Pastoral Letter and Correspondence between J. A. A. Grabau and the Missouri Synod: Pages 78 - 82


you have not done that, thus far all the above passages from Luther and the symbolic books remain contrary to your pastoral letter because the church orders are handled by it in such a way that — in consequence — it must necessarily lead to a misuse. And how simply a misuse insinuates itself! How easily it happens that one loses sight of the highly important teaching concerning the exclusive righteousness of faith? Thus it is not without necessity when brothers in office remember to hold tightly onto this precious treasure and experienced Luther returns to this point at every opportunity to warn and to admonish that one not confuse this basis for all wholesome teaching. And although the faithful are a law unto themselves and willing submit to good church order, there's plenty taught concerning the experiences with the Galatian Christians, how their service to God was not so free and lively in the spirit but rather fully regulated and easily dangerous to conscience because they were not given basic instruction on what is divine and what is human, what is superfluous and what is essential. For example, in many good church orders on exorcism, the blessing of church-going pregnant women about to deliver, this or any other means of service to God, confirmation, church penance and other ordered things, concerning which the word of God gives the church complete freedom, after the anointing which universally teaches to profess and maintain things this way and that. Now if certain circumstances make it necessary to abolish one or another portion of the old church orders — if said church order concerning this or that part mandates nothing and certain members of the congregation are disturbed by it, then weak consciences might be easily confused if they are not instructed about Christian freedom in these things from God's word and they are not led to a conscious understanding of their spiritual right to grace, to test and recognize with their spiritual caregiver what is the best in these matters. (1 Thessalonians 5, 21.) And we have this honest intention before us with each characteristic of a Christian congregational order, which we have communicated to you in its first outline *. Since that time much has been more closely defined in it

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* This outline contains the following 17 theses:

1. Each Christian congregation is the owner of all benefits and rights, which are given in the church. 1 Corinthians 3, 21. "All is ours." Matthew 18, 20. "Wherever two, etc."

2. Through baptism each individual becomes a priest, king and prophet. Revelations 15, 6. "Christ washed us of our sins with his blood and has made us into kings and priests, etc." 1 Peter 2, 9. "You are the chosen race, the royal priesthood, and holy people, the folk of property, that you might proclaim the virtues that, etc."

3. In the church of the New Testament there is no individual priestly status; wherever there is a congregation there is also an office and each congregation member from it is capable of administering the benefits of the church, eligible to manage all the functions of the office - preaching, baptism, administering the holy eucharist, absolving, etc.

4. Each individual's right within the congregation can and may not presume upon that of another member without due consideration of that member's rights.

5. God has installed the holy preaching office and has told the church to deliver the administration of its rights and the householding of God's mysteries by means of ordination to one or more people.

6. Without ordained calling no one shall publically teach or administer the holy sacraments.

7. Since all Christians are spiritual priests, in the case of need even laymen may carry out all functions of the office.

8. The right to call servants to the church resides with the congregation; if there are already other preachers in a congregation which calls a preacher, then these too belong to the called one. Acts 6: 2, 3.

Go to remaining 9 theses on page 79


and practice based on the word of God and the old church has been established by our congregation, but appropriate church orders were instituted according to circumstances, which we are quite willing to communicate with you so long as you have taken back the poisonous suspicion of us, that we may have been "unbounded church independents, each one of whom might make up and serve his most peculiar dish just to show his freedom." However as long as you continue to think so badly of us without provocation, it is no wonder to us that you look at all our words as through you were looking through blacked-out glass.

The subsequent sections 13 and 14 gave us new and sad proof of this.

We do not deny that we could have discussed the point, which you raised, more meaningfully and without a doubt we would have done this if it was not already so well known and should be only a casual comment, concerning which we could scarcely anticipate such a gross misunderstanding. However we would like to ask someone unbiased whether he finds in our words what you found.

We spoke of Nos. 1 and 2, of your stated requisites of the rite vocato, that in the rite of the 14th Article of the Augsburg Confession there seems to be practically nothing discussed concerning the internal vocation of the called, whereby one wishing to enter the office must, among other things, be tested for whether or not he has the gift of the Holy Spirit and has truly turned to God.

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Theses continued

9. The members of the congregation owe the preacher love, respect, care for his physical wellbeing and obedience as a servant of Jesus Christ when he teaches the word of God or pronounces a warning based on it or makes attempts at reconciliation or requests it of others.

10. The congregation may not hinder the preacher in the necessary and proper practice of private spiritual caregiving to all individual congregation members.

11. The members of the congregation have the right to seek communal edification outside of public service to God, which occurs under the supervision of the preacher.

12. The preacher has no dominion over the congregation and over each member's conscience. ( 1 Peter 5, 3; Matthew 20, 25 - 27); he may not demand that people believe something from him because of his person or office; he has no external authority other than that of the word (2 Corinthians 10, 4); under the cover of private spiritual caregiving he shall not mix in worldly things or family matters; he has no power to singlehandedly regulate the order of service to God and the ceremonies, nor to change what has been instituted.

