Pastoral Letter and Correspondence between J. A. A. Grabau and the Missouri Synod: Pages 73 - 77


delivered an entirely different lesson on the question of this subject to the inexperienced Bohemians than you have imparted in your pastoral letter. How wondrous here is the shepherd's office detailed in all its functions from the spiritual priesthood of all Christians; how excellent is the combat with the primary enemy, priestly pride, which is then left far behind; — how kindly is the conscience of poor shepherdless sheep treated, their hearts urged on to true faith, to prayer and to the one who is needed; they are refreshed and with regard to the choosing of a preacher no binding laws are set before them but rather fatherly mild and wise advise, which limits itself to that which is most necessary and is appropriate to their needs and circumstances. Truly it is, though Luther did not call it this, a pastoral letter in a certain sense of the word.

We will cite only one passage, which is particularly pertinent here:
"Consequent to the fact that each of us is born through baptism to the office of the word and the popes and bishops will not establish such service to the word but rather only destroy the word and corrupt the church, it follows that since we admit that the church without the word corrupts, we will assemble and from our midst through a general vote choose one or more as necessary who are capable and then with prayer and the laying on of hands of the congregation command and confirm them, acknowledge them as proper bishops and servants of the word and respect them, have faith in them in all things so that everything, which is intended through general choice by the faithful, as the gospel acknowledges and professes, is treated and enacted by God."

As it has already been pointed out here, what is essential to the pastoral office is the choosing by the faithful, which is confirmed through ordination and through which the chosen ones of the congregation receive their orders, that is, should be presented with their duties and introduced to their office. Indeed as it proceeds from the following there are no church servants at hand; rather the congregation imparts the ordination. Thus Luther did not want the Bohemians to go outside their territory and hold their ordination of their chosen preacher and he fortified them in the joyous hope of Successio Doctrinalis * for all of Bohemia so they would remain steadfast to the word and true faith. He also added: "however if you are still too weak to handle the installation of priests in this free and apostolic manner, we are willing to tolerate your weakness a little while longer and concede that you might accept those chosen by the papists, etc." And thus he recommended to them a certain Gallus and his like, through whom they they could allow their chosen preacher to be confirmed.

When he sets down ordination through already at hand church servants as a liberated thing, he states in his text "of corner masses and priestly consecrations" (Walch XIX, page 1544) primarily about the complete ordination, that it (essentially) had not been made necessary for every called preacher about whom he speaks. "For the called preacher, he states, may well be able to conduct his pastorate without such confirmation." And that he did not

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* Comment: He himself did not use the term "Successio Doctrinalis;" for us it is a general idea bound together either out of Luther's texts or from the history of the church. From whom then did Luther, for example, receive the concept of Succession Doctrinalis? Is it to be understood from what God says in Isaiah 59, 21 - promise to the entire church, thus we stand well within it. Return to text


mean papal anointing and abomination, without which the called pastor may also be able to conduct his pastorage; one sees from what follows that Lutherans, out of humility and for the sake of peace, may have sought ordination along with the papists, as he states: "that they should have to confirm our priestly authority." But lest these priests should also have been forced to anointing and other abominations, he continues — "we will see how we obtain priests and preachers through baptism and God's word, ordained and confirmed through our choosing and calling without their anointing."

In one section we hear how he would gladly see free ordination (for the sake of order) attempted and maintained however in another section he calls it mere confirmation and in a broader sense uses it synonymously with vocation, which for him remains the primary issue. He states in his text "From the Babylonian Captivity" (Walck XIX, 139): "and thus the sacrament of consecration is, if nothing else, a traditional means of calling someone to the service of the church."

Without doing any violence in the least to the words we could place a few citations before you, which you apply from Luther's writings to your interpretation; it yields a unique sense to the above sufficiently in itself so we will go on.

3. With regard to the testimonies, which you cite from the many later tehologians and church orders, unfortunately we do not have these sources at hand; and about them we cannot definitively judge whether or not they contrast in their grounding and pedagogy with the testimonies of the above named important theologians and with the here posited biblical and Lutheran principles. Certainly it is not unknown to us that in the two previous centuries the purity of Lutheran doctrine has been clouded in many ways and among other things the spiritual worth of the office has been raised very high at the cost of the worth of average Christians. Therefore it's also quite possible that a greater importance has been placed on ordination than it originally had.

It continues to be remarkable that with all the provocation of the outlawed Lutherans they deviated so quickly from the oldest simple means of ordination, as Luther maintained it. Compare Walch X, 1874, etc. One still finds no word there concerning a specific divine decree through which those performing the ordaining were called to this function. Luther's same formula is found almost word for word in Dr. Bugenhagen's edited Pomeranian Agenda of the year 1535; similarly in the Coburg Agenda and in the Saxon Agenda of 1539, originally edited by Cruciger and others. In the altered edition of this agenda of the year 1580 one finds the words of the ordination formula: I ordain, confirm and consecrate you as a servant through divine command and order, etc." However in this one sees that it may be understood in no other sense than concerning the installation of the complete office as decreed by God.

Now we gladly admit that many of the later theologians and superintendents have spoken about it for good reasons in just the same sense and interpretation as you have cited in each proof.

However when you draw the conclusion in your letter to Pastor Brohm that a formula, whereby it is taught that ordination is necessary and expressly commanded by God, could not have been arrived at if the church did not teach it, I must say that this is truly a peculiar and quite childish conclusion.


How many countless confusions in teaching arose during the times of the apostles, where the church still taught most purely? And how may powerful heresies did the enemy of Luther's time attempt to disseminate, where the gospel again wonderously arose from its grave? — There is no doubt that with regard to teaching on ordination a false leavening could have been insinuated within the church. And if you would still be unwilling to concede to this assertion, far be it from us to acknowledge for this reason that it is contrary to God's word and the original teaching of our church in this part of an agenda, in which we found the leavening. However we are glad that we have not found in the agenda, which we have here, and the three ordinations, which we now have executed, could have been executed according to our customary Schwarzburg Agenda of 1675, which in an excellent formulation, views and handles ordination as merely an old Christian and apostolic church custom.

4. From the last thing said here it could become clear that we not only hold fast to ordination itself but also honor and esteem it according to the old Christian church practice. It seems necessary that we justify ourselves to you especially in regard to this. In your zeal you have spoken an untruth to us when you say that we might have declared ordination of church servants to be human invention. We have never said this but in our writings we have called it one of the exhaulted and holy general ceremonies coming from the oldest of Christian times. One does not speak of a fact with the same tone as one speaks of an invention. Thus we have not "degraded" it, as you seem to interpret it; rather we have treasured it most highly as it is God's word and the righteous faith church would have it so treasured. Thus it is too for zeal in its proper relationship to reason in matters of faith; reason enlightened by the word of God may prove and determine what the Lord has commanded and what He has not commanded, otherwise we fall into superstition and endless confusion.

When we further say that ordination might be "mere" publica testificatio vocationis, we are stating the term according to the Smalkaldic Articles; in the last article it states that in the old church ordination "was nothing other than confirmation," — and thus this little word "mere" shall show, contrary to your interpretation, that ordination does not pertain to the essence of the office itself, as vocation does, but rather that it merely fortifies, publically testifies to, and confirms the gift. And we do not think this is as insignificant as you do, beloved brother in office. First of all because of it the vocation, which occurred, is declared proper and good before the presence of God and His church and the one with the vocation is publically installed with all rights and duties to his office, which is conveyed by God through the congregation, so that he may now announce with joyous disclosures of his mouth the word of God before friend and foe in and out of season and he may defend himself against others in his vocation so that they may recognize and confirm and he will not have to run. Secondly each ordination is an excellent opportunity to hear the word of God concerning the great importance of the preaching office and for the preacher and congregation to remember the great need to request the gift of the Holy Spirit for a blessed installation into the office, and thirdly the communal prayer, according to Matthew 18, 19, 20 and Luke 11, 13, contains the great promise and guarantees a rich consolation to the newly installed pastors, as they continue in their faith. (compare this further with Gerhard and Chemnitius on the cited order.)


Regarding our brother in office, Pastor Fürbringer, it was very painful for us that he carried on the office unordained for a long time and gave offense to you and others. However if you would have known the contingencies of the matter perhaps your judgment would have been somewhat milder. In no way did he have lax principles concerning ordination; rather he esteemed it so highly that scruples kept him from believing he could receive it from his brothers in office. He wanted to go to Germany to seek the verdict of the superintendent, Dr. Rudelbach. Due to the many pressing circumstances within the congregation, which had called him, (such as unbaptised children, for example) he believed it to be a "casu necessitatis," and because of this many theologians, such as Baldwin and others, declare it permissible to execute the office for a limited time because there was proper vocation although no ordination. For the sake of his conscience we have been as lenient as possible but we are pleased that he has long since allowed himself to be ordained by our brother in office, Walther, in St. Louis.

With § 12 we are struck by the inconceivable misinterpretation of our words; and it is not your place to blame others but rather, when the charged are able to justify their actions satisfactorily, to absolve them of guilt; so listen once more to what we have said concerning Christian freedom:

You quoted a declaration of Melanchthons, wherein he states: we are inclined to maintain the old church orders," and from this you drew the peculiar conclusion that the old church orders are the primary source from which the means to ordained vocation to the preaching office should have been recognized; and after this you counted out 7 conditions related to these means, which are fulfilled by "rite vocatus," thereby at the very least stating that this is an order established by God, of which Dr. Luther may have said that the apostles and their students maintained them and that they had to be observed until Judgment Day.

Therefore we were justified in saying then and still saying now: First, that the divine and the human, the essential and the unimportant are not just mixed up a little here; you have to admit that when your interpretation considers perhaps not ordination but investiture that this is not divine but rather human order. Second, we have said that no absolute principle may be derived from these conditions, to which one would force and bind conscience (N.B. for the sake of the old human church orders.) Even Melanchthon himself said, we are inclined to maintain the old church orders and in the 28th Article of the Augsburg Confession it clearly states that even the apostolic church orders were neither retained nor should they be retained as "necessary things" if they should cause the righteousness of faith to suffer.

Similarly we have cited to you the important and excellent passage from the 10th Article of the Formula of Concord, where it is warned with great emphasis that one should not impose human law in opposition to Christian freedom as a coercive force of the church, as if omission of this law would be unjust and sinful; the path to idolotry would be paved by accumulating human laws, whereby service to God is not just holding to the laws of God but also to the human laws, which would supercede them.

Third, we have added a couple of very appropriate passages from Luther in which he says of the church orders that they should not be treated as forced and necessary and thus Christian conscience


is taken hostage; therefore a) the text allows for freedom to be tempered in its meaning according to time, place and individual; b) thus the examples and orders of the fathers might be either unknown or so many and varied that one can not conclude anything certain from them; c) if all were in agreement then neither law nor necessity would have to be imposed upon us to follow the examples, and d) it might be a misuse of the old church orders if faith and love are not produced by them (the examples) but rather imposed by burdens to conscience and force. Then such church orders would be abolished as soon as possible.

Fourth, to our strict safekeeping we have added that we likewise "are in no way primarily opposed to good church order, rather we are of the opinion that each true Christian congregation recognized it as a fruit of true faith, freely growing for all time, and each righteous member of the congregation, seeing it as good and wholesome, gladly and willingly shall subjugate himself to that order (old or new), however note well, it is for the sake of unity and love and therefore not because they had been commanded in God's word; if it were possible to melt down all good old church orders for America into one and carry it out among ourselves, the harm would be undeniably greater that the benefit; (N.B. when then?) if to a certain extent it were taught, that in this and no other way could and would the church be preserved and God truly served, thus burying Christian freedom and perverting the path to faith through it.

Now we ask you, beloved brother in office, from your conscience: Have you not seen these last, twice underlined words, in our text or don't you want to see them lest you have to come up with a new reproof for us since we might have basically declared the installation of conditional church orders harmful?

Truly! Is it any different from when Luther preached about the great harm to the soul, which a man suffers, when he considers good works necessary to sanctity and then another turns to him and says, "so is it harmful to do good works?" Would you not consider this a great misunderstanding or a slander, to repeat after Luther, that he might have taught thusly? — And what do you want to say when you call us guilty according to the above evangelical-symbolic representation, that we "turned Christian freedom into ecclesiastic disunity and advocacy for adult independence?" — Would you then charge that our symbols are those of false teaching? Aren't you turning Luther into an advocate for "adult independence"? Wasn't your pastoral letter worded so that we had to hold up the teaching on Christian freedom with regard to church orders to you in an urgent manner? Now you have declared your position concerning our understanding of Christian freedom, "that no one of faith seeks his sanctity in the observance of certain ceremonies; that he only remains true to the word of God in so far as it is expressed in the ceremonies and that the church could introduce seemingly good customs, ceremonies and orders but could not abolish them again for sound reasons." Oh, beloved brother in office, your pastoral letter does not state it that way but the prevalent theme is the categorical imperative "must, must."

What can we do since you have not defended yourself better?

In fact, we haven't done violence to your words as you have done to ours, and you had nothing further to do other than to change and adjust your words. But you have not done that yet. And thus far


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Photocopy of text provided by Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Gettysburg, PA

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks