It became very difficult to conduct my holy office within the congregation. My opponents would have preferred that I resign my post.
As the time for the synodal meeting drew near a portion of the congregation recognized that the major source of disturbance for the anathema of the previous synodal session rested with the president of the general synod. A letter in protest was drafted.
To the revered Evangelical-Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States.
The undersigned members of this congregation feel compelled by conscience to present our protest to the revered synod concerning the anathema enacted the previous year by the Western District Synod. This is in reference to the doctrine of the final days, the universal conversion of the Jews, and the 1000-year reign. In particular it has rejected and condemned the teaching concerning the millennium during which Satan is bound and the church of Christ flourishes on this earth. It calls this teaching heresy, a devil's lie and hellish poison. First and foremost let us state
1. that we acknowledge the simple wording of the 17th Article of the Confession as it was read before and presented to the Augsburg Diet and that with it we reject: "certain Jewish teachings whereby the dead shall rise and live a holy and pious existence in a worldly kingdom and the godless shall be exterminated."
2. We protest every attempt to give this Article broader meaning than its simple wording allows. It is clear enough that it refers to gross Jewish chiliasm as contained in the Talmud. With the words "others who are now spreading" a reference is made to the fanatacism of the anabaptists of this era.* We hereby refer to what the fathers of our church, such as Spener, Walch, Reinbeck, Bengel, Rieger, Crusius, et.al. specifically noticed and indicated.
3. We protest against the anathema committed by the district synod and reject it for these reasons:
a. It encroaches upon our conviction in the simple wording of the relevant prophetic passages in Revelation 20, 2 and 3. We hold in mind the 22nd chapter, verses 18 and 19, wherein there is expressed divine warning about those who would detract or alter any of the prophecies in this divine book.
b. We protest specifically against this brazen verdict because it attempts to weaken the canonicity and divine inspiration behind St. John's Revelation. It attempts to rekindle dubious points, which had been examined, debated and refuted 2 centuries ago, to sway those who are unsure and lead them on with expressions that people haven't used since the days of the crass rationalists.
c. We protest because, if not totally at least in part, this anathema committed by the honorable synod severely encroaches upon the freedom of the Christian conscience, a tenet upheld in the Lutheran Church which provides each teacher and Christian the right to free investigation and examination. The verdict in condemnation has limited that freedom and gives one the bad impression that the men who delivered it wish to make themselves the lords over our faith and our consciences rather than simply be the helping agents to our piety.
d. We protest because they have deviated from the cautious and humble attitude present in all past church teachers, who were of the opinion that the question concerning the millennium had been settled. We cite, for example, the case where Heironymus writes in his commentary on Jeremiah: "Although we do not have similar opinions, we certainly cannot condemn this because many church teachers and martyrs have insisted that each individual may have his own opinions and all opinions will be brought before God on Judgment Day."
e. We protest because the fruit of this anathema has created much dissension in this and neighboring congregations. It has incited much unnecessary dispute, bitterness and quarreling between brothers and this will not be resolved until there is clear proof that nothing good can come of the fruit of such a tree.
f. We believe we are justified in protesting against this anathema because it stands in obvious contradiction to the last discussion we had with our beloved pastor, Mr. Schieferdecker. He himself admitted that the prophetic passages in question were obscure and difficult to understand and that no one should be allowed to insist that his interpretation was the only correct one. We must also charge that the polemic article dealing with this question in the Lutheran was laced with derrogatory terms such as fanatic and fanatacism, thus placing the name and service of a true servant of God into the class of fanatics. This fosters disunity and schism.
For all these reasons we beg the honorable General Synod to rescind this anathema or at least curtail it so it applies only to gross Cerinthian chiliasm, which the Augsburg Confession rejects as Jewish heresy. With God's help and His blessing we will be be able to grow much more wholesome fruit than that which this anathema has produced, fruit which has threatened to tear apart a congregation, which until now was indivisible. We certainly do not want to believe that the honorable District Synod intended to create such terrible upheaval as it has in the past year by the enactment of this anathema. Further damage and eventual destruction will occur if it is not rescinded. May the Lord Jesus Christ send the honorable Synod and all of us His Holy Spirit so we may consider these last troubled times and discover what is right in order to correct them. We sign our names
with respect and love, etc.
Altenburg, April 18, 1857.
This protest was written by congregation member Julius Nitzschke and signed by 17 other members of the Altenburg congregation. It was accompanied by a very heartfelt and humble private letter, which read as follows:
To the Reverend President
In the firm conviction, dear Mr. President, that you share my and many others' heartfelt and sincere wish for the congregation to remain whole and certain that you want to do anything to prevent schism and all its dreadful consequences, I send to you this letter in protest against the anathema committed by last year's District Synod session. Not everyone, who is in agreement with the convictions of the undersigned, were able to sign this letter because there was not enough time to gather everyones' signatures. It was also not our intention to impress you by adding a large number of signatures. However I can in all Christian honesty assure you that the few who did sign were particularly impressed with this issue of faith and identity and felt compelled to register protest against this damning verdict. We are convinced that the anathema damns the prophetic text of Revelation 20, which originates from God. When combined with the warning in Revelation 22, 18 and 19 it fills our souls with fear. Oh, may the honorable synod realize this and come to believe with us that heaven and earth shall pass with time but even after 18 centuries the word of the Lord remains permanent in His holy obscurity as contained in the prophecies. And the fulfillment of His word in prophecy is no less certain that His promise to us. Wouldn't it be better to kneel in the dust and state, "as it is written." We do not dare give a definitive explanation because experience has shown that whatever pious and enlightened men say about it
is not sufficient.
No one's conscience would have been oppressed if the synod had chosen this stance. The majesty of the Word would have been untouched and Christian freedom would have remained unlimited. Fraternal unity would have been maintained and the necessary warnings — above all else approach sacred matters with fear and trembling, remain within the boundries of graceful order and yearn for the nourishing milk of the gospel — would have found approval and all apprehensions, that fanatical chiliasm would take root among us, would have been groundless. Instead the synod's interference created a different situation and as long as this anathema is allowed to stand nothing will get any better. If it is rescinded, with God's grace we can return to the peace we once had.
The man continuing Reinbeck's Meditations on the Augsburg Confession, Dr. J.S. Canz of Tübingen, asks in Part 9, page 187 of this investigative work: Can one expect a double resurrection at the culmination of the 1000-year reign? He then expounds upon the reasons on both sides concerning this disputed text without making a decision either way, leaving it to brighter scholars of scripture and posterity. Why couldn't the honorable synod have left things alone, kept quiet about its convictions, deferred in giving warning, and followed in the footsteps of this intelligent and learned man (Heinsius, Unbiased Church History, Part 3, Section 2, page 1326 and part 4, Section 2, page 121) and thus avoid such ruination? I believe with the grace of the great Prince of Peace it still could if it changes its stance and modulates its responses to change the evil it committed with its verdict in condemnation. May you, beloved brother, be an instrument in the hand of the Lord, etc.
Sincerely submitted to Your Reverence,
Members in the neighboring Frohna congregation also felt compelled to register their protest in the same decisive and moderate spirit. Anything, which could be done, was done
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