deindoerfer’s history. From seventeen
pastors serving nineteen congregations and
twelve preaching points in 1858, to fortyone pastors serving over fifty congregations
across seven states in 1864, to 336 pastors
and forty parochial school teachers serving 534 congregations and 149 preaching
points across six districts in 1896, the Iowa
Synod demonstrated remarkable growth.10
Seminary faculty and students went out
as missionaries to preaching points far and
near to proclaim the gospel and form new
congregations. Cooperation in providing
pastors for the Buffalo Synod extended the
synod’s geographical expanse. This was possible in no small measure by the steady flow
10. G. J. Zeilinger, A Missionary Synod
with a Mission (Chicago: Wartburg Publishing
House, 1929), 30–31 and 53.
Nessan. Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
of theological candidates sent by Loehe and
colleagues from Germany.
The Iowa Synod also preserved Loehe’s
vision for outer mission, particularly through
outreach to Native American people.11 Outer
mission was a high priority for Loehe and his
Sendlinge (emissaries), beginning with his support for outreach to Indians in the Michigan
colonies. Deindoerfer recounts in detail the
narrative of the Iowa Synod’s outreach to
the Crow (Upsaroka) in Montana through
the leadership of J. J. Schmidt and Moritz
Braeuninger.12 In addition to his account
of the mission activity and martyrdom of
Braeuninger on July 22, 1860, Deindoerfer
explains how missionary work nevertheless
followed among the Cheyenne at a mission
station constructed at Deer Creek, Wyoming.
Between 1861 and 1863, various missionary
ventures were explored, including preaching
services for Native Americans near the Deer
Creek station. For a short time, the missionaries again experimented with the method
of traveling with the Cheyenne and also the
Arrapaho.13 Three orphaned Cheyenne boys
were entrusted to the missionaries for instruction in 1863 and one by one were baptized.
Whatever encouragement this generated was
soon dissipated through the eruption of a new
wave of Indian insurrections. By January 1865,
the entire missionary team had withdrawn.
An attempt was made to resume the Native
American mission work in 1866 but was short
11. For the following, see Deindörfer,
Geschichte, 55ff.
12. Gerhard M. Schmutterer and Charles
P. Lutz, “Mission Martyr on the Western Frontier: Can Cross-cultural Mission Be Achieved?”
in Charles P. Lutz, ed., Church Roots: Stories of
Nine Immigrant Groups That Became The American Lutheran Church (Minneapolis: Augsburg,
1985), 117–142. See also Craig L. Nessan,
“Loehe and his Coworkers in the Iowa Synod,”
Currents in Theology and Mission 33 (April
2006): 140–142.
13. Deindörfer, Geschichte, 61–62.
lived. In 1885, the Iowa Synod transferred remaining funds from Native American missions
to the Neuendettelsau Mission Society for its
work in Papua New Guinea (which initiative
also aligned closely with the commitments of
Loehe). In its understanding of inner and outer
mission, the Iowa Synod looked to Wilhelm
Loehe as its founder, supporter, source of
authority, and inspiration.
Seminary, Worship,
Confessional Direction
From the founding of the teachers seminary
in Saginaw to the development of Wartburg
Seminary and Wartburg College in Iowa,
Loehe demonstrated unflagging interest and
support. This is evident in the sending of
candidates for pastoral ministry year after
year from Germany for training at Wartburg
Seminary.14 While requests for financial support from the Iowa Synod and other parties
overwhelmed the capacity of Loehe to fulfill
them, he was committed to providing leaders to the fledgling synod. Sigmund Fritschel
arrived in 1854 to assume duties as professor
at the seminary. Fritschel served not only as
professor but also as congregational pastor and
missionary in a career in the Iowa Synod that
spanned forty-six years. Sigmund’s brother,
Gottfried, was sent also from Neuendettelsau
in 1857 to serve as a second professor at the
seminary. Gottfried Fritschel (1836–1889)
was a gifted linguist, learned the art of printing
for the sake of synod publications, and was a
major theological spokesperson representing
the Iowa Synod until his death in 1889. Together the brothers served as primary faculty
for nearly all of the pastors prepared in the
Iowa Synod in the nineteenth century.
14. For a comprehensive listing of the
names of those sent to North America, including those specifically sent to the Iowa Synod
in the nineteenth century, see Wilhelm Koller,
Die Missionsanstalt in Neuendettelsau: Ihre Geschichte und das Leben in ihr (Neuendettelsau:
Missionshaus Verlag, 1924), 36–57.
Nessan. Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
Financial challenges plagued the seminary in its earliest years. Although the Gesellschaft wished to provide resources, it would
be necessary to entrust the seminary “into
God’s hands” in the future.15 Subsequently,
the seminary was given to the Iowa Synod
as a donation by the Gesellschaft and gratefully accepted at the synod’s 1855 assembly.
Financial pressures also contributed to the
relocation of the seminary to Clayton County
in 1857, where a two-story wood frame building was constructed on 160 acres. Here the
seminary was supported from farming, with
seminarians working the farm and nourished
by its produce. Here the school received its
name, Wartburg, “a mighty fortress” and
sign of God’s faithfulness. In 1860, Sigmund
Fritschel was sent on a fundraising mission
for the seminary to Germany, where he was
well received by Loehe. Loehe mediated many
contacts in Germany, Holland, and Eastern
Europe. Sigmund Fritschel traveled as far as St.
Petersburg, where he was received by generous
supporters, some who would remain so for life.
At St. Petersburg he welcomed Auguste von
Schwartz, who volunteered to come to Iowa
to serve as housemother for the seminary, a
service that extended to the end of her life.
Loehe facilitated these relationships on behalf
of the seminary to address its financial crisis.
The worship life and congregational
practices of Iowa Synod congregations were
also decisively shaped by Loehe’s vision for
the renewal of the church. Loehe’s Agende
served as the standard for liturgical worship. Through connections with parish life
in Neuendettelsau, the synod’s pastors had
an appreciation for the beauty and order of
worship.16 Loehe had in mind the worship
in North American congregations when
composing his Agende, which helped secure
a glorious liturgical life for the synod in
place of less desirable alternatives. Dein15. Deindörfer, Geschichte, 93f.
16. Ibid., 104.
doerfer lamented the relative infrequency
of participation in Holy Communion in
many congregations, noting that this had
also become the norm in many quarters of
the church in Germany.17 A revised edition of
Loehe’s Agende was edited by Pastor Johannes
Deinzer for a new printing that appeared in
1884.18 This helped stem the tide of using
other worship books in the Iowa Synod,
including some in the English language.
Based on the pastoral practice of Loehe,
the Iowa Synod fostered the use of private
confession.19 This was a key component in the
Iowa Synod’s commitment to the preservation
of the apostolic life and exercise of church
discipline. Private confession highlighted the
importance of absolution for the Christian life.
Unfortunately, the actual practice of private
confession frequently met resistance from
church members as too Roman Catholic.
Deindoerfer also emphasized the importance
of the church year and liturgical calendar in the
congregations of the Iowa Synod, following
the model of Loehe. In the late 1880s a new
edition of Loehe’s Question and Answer Booklet
for Luther’s Small Catechism was produced by
the seminary faculty for congregational use.20
The commitments of the Iowa Synod
to the Lutheran Confessional tradition were
decisively shaped throughout the theological controversies of the nineteenth century
by an interpretive stance that distinguished
between articles of faith and open questions.
The Iowa Synod insisted on full agreement
in all matters of core Lutheran doctrine
as the basis for pulpit and altar fellowship
with other Lutheran church bodies. This
is palpable in the reservations of the Iowa
Synod to joining the General Council in
the years following 1867, based on what was
articulated as the Galesburg Rule in 1875:
17. 18. 19. 20. Ibid., 182f.
Ibid., 307.
Ibid., 106f.
Ibid., 268f.
Nessan. Wilhelm Loehe in Deindoerfer’s History of the Iowa Synod
“Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers
only, and Lutheran altars are for Lutheran
communicants only.” The Iowa Synod’s clarity about full agreement on matters of core
Lutheran doctrine was furthermore evident
in its opposition to secret societies and lodge
membership by church members, a matter
to which Deindoerfer refers several times.
The Iowa Synod understood itself to be
faithful to Loehe by allowing for open questions
regarding non-essential church teachings. This
position originated in the controversy with the
Missouri Synod over the office of ministry that
led to the exodus to Iowa. By “open questions,”
the Iowa Synod meant issues that were not
definitively settled either by Scripture or the
Confessions, for which holding different views
should not be church dividing. This method of
interpreting the Confessions allowed both for
reckoning with past historical circumstances
that condition a specific theological claim and
affirmed the ongoing development of Christian
teaching. One finds reference in Deindoerfer
to the argument in the Iowa Synod that Luther
himself allowed for open questions in matters
of subordinate importance.21
In response to theological attacks
(for example, the transference theory of
ordination, the claim that the pope is the
anti-Christ, or particular views regarding
chiliasm or predestination), the Iowa Synod
appealed to open questions as a defense
against dogmatism on unessential matters.
Thereby the Iowa Synod defended the value
of church unity against unnecessary forces
of schism within the church. In one passage
Deindoerfer referred to an action of the
synod that would even have been willing
to surrender the term “open questions,” if
the substance were maintained regarding
matters that need not be church dividing
(the use of the term “open questions” itself
as an open question?)!22
21. Ibid., 125f.
22. Ibid., 143.
The devotion of the Iowa Synod to the commitments of Wilhelm Loehe persisted until its
merger into the American Lutheran Church
in 1930—and beyond! Loehe died in 1872,
after offering encouragement and support to
the Iowa Synod for the last eighteen years of
his life. Although Loehe could not be present
for its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1879, his
successor, Johannes Deinzer (1842–1897),
crossed the Atlantic to participate in the
festivities and represent the Loehe tradition
in the ongoing life of the synod. In one of
his speeches, Deinzer movingly said:
I am now fifteen years into the service of
our common work and have been able to
work for the greater part of this time at the
side of our fathers who now rest in God,
the honorable Pastor Loehe and honorable
Mission Director Bauer. Also in the name
of these our blessed fathers I want to rejoice
here; for while they celebrate in heaven, I
may see it here and grasp it with my hands,
how their seeds have grown up and their
work in the Lord has not been in vain.23
In response to the blessings received at the
hand of Loehe, the Missionsanstalt, and Gesellschaft für innere Mission, the Iowa Synod
in its Thanksgiving Declaration (Dankschrift)
formally expressed its profound gratitude for
all God had provided through these partners.
Furthermore, the resolution (Denkschrift) of
the synod assembly underscored the treasures bequeathed to them through Loehe’s
theological commitments: the work of the
seminary, commitment to mission among
Native Americans, the liturgical order, and
the nurturing of the Christian life in its
23. Ibid., 213 (own translation).
24. Ibid., 216-221.
Loehe and the Ministerium of
Pennsylvania: Wilhelm Loehe’s
Reception among Contemporaries in
the Eastern United States
Martin J. Lohrmann
Pastor, Christ Ascension Lutheran Church
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
From the village of Neuendettelsau, Germany, Wilhelm Loehe sent missionaries
and financial support to Lutheran churches,
seminaries, and schools in the Midwest. His
support of North American missions was vital
to the formation of The Lutheran Church–
Missouri Synod and the Iowa Synod. These
efforts, begun over 150 years ago, continue
to bear fruit in both the Missouri Synod
and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America today.
What about Loehe’s impact among
nineteenth-century Lutherans who lived in
the eastern United States? The usual story
presented in our textbooks is that Lutheranism on the eastern seaboard had already
become so Americanized that it fell short of
the confessional standards of the later immigrants who were shaped by the Old Lutheran
and Neo-Lutheran movements in Europe.1
Nevertheless, there is evidence to show that
contemporaries in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, North America’s oldest Lutheran
synod, knew and used Loehe’s writings during
his lifetime. If Lutherans in the East found
a good resource in Loehe, then perhaps his
missionary and liturgical theology resonated
1. For instance, E. Clifford Nelson, The
Lutherans in North America (Philadelphia:
Fortress, 1975), 217–227.
with an even greater American audience than
is often acknowledged. This article examines
Loehe’s reception among members of the
Ministerium of Pennsylvania to show that
many Lutherans in the eastern United States
found him to be a natural contemporary
partner in their efforts to spread the gospel
and build up the church.
The Ministerium of
The Ministerium of Pennsylvania was
founded in 1748 as a collection of ten Lutheran congregations. This “Mother Synod”
largely grew out of the labors of Pastor Henry
Muhlenberg, a missionary from the Halle
institutions in Germany, who arrived in
Philadelphia in 1742. Upon the formation
of the Ministerium, Muhlenberg and his
colleagues wrote a liturgical order, which
provided the member congregations with a
common worship service.2 Well-versed in the
Lutheran confessions,3 Muhlenberg’s liturgy
2. Luther D. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy
(Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1947), 164.
3. For an example of Muhlenberg’s
knowledge and use of Lutheran theology, see:
Mühlenberg: The Correspondence of Henreich
Melchior Mühlenberg, 1757–1762, trans. and
Currents in Theology and Mission 39:1 (February 2012)
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
was in clear continuity with the Lutheran
Reformation.4 His motto for mission and
ministry was ecclesia plantanda (church
planting) and he worked for over forty years
to nurture the Lutheran faith in a new land.
From Muhlenberg, American Lutherans
inherited a rich tradition that featured:
the vision of a united Lutheran church;
faithfulness to the Scriptures; justification
by faith in Jesus Christ; adherence to the
(unaltered) Augsburg Confession; use of
Luther’s Small Catechism; worship in
historic liturgical order; piety at the heart
of the believer’s life; obligation to educate
the young; openness to fellow Christians
of evangelical persuasion; and, not least,
an able, educated, accountable ordained
This Muhlenberg tradition continued to
provide the basis for Lutheran efforts in the
East, even when it led in contradictory directions, for instance, in the tension between
adherence to the Augsburg Confession and
openness to Christians of similar but not
identical persuasions.
Muhlenberg’s ability to preach in German, English, and Dutch allowed him to
overcome language barriers that would later
be more problematic. Further complicating
matters, German immigrants in the colonial
era sometimes built “union churches” as a
practical way for Lutheran and Reformed
congregations to share building expenses.6
A “union church” referred only to the building and not to confessional or sacramental
eds. Wolfgang Splitter and Timothy Wengert
(Rockland, Maine: Picton, 2010), 245–296.
4. Reed, Lutheran Liturgy, 165.
5. E. Theodore Bachmann et al, The
United Lutheran Church in America, 1918–
1962 (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997),
6. Nelson, Lutherans in North America,
union.7 By the early 1800s, however, rationalist and revivalist influences were encouraging confessional unions. In those times, for
instance, the idea to create a hymnal for use
in Lutheran and Reformed churches was
based on the notion that only prejudice
kept these traditions from each other.8 As
a result, Lutheran liturgies and hymnals of
the period departed greatly from the original
Muhlenberg Agenda. Liturgist Luther Reed
described an 1835 Lutheran liturgy as
the “low point in an unhistorical and unLutheran type of worship in this country.”9
f Lutherans in
the East found
a good resource in
Loehe, then perhaps
his missionary and
liturgical theology
resonated with an
even greater American
audience than is often
While these directions carried the day in
the early 1800s, Lutherans less in favor of
these changes remained in the Ministerium,
including leaders like Carl Demme, Frederick
D. Schaeffer, and Benjamin Keller.
7. Ibid., 61, 70.
8. Reed Lutheran Heritage, 170.
9. Ibid.
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
News of the American Lutheran situation made its way back to Germany. One
of Loehe’s colleagues in Bavaria, Adolph von
Harless, wrote that the American situation
in the early 1840s was “a struggle between
two opposing forces in America, a sound
confessional group in the West and a lax
and unionistic Lutheranism in the East.”10
Loehe himself used these categories in letters to Adam Ernst and Georg Burger, the
first Neuendettelsau Nothelfer (emergency
helpers) to the United States.11 While these
stereotypes had some basis, the truth was
more complicated, even in the early 1840s
and especially in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, which did not then belong to the
more Americanized collection of synods
known as the General Synod, which was
led by Gettysburg Professor Samuel Simon
Loehe’s First Missionary
Contacts in the United
In this context, the earliest point of contact
between the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and
Wilhelm Loehe was missionary work. Friedrich Wyneken’s famous appeal, “The Distress
10. James Schaaf, Wilhelm Löhe’s
Relation to the American Church (Dissertation:
University of Heidelberg, 1961), 27. Schaaf
cites a letter from Harless to Petri quoted in
E. Petri, D. Ludwig Adolf Petri, weiland Pastor
zu St. Crucis in Hannover: Ein Lebensbild,
auf Grund seines schriftlichen Nachlasses und
nach den Mitteilungen seiner Freunde, Vol.
1, (Hannover: Feesche, 1888 and 1896),
11. ����������������
Wilhelm Loehe, Gesammelte Werke 1
(Neuendettelsau: Freimund Verlag, 1986), 688.
12. It should be noted that although
“Americanization” is usually used in a negative
sense in American Lutheran histories, there
have always been positive elements to it,
especially the ongoing need to articulate one’s
of the German Lutherans in North America,”
had inspired Loehe and others in Germany
to find ways to support Lutherans on the
American frontier in the early 1840s. Often
mentioned only in passing (with respect to
Wyneken’s appeal) is the fact that Wyneken
had been sent to the frontier as a missionary
of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania.13 This
is no small detail. First, it shows that the
eastern Lutherans had a healthy concern
for missions. They were limited mostly by
a lack of financial and human resources.
Second, the congregation that Wyneken
served in Fort Wayne before and after his
1841 trip to Germany was a Ministerium
of Pennsylvania congregation in those years
and is listed in Ministerium records of the
period. Third, Wyneken’s formal call was
important to both him and Loehe. In an
1839 letter to the Ministerium’s missionary
society, Wyneken seriously discussed his call
from the Ministerium.14 He also referred to
that call in his famous appeal to Lutherans
in Germany.15 This fact must have been critical in obtaining support from Loehe, who
already in 1842 insisted upon applying the
Augsburg Confession’s words about a rite
vocati (a proper call) for those he would send.16
Common ground between Loehe and
at least some eastern Lutherans is also evident in the experiences of Adam Ernst and
Georg Burger, the first missionaries from
Neuendettelsau. Upon arriving in New York
13. Friedrich Wyneken, “The Distress
of the German Lutherans in North America”
in Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of
the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, ed. Carl
Meyer (St. Louis: Concordia, 1964), 94.
14. Proceedings of the Missionary
Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of
Pennsylvania, (May 29, 1839), 8.
15. Friedrich Wyneken, “The Distress of
the German Lutherans in North America” in
Moving Frontiers, 94.
16. Schaaf, Relation to the American
Church, 28.
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
City, they first met with Pastor Karl Stohlmann of St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church. A
leader in the New York Ministerium and a
longtime co-worker with the Ministerium
of Pennsylvania,17 Pastor Stohlmann was
already protesting “the un-Lutheran” direction of the General Synod in 1842.18 He
convinced Ernst and Burger to go to Ohio
with Pastor Friedrich Winkler, who was just
then leaving Newark, New Jersey, to become
a professor at the seminary in Columbus.
Winkler then corresponded with Loehe and
satisfied his questions about the Columbus
seminary’s doctrinal standards. Also worth
noting, however, is that the other professor in
Columbus then was Charles F. Schaeffer, who
grew up in the Philadelphia mother church
and shared Muhlenberg’s vision of planting
a strong Lutheran church in North America.
Although he and Winkler apparently did
not get along, both men were committed
to teaching the Lutheran Confessions in
the early 1840s. After his stint in Columbus, Schaeffer later served as a professor at
Gettysburg until he was called to the first
faculty of the new Philadelphia seminary
in 1864.19 Schaeffer’s tenure in Ohio shows
that the debates of the time were not simply
between conservative German immigrants
and Americanized eastern liberals.20 Even in
17. Adolph Spaeth, “History of the
Liturgical Development of the Ministerium of
Pennsylvania,” The Lutheran Church Review 17
(1898), 108–110.
18. Schaaf, Relation to the American
Church, 53.
19. For a short biography about Charles
F. Schaeffer, see the entry by Beale M.
Schmucker in American Lutheran Biographies,
ed. Jens Christian Roseland (Milwaukee:
Houtkamp, 1890), 648–654.
20. This in contrast to Nelson, 174:
“The [Joint Ohio] synod’s attempt to pursue a
bilingual coarse created two opposing forces:
one (the German) clamored from greater
conservatism; the other (the English) sought
the early 1840s, Loehe and many members
of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania shared a
common missionary and theological vision
for the growing church in North America.
Liturgical Reforms
In the following decades, the Ministerium
benefited directly from Loehe’s liturgical reforms. As mentioned above, many American
Lutheran liturgies had given up traditional
elements in favor of other American influences. However, that was about to change,
especially through the efforts of Beale Melanchthon Schmucker, the son of the famous
Gettysburg professor, Samuel S. Schmucker.
As a fourth-generation American, Beale was at
home in German and English. In the 1860s,
he and his friend, Charles Porterfield Krauth,
helped found the Philadelphia seminary and
the General Council of Lutheran synods. In
doing so, they led the protesting Ministerium
of Pennsylvania out of the General Synod led
by Beale’s own father.
Early in his career, Beale Schmucker
had become a dedicated student of Lutheran
liturgy. Ordained in 1847 at the age of twenty,
he agreed with his father’s American Lutheran
ideals but was unwilling to give up any part
of the Augsburg Confession.21 With Charles
F. Schaeffer and others, he began a project
to adapt the Ministerium’s 1855 German
hymnbook for use in English-speaking
congregations. Worked on by leaders like
Demme and Stohlmann, that German liturgy had attempted to reclaim Reformation
adjustment to the American scene.” For
instance, it had been the German liturgy (then
in use in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania)
which used the Reformed-influenced words
“Jesus spricht” to introduce the Words of
Institution; this was not true of the English
liturgy; see Schaaf, Relation to the American
Church, 55.
21. Adolph Spaeth, “Memorial of Beale
Melanchthon Schmucker, D.D.,” The Lutheran
Church Review 8 (1889), 109.
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
and Muhlenberg era precedents, but the
influences of previous decades proved hard
to overcome. As Philadelphia theologian,
Adolph Spaeth, later recalled: “There was one
redeeming feature in most of those objectionable parts with which the German Agenda of
1855 was still burdened; their very language
forbade the attempt of reproducing them in
pure, readable, churchly English.”22 Somewhat ironically, the new English-language
church book would provide the occasion
for a return to a more traditional Lutheran
liturgy and worship in the United States.
Here Loehe provided a profound and
direct influence. In what came to be known
as the 1860 Church Book, Beale Schmucker
noted the committee’s indebtedness to “the
Liturgy of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria,”
a work widely credited to Loehe.23 One
archived proof copy of the hymnal shows
Schmucker’s marginal notes, in which he
wrote “Löhe” or “Bavarian Agenda” next to
particular prayers or rubrics. Beyond simply
borrowing from Loehe’s prayers or liturgical
suggestions, Beale Schmucker recognized
Loehe’s sacramental theology as a key force in
shaping this new English-language liturgy. In
the preface to that worship book, he wrote:
Let us examine the several parts of the
Order of [Sunday] Morning Service in
their connection, and learn that their
arrangement is not arbitrary, but is in
harmony with the deepest feelings of the
spiritual life, and like those feelings gathers
round the two great centres of the Word
and the Sacrament. Löhe, in the preface
to his Liturgy, furnishes a sketch, which
with some alterations is here followed.24
22. A. Spaeth, “History of the Liturgical
Development of the Ministerium of
Pennsylvania,” 114.
23. A Liturgy for the Use of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church, (Philadelphia: Lindsay &
Blakiston, 1860), iii.
24. Ibid., iv.
What follows is then a “translation and adaptation” of Loehe’s preface to his own 1844
Agenda, which explains the various parts of
the liturgy and sets Holy Communion as
the center of the divine service.25 Following
Loehe, Schmucker’s preface to the Church
Book concluded:
If the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is not
administered the Service now hastens to a
close. But if the Service is made complete
by the administration of the Sacrament,
the Congregation passes from intercession to thanksgiving in the Prefatio. The
thanksgiving loses itself in the Sanctus,
the Thrice-holy. The Congregation filled
with rapture by the Sanctus feels that the
Lord comes to the Sacrament and greets
him with the glad Hosanna…
It is well with the people of God, holy
longings fill their souls, and now they
receive the Sacrament. Through faith
unto faith they have come, and now have
most blessed experience. They are at the
table of the Lord. They can rise no higher
in this life. There is nothing beyond but
heaven. Their longings find fit expression
in the Nunc Dimittis. With thanksgiving
to God the service closes.26
Here one finds an excellent restatement of
Loehe’s sacramental theology, not simply
translated but transplanted into the American
context. The reforms of this modest 1860
English liturgy gained national prominence
with the publication of the influential Church
Book of 1868, used in congregations belonging to the newly-formed “General Council”
of American Lutheran synods. By thus leaning on Loehe’s theology and reforms, Beale
Schmucker and his colleagues returned the
25. A. Spaeth, “History of the Liturgical
Development of the Ministerium of
Pennsylvania,” 115–116; and Reed, Lutheran
Heritage, 172.
26. A Liturgy for the Use of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church, (1860), vi.
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
Ministerium to a service closer to the Reformation and Muhlenberg traditions.
Beale’s father, Samuel Schmucker of
Gettysburg, took note. The Philadelphia
archives still hold the elder Schmucker’s
personal copy of that 1860 church book.
Where Beale opened by saying that Muhlenberg’s liturgy had provided unity among
the Ministerium already in 1748, the elder
Schmucker incorrectly disagreed. Where
Beale cited the Bavarian Agenda, Samuel
wrote “Löhe” in the margins. Although this
is without further comment, it is telling that
the elder Schmucker knew Loehe’s work so
well at the time. Regarding the conviction that
the Eucharist provides the heart of Christian
worship, Samuel indignantly wrote, “This liturgy therefore regards the sacrament as more
important than the Word of God!” The elder
Schmucker rightly discerned a major change.
Through Loehe, a theology of worship at
once older and newer was entering Lutheran
worship in the eastern United States. Indeed,
this 1860 liturgy—profoundly indebted to
Loehe—has provided a strong foundation for
American Lutheran worship across synodical
lines for the past 150 years.
Loehe’s Legacy in the
Ministerium of Pennsylvania
A shared concern for missions and liturgical
theology had resulted in members of the
Ministerium of Pennsylvania finding a great
ally in Wilhelm Loehe. After the 1860 liturgy,
the committee responsible for preparing the
1868 hymnbook was explicitly directed to
use one of Loehe’s forms of confession and
forgiveness for its Sunday evening services.27
In the decades that followed, Loehe’s positive
influence remained strong. For instance, on
27. Solomon Erb Ochsenford,
Documentary History of the General Council
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North
America (Philadelphia: General Council
Publication House, 1912), 417.
for missions and
liturgical theology
had resulted in
members of the
Ministerium of
Pennsylvania finding
a great ally in
Wilhelm Loehe.
an 1886 trip made in preparation to start
a deaconess community in Philadelphia,
Professor Adolph Spaeth visited Neuendettelsau. He wrote:
In Neudettelsau [sic] I found much of
Loehe’s love for America and for our
Church here in his successor Rector
Meyer; also a readiness to help us practically by lending us Sisters, such as I found
nowhere else, except perhaps in von
Bodelschwingh at Bielefeld. We wished
to obtain a teacher for our probationer
(Probemeisterin) from Neudettelsau for
a term of years, and Rector Meyer had
selected one, but the state of her health
forbade her coming to America.28
Neuendettelsau was on the map for eastern
Lutherans. After this trip, a deaconess motherhouse was constructed in Philadelphia and
sisters began serving at Lankenau Hospital.
28. Harriet R. Spaeth, ed. Life of Adolph
Spaeth, D.D., LL.D. (Philadelphia: General
Council Publication House, 1916), 212.
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
Loehe’s efforts in missions, liturgy, and deaconess ministry still resonated in the Ministerium.
Loehe’s works also found eager translators in the General Council. Pastor Edward
Traill Horn, an 1872 graduate of the
Philadelphia seminary, went on to a distinguished career as a church leader, liturgical
scholar, and professor in Pennsylvania and
South Carolina. He published a translation
of Loehe’s Questions and Answers to the Six
Parts of the Small Catechism of Dr. Martin
Luther29 and wrote the introduction to a 1902
translation of the third edition of Loehe’s
Agenda.30 Dr. Horn also provided the first
translation of Loehe’s Three Books about the
Church, which he prepared in time for the
celebration of the Loehe centennial in 1908.31
In his introduction, Horn wrote:
The Lutheran Church in this country is
greatly indebted to Loehe. The colonies
he founded and the ministers he sent
contributed to the formation of the
Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri.
The Synod of Iowa is his foundation. He
was a forerunner and guide in the recovery
of Lutheran worship which issued in the
Common Service. The preface to the Order
29. Wilhelm Loehe, Questions and
Answers to the Six Parts of the Small Catechism
of Dr. Martin Luther, translated from the 4th
Edition of the House- School- and Church-book
for Christians of the Lutheran Faith by Edward
T. Horn (Columbia, S.C.: Duffie, 1893).
According to archival records, Horn had started
the project between January and March of
30. Wilhelm Loehe, Liturgy for Christian
Congregations of the Lutheran Faith, 3rd edition,
ed. J. Deinzer, trans. F.C. Longaker, intro. E.T.
Horn (Newport, Ky.: [s.n.], 1902), viii. Horn
noted that this edition, overseen by Inspector
Deinzer, had included its own revisions based
on the General Council’s 1888 church book,
demonstrating some reciprocation of influences.
31. ����������������
Wilhelm Loehe, Drei Bücher von der
Kirche, trans. Edward T. Horn (Reading, Penn.:
Pilger, 1908).
of Service published by the Ministerium
of Pennsylvania in 1860 acknowledged
its dependence on Loehe. And while the
Church Book and the Common Service
went directly to the sources, in Loehe’s
Agende were found a treasury of Lutheran
forms of worship, rendered and arranged
with the delicacy and taste of a poet and
a saint, and a guide to the unchanging
principles of Divine Service. He will be
more and more prominent in our memory
and thanksgiving as we develop our Inner
Missions, the work of Diakonie. And
through his disciples and his institutions,
but also through his writings, he will remain a living influence upon the spirit of
the Church. Wherever we meet him, he
is a Philip, saying with holy confidence,
invitation and awe, We have found Him of
Whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets,
did write, Jesus of Nazareth.32
Horn already recognized a great debt owed
to Loehe, not just by the Midwestern church
bodies, but by all Lutherans in North
America who cherished missions, worship,
and diaconal service. Loehe’s centennial was
celebrated in Philadelphia with a memorial
worship service, which featured an address by
Dr. Horn and the singing of Loehe’s hymn,
“O Gottes Sohn.” In 1885, Professor Spaeth
had composed his own melody for that hymn
and his wife, Harriet, had translated it into
English.33 In addition to being in the Iowa
Synod’s 1918 Wartburg Hymnal, that song
was included in the 1917 Common Service
Book used by the United Lutheran Church
in America until the late 1950s. Through
Loehe’s influence, new generations of Lutherans across the United States would continue
to experience a vibrant ecclesia plantanda.
32. ��������
Loehe, Drei Bücher von der Kirche,
Horn, trans., vi–vii.
33. H. Spaeth, Adolph Spaeth, 375.
Lohrmann. Loehe and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania
While many Lutherans in the eastern United
States had come to know and value Loehe’s
work during the nineteenth century, Luther
Reed provides a particularly significant bridge
between those in the Ministerium who had
been Loehe’s contemporaries and those who
followed. An 1895 graduate of the Philadelphia seminary, Reed became the seminary’s
first librarian in 1906 and in 1912 became
the first professor of liturgics at a Protestant
seminary in the United States. Reed held
Loehe in high esteem. In his monumental work, The Lutheran Liturgy, he wrote:
“[Loehe’s] Agenda, the fruit of much scholarly
research as well as spiritual insight, inspired
many others. It was brought to America by his
students and greatly influenced the liturgical
studies of Drs. Krauth, [Beale] Schmucker,
Henry E. Jacobs, and others who prepared
the Church Book of the General Council and
the later Common Service.”34
This article has focused on finding the
origins and impacts of that influence. Reed
had noted that Loehe’s Agenda was brought
to North America by students. However,
what does that mean? Beginning with the
Ministerium of Pennsylvania’s commissioning of Pastor Wyneken, there is evidence of
34. Reed, Lutheran Heritage, 152.
mutual awareness between Loehe and the
Ministerium. After that, the connections
forged early between the Neuendettelsau
missionaries, Ernst and Burger, and eastern
Lutherans, like Stohlmann, Winkler, and
Charles F. Schaeffer, suggest a much more
fluid and complex state of American Lutheranism than is often granted. One can picture
a landscape in which good ideas about how
to plant or replant the church were finding
eager listeners in many quarters. Americans in
the East who were uneasy with the directions
of Samuel Schmucker’s General Synod found
a great resource in Wilhelm Loehe, whose
emphasis on mission and liturgy resonated
with the great legacy of Henry Muhlenberg.
Loehe’s liturgical theology and reforms were
being put in place already by the late 1850s in
the Ministerium, first in English and then in
German. These reforms do not appear to have
been borrowed from the Midwest, but rather
appropriated to fit the liturgical interests of a
dynamic and thoughtful Lutheranism in the
East. For this reason, Lutherans in the United
States might not only remember Loehe as a
founder of some of its synods and institutions
but also as a long-valued partner in mission,
worship, and service across the country.
A Brief History of Studies and Relationships
“A narrative of an unrecorded part of the American
ecumenical story and an indispensable resource for
ecumenists and historians.”
— William G. Rusch
ISBN 978-0-8028-6599-1
Reflections on the 250th Anniversary of the
Oldest Lutheran Church Body in North America
ISBN 978-0-8028-6246-4
East, Central, and Southern Africa, 1939–64
“Authoritatively and elegantly written, crackling
with insight, and drawing on a huge range of
archival sources, this book will be recognized as
indispensable in the study of both mission history
and decolonization.”
— John Darwin
ISBN 978-0-8028-6633-2
At your bookstore,
or call 800-253-7521
Wm. B. Eerdmans
Publishing Co.
2140 Oak Industrial Dr NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49505
Book Reviews
Book Reviews
Building Cultures of Trust. By Martin E.
Marty. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-8028-6546-5. viii and 192
pages. Cloth. $22.99
What can we do when trust breaks down? In
a society where mistrust, distrust, and betrayal
are rampant, Martin Marty, eminent scholar,
author, and churchman, builds the case for and
shows how to do (even though he is modest
about “how to”) the slow, hard, and essential
work of building cultures of trust in a complex
Trust involves risk, says Marty, and I contend that the more trustworthy the environment, the greater risks people can take. Marty
presents seven levels where risk and trust meet,
including within the self, in community, where
teaching can occur, and where stories can be
told and heard.
The project particularly investigates
how to relate science, religion, and public life
through creating trust; however, the book is
equally helpful, and intentionally so, in facing
economic crisis, public exploitation, personal
relationships, and a crisis of trust within congregations and denominations. Marty provides
substantial chapters on “Scripted Resources”
and “Humanistic Reflections.”
I found especially helpful the section on
“Correcting ‘Category Mistakes’.” Trust breaks
down when individuals or groups make what
philosophers since Aristotle have called an ignoratio elenchi (ignorance of refutation). When
an argument or inference is abstracted from
one world of experience to another, false clarity contributes to mistrust. We assume we know
“where the other is coming from” but we do
not. Whether the worlds of science and religion, ethnic backgrounds of two parishioners,
or differing biblical interpretations behind a
church controversy, we need to move from misconceived compartmentalization to attentiveness and trusting conversation.
Because the human drama shows more
evidence of trust broken than trust kept, Marty
is committed to working together to develop
belief concerning the actions expected of others, trust among strangers, truth-telling, and
promise-keeping. He challenges us to keep the
dialogue open, the conversation going, and, in a
time of desperate need, to build subcultures and
cultures of trust.
Norma Cook Everist
Wartburg Theological Seminary
The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism.
Edited by John J. Collins and Daniel C.
Harlow. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010.
ISBN: 978-0-8028-2549-0. xxxvii and
1360 pages. Cloth. $95.00.
This mammoth volume provides authoritative
information by recognized experts on a period
from about the time of Alexander the Great in
the late fourth century B.C.E. to the time of the
Roman Emperor Hadrian (117–138 C.E.) and
the Bar Kohba Revolt (132–135 C.E.). Thanks
in part to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls,
this field of research has become one of the hottest items in biblical studies and is of enormous
importance for understanding Jewish life and
culture between the final books of the Hebrew
Bible and the Mishnah. Needless to say, this research has also altered dramatically our understanding of the Jewish context of Jesus and early
The book begins with thirteen lengthy essays (about twenty-two pages each) on modern
scholarship, the history of the period, Judaism
in Palestine and the Diaspora, text and canon,
Jewish biblical interpretation, the Apocrypha
and Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish
literature written in Greek, archaeology and
inscriptions, Jews among Greeks and Romans,
Early Judaism and Christianity, and Early Judaism and Rabbinic Judaism.
But then comes the dictionary proper,
some 520 entries in 1,070 pages, averaging
about two pages apiece. There are essays on
the later books of the Old Testament, each
book of the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha,
most books of the New Testament, almost all
of the non-biblical documents from Qumran,
theological concepts, significant historical, liter-
Book Reviews
ary, and religious figures and movements, the
Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud, the Samaritans, archaeological findings, culture and society, and discussions of leading researchers in
this field (e.g., R. H. Charles, Jacob Neusner,
and E. P. Sanders). Neusner, who has written
or edited more than 1,000 books (!), is credited
with showing that there were multiple Judaisms
in this period, and he has reshaped the entire
enterprise of Talmudic studies. Sanders has described Judaism in this period as “covenantal
nomism” and demonstrated that Jews did not
believe that works made them righteous before
God. His rejection of Judaism as a religion of
works-righteousness has come to be known as
the “New Perspective on Paul.”
Readers will find themselves dipping into
this volume again and again to harvest the rich
results of sixty years of progress in this field. The
price for such a grand volume is really quite
Ralph W. Klein
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Globalization and Theology. By Joerg Rieger.
Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010. ISBN:
978-1-4267-0065-1. 70 pages. Paper.
Globalization and Theology is a primer on the
manifestation of theology within globalization,
serving pastors and students beginning to tackle
the topic’s complexities. Rieger looks at the
processes of globalization and how theologians
have misunderstood how these processes are
presently and historically interwoven.
For Rieger, globalization is an older phenomenon that emerges throughout history, especially with the inception of Christianity and
the Roman Empire. This begins the first section
of his book where he discusses the connections
between hard power of the Roman Empire and
that of Christianity. Within the second chapter,
he answers observations of obvious oppression
with the emergence of alternative movements to
hard power, such as the followers of Jesus, providing two examples of answering hard power
in the work of Bartolome de Las Casas and of
Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
In his third chapter, Rieger talks about
postcolonialism from a particularly poignant
Western-academic viewpoint. Working with
two limited definitions of postcolonial theory,
he discusses how most postcolonialists do not
answer adequately what he terms as pronounced
dualisms and binaries. Although he discusses
the interplay between the usefulness of postcolonial theory and his notion of globalization, he
leaves his chapter dealing with postcolonialism
in a somewhat under-developed manner.
The final sections of his book look at topdown power within the interconnectedness of
soft power, globalization, and theology. Beginning with the concept of Hellenization, he
relates to it as a process of isolating the lower
classes under the worldview of the upper classes at that time. His suggested answer to soft
power is bottom-up globalization; for example,
he cites such an example as Interfaith Worker
Justice in the United States that manifests his
bottom-up ideology. Finally, he states a stand
must be taken, keeping in mind what types of
theology and globalization are used within one’s
chosen stance.
Joseph E. Gaston
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
Leading Across Cultures: Effective Ministry
and Mission in the Global Church. By
James E. Plueddemann. Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 2009. ISBN: 978-08308-2578-3. 220 pages. Paper. $20.00.
Let’s face it: monocultural leadership is coming
to an end with the world getting more interconnected in many varied ways. While the reality
of cultural differences affecting leadership meets
us around every corner, Leading Across Cultures
warns of increasing crosscultural tensions amid
the globalization of the church. More than being a fad, multicultural leadership is a truism
that requires leaders to change perception and
leadership practices.
After decades of serving as a missionary
and years of teaching at seminary, James E.
Plueddemann has much to offer about crosscultural leadership development in the global
church. Plueddemann is not writing just an-
Book Reviews
other book about leadership, harping on the cliché expected—the most desired characteristics
of a leader. Instead, he spells out the interplay
of leadership and culture. The unfolding of
conflicting cultural values, such as individualism versus collectivism, demonstrates the fact
that there are always good and bad motivations
behind each culture. No single culture operates
without flaws; how leadership makes sense of
this reality is more at stake.