13. The congregation is the highest and ultimate court in the church; the preachers are its servants (2 Corinthians 4, 5) and are answerable to it; the congregation and each individual member of the congregation has the right to test the teachings of the preachers (Matthew 7, 15), to inspect their lives and conduct in office, to admonish and to punish them (Colossians 4, 17); and with the presence of church assemblies to be active through oratory and vote. Acts 15, 22.

14. The congregation has the right to differ with its preacher in disputes concerning points of doctrine according to God's word; it has the right to set forth a public profession of faith, to dictate doctrinal norms and the order of service to God, to institute, alter and abolish church ceremonies, and to assign days of public prayer, penance and celebration.

15. The handing out of church discipline comes from the congregation with the cooperation of the pastors. The same applies concerning the ordained administration of the office of keys and it thus has the authority, according to God's word, to ban the unrepentant and once again accept the repentant but in both cases not without the decision of the congregation, especially in cases of dispute.

16. The determination in cases of conscience belongs to the congregation when the application of the word of God is doubtful in certain cases and situations.

17. The congregation has the right to remove its preacher, not frivolously but only when it can prove that the preacher may not be tolerated by it according to the word of God.

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The church might also test the intellects of the chosen ones afterwards and certainly primarily; however it could be easily deceived and the rite vocatus could still have its validity. For this reason we meant that the pertinent article in the Augsburg Confession only puts forth the premise that no one "shall teach publically without ordained vocation." And farther down we stated that it is still not misconduct when a congregation, which stands with other preachers in no ecclesiastic bond, may choose a preacher from its midst without assistance from appointed preachers. And should this man turn out to be "unlearned, untested and unprepared," and the congregation has made a mistake then it is still not a blunder if the congregation would only listen to the word of God and not choose a preacher in willful scorn of the preeminent ministerium out of hate and the spirit of separatism. It shouldn't be called misconduct. Such mistakes may also come regularly from the spiritual ministry with the appointment of preachers, thus the office is set up, etc.

From these sentences you put upon us the following two errors under Nos. VII and VIII: 1. that in the rite vocatus of the XIV Article of the Augsburg Confession, according to our declaration the capability of the person is not established; 2. that the congregation may make an incapable man a preacher contrary to God's word.

Concerning the first item, is it possible for you to review our words with an unbiased perspective because then you will find that above all else we have said it is primarily up to the congregation to see whether the one chosen to be preacher has the gift of the Holy Spirit and thus whether he is indeed capable; but in the named article of the Augsburg Confession it only deals with the issue that the preacher may not take matters into his own hands and come to the office without ordination. He should have ordained calling. And we recognized the utmost importance of firmly holding onto this and we have insinuated into the article nothing other than what is literally and prudently expressed. It could happen that an individual with proper profession of pure teaching has come to the office still unconsecrated, but later was consecrated, arriving at the greatest time of spiritual need or he could remain in the office, which he may have taken up to a certain extent while spiritually incapable and without the Holy Ghost. The members of his congregation could become doubtful if the vocation of its preacher and the handling of the office, which he might have attained as one not consecrated, had previously been proper, — if not the teaching stands firm that the right to teach publically and administer the sacraments first and foremost (outwardly) belongs to ordained vocation. Thus it was of special note to us that in such cases where a congregation has deceived itself in an election and unfortunately the spiritual capability of a called preacher is lacking in evidence of the Holy Spirit, and so, for there to be valid vocation, the office must be truly righteous. See Matthew 23, 2 - 3.

Concerning the second error listed, this is merely based on your own confusion whereby you have quite falsely interpreted our words. Where have we spoken of a "sanction or regulation" according to which a congregation may turn an incapable man into a preacher? Haven't we called this a "mistake" and thus an exception if it were to happen?

But you still say here that no mistake has hapened and if it did occur it would have to be corrected through non-acceptance of the "unlearned, untested and unprepared" preacher. With it you draw up the rule that the congregation must remain without a preacher if it cannot have a better one. This rule must be restricted


for the word of God teaches us to flee and shun false, heretical and blasphemous prophets; with regard to the incapable, who perhaps do not at the time possess the natural gift of the preacher, they should not be permitted into the preaching office. Above all else we ask: Must one be incapable if he is unlearned, untested and unprepared for the office? Have the Waldenser and the Bohemian brothers always been able to have learned preachers? Did Luther require in the aforementioned letter to the Bohemians that they must first permit a spiritual ministry to examine and test the preacher they chose from their midst? Was Bishop Ambrosius, who conducted a worldly office and was not baptised, unprepared for the office?

