They could not allow me to speak about anything, which might take something away from divine revelation because I was not able to supply an answer for all considerations and difficulties. They said we did not share the same principle of exposition specifically since the obscure passages should be separated from the clear ones. I replied that I understood this principle quite well but I would not resort to it because in the end it falsely negates things which clearly spring to mind concerning the textual interdependence.
Thus the discussions yielded no successful conclusion. In accordance with the wishes of the Synod I gave my closing declaration in writing on October 22nd. It read as follows.
"I believe in the fundamental articles of Christian faith concerning the second coming of Jesus Christ on Judgment Day and the universal resurrection of the dead as described in the 3 articles. Additionally I believe that the church here on earth is ordained by God to suffer martyrdom and distress from the devil, the world, and the physical realm until the end of days. I also believe that the church must anticipate Christ's second coming and expect Judgment Day to come at any time. The opinions I have, concerning the 1000 years in St. John's Revelvation and the textual interdependence therin which indicate that prophecies concerning the final defeat of the antichrist and the immanent arrival of Judgment Day have not yet been fulfilled, I will keep private. I have no desire to make these opinions doctrines or articles of faith and I do not wish to impose them upon anyone. From my heart I hope that the revered Synod will find no cause herein to exclude me from its membership, however I will not longer suffer the oppression of my conscience."
The love of peace and the fear of schism moved me to concede only as much as conscience would allow. Two issues stood out in my mind as separate and irreconcilable, namely that Judgment Day could come at any time however prophecy concerning the 1000 years had yet to be fulfilled.
The seeming contradiction in scripture would be resolved if one took Judgment Day to mean a period beginning with the judgment of the antichrist and ending with the universal final judgment. For me it was a problem whose solution I would leave for more learned and enlightened people. However the Missouri Synod would strike out passages from scripture concerning the 1000 years or, against all means of sound interpretation, place it either before the end of the antichrist or after the final judgment. Instead of delicately unravelling the knot they were going to rip it apart with their bare hands.
It was no wonder that my mind was left unsatified. They decided to formulate questions to which I should respond with unqualified yes or no answers. A committee was appointed to draw up these questions:
1. Does the church of Christ in the proper sense of the communion of saints remain invisible and hidden beneath the holy cross until Judgment Day?
2. Does the universal resurrection of all the dead, both the righteous and the unrighteous, occur solely, exclusively, and without except on this same Judgment Day?
3. Does the visible arrival of Christ occur solely and exclusively on this Judgment Day and without exception will the judgment of all people solely and exclusively occur?
4. Is any chiliastic opinion not covered by these 3 points against the meaning of the 17th Article of the Augsburg Confession and therefore condemned?
5. Does Pastor Schieferdecker acknowledge and understand that he has committed error and does he now agree with the resolutions passed concerning chiliasm by the Western District Synod?
6. Does he understand that it is necessary for the sanctity of his soul that he swear an oath pledging his faith in these 5 points and the oath must be repeated before his vexed congregation?
I was supposed to submit my answers to these questions in writing the following day. Pastor Fürbringer would then discuss the answers with me in
the presence of the Synod. It wasn't the kind of colloquium I was expecting. I was supposed to give only yes or no answers. This was his instruction to me: These questions were put to me by the true church of God, which was present here in this assembly. I should answer only with yes or no. When I answered yes to the first question but then wanted to add an explanation he interrupted me with the words, "Nothing further. He could not permit any additional mediation." I then asked the President for permission to give an answer, which sufficiently dealt with my conviction. I was granted this and thus I gave the following answers to the 6 questions.
To the first question: Yes, if it does not eliminate the hope that the reign of God celebrates the final victory over the powers of the antichrist and signifies the magnificent plenum of spiritual and heavenly wealth produced by an expanded and true awareness of God and Jesus Christ.
To question 2: Yes, however I cannot agree to the term "without exception."
To question 3: Yes, provided I am not forced to reject the notion of the prior second coming of Christ to do battle with the antichrist, although I am uncertain in what manner these events shall occur.
To question 4: Yes, provided people do not equate my answers to questions 1, 2 and 3 with a dispute over the 17th Article of the Augsburg Confession.
Naturally I responded negatively to questions 5 and 6 regarding acceptance of the resolutions passed by the Western District Synod the previous year and the required acknowledgement that I had put my congregation through turmoil with false doctrine. With this Pastor Fürbringer departed and I had to submit my answers in writing. In the afternoon my answers were read but not with the intention of conducting further negotiations with me. Rather the goal was to convince all the members of the synod that I no longer stood with them on the same
spiritual grounding in faith. Prof. Walther perceived in my first answer that the comment added to the affirmation either meant something or it meant nothing. In the latter case it could be completely dismissed. In the former instance it meant that I still stood firmly in my error. I countered that I only wanted to make a few additional comments with my yes answers. I didn't want the Synod to interpret my yes answers as a complete rejection of my opinions concerning the final days. Honesty forebade me to employ such deception. However I did not think that my additional comments were contrary to the articles of faith in which I professed belief. Walther responded, it would have been just as honest to answer the questions with a definitive yes and without reservations. Throughout the ages the chiliasts have always done the same. They would never give completely candid professions of faith whenever someone confronted them with the articles of faith. Seidenbecher's trial proves this. The Synod declared that it was apparent to them that I did not stand on the same grounding in faith as them and now the issue must be brought to conclusion. A committee was appointed, consisting of the professors of both theological seminaries, the 4 district presidents and 4 deputies, to advise me of the final decision. On the following day, October 24th, the last day of the synodal session, the following resolution was passed:
"Pastor Schieferdecker has revealed in the current session of negotiations that he places his own chiliastic interpretation of prophetic passages in scripture on the same footing with the certain and clear word of God. As a result his imagined suspicions distort many articles of the Christian faith such as those concerning Christ's kingdom on earth, Christ's second coming on Judgment Day, and in particular belief concerning the resurrection of the dead on Judgment Day. Repeated attempts have been made to bring the above-named back from his error, which have all proved useless. Thus the Synod recognizes that Pastor Schieferdecker no longer stands with it
on the same spiritual grounding in faith and it finds it necessary to withdraw from any further synodal communion with him."
Someone asked if they were still to consider me a brother. The answer was: One could not determine if I was still a Christian in this case, however I was not a Lutheran minister. Another expressed the wish that the Synod should warn the congregation not to have anything more to do with me. However the President used these words: These are matters for the congregation, not the Synod.
After pronouncement of the verdict President Wyneken spoke with me briefly, saying that the steps taken by the Synod might serve to help me and that others should fear that even a minister who had been loyal for so many years could still fall into grave error. I responded, although I left the Synod with a sorely troubled heart, I still had to admit that even after examination of my conscience and persistent prayer during the entire time concerning whether my hope and conviction really was against the articles of doctrinal faith, I was not able to convince myself otherwise. I truly believed that the Synod had acted out of its own set of convictions but it would have been appropriate for it to allow me to show my justifications. Should my convictions change, I hoped the Synod would not bar my return. The President confirmed this last statement with a heartfelt wish. The Synod composed the resolution based on Walther's proposal to begin the afternoon session with a litany performed while everyone knelt. I did not attend any more sessions.
Thus I saw myself now barred from a body, which I had helped to establish; excluded from a community, which for the most part had given me great spiritual advantage. It was a body which I loved and esteemed and to which for years I had been one of the oldest and most respected members. Indeed I had been in intimate association with this body since the beginning of my life as a Christian for over 2 decades. I was given up as a regrettable loss and I was even viewed with contempt. Many people misconstrued
Go to the index