In a world that puts much accent on
the “me,” Plueddemann challenges leaders of
all cultures not to just look at the self, but to
sincerely communicate with others. The decentering of self is an essential step to learn who
we are in doing what to whom. Multicultural
leadership becomes a power of possibility that
shatters self-serving intentions and engages
people of different feelings and life experiences.
Plueddemann’s conviction is, “The beauty of
crosscultural intermingling is that differences
enrich our experience of God’s grace.” (86)
Leading Across Cultures cannot be reduced
to a winning formula for building effective mission and ministry in the global church. Yet it
is a call to a greater sensitivity in cross-cultural
communication, and to a humble journey of
discipleship when leading across cultures.
Man Hei, Yip
Hong Kong
The New Interpreters’ Bible: One Volume
Commentary. Edited by Beverly Roberts
Gaventa and David Petersen. Nashville:
Abingdon Press, 2010. ISBN: 978-06873-3411-7. xii and 1061 pages. Cloth.
Welcome the most recent one-volume commentary on the Bible, including the books of
the Apocrypha (including 3 and 4 Maccabees
and Psalm 151), i.e., the contents of the NRSV.
(The biblical text is not printed.) This is the latest entry in the big, one-volume biblical commentary sweepstakes. It includes general articles
on the creation of the Bible, the canon, literary
genres, cultures of the ancient near east, Judaism, the Greco-Roman world, lectionaries, and
the Bible in the life of the church. The writers
are in general younger scholars, whose names
may not be familiar to users (a positive feature).
The commentaries on individual books
vary in detail. The bibliographies for further
study are almost restricted to English popular
works. Writers write in essay style, not giving
as much detail as does the New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Introductions to the books are
spare, briefly apodictic in approach. Let me illustrate from the commentary on Acts. It begins
with an “Overview” of 1 1/3 columns; it does
not mention the current debate about its literary form or raise questions about its historical
accuracy. A basic outline follows, not based on
Acts literary conventions, but on the geographic
development in the book. The commentary fills
pages 737–767. The spare bibliography contains only eight titles. It is thus a brief general
interpretation, providing a quick entry into the
book, typical of the commentary. It will be
more helpful for lay readers than for seminary
students or clergy.
The general articles. chronological timeline and tables of measures and money on pp.
943-1006 are good aids for understanding the
texts, their canonization, cultural contexts, and
aids in teaching the Bible.
Edgar Krentz
The Groaning of Creation; God, Evolution
and the Problem of Evil. By Christopher
Southgate. Louisville: Westminster John
Knox Press, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-66423090-6. xxii and 196 pages. Paper. $25.00
Christopher Southgate’s book examines the
question of theodicy for a post-Darwin era and
asks how the creation can be “both good and
groaning”? Modern science, especially evolutionary theory, has greatly aggravated the problem of theodicy by showing that the emergence
of life depends upon mechanisms characterized
by selfish behavior, violence, waste, suffering
and death—the creation’s “disvalues.” Perhaps nothing challenges the doctrine of God’s
providence in nature more than the revelation
that 98 percent of all species to inhabit earth
are now extinct. As the title of the book suggests, Romans 8:19–22 plays a central role in
Book Reviews
Southgate’s thinking. He connects Paul’s notion that creation groans because God subjected
it to “futility…the bondage to decay” with the
disvalues of evolution. He rejects, however, the
idea implicit in Paul’s language that these disvalues result from a primordial sin. The doctrine
of the fall cannot justify the defects of nature
because science has shown us that evolution’s
disvalues—the creation’s “bondage to decay”—
predate human existence by at least billion years
and have been instrumental in and necessary to
the emergence of beauty, complexity, the diversity of creatures and self-consciousness. Southgate contends that the “futility” of creation is the
“only way” God could have produced its greatest
values. His theodicy is unusual in emphasizing
the theological importance of animal suffering,
and he suggests that the animals will experience “eschatological fulfillment.” He argues that
humans’ priestly and co-redeemer roles within
creation call them to minimize the violence inherent in meat consumption and cooperate with
God in the healing of the evolutionary process.
In company with other theologians working on
the problem, Southgate emphasizes God’s “cosuffering with every sentient being.” His book
is an excellent treatment of this topic; it is profound, literate and concise. The endnotes are a
treasure trove; several of them should have been
included in the body text.
Brian C. Jones
Wartburg College
Preaching and Stewardship. By Craig A.
Satterlee. Herndon: Alban, 2011. ISBN:
978-1-56699-417-0. xv and 178 pages.
Paper. $17.00.
With the passionate insights of a pastor and
the thorough explications of an academician,
Professor Craig Satterlee approaches the perilous homiletical tension between preaching and
stewardship. In the opening pages Satterlee
identifies one problem that arises when preachers use too much ambiguity in discussing matters of “stewardship.” Then he clearly identifies
that the aim of this book is to examine preaching in regard to money.
By naming the elephant in the room, Sat-
terlee gives air to the reader’s insecurities, questions, and anxieties about preaching and money.
This allows the pages of the text to serve as a safe
space to contemplate how the understanding of
money, both financially and theologically, can
be used to support and accent the proclaimed
word of God. The book’s eight chapters play out
like an intuitive conversation about preaching
and money, asking questions such as:
“What Do We Mean By Stewardship?”
“Why Does the Bible Say We Give?”
“Why Is This Sermon so Hard?”
With meticulous detail Satterlee gives the
reader a survey of different types and styles of
stewardship campaigns from pledge cards and
“every member” drives to tithing and “first
fruits” giving. Satterlee diplomatically does not
champion some styles of stewardship campaigns
while writing off others. Instead he provides the
positives and negatives about the various stewardship approaches, with special attention to
the theological implications of each.
Satterlee’s homiletical focus is the proclamation of what God is doing in the world.
The question he raises is: How do we use stewardship to accent and support the proclamation of God, instead of hijacking the pulpit for
fundraising wherein God merely becomes an
Satterlee has done the church a great favor
in writing a book that is an invaluable resource
for pastors as well as for council members, congregants, or anyone wanting to think about the
theological implications of our stewardship in
God’s church.
Daniel W. Hille, Pastor
St. Matthew Lutheran Church
Avon, Conn.
The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of
the Synoptic Tradition. By James R. Edwards. ISBN: 978-0-8028-6234-1. Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009. xxxiii and 394
pages. Paper. $36.00.
Those who enjoy exploring the minutia of biblical studies and challenging scholarly theories
will appreciate Edwards’ volume, even if they
do not agree with his conclusions. He argues
Book Reviews
that one of the earliest narratives of Jesus’ ministry was written in Hebrew (not Aramaic), almost assuredly by the disciple Matthew.
This “Gospel according to the Hebrews”
(or simply “the Hebrew Gospel”) is not to be
confused with canonical Matthew (which, in
Edwards’ estimation, was the last of the three
Synoptics to be written), but it is to be identified with the pseudepigraphal gospels of the
Nazaraeans and the Ebionites. (By way of contrast, Wilhelm Schneemelcher’s New Testament
Apocrypha treats them as three separate documents [rev. ed., 1.154–178].)
Edwards finds evidence for the Hebrew
Gospel in some seventy-five attestations by two
dozen patristic authors from the first through the
ninth centuries C.E., plus brief scattered quotations of over twenty passages by five of them:
Ignatius, Origen, Epiphanius, Eusebius, and Jerome (who alone accounts for twelve citations).
Furthermore, Edwards maintains, “the
Hebrew Gospel is not, as commonly assumed,
a compilation of the Synoptics, but rather one
of the sources of the Gospel of Luke to which
the author alludes in his prologue (114).” Key
to his argument is his assessment of the alleged
Semitisms in Luke—numbering some 703
in all by his count, 653 of which he finds in
special Lukan material or in Lukan additions
to Markan material. Specifically, Edwards concludes that the Hebrew Gospel was the source
of the bulk of that portion of canonical Luke
that has no parallels in canonical Mark. This deduction eliminates the need for the hypothetical
“Q” source (hence Edwards’ clever chapter title
“Adieu to ‘Q’”).
It may be true, as Edwards suggests, that
apart from the Gospel of Thomas there is no evidence in antiquity of a gospel composed solely
of Jesus’ logia, that study of the Patristics has
been neglected during the twentieth century,
that there was (and in some cases, still is) a
lingering bias against recognizing the Jewish
origins of the Christian faith, and that the “Q”
hypothesis originated during an anti-dogmatic,
pro-enlightenment period in German scholarship. These observations, however, do not necessarily lead to the conclusion that “the traditional hypothesis of ‘Q’ as a sayings source is
unnecessary and indefensible (p. 240).”
It remains to be seen whether Edwards’ ar-
gument will prove strong enough to topple the
dominant Two Source theory of synoptic development. The hypothetical “Q” document has
enough content—some seventy pericopes with
over 250 verses—to be a source for study. The
Hebrew Gospel, which Edwards admits he cannot even attempt to reconstruct, is too scanty
to analyze. At best, we can recover forty or fifty
largely disconnected verses from a document
which was reported to be 2200 lines in length.
Readers hoping to explore the content
of the Hebrew Gospel will be disappointed.
Nevertheless, they will profit by being (re)introduced to the Patristic material, by exploring
the Hebraic background of many Lukan constructs, and by learning fascinating tidbits from
the nineteenth and twentieth century history of
biblical scholarship.
Dr. Mark I. Wegener
Richfield, Minnesota
Briefly Noted
Commentary on the New Testament. By
Robert H. Gundry. (Hendrickson, $49.95.)
Robert H. Gundry was daring to write a commentary on the whole New Testament, a bold
undertaking. This commentary will please the
conservative believer; it is affordable, especially
from Amazon or with a
significant discount. There are practically no
introductions to the books, but Gundry also
wrote A Survey of the New Testament where the
reader will find information about authorship,
date, etc. Gundry provides a full translation,
interspersed with the commentary. The translation is extremely literal, sometimes leading to
awkward phrasings. He pays scrupulous attention to the tenses, sometimes leading to overinterpretation. The interpretation also is literal,
taking everything as real and accurate historical reporting. The only criticism that Gundry
adopts is textual criticism. There are no references to form and other criticisms. There are
few footnotes or references to other interpreters.
Paul writes all epistles ascribed to him. He does
Book Reviews
not refer to the parallels in the Synoptic Gospels but interprets each Gospel separately; that
leads to some strange interpretations, e.g., in
Matt 21:4–5 where Jesus rides on two animals.
However, readers will find it is useful from time
to time to read and interpret the Bible literally.
Wilhelm Linss
personal notes. I find this a useful approach to
become acquainted with lesser-known figures
or to become newly engaged with the spiritual
importance of trusted guides. The legacy of
Howard Thurman deserves to be recounted as
part of this series.
Craig L. Nessan
Stephen J. Loughlin in Aquinas’ Summa Theologia: A Reader’s Guide (T & T Clark, $16.95)
has written the first of a new series of reader’s
guides to major theological works. This volume
has a very substantial first chapter discussing
the biography and character of Thomas, the
location of the Summa in relation to his other
works, and some extremely helpful insights into
the structure and method of this theological
classic. The majority of the book is a commentary on the three major parts of the Summa, organized by the Questions. The book concludes
with a brief chapter on the Summa’s reception
and influence. Loughlin, who teaches at DeSales University, is a most competent guide,
whose accompaniment would enrich those
seeking to work through this influential opus.
Craig L. Nessan
Wartburg Theological Seminary
Alcohol abuse affects every Christian congregation, if not every family, in some way. Basic competence in recognizing alcohol abuse,
understanding its dynamics, and ministering to individuals and families facing alcohol
abuse is essential for the practice of pastoral
ministry. Pastoral Care of Alcohol Abusers
by Andrew J. Weaver and Harold G. Koenig
(Fortress Press, $16) helpfully introduces the
issue through five case studies, which highlight
several faces of alcohol abuse: the depressed
teen, the alcoholic gambler, the traumatized
veteran, the grieving older woman, and the
retired drinker. The book includes a basic introduction to Twelve Step Programs and helpful advice about making referrals. The book
includes a memoriam to Andrew Weaver, who
died shortly before the completion of this
book but whose legacy and contributions to
the field of pastoral care live on.
Craig L. Nessan
The 40-Day Journey Series offers a devotional
introduction to the thought and spiritual
writings of influential figures in the life of the
church. These are handbooks for practical use.
The 40-Day Journey with Howard Thurman,
edited by Donna Schaper (Augsburg Fortress,
$12.99) follows the established format for the
series. After a brief introduction to the featured
author, devotional material is presented for each
of the forty days: an excerpt from the writings
of Howard Thurman, a related biblical passage,
the suggestion for a moment of silence, questions for pondering, a psalm fragment, prompts
for journal writing, recommended prayer
themes, a prayer for the day, and space to make
The New Testament and Jewish Law: A Guide
for the Perplexed by James G. Crossley (Continuum, $24.95) is a helpful guide to Jewish
law. Chapter 1. includes a general introduction,
2. Sabbath, 3. Purity and Food, 4. Divorce, ‘Eye
for an Eye’ ands Oaths and Vows, 5. Circumcision, Family and Interaction with Gentiles,
with concluding general remarks. Includes
notes and a useful bibliography. Recommended
for seminary students and parish libraries.