Likewise we say that a Christian congregation must do anything possible and earnestly call upon God that it might receive a learned and tested preacher, who is prepared for office. However in times of overall ecclesiastic devastation where the overshepherds and the flocks are spiritually dead, it often happens that the entire land is besieged with preachers who do not have that particular set of requirements; so do they not have the proper office if they come to it according to the will of the committee and congregation? If you deny this, beloved brother in office, then you are a Donatist.

Did not Luther specifically teach that those, who had come to the office through the abominable papist consecration of priests, should not abandon their posts but rather only properly convert themselves? (Compare the letter to the Bohemians.) And didn't the Saxon inspectors depose and drive out the many incapable people, who were truly unknowing and inappropriate to the office, or did they not at least give books of daily devotional prayers to most of them, whom they found of good intention, helping them to get to their feet with word and deed as long as they had to endure the need?

Still, we must break off here and on these points we have still to defend ourselves briefly because of the citation under No. V from Luther's interpretation of the 8th Psalm: Even you will grant this, that it was certainly a good sign of divine will with regard to the establishment of the pastor's office, if one is standing on ceremony. Indeed, you say that this may not belong to ordering of individual investitures within the office. But we have not asserted this, rather after having referred back to the sign you indicated as not belonging to the ordering of individual investitures into the office, we have said that if one wishes to attribute a sign to a parte vocandi whereby the vocandus and the vocans may recognize divine will, then that is in each declaration of Luther's, in which he definitely seems to say that divine calling must be recognized within it. However he adds that he may make "no trouble" with it (understand: in regard to this, what might come into the office needlessly), rather he (namely opposed to the worldly inclined priests with full stomachs) would have to remember those, who would teach the word of God, that they might be certain of their godly mission. And thus is your second observation concerning those, who call themselves to the office, sufficiently answered. — In the remark given below you have no longer maintained what was in your pastoral letter, that Luther said there were seven necessary requirements listed for a rite vocatus, that this order must remain until Judgment Day, but you have reduced the requirements to three. You have not cited the place where Luther supposedly discussed these three matters; and thus your statement is empty because it is without proof. Perhaps you mean the declaration in the exposition of the letter to the Galatians (Chapter 1, 1 Altenburg Augsburg Tom. VI, p.529) so we say again that with all possible effort to understand these words and your


entire context we could make nothing else out of it than that the indirectness of vocation must be continued and maintained until the end of the world.

Finally with § 15 you have failed in directing us to anything, for which we are guilty. — If anyone reads unbiasedly what we have said about the representative constitution of the Lutheran church, he will easily understand our meaning, that we consider it impossible to install the entire constitution under the current American conditions; we could not conceive, for example, how the episcopacy of the princes and the entire consistorial and diocesan sense of controlling territory could be united with it. Concerning it we intended that , as the Lutherans must have let go of much of the apostles' church order, so too in this country did we have to let go of much of the Lutheran representative constitution. Here you twist our words as through we had let these fall, as though we had spoken of "debemus" [we were obliged to], when we had maintained that it was of necessity; you make the effort to prove the opposite, namely that the constitution was completely justified according to God's word even here in America, that it was to be obtained and maintained in opposition to independent liberty.

We will leave your opinion concerning this matter completely uncontested and wait as you will organize each facet of the constitution in your congregation; according to the passage, which you cited from the Smalkaldic Articles, here in Missouri they would stand under one another with God's help in unanimitate doctrinae fidei, sacramentorum orationis et operum caritatis and rule ecclesias nostras communi opera.

So much for the first section of your anticritique! — We are almost tired out yet we now must vindicate ourselves due to the other sections of the same; however we still do not know whether all this trouble and work is in vain and whether, according to your mindset, you are willing to have anything said by us in an individual piece. And since we are currently overwhelmed with so many activities of the office in our congregation, school and college, we had to discontinue with the above discussion due to time constraints (which we in no way regretted), so we might best lay down our quill and let matters come to rest.

Only the worry that you might misinterpret our silence on these points and be strengthened in your confused opinion, and especially for the love of Christ, which has not yet exhausted itself in its mercy upon us and which has led us to the recognition of his wondrous truth, to which we shall testify to others; these things compel us to provide answers at least for the most necessary things as quickly as possible and to vindicate ourselves from confusions with others brought on by our previous faults. If it would serve you with further examples and full account, we would be willing to still answer these questions, if God wills it.

Ad § 1. After you had stated in Hebrews, God wants to deal with us on earth through the public church office, we had responded that we might say much more, He wants to do these things through the word and the office is the order, which He has established for the proclamation of His word, because experience teaches that God allows His word to be powerful in cases of need also through people, who do not stand in public office. To this you tempered your declaration to be more confined and more correct, that God wishes to deal with us "in an orderly way" only through the preaching office. Since you yourself have used the word "order" in "orderly" and the scriptures also use this word (1 Corinthians 16, 15 and Hebrews 7, 11), then our designation is neither a half-belief nor a true error; indeed we have not denied what you have declared of the power of the office if we have avoided the word, not usually used by the church,


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

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks