From the Disk of the Pastor August 2009
Dear Friends in Christ,
The founders of the Missouri Synod were an interesting lot. Unfortunately, we don’t hear that much about them, other than C. F. W. Walther. He may have been the dullest of the bunch. All he did was debate theology... Oops - I almost forgot. When he left Germany there was a warrant out for his arrest. He had “kidnapped” a niece and nephew that wanted to go to America with him. In order to smuggle them past the authorities he hid them in the back of a cart and disguised himself as an old woman. Yes, the first president of the LCMS left Germany in a dress!
The real man behind the formation of the synod is Rev. F.C.D. Wyneken. He deliberately split two congregations, one in Fort Wayne and one in Baltimore, and single handedly destroyed the Synod of the West. Now there’s a churchman for you! In addition, while he was in Fort Wayne he would go around dressed as a common frontiersman in buckskins. The congregation was so upset by this that they had a tailor make him a proper black suit, and tricked him into trying it on. While he was doing so, they stole his buckskins. Wyneken would serve as president of the LCMS for fourteen of its first seventeen years, finally retiring due to ill health in 1864.
One of the other leading lights of the early Missouri Synod was F. A. Craemer - the founding pastor of St. Lorenz, Frankenmuth, Michigan. On the boat over to America he married a woman with an illegitimate son, which scandalized many of the colonists. He frequently quarreled with his congregation over the control of congregational funds. In Craemer’s defense these funds had been give to the colony by German pastor Wilhelm Loehe, and specifically entrusted to Craemer by Loehe. Craemer was frequently ill in those first years in America. Once, a Michigan Synod pastor by the name of Dumser stopped by to visit when Craemer was in bed with a high fever. Craemer became so angry at Dumser for his lack of commitment to the Lutheran Confessions, that Craemer got himself out of bed, in spite of the high fever, and physically tossed Dumser from his house. Craemer would go on to be president of Concordia Theological Seminary, which today is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Needless to say, none of these men were “Minnesota Nice”. In fact, today, most congregations in the LCMS would not tolerate such a man as their pastor. I would suggest that this is to our discredit. What drove these men to do such zany things and be so contentious? It was an absolute commitment to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. It was a commitment to doing what was right before God, regardless of the cost. These were men who were not constrained by either church or civil authorities in matters where God had clearly spoken.
We live in an age where many issues are swept under the rug and not confronted. We strive to avoid even the appearance of scandal or contention at all costs. The truth of God’s Word becomes the first victim of such an attitude. This is why giving everything a pleasant public face, often becomes a great evil. Truth is something that must be fought for about twice in every generation in synod and in each congregation. Otherwise, the truth will be lost. Those who fight for the truth are often painted as the “bad guys”. We must not fall into that trap. A church that is committed to the truth of God’s word will always have a certain level of conflict, because the devil is always looking to attack the truth. Such conflict, far from being bad, is in fact good and necessary to maintain the truth. Let us also pray for the same spirit and commitment to truth as was possessed by the founders of our great synod.
Rev. Jody R. Walter