Edgar Krentz
Preaching Helps
Sunday of the Passion to the Day of Pentecost
Good Friday1
In “Preaching the Gospel of John: Abundant Life as a Vision for Christian Community,”
the award-winning course I teach with Barbara Rossing, we are exegeting and preaching on
John’s Passion as I edit this issue of “Preaching Helps” for Holy Week and Easter. Professor
Rossing and I emphasize preaching John’s Gospel and not blending or conflating Passion
accounts, and inadvertently proclaiming either an account of Christ’s Passion not found in
Scripture or an interpretation of Christ’s Passion unfamiliar to the church. For the Fourth
Evangelist, Jesus’ Passion is the hour of Jesus’ glorification and his coronation as king. Jesus,
who willingly and completely controls the situation, is “lifted up” and enthroned on the
cross, where he completes his work of defeating the forces of evil and drawing all people
to himself. It is the “hour”2 of Jesus’ “glorification,”3 the occasion of his departure to the
One from whom he came. For John the cross is the moment when the One by whom
the world was made lofted himself to the place of power and light, which he had in the
beginning with God. If we are preaching from John, we need to preach Jesus’ Passion as
God’s plan, Christ’s victory, and the hour when salvation is complete.
In “Preaching John” class, we find it helpful to divide John’s Passion account into its
component scenes—Jesus in the garden, Jesus’ trial before the high priest and Peter’s trial
in the courtyard (18:1–27); Jesus before Pilate (18:28–19:16); crucifixion (19:16–37);
and burial (19:38–42). In so doing, the scenes that surround the crucifixion provide ways
of preaching about it.
The garden scene shows that Jesus completely controls his fate. While we traditionally think of this episode as the betrayal and arrest, in the hands of the fourth evangelist,
Jesus dominates the events of the garden and completely controls what occurs there. The
Passion is underway because Jesus allows it to begin.
Jesus’ trial inside the house of Annas and Caiaphas and Peter’s trial outside in the
courtyard contrasts Jesus’ faithfulness with Peter’s—and our—cowardice. The maid who
keeps the door asks Peter if he is Jesus’ disciple. Whereas Jesus responded, “I AM” in the
garden, Peter lies and answers, “I am not.” Peter then joins the very ones who came to the
garden to seize Jesus around a charcoal fire (vv. 18–19). Jesus’ answer to Annas’ question
about Jesus’ disciples and his teaching highlights the devastating effects of Peter’s denial.
Interrogated by Pilate (18:28—19:16), Jesus is revealed to be a king. In actuality, two
trials again take place. Inside Pilate’s headquarters, Jesus stands trial before Pilate; outside
1. This essay is based on Craig A. Satterlee, “Good Friday,” New Proclamation Year A 2011,
Advent through Holy Week, ed. David B. Lott (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis,
2010), 224–231.
2. Cf. John 2:4; 7:6, 30; 8:20; 12:23; 13:1; 17:1.
3. Cf. John 11:4; 12:23, 28.
Pilate’s headquarters, Pilate stands trial before the Judeans. A compelling image for me is
that Jesus comes out to the crowd under his own power, still in control, dressed as a king.
Unlike the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus remains dressed in purple robe and crown. He goes to
the cross, his glorification, as a king.
They take Jesus to be crucified (19:16–37). Still in control, Jesus carries the cross
himself to Golgotha. Jesus is “lifted up” between two others, already gathering people to
himself. The author of John does not dwell on the bloody details of crucifixion (19:18) and
neither ought the preacher of John’s Passion. The author of this gospel moves immediately
to the inscription on the cross, another instance of Rome’s ironic proclamation of Jesus
as king, written in the cultured languages of the empire. That Jesus is king is universally
proclaimed and can be read by all who pass by, one more indication that Jesus is drawing all people to himself. Even though Jesus’ accusers protest, Pilate will not change the
inscription. Once again, Pilate unwittingly proclaims the truth.
John’s account of Jesus’ Passion ends where it began—in a garden—as Jesus is buried
by friends (19:38–42). Two secret disciples become public. Joseph of Arimathea secures the
body of Jesus from Pilate and Nicodemus brings a very large amount of myrrh and aloes.
Together, they anoint Jesus’ body with the spices and wrap it in linen cloths. Then they
place Jesus in a new tomb. Jesus is buried as a king. In the garden that began this Passion
account, Jesus was surrounded by enemies, betrayed by Judas, and misunderstood by Peter.
In this garden, Jesus is surrounded by friends, who publicly witness to their relationship
with him by attending to his body in a royal manner.
John Rollefson, a retired ELCA pastor living in San Luis Obispo, Calif., pens this
set of “Preaching Helps.” A contributor to this column long before I became its steward,
Pastor Rollefson served urban and campus congregations in San Francisco, Milwaukee,
Ann Arbor and Los Angeles, and supervised some twenty seminary interns. A graduate of
Luther College majoring in classics and history, he received his M.Div. from Yale Divnity
School (with a middle year at New College, Edinburgh), and M.A.s from the University
of London and the Graduate Theological Union. He is married with two adult sons and
enjoys playing tennis, golf, and basketball as well as attending things musical, cinematic,
theatrical, and artistic. He is a former resident fellow of the Ecumenical Institute of St.
John’s Abbey and University, a Merrill Fellow at Harvard Divinity School, a participant
in the Lilly-funded Pastor Theologian Program of the Princeton Center of Theological
Inquiry, and a recipient of a Louisville Institute Sabbatical Grant for Pastors.
Blessed Holy Week!
Craig A. Satterlee, Editor, Preaching Helps
Preaching Helps
Sunday of the Passion
April 1, 2012
Mark 11:1–11
Isaiah 50:4–9a
Psalm 31:9–16
Philippians 2:5–11
Mark 14:1–15–47
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of a
teacher, that I may know how to sustain the
weary with a word.”––Isaiah 50:4a
First Reading
“Starting near Bethany on the Mount of
Olives, Jesus entered Jerusalem from the
east, from the place of the rising sun,” the
former “Preaching Helps” Editor and Pacific
Lutheran Theological Seminary Professor of
New Testament, Robert H. Smith, wrote in
his 1992 commentary Proclamation 5 Series
A: Holy Week (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992),
p. 7. “At nearly the same moment,” he added,
“Pontius Pilate was entering the city from
the direction of the setting sun, leading his
troops up from the provincial capital at
Caesarea by the sea.” “Named together in
the Apostles’ Creed,” Smith observed, “these
two leaders, Jesus and Pontius Pilate, with
their contrasting entourages, represent vastly
different ways of organizing life” (p. 8).
Biblical scholars Marcus Borg and
John Dominic Crossan in their book-length
study titled The Last Week (San Francisco:
HarperCollins, 2006) begin with a strikingly similar portrait of the two imagined
opposing processions. For these scholars, the
processions illustrate the central conflict of
Holy Week between “the power, glory, and
violence of the empire that ruled the world,”
which Pilate’s procession embodied, and
the “alternative vision” of the non-violent
kingdom of God symbolized in Jesus’
procession on a donkey rather than a war
horse (pp. 2–5). Using Mark’s chronology
of Holy Week, Borg’s and Crossan’s book
provides a stimulating orientation to the
events of Holy Week, especially attuned to
their political implications.
Both imagined processions counter
the temptation to allow the church’s liturgical entrance upon the awful events of Holy
Week to become merely a frivolous Fourth of
July parade with palms instead of flags. “All
Glory, Laud and Honor” simply sings more
authentically, if pointedly, as the church’s
marching song as we remember that it is
sung to Jesus and not the emperor as our
“redeemer king.” It is important that this day
begin with a strong Jewish sense of anamnesis
as we, the present faith community standing
in succession to that first procession, in our
own body language re-member ourselves
ritually into God’s ongoing, liberating action.
As the language of the Passover Haggadah
puts it: “It was not only our fathers whom
the Holy One, Blessed is He, redeemed
from slavery; we, too, were redeemed from
slavery….Therefore it is our duty to thank,
praise, pay tribute, glorify, exalt, honor, bless,
extol and acclaim Him Who performed all
these miracles for our fathers and for us”
(The Family Haggadah [New York: Artscroll/
Menorah, 2008], pp. 45, 47).
Pastoral Reflection
Many of our congregations have moved to
making the reading of the entire passion story
a participatory affair, with various voices
speaking the individual parts of the appointed
Passion and the congregation serving as the
crowd and other plural voices. This is a highly
effective liturgical experience but one that, of
course, then places a severe time limitation
on the sermon. For some years now, I have
turned to calling my five-minute reflection
“Prelude to the Passion,” moving it forward
in the liturgy to precede the reading of the
Passion story. In this way the sermon becomes
a kind of propaedeutic for the hearing of the
Passion story, akin to a pre-concert talk given
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by a musicologist to help the audience better
understand and thus become more acute
listeners and appreciators of what they are
about to hear.
Maybe even a more apt image, since the
congregation in this case participates in the
performance of the word, is that of a conductor carefully introducing his orchestral
players to the piece they are about to play.
Here the authorizing key is found in our
first reading from Isaiah where the Servant
observes how “The Lord God has given me
the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how
to sustain the weary with a word. Morning
by morning he wakens—wakens my ear to
listen as those who are taught” (Isaiah 50:4).
Today the preacher’s role becomes that of a
teacher devoted to helping her congregation
“to listen” even as “the Lord God has opened
my ear” as the Servant suggests.
With this preparation for an attentive, participatory hearing of the Passion
story, the congregational reading itself then
becomes a sort of “dress rehearsal” for the
part the congregation itself will play in
the ensuing Holy Week’s liturgies, as we
assume our roles in the Passion drama
that will lead us through successive scenes
accompanying Jesus from his Last Supper
with his disciples on Thursday evening to
his burial in a borrowed tomb on Friday.
As we all know too well, the fact of the
matter is that few of our parishioners will
end up being present at all of our liturgies
of the Three Days. However, this only
heightens the importance of their hearing
by participating in the reading of Jesus’
entire Passion story at least once this week!
A musical hint: I have come to depend
on Samuel Crossman’s beautiful six-verse
hymn “My Song is Love Unknown” to
bracket the reading of the Passion story,
saving the final verse as a fitting “sending”
Here might I stay and sing—
No story so divine!
Never was love, dear King,
Never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend!
(Lutheran Book of Worship #94)
Maundy Thursday
April 5, 2012
Exodus 12:1–4 [5–10] 11–14
Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19
I Corinthians 11:23–26
John 13:1–17, 31b–35
“I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on
the name of the Lord,…” —Psalm 116:13
First Reading
One way of understanding Maundy Thursday is as a bi-focal occasion in the liturgy
of the church (like Palm/Passion Sunday)
that requires us to commemorate two different but complementary themes rooted
in the events of this last night of Jesus’ life.
The first, from which the name for the day,
“Maundy,” derives, comes from the Gospel
of John’s account of Jesus’ washing the feet
of his disciples during his last supper with
his friends. Having enacted this parable over
the particular objection of Simon Peter, Jesus
declares it to be a vivid example of the “new
commandment” which he is giving them,
“Just as I have loved you, you also should
love one another.” “Maundy” is derived from
a Middle English corruption of the Latin
word for commandment, “mandatum.”
Robert H. Smith judges this “one of the
most poignant paragraphs ever written,” in
which “every word groans with weight of the
coming crucifixion.” “This washing,” Smith
continues, “from which Peter at first recoils,
is nothing other than the cleansing flood of
God’s own outpoured love, coursing with
tidal force through Jesus’ life and death and
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resurrection, pouring into a reluctant world”
(Smith, Wounded Lord: Reading John Through
The Eyes of Thomas, [Eugene, Ore.: Cascade
Books, 2009], pp. 123, 125).
The second focus of this evening is Jesus’
sharing of a last supper with his disciples (remembered somewhat differently in the synoptics than in John as a Passover meal, hence the
Exodus text as our first reading), especially as
highlighted in the words “received from the
Lord” which “I also handed on to you,” which
Paul writes to the Corinthian congregation.
Since Paul otherwise evidences little interest
in Jesus’ ippissima verba, it is extraordinary for
him to pay such attention to “handing on” a
piece of the Jesus tradition that he claims to
have received from “the Lord” himself. The
similarity of this earliest biblical evidence of
what we have come to think of as the church’s
liturgical and Eucharistic tradition to the
later accounts in the synoptics underlines the
significance of Paul’s remembering influence.
And so it is only “meet, right and proper” that
Maundy Thursday should also be the occasion
to commemorate the so-called “institution”
of the Lord’s Supper in its centrality as what
Christians essentially do when they gather.
Not to be neglected is the content of Jesus’
words, both “this is my body” and “this cup
is the new covenant in my blood” but also
“do this in remembrance of me,” laying out
the parameters of the church’s succeeding
struggles to come to terms with the “real
presence” of Jesus Christ in what it would
come to call “the sacrament.” Finally, not
to be neglected is what one Martin Luther
would find so important to emphasize amid
the Eucharistic controversies of the sixteenth
century, what he called the “pro me” character
of Jesus’ body and blood as pointed to in
Jesus’ words, “This is my body that is for
you” (emphasis added).
Pastoral Reflection
My Oxford English Dictionary—one of
those with the print so small you need a
magnifying glass to read—describes how
in England the keeping of the “Maundy”
became ritualized to the point that the king
or a prominent bishop would ceremonially
wash the feet of a number of poor people,
after which a distribution of clothing, food
or money would take place. It goes on to
cite Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist, who
noted in his entry dated April 4, 1667, that
“my wife had been today at Whitehall to the
Maundy…but the king did not wash the
poor people’s feet himself, but the Bishop of
London did it for him.” Peter’s initial reluctance to have his feet washed seems widely
shared even to our own day as continuing
resistance to the rite surfaces even where
carefully recruited volunteers are sought out
in advance! There is just something about
footwashing that is off-putting, now as then,
it seems, in its incarnate bodiliness.
So too with the really real presence of
the Eucharistic meal. “Why Bother With
the Church?” the theologian Bruce Marshall
asked in an article some years ago. His blunt
if controversial answer was “the eucharist,”
by which he meant that nowhere else in
creation is the body and blood of Jesus Christ
made available to us as promised. It is not
that the church is not good and useful for
other purposes as well as being a mightily
frustrating human institution. Nevertheless,
making available the Eucharist is the church’s
raison d’être, according to Marshall.
The stripping of the altar to the accompanying somber chanting of the words
of Psalm 22, beginning with Jesus’ cry of
abandonment from the cross, “My God, my
God, why have you forsaken me?” remains
a highly effective liturgical transition from
Maundy Thursday to the bleak and barren
sanctuary we will enter tomorrow, the day
of Jesus’ death. Allow your parishioners to
depart the church in silence pondering the
mystery of the passion of Jesus, which lies
ahead. JR
Preaching Helps
Good Friday
April 6, 2012
Isaiah 52:13—53:12
Psalm 22
Hebrews 10:16–25 or Hebrews 4:14–16;
John 18:1—19:42
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken
me?” —Psalm 22:1a
Christians choose to commemorate the
death of Jesus on the cross in a wide variety
of ways. Good Friday liturgies range from
tenebraes to tre ore services with sermons on
the “last seven words,” from simple adoration
of the cross with readings to performances of
master works of sacred music such as Bach’s
St. John’s Passion or Rutter’s Requiem, from
solemn processions outside the sanctuary
to various “stations of the cross” designated
throughout the surrounding neighborhood.
Most traditional is the reading of the Passion story according to St. John preceded
by the extended Suffering Servant passage
from Isaiah 52:13—53:12. Witnessing
something of a comeback is the chanting of
the historically updated solemn reproaches.
All these liturgical options can be seen
as legitimate and effective efforts to worship
God in the context of commemorating the
death of Jesus, which Lutherans particularly
need to remember paradoxically marks the
death of God’s godself. Maudlin sentimentality is not the point but somber, sober
confrontation with the passion and death of
our incarnate Lord Jesus Christ is. Easter, to
my mind, should not even be on the horizon
on this day, even though, of course, all of
the Passion narratives, including especially
John’s with its emphasis on the lifting up
of Jesus on the cross as his glorification, are
Passion stories written from the perspective
of Easter faith. Good Friday sermons need
to be brief and poignant confrontations
with the death of Jesus, allowing the utterly
surprising good news of Easter to wait for
its appropriately unexpected articulation
on Easter. How to carry this off year after
year amid a consumer culture hawking
Easter bunnies since Valentine’s Day is the
preacher’s/liturgist’s greatest creative challenge! But today let Jesus’ haunting cry of
dereliction from the cross in the opening
words of Psalm 22 set the troubling mood
of God’s seeming absence.
A liturgical strategy I have found effective over the years at least with a portion of
the congregation is a return to the historic
observance of the Triduum in which Maundy
Thursday and Good Friday observances find
their culmination in the Saturday evening
celebration of the Vigil of Easter. Beginning
with the outdoor lighting of the new Pascal
candle and procession into the darkened
church to the chanting of the beautifully
simple Easter Proclamation leads into the
reading of a series of readings from the Hebrew Bible (once acted out with puppets!).
This encounter with our extended family’s
storybook of faith, then leads into a service
of baptism/and or baptismal affirmation in
which new members are welcomed into the
life of the faith community. (Lent traditionally
was the time that catechumens were prepared
for baptism, which then occurred at the Easter
Vigil.) All this is followed by a sudden dramatic transformation from darkness to light
as the Gospel Alleluia is sung to the lighting
of candles, turning up of lights and ringing
of bells. The Easter Gospel is then proclaimed
and very briefly preached upon culminating
in the celebration of the Eucharist and singing
of favorite Easter carols. All that is left is the
post-service festive party, which dare not be
neglected! This dramatically moving service
profoundly bridges the gravity and seeming
emptiness of an otherwise silent Saturday
and builds to an authentic anticipation from
the mysterious disappearance of God from
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the scene of the crime on Friday. See Hans
Urs von Balthasaar’s Mysterium Paschale (San
Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990) for a stimulating reflection on an ecumenically engaging
approach to experiencing the mystery of the
three days culminating in Easter. JR
The Resurrection of our Lord
Easter Day
April 8, 2012
Acts 10:34–43 or Isaiah 25:6–9
Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24
1 Corinthians 15:1–11 or Acts 10:34–43
Mark 16:1–8 or John 20:1–18
“The stone that the builders rejected has
become the chief cornerstone. This is the
LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes…
let us rejoice and be glad in it.” —Psalm
118:22–23, 24b
First Reading
The concluding sentence of today’s reading
from Mark, which is also the final sentence
of Mark’s entire Gospel, affords a stunning
if head-scratching articulation of the Easter
good news. “They said nothing to anyone, for
they were afraid” at first hearing does not seem
sufficiently good news to merit the fanfare of
trumpets and timpani the promise of which
has dragged even infrequent church-goers out
of bed this Easter morning. But Mark’s Easter
Gospel in its very oddity provides the preacher
ample opportunity to prevent this crowning
festival of the church year from becoming just
another rite of spring, transforming it into
an occasion for authentic if unexpected and
eccentric Gospel proclamation.
See the late Don Juel’s A Master of
Surprise: Mark Interpreted (Minneapolis:
Fortress, 1994) for a carefully nuanced
and literarily sophisticated interpretation
of Mark’s surprise ending, which seems
to have served as an open invitation to
well-meaning ancient faithful to fill in the
blanks of the Gospel writer’s abrupt and
seemingly unfinished sentence, which ends
with the conjunction “gar” meaning “for”
or “because.” It leaves the reader hanging
in mid-air, suggesting, as someone once
joked, that the author of Mark had been
dragged off from his writing desk in midsentence. Thus arose the so-called “shorter”
and “longer” endings appended to the text,
as in the NRSV, which reflect the early
church’s dissatisfaction and desire to resolve
the unsettling, hanging, discordant ending
of verse 8 on a superficially more pious and
orthodox note by harmonizing with the
more conventionally happy endings of the
later three canonical Gospels.
I for one am grateful that the contemporary church, under scholarly advisement,
has resisted the temptation to sanction the
more soothing and “edifying” endings, as
all too often happens in the final editing
process of our made-in-Hollywood movies,
where various endings are field-tested among
viewers before the final cut. On Mark’s authority, what the women on that first Easter
morning experienced at the tomb—really,
what encountered them—left them stunned
and speechless so that “they said nothing
to anyone.” Allow folks to experience for
themselves an uncleaned-up translation of
the Greek original, which stutters with the
crude double negative, “they told nothing
to no one”—“nothin’ to nobody”—for they
were afraid. End of Gospel.
Pastoral Reflection
Contrarian that I am, I long have been
fascinated with Mark’s unsettling ending,
which seems a good match for our sort of
discomfiting, discordant world. For Easter
can never be the easily anticipated, naturally
expected outcome of Jesus’ passion and
death. The resurrection is not just some
eternally recurring truth of nature—like the
return of the sun and the springtime rebirth
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of nature in northern climes, like the butterfly bursting forth from the seeming death
of the caterpillar’s dry cocoon. Such natural
images may be as close as we can come to
imaging the resurrection. However, they
fall dangerously short of the absolutely new
thing, the utterly shocking and surprising
and even terrifying novelty, that the resurrection of Jesus betokens in Mark’s telling of
the tale. As Juel suggests in his commentary
(Mark [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990], pp.
234–235), “the surprise for the reader is that
the resolution of critical tensions in the story
is left for the future.” Therefore, “it is only
fitting that just as the tomb will not contain
Jesus, neither can Mark’s story. Jesus is not
bound by its ending; he continues into the
future God has in store for the creation.” In
the meantime, Juel concludes, “we can only
trust that God will one day finish the story,
as God has promised.”
Not to be forgotten, of course, is
that what stunned the women into silence
and fear was the young man in white who
encountered them inside Jesus’ corpse-less
tomb. Beginning with the disarming (if
ineffective) words, “Do not be alarmed,” and
then going on to, “You are looking for Jesus
of Nazareth, who was crucified,” the young
man in white finally does articulate the good
news of the Gospel: “He has been raised;
he is not here.” This too is a needed corrective to the church’s penchant for liturgical
cheerleading with the oft-repeated mantra
“Jesus is risen! Alleluia!” For the authentic
good news of Easter is, as the young man in
white says, “He has been raised.” We need
to listen closely to the passive voice of the
Easter message. Jesus is not the actor in this
matter of resurrection but is the one acted
No less than Peter attests to this crucial
fact in today’s reading from Acts (10:40)
where he declares in no uncertain terms,
“God raised him on the third day.” Or as
Paul writes in our reading from 1 Corinthians
15 (v. 4) recounting the tradition handed
on to him: “that he (Christ)…was raised
on the third day….” God is the actor in the
drama of Easter, the very One to whom we
heard Jesus crying out into that eerie midday
darkness as he hung on the cross, “Eloi, eloi,
lema sabbacthani? My God, my God, why
have your forsaken me?” It is God’s raising
of Jesus on the first day of the week that
is the answer to Jesus’ cry of dereliction of
Friday—news sufficiently terrorizing and
amazing that it initially stunned the women
into silence—but not forever, thank God!
Second Sunday of Easter
April 15, 2012
Acts 4:32–35
Psalm 133
1 John 1:1—2:2
John 20:19–31
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!” —Psalm 133:1
First Reading
Robert H. Smith, the long-time editor of
“Preaching Helps,” left us admirers of his
biblical scholarship and pastoral sagacity a
posthumous gift edited by his wife and colleague, Donna Duensing, titled engagingly
Wounded Lord: Reading John Through the Eyes
of Thomas (Eugene, Ore.: Cascade Books,
2009). I propose to use Smith’s “Pastoral
and Theological Commentary on the Fourth
Gospel,” as it is sub-titled, as my primary
resource for the remainder of our Gospel
readings this Easter season all of which are
selected from St. John’s Gospel excepting
next week’s lection from St. Luke.
Crucial to Smith’s peculiar angle of
vision into John’s Gospel, as suggested
in his title, is today’s story of Jesus’ postresurrection encounter with the disciple
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Thomas who was absent on Easter evening,
the text says, when the risen Jesus had first
appeared to his disciples.
Smith’s insight is that in this passage,
which may well have been the original
conclusion of John’s Gospel, Thomas “is not
being held up to our scorn…as a person of
stubborn doubt” but rather “as a model of
deep and impressive discernment…as one
who asks exactly the right question and
then utters the truest confession” (p. 5).
“The confession of Thomas (‘My Lord and
my God’),” Smith asserts, “is the parade
example of what has been called John’s ‘high
Christology’” (p. 4). But, more importantly,
Smith insists that “John is using the story
of Thomas to declare that a Jesus without
wounds, and that means a Jesus without a
cross, is not adequate to meet the deepest
needs of humankind” (p. 4).
For those of us who chafe at John’s
emphasis on the “exaltation” and “glorification” of Jesus on the cross, fearing a gilding
of the cross rather than a grappling with the
mystery of Jesus’ abasement and sense of
God-abandonment in his cruel, criminal’s
execution as depicted in Matthew and Mark,
Smith’s perspective rescues John from the
charge of articulating a “theology of glory”
rather than a genuine “theology of the cross.”
For, as Smith testifies: “In this story at the
climax of John’s gospel, I hear Thomas saying loudly and clearly, ‘I will not confess as
‘my Lord and my God’ anyone, even one
who has been seen as resurrected and glorified, if that one does not have wounds…I
will not believe or trust or confess Jesus as
prophet or Christ, as Savior of the World
or Son of God—even if he has vacated
his tomb—unless he has wounds’” (p. 5).
Alternatively, put another way, “With this
story of Thomas, John is proclaiming that a
cross-less Christ, an unwounded Christ, an
eternally living but merely powerful Christ,
is not the answer.” Smith concludes with this
pastorally provocative insinuation, rich with
post-Easter homiletical possibilities, “Such a
Christ might in fact be the problem” (p. 5).
Pastoral Reflection
Not only does John’s Gospel lend a sense of
unity to this Easter season, but also our first
readings from the Acts of the Apostles testify
to the impact of the message of Easter rippling outward into ever-widening contexts
for the mission of the followers of the Way
as Jesus’ followers came to call themselves.
The Season of Easter’s second readings,
drawn from First John, offer yet another
perspective on the early church’s struggle
to maintain the unity of the gospel within
the diversities of the early church. Here see
the noted Roman Catholic New Testament
scholar Raymond E. Brown’s works on
the evolving Johannine tradition as read
through both the Gospel and Letters of
John in his The Community of the Beloved
Disciple: The Life, Loves, and Hates of an
Individual Church in New Testament Times
(New York: Paulist Press, 1979) as well as
his The Gospel and Epistles of John: A Concise
Commentary (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical
Press, 1988). With such an abundance of
rich and consistent lectionary offerings, a
sermon series focusing on either the first or
second readings commends itself or perhaps
an adult education offering throughout the
Easter Season focusing on the Acts of the
Apostles, the First Letter of John and the
Johannine communities, or the challenging
topic of the church’s struggle for unity within
diversity as revealed in our Easter texts.
A question that has long consumed me
regarding Thomas is where was he that first
Easter evening when he was absent from the
community of disciples when Jesus first appeared to them. As an aficionado of detective
fiction, I like to call this “The Case of the
Missing Disciple.” Here the Gospel writer
himself provides a couple of clues in his other
references to Thomas, telling us something
suggestive and distinctive about both the
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courage and the honesty of this otherwise
little-known disciple (see John 11:16 and
14:5). This leads me to wonder whether
Thomas alone among the twelve may have
dared to brave the threatening streets of Jerusalem that first Easter night, hoping against
hope to verify the fevered account Mary of
Magdala had brought of her encounter with
the risen Jesus earlier that same morning.
The good news is that eight days later
Jesus did appear to Thomas—a clear and
convincing sign that the crucified, now
risen, Jesus will do whatever is necessary to
bring us to faith. JR
Third Sunday of Easter
April 22, 2012
Acts 3:12–19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1–7
Luke 24:36b–48
“There are many who say, ‘O that we might
see some good! Let the light of your face
shine on us, O Lord!’” —Psalm 4:6
First Reading
If last week’s Gospel reading suggested the
genre of detective fiction regarding the case of
the missing disciple Thomas, today’s reading
from Luke’s continuing Easter narrative is
something of a ghost tale by the Evangelist’s
own admission. As with last week’s reading
from John’s Gospel, the risen Jesus greets
his followers with a word of “Shalom”—
“Peace be with you.” However, the effect
of his unexpected presence, Luke tells us,
is that “they were startled and terrified, and
thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
A ghost, I always think, whom they may
well have feared was sent by God and their
guilty consciences to “haunt” them for their
having abandoned their Master at the time
of his arrest three nights earlier and for not
having shown up at all for his passion and
death, save Peter’s cowardly denial. What’s
more, that very Sunday morning they had
rejected out of hand the testimony of the
women who had visited Jesus’ tomb as
nothing more than “an idle tale” not to
be believed. According to the story of the
risen Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples
returning to Emmaus, which immediately
precedes today’s Gospel reading, already
the women’s perplexing Easter testimony
was being interpreted and dismissed by the
disciples “as a vision of angels who said that
he (Jesus) was alive” (v. 23). Had this vision
now morphed into a God-sent ghost, sent
to startle and terrify them?
However, as in John’s story of Jesus’
appearance, this is no avenging spirit sent
to punish the disciples. It is Jesus himself
who begins by acknowledging—if wondering at—their fear by asking a question, as
he was so often known to do: “Why are
you frightened and why do doubts arise in
your hearts?” Then, with shades of John 20,
Jesus bids them, “Look at my hands and my
feet; see that it is I myself.” Here, too, for
Luke the authenticating mark of the risen
Jesus’ presence is the marks of his wounds,
as Robert Smith suggests. Further, as in
John, Jesus insists, “Touch me and see,” and
with perhaps a trace of a smile lifting the
corner of his mouth, having a little fun at
his disciples’ expense, “for a ghost does not
have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
As if this were not enough, Luke reports of
Jesus, “and when he had said this, he showed
them his hands and his feet.”
Yet Luke is not done with his tale of
Easter evening and of the disciples’ chronic
failure to credit the good news of Easter now
standing right before them. “While in their
joy they were disbelieving and still wondering,”
Luke begins, nicely describing their continuing
befuddlement. Then the Gospel writer puts
in Jesus’ mouth one of the great comic nonsequiturs of all time, worthy of Woody Allen
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or Mel Brooks: “Have you anything here to
eat?” What do I have to do to get you to trust
that I’m really alive—eat a tuna sandwich or
some gefilte fish? And so, Luke recounts, “they
gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took
it and ate it in their presence.”
Pastoral Reflection
“You are witnesses of these things,” are the
final words of today’s Gospel reading, words
that overflow that first Easter evening to
become the commissioning of the church
as “martyroi” to the good news of Jesus
Christ, as Peter testifies so compellingly in
our first reading from Acts. Fresh on the
heels of that paradigmatic empowerment for
witness celebrated as Pentecost, Peter here is
found using a fresh if little-appreciated title
for Jesus, that I think ought to reinvigorate
our Trinitarian God-talk, in which the
patronymic “the God of Abraham, the God
of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—aka “the
God our Ancestors”—now as seen refracted
through the human prism of Jesus is to be
worshipped and served and witnessed to as
the “Author of Life” (v. 15). “Life’s Author”
is resonant with echoes of Genesis 1, John 1,
and last week’s second reading from 1 John
1, highlighting the originating creativity of
the One whom God raised from the dead,
through whom according to the prologue of
John’s Gospel “all things came into being”
and in whom “what has come into being was
life, and the life was the light of all people.”
To be “martyrs of Easter” is to “practice
resurrection,” in the provocative phrase of
the farmer-poet Wendell Berry, who begins
by defying all death-dealing, anti-life forces
in the world on behalf of the Author of
Life. This certainly includes the mandate to
cherish the earth and all its creatures as we
join with others in celebrating this month
on Earth Day.
The contemporary hymn “Touch
the Earth Lightly” (ELW #739) nicely
expresses the earth-keeping dimension of
God’s authorizing call to care for creation
with as much God-given imagination and
ingenuity as we can muster amid a political
culture that is largely in denial. See Terrence
Malick’s stunning film, “The Tree of Life,”
an extended meditation on the book of Job,
for inspiration into relating the details of our
individual human stories to the story of the
Author of all of Life. JR
Fourth Sunday of Easter
April 29, 2012
Acts 4:5–12
Psalm 23
1 John 3:16–24
John 10:11–18
“The Lord is my shepherd….” —Psalm 23:1a
First Reading
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is known as
“Good Shepherd Sunday” since each year
the appointed Gospel reading is one of three
passages from Jesus’ long and rambling
discourse in the tenth chapter of John in
which he expounds on what it means for
him to declare, “I am the good shepherd.”
This language is so familiar to us in
the church that it is easy to miss the utterly
radical implications of Jesus’ claiming for
himself this title. For as Robert Smith puts it,
“shepherding is a political term” that speaks
of “kingship” or “generalship” (see, e.g.,
Jeremiah 3:15, 10:21, 23:1–4, and Ezekiel
34:1–10, 37:24 [Smith, p. 98]). However,
“good shepherd” is also God-language in
the Hebrew Bible, one of the more frequent
metaphors for God used in Scripture. To
find Jesus invoking the title for himself is
blasphemous from a traditional point of
view, which he escalates later in John 10 to
the audacious claim that “the Father and I
are one” (v. 30)—which not surprisingly
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leads his outraged hearers to take up stones
intending to kill him.
Smith asserts that “the cross,” according
to John’s theology, “is the ladder by which
Jesus ascends to his rightful place of leadership
over the flock” while “others try to climb up
to leadership ‘by another way,’ any way but
the way of the cross.” Such others whom Jesus
calls “strangers” seek to “avoid the cross because
they seek a different kind of glory and they
wish to exercise a different kind of leadership”
(p. 99). Further “Jesus does not deplore his
death or describe it as the work of his enemies.
In fact he gives no hint that others rip his life
from him.” Instead as in v. 15 ff. he simply,
if solemnly, says, “I lay down my life for the
sheep,” which he does quite deliberately, Smith
describes, in his own memorable phrase “in
an act of magisterial freedom” (p. 101).
Not to be ignored is the strikingly similar
language of today’s second reading from the
First Letter of John, in which Jesus’ language
of John 10 (including even the same Greek
verb for “lay down”) is clearly echoed in the
affirmation, “We know love by this, that Jesus
Christ laid down his life for us.” This then
becomes the Gospel mandate that “we ought
to lay down our lives for one another.” Jesus’
cross empowers the agapaic, self-giving behavior that alone is able to answer the age-old,
ethical question that confronts us all: “How
does God’s love abide in anyone who has the
world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in
need and yet refuses to help?” The answer
can never be merely rhetorical, as the Letter’s
author insists, but must be real and practical
for “love” is a matter not of “word and speech”
but of “truth and action” (vv. 16–18).
“It is tradition of long standing,” Smith
claims, “to interpret the evangelist as saying that ‘Jesus is like God.’” But we come
closer to John’s teaching “when we think of
him as saying that ‘God is like Jesus’” (p.
105)—the invisible Word of God enfleshed
and bloodied in self-giving love.
Pastoral Reflection
Today’s readings authorize an orgy of ovine
overkill. Have your organist perform Bach’s
“Sheep May Safely Graze,” or play a tape of
the Jacques Loussier Trio’s jazz version if you
are bereft of a musician capable of playing it.
Today’s 23rd Psalm invites special attention
as nearly everyone’s favorite. I remember
my non-church-going, Welsh grandfather
bribing me as a boy to learn Psalm 23 “by
heart.” Explore why it is so popular in your
sermon or adult education class. Exploit the
profusion of musical versions available in our
hymnody, contemporary and traditional, as
well as choral settings. The fact that we Lutherans in North America long ago opted for
“pastor” (Middle English for “shepherd”) as
our preferred title for clergy invites pondering how shepherd and sheep imagery might
enliven our imaginations around issues of
servant leadership in the church.
A particular claim that Jesus as good
shepherd makes in today’s reading may
strike us as especially good news. It corrects a misunderstanding of Peter’s words
about Jesus in our second reading from
Acts: “There is salvation in no one else for
there is no other name under heaven given
among mortals by which we must be saved”
(Acts 4:12). Non salus extra ecclesiam is the
Latin phrase meaning “there is no salvation
outside the church.” Imperial Christendom
would in time come to arrogate that phrase
to itself as the church’s monopoly on God’s
salvation. However, Jesus’ words in John 10
preempt such an exclusivistic reading, as he
declares in v. 16, “I have other sheep that do
not belong to this fold. I must bring them
also, and they will listen to my voice.” He
concludes in what we today might well hear
as universalistic, nonimperialistic language,
“So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
Which is all the more reason for us to work
at finding a way to use these readings to help
proclaim a gospel that unifies rather than
divides our contemporary flock of believers,
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for whom appreciation for multicultural and
multifaith realities is continually threatened
by growing political divisiveness and xenophobia in our “nation of immigrants.” JR
Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 6, 2012
Acts 8:26–40
Psalm 22:25–31
1 John 4:7–21
John 15:1–8
“…future generations will be told about
the Lord, and proclaim his deliverance to a
people yet unborn….” —Psalm 22:30b–31a
First Reading
Our first readings throughout this Easter
season have all been taken from The Acts of
the Apostles, volume two of Luke’s writings.
We have been led through a continuing
series of stories in which the Spirit of God
is depicted as wafting our earliest Christian
forbears into ever new situations, presenting
them with ever more challenging opportunities to proclaim and practice the gospel
in circumstances increasingly remote from
the old orthodoxy centered in Jerusalem.
In today’s reading, the Spirit gusts the
mission of the early church toward new
frontiers of the gospel on a number of fronts,
geographically, racially and sexually. The
story is one of the most charming and exotic
in all of Scripture. As do so many of Luke’s
stories, it begins with an angel, a messenger
of God, directing Philip to “get up and go
toward the south to the road that goes down
from Jerusalem to Gaza.” Our attention is
immediately engaged because Gaza is a place
of no little contemporary significance.
The text says simply that Philip “got
up and went,” no ifs, ands, or buts. What
did Philip find on this remote desert road
on the way to Egypt? Here Luke painstak-
ingly describes the scene, piling up one
adjectival phrase on another. For what Philip
encountered was “an Ethiopian eunuch,
a court official of the Candace, queen of
the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire
treasury” who had “come to Jerusalem to
worship and was returning home; seated
in his chariot, he was reading the prophet
Isaiah.” Luke uses seven highly descriptive
phrases to engage our curiosity and set the
scene whose action is initiated by Philip’s
condescending question, “Do you know
what you are reading?” To which the man
replies without taking offense: “How can I,
unless someone guides me?” This is just the
opening Philip is looking for to join the man
in his chariot and read with him the scroll
of the prophet, while proclaiming the “good
news about Jesus.” A pretty bizarre scene for
the occasional camel driver passing by, I can’t
help but think, though, maybe no stranger
than the sight of Philip dunking the man
in a nearby pool of water in response to the
man’s query, “What is to prevent me from
being baptized?” “Nothing is to prevent,”
is Philip’s unspoken answer after which the
man “went on his way rejoicing.”
It is a wonderful story, literally a
story of wonder. But I find it particularly
wondrous that having introduced us to this
exotic person with such careful description
it is the man’s sexual condition as a eunuch
by which Luke chooses to identify the man
subsequently four times—a person formally
excluded by the worshiping community
of Israel according to Deuteronomy 23:1.
What’s more Luke tells us that the eunuch is
reading chapter 53 of Isaiah, just a short turn
of the scroll earlier than chapter 56 where
the prophet shockingly reverses Torah’s exclusion of eunuchs and explicitly welcomes
them into the covenant community “with
a name better than sons and daughters…
an everlasting name that will not be cut
off”(v.5). Ouch!
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Pastoral Reflection
The welcome of eunuchs into the faith
community is not the issue on the frontier
of the church’s mission with sexual minorities of our day. However, we know what is!
“What is to prevent?”, the eunuch’s question, becomes the Spirit’s encouragement
to extend and include the welcome of the
gospel and the offer of baptism into the
Way of Jesus to all, including as we’ll see
in next week’s reading from Acts 10, even
uncircumcised gentiles—the likes of most
of us. Acts is honest in portraying for us the
challenges, discomfort, and resistance that
some among the early church, including its
leaders, evinced in the midst of these everexpanding liminal situations into which they
were continually being drawn. Nevertheless,
Luke wants us to be reassured that it is the
gusting Spirit of God that is blowing the
church beyond the covenant community’s
familiar boundaries.
Both today’s Gospel from John 15 and
Second Reading from 1 John 4 are one in
describing the gracious gift of “letting go and
letting God” as together they no less than
fifteen (!) times employ the same Greek verb
meno that is usually translated into English
as “abide” but that also carries the meanings
of “remain,” “stay,” “live,” “last,” “endure,”
and “continue.” I like the colloquial phrase
“hang in there” or the fussier “perdure.” The
point of the word, like Jesus’ image of the
vine in our Gospel reading from John 15, is
that our imperative is to “stay connected,” to
not opt out or try to go our own way but as
1 John 4 makes clear, to abide in love—to
hang in there even as God hangs in there
with us.
This was a word that the Johannine
community within the early church especially needed to hear and trust, precisely
because of its own sectarian tendencies
and desire to be a church of “true believers”
(See Brown, The Community of the Beloved
Disciple, p. 103 ff.). And it’s surely a word
the church of our day needs to hear and
heed as the Spirit continues to waft us on
to ever new frontiers of mission even as
recent decisions regarding the inclusion of
LGBT individuals grow in their reception
throughout the church. JR
Sixth Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2012
Acts 10:44–48
Psalm 98
1 John 5:1–6
John 15:9–17
“O sing to the Lord a new song…. All the
ends of the earth have seen the victory of
our God.” —Psalm 98:1a, 3b
First Reading
From “Cheers” to “Seinfeld” to the eponymously named “Friends,” television sitcoms
often rely on the tried and true format of
providing the viewer vicarious access to a
tightly bound network of friends to which
we become attached. Facebook, Twitter, and
other so-called “social media” are carrying
such “friending” to yet another dimension,
whether virtual or real, whether for good
or ill, who knows? Yet we seem to have an
insatiable longing to have access to that
utopian community “where everybody
knows your name.”
It is less common to think about friendship in terms of our faith. In the church, we
are much more familiar with love talk. By
my count today’s readings from First John
and John’s Gospel use the word “love” a
total of fourteen times! Many of us are aware
that in Greek there are three different words
that are all translated as “love” in English.
The first, eros, is the root from which our
word “erotic” derives. It is a word that can
mean passionate love, the kind of love that
desires the other for itself and can lead to
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a kind of out of control intoxication—love
bordering on lust, which the word “eroticism” connotes. This very common Greek
word, interestingly, never appears in the
New Testament.
The second Greek word for love is
philia, a word that can be translated as
friendship or devotion or even affection.
We easily think of words like “philosophy,”
meaning love of wisdom or “philanthropy”
meaning love of humanity or the strong
New Testament word philoxenia, literally
meaning love of the stranger, which we
normally translate as hospitality. But philia
can also mean something as simple as a kiss,
a physical sign of affection.
Finally, the Greek word agape is the
word most frequently translated as love in
the New Testament. Agape is love in the
strong, and almost untranslatable sense, of
Christian love—love in its fullest sense as
we encounter Jesus commanding “love your
enemies” in St. Matthew’s gospel or as in
today’s reading in John’s gospel where he
tells his disciples of God’s love for him and
for them, and then commands them to bear
the fruit of love in their lives. “God is love”
we heard from 1 John in last week’s reading,
leading on to the exhortation: “Beloved,
since God loved us so much, we also ought
to love one another” (1 John 4:8b, 11).
In today’s reading from the Gospel of
John we hear Jesus saying, reminiscent of
our readings of a couple of weeks ago, “No
one has greater agape than this, to lay down
one’s life for one’s philoi (friends).” Jesus goes
on to describe his disciples as philoi twice
more in the following verses: “You are my
friends if you do what I command you. I do
not call you servants any longer, because the
servant does not know what the master is
doing; but I have called you friends, because
I have made known to you everything that
I have heard from my Father. You did not
choose me but I chose you” (John 15:14–16).
Pastoral Reflection
I have a friend, a former colleague in campus
ministry by the name of Don Postema, who
first helped me to see the depths of what Jesus
was trying to get us all to see by using three
times this word philoi in the midst of his more
characteristic agape talk. I remember Don
insisting that too many of us Christians suffer
from a kind of “arrested development” of the
faith that fixates us into viewing ourselves as
perpetual children in our relationship to our
fathering and mothering God. What Don
argued was that by elevating us from the status
of children and slaves or servants to the status
of friends, Jesus is in effect welcoming us into
a mature faith relationship with God, akin to
that of an adult child’s relationship to one’s
parent(s). At its best, this is a relationship no
longer of mere dependency, inferiority, or
childishness in either its reactionary obedience
or its adolescent rebellious modes. Instead, a
mature relationship exists in which the parent
is still parent but whose love for the child is
expansive and liberating rather than merely
protective and directive, as may once have
been appropriate and necessary. (See Don
Postema, Catch Your Breath [Grand Rapids,
Mich.: CRC Publications, 1997] pp. 62–72.)
Is it too much to hope that the church
itself as Jesus’ continuing band of disciples
might profit from adding the metaphor
of friendship to its various “models of
the church,” as Avery Dulles once termed
them (Models of the Church [New York:
Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1978])? At least
it provides an alternative to the too often
cloying metaphors for church as “family”
or worse “family system,” which seem to
dominate our practical theology. (See too
Gilbert Meilaender, Friendship: A Study
in Theological Ethics [Notre Dame, Ind.:
University of Notre Dame Press, 1981].)
The oldie but goodie “What A Friend
We Have in Jesus” is about the only hymn
that readily comes to mind. Hymnodists
get busy! JR
Preaching Helps
Seventh Sunday of Easter
May 20, 2012
Acts 1:15–17, 21–26
Psalm 1
1 John 5:9–13
John 17:6–19
“They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in due season….”
—Psalm 1:3a
First Reading
On Thursday, the Ascension of our Lord, we
heard Jesus bid farewell to his disciples (followers), now commissioned to be apostles
(sent-out ones), by promising them the Holy
Spirit who would empower them to be “witnesses” (Luke 24:48). This word, martyres
(and its cognates) in Greek, is familiar to us
English-speakers through its transliteration
as “martyrs,” commonly meaning those who
suffer or die rather than give up their beliefs
or principles. The history of the church under
the Roman Empire prior to Constantine is
full of stories of those who gave their lives
rather than recant their faith in Jesus Christ,
the likes of Polycarp and Justin, Perpetua
and Felicity. Nevertheless, others, like Stephen and the apostles Peter and Paul, as
well as nearer contemporaries like Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King Jr., and
Oscar Romero are appropriately thought
of as martyrs.
The word “martyr” does not appear in
today’s Gospel reading from John 17, which
nonetheless contains Jesus’ prayer that God
protect (his followers) from the “evil one” (v.
15) even as he is about to send them into
a world that he prophesies will hate them
because “they do not belong to the world”
(v. 14). These disciples, whom we heard Jesus
call a couple of chapters back his “friends,”
he prays to his Abba, are those who “have
kept your word…for the words that you
gave to me I have given to them, and they
have received them and know in truth that
I came from you” (vv. 7–8). “Truth” here
stands for the witness (martyros) entrusted
by God through Jesus to his followers. Jesus
adds, “As you have sent me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world” (v. 18).
These words function as equivalents to Jesus’
great commission in Matthew 28:19–20 and
his promise of Pentecost in Acts 1:8. Further
they constitute the rationale for the need to
select a replacement for Judas that we learn of
in today’s first reading (Acts 1:25). A criterion
for this replacement was that it be one “who
accompanied us during all the time that the
Lord Jesus went in and out among us” who
“must become a witness (martyr) with us to
his resurrection” (vv. 21–22).
However, it is in today’s second reading
from the ultimate chapter of the First Letter of John that we find ourselves awash in
martyr language. Seven times in five short
verses the word “martyr” or its cognates
encounter us here in the NRSV translated
as “testimony” or “testified.” Rhetorically we
are bathed in martyr talk, a testimony that
those who believe in the Son of God bear
in their hearts. So what is this martyr—this
witness—this testimony? First John introduces it with what I can’t help but hear as a
fanfare of trumpets—ta da! “And this is the
testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this
life is in his Son” (v.11). This, in a Johannine
nutshell, is the gospel—the testimony—the
witness to which we are called to be martyrs
with our lives, even to the death when need
be. This is our Easter calling, to be martyrs
to the resurrection of Jesus, God’s promised
inheritance of life that death cannot hold—
life of eternal dimensions.
Pastoral Reflection
Robert Smith has again put it memorably
in his commentary on our Gospel reading:
“Jesus is the outward and downward movement of God, sweeping through a dark
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and unbelieving cosmos. He descends to
speak the truth of God with every breath
and deed, and he mounts up to God again
by means of the ladder of the cross. In that
coming down and going up again he calls
and gathers people into his own upward
motion, up from darkness and lostness, up
from unknowing and unbelief into the life
of God” (Smith, Wounded Lord, p. 157).
Now and again, I have found myself
resorting to a piece of ancient Christian literature as eloquent and compelling testimony
to the martyr or witness of early Christians
to the empire of their day. The Epistle to
Diognetus, dated about 200 C.E., is worth
mining for your congregation. Here are a
few nuggets of its witness: “Christians are
not distinguished from the rest of mankind
by either country, speech, or customs.…
While they dwell in both Greek and nonGreek cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and
conform to the customs of the country in
dress, food, and mode of life in general, the
whole tenor of their way of living stamps
it as worthy of admiration and admittedly
extraordinary.… Every foreign land is their
home, and every home a foreign land. They
marry like all others and beget children;
but they do not expose their offspring.…
They spend their days on earth, but hold
citizenship in heaven. They obey the established laws, but in their private lives they
rise above the laws. They love all men, but
are persecuted by all.… They are poor, and
enrich many…. They are dishonored, and
in their dishonor find their glory…. Doing
good, they are penalized as evildoers…. In
a word: what the soul is to the body, that
the Christians are in the world” (Colman
J. Barry, Readings in Church History, vol. 1
[Westminster, Md.: 1966], pp. 151–152).
The Day of Pentecost
May 27, 2012
Acts 2:1–21 or Ezekiel 37:1–14
Psalm 104:24–34, 35b
Romans 8:22–27 or Acts 2:1–21
John 15:26–27; 16:4b–15
“O Lord, how manifold are your works! In
wisdom you have made them all…. When
you send forth your spirit, they are created.”
—Psalm 104: 24a, 30a
First Reading
Truth be told we heard as much of the
Pentecost story as St. John the Evangelist
has to tell back on the Second Sunday of
Easter when on that first Easter evening the
risen Jesus appeared to his fearful disciples
(save Thomas), “breathed on them and said
to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John
20:22). Except in the Greek “Holy Spirit”
is not preceded by the definite article “the”
and could just as well be translated more
literally as “receive holy breath,” another
connotation of both the Greek word pneuma
and its Hebrew equivalent ru’ah which can
also mean “wind.” I like that Johannine
image of Jesus resuscitating the faith of his
dispirited followers by breathing resurrection life, “respirating” them, let’s call it,
empowering them even as he “apostles”
them with the words, “As the Father has sent
me, so I send you” (v. 21). St. John brings
the Easter season full circle by returning us
to the upper room for his brief story of the
original Pentecost.
The alternative first reading from Ezekiel 37 prefigures the metaphor of respiration
for the meaning of Pentecost by its detailing
of the prophet’s macabre vision of a valley of
dry bones reconstituted replete with sinews,
flesh and skin by the power of God’s word
but only truly revivified by the breath (ru’ah)
summoned by God from the four winds (also
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ru’ah). Echoes of Genesis 1:2, which speaks
of the ru’ah of God sweeping over the face
of the waters at creation, and Genesis 2:7,
where God is depicted as having “breathed
into his (‘the earthling’s’) nostrils the breath
of life, and the man became a living being”
reverberate with intertextual allusiveness.
So too St. Luke’s Pentecost story from
the Acts of the Apostles, which puts the
issue of the multiculturalism of the Gospel
firmly before us with its reversal of the Tower
of Babel story and its resulting confusion
of languages (Genesis 11:1–9) to the new
reality of everyone hearing “them speaking
in the native language of each” (Acts 2:6).
The universality and univocality of the
Gospel heard amid our global diversities is a
far more authentic aspect of Pentecost than
the single, if sometimes divisive, spiritual
charism of “speaking in tongues,” which has
fueled movements claiming the adjective
“pentecostal” from St. Paul’s day to our own.
Pastoral Reflection
Lacking the cultural accoutrements of
bunnies and reindeer, Pentecost is a festival
left to the church. Nestled between those
high secular holy days that pay homage
to mothers and fathers, Pentecost battles
commencements and the beginning of
summer vacation time. It has no cultural
pride of place. All the better for the church
to allow the rich texts we hear today and
the music and art that have been inspired
by it to craft a special holiday more in tune
with the quotidian realities of living out the
koinonia of the gospel in our multicultural
world—a world that from the first included
cultured despisers of the infant church who
sneeringly concluded that, “They are filled
with new wine” (Acts 2:13).
In today’s Gospel reading we encounter
Jesus anticipating the Pentecost reality by
promising the coming of what he calls the
Paraclete, translated in the NRSV as “the Advocate,” a word that can also mean “helper,”
“intercessor,” “comforter,” or “encourager.”
This Advocate, Jesus explains further, is “the
Spirit of truth who comes from the Father”
(John 15:26). Amid this, his farewell discourse to his disciples, he explains to them
how “it is to your advantage that I go away”
in order that “when the Spirit of truth
comes, he will guide you into all the truth”
(John 16:7, 13). Henri Nouwen deepened
my understanding of this text when in an
early book (The Living Reminder, 1984) he
suggested how sometimes physical absence
nurtures spiritual intimacy—a religious spin,
I suppose, on the old saw of how “absence
makes the heart grow fonder.”
The young Henri, as he confesses, often
found it difficult when face-to-face with his
father to have the kind of honest and deeply
personal conversation he so longed for and
would often leave his father’s company
frustrated by his inability to bridge the
father-son barrier. Only when he had left
home and was physically removed from his
father, he remembers, was he able to communicate in his letters the deepest concerns
and thoughts of his heart with the kind of
intimacy he so craved. Sometimes, therefore,
Nouwen concludes, physical absence makes
spiritual presence both more possible and
more profound. And so with Jesus and his
disciples, whom the Gospels are amazingly
candid in portraying as a group who just
didn’t seem to get it—to get what Jesus was
trying to teach and model for them during
his physical presence with them. As much
as I admire Jesus’ story-telling prowess,
and the vivid counter-cultural character of
his ethical instruction, the Gospels do not
give much evidence of the positive effect of
his teaching on his closest followers. It is a
small but significant point that Jesus’ physical absence opened the way for the Spirit’s
making Jesus more powerfully present to
the apostles than during the days of their
discipleship with their Master. JR
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It contains articles that explore the relationships of stewardship, liturgy
and preaching and provides practical guidance for leaders. A single copy
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