Pastoral Letter and Correspondence between J. A. A. Grabau and the Missouri Synod: Pages 23 - 27


"until Judgment Day, and He Himself is the high priest, from whom this ministry originates and it is preached by Him that in the New Testament no priesthood shall be esteemed, which excludes Him and preaches other than He preached." Luther's Works: Walch, Augsburg, Volume 5, page 1483.*

We take a different position with regard to the entire first portion of your treatise based on our understanding of the points concerning Lutheran church teaching and referred to by the following sentences:

1) One becomes a preacher of God's word at the time of rite vocatus if his entry to the office happens in such a way that neither divine nor prexistent human order is overstepped.

2)With regard to questions concerning Godly order, what pertains to God's word is, in part, that the vocation (vocandus) consists of the open profession of pure teaching, the demonstration of impeccable conduct in office and the necessary gift for teaching and, in part, that with his vocation to office everything proceeds in an orderly fashion; that is, that he is previously tested, truely called by the congregation and thereafter installed in office by the pre-existent church order. See Luther's testimony in Walch's edition, Volume 17, page 156: They teach their own justifications, that the bishop has ordained rights, even if he is ordained by a Simonist or a heretic and even more, they consider proper whatever the scandalous pope, such as Boniface VIII, Julius II, Clemens VII, may do in office even if it's the devil's work, thus laying open the question of whether the church and the bishop are one, whether the church hears the bishop and whether the bishop may teach the church. Thus it occurs that the laying on of hands, the blessing, the sanctioning and the certifying are done in a manner similar to that of a notary and witness certifying worldly matters and a pastor, in blessing the bride and groom, finalizes their vows or certifies that they have come forward and proclaimed themselves; no matter if the pastor is an angel or the devil because it is the office, which blesses the couple."

3) Just as certain as it is that he may not come into office without proper ordering (for example, not installed in the office against the will of the congregation), so it is also certain that the ways and means of the human ordering, through which he comes to office, may not be an arbitrary construct, which may differ according to age and district. Above all else ordination is to be preserved as a praiseworthy and holy general ceremony coming from the oldest times of Christianity, not as an expressed divine mandate; like the Sunday celebration it is there for the sake of unity and good order because it is sheer public testimony (publico testificatio) that the vocation, as the essential part in the installation of a preacher, is complete;


* Further ibid. Volume X, p. 1862: "When the office of the Word is bestowed upon one, he is also conferred with all other offices which are directed by the church, that being the authority to baptise, to bless, to bind and to absolve, to pray and to direct or judge; within the office the highest function is to preach the gospel for it is the proper apostolic office, the reason for all the other functions; it pertains to everyone to build upon this first function so there are offices of teachers, prophets, administrators and those who have the gift to make things healthy as they were ordered together by St. Paul."
Further ibid. Volume X, p. 1806: "When the preaching office is laid upon one, his becomes the highest office in Christiandom; afterwards he may baptise, hold mass and conduct all spiritual caregiving; even if it is his wish to preach alone, he may not leave baptism and the other functions of office to others. This is as Christ had done it and St. Paul and all the apostles, Acts 6." Return to text


the confirmation and introduction by the pastor is a non-essential thing, which may or may not exist according to the nature of circumstances: wherever they are customary to a land, coming out of an older or newer church order, and wherever it is bound with nothing, which contradicts the word of God, then one should preserve them, not because there is necessity to the matter but because one should be submissive to all human order for the sake of the Lord. — When we compare your posited requisites (Requisita) concerning what is necessary to ordained vocation, which is regarded and believed to be divine in the church, with these sentences of Lutheran church teaching, to the extent that we have reseached them out of the original sources, we must acknowledge no small amount of mixing of divine and human, essential and non-essential elements through which, at least according to the Thesis, necessarily limits the freedom of conscience and creates a conscience-binding condition out of a liberating action. You posit, beloved brother in office, "the old church orders so unconditionally and without deference to conscience as the right and exclusive precept and guiding principle, according to which the rite of vocation is to be conditioned and ordered," and call forth the passage in the Apology to the Augsburg Confession where it states: "We are inclined to preserve the old church orders." To this we respond: If the men of the Reformation wanted to create a conscience-binding precept out of the old church orders, would they have said: We are inclined to preserve them or would it have been more like what you said in your pastoral letter, that is, we "must" preserve them? It has been observed frequently enough that this was in no way the intention of the men of the Reformation, this comes partially from other passages in the symbolic books and partially from the testimonies of Luther and certainly not from the same year in which the Augsburg Confession and its Apology were published. The 28th Article of the Augsburg Confession expressly teaches that even the apostolic church orders of abstaining from blood and strangled things, etc. may have been upheld as necessary unless the righteousness of faith suffers because of them (e.g. women covering their heads at assemblies). — Similarly the Formula of Concrod says in the declaratio to the Augsburg Confession in Article X concerning ecclesiastic ceremony (,i>de cerem. ecclesiast.):
Likewise it also pertains to the Article of Christian freedom, which the Holy Spirit earnestly ordered be upheld through the mouths of the holy apostles of his church and as it is currently maintained. As soon as this freedom is weakened and becomes of necessity suppressed through human decree with the force of the church behind it as though neglecting it would be wrong and sinful, then the path to idolotry is prepared, human laws mount up and God's command alone is no longer maintained for church service but rather it is displaced by them." — Compare here also the clear and decisive testimony of Luther, Luther's Words, Walch, Augsburg, Volume X, p. 2772: "At this time enough has been said concerning Mass and Communion. What remains is, will practice and word alone fully teach that God's word shall be preached with seriousness and trueness in the church; perhaps some may desire that we should preserve the entire order with writings and examples of the fathers and it does disturb us because we have already said that things should be handled without any force or threat and it is not proper to take Christian conscience prisoner through laws or commands.


The scriptures order nothing conclusive in these matters but rather permit the certainty of the freedom of spirit in applying meaning according to the conditions of place, time and people. Therefore the examples of the fathers are to a certain extent unknown; there are only some things we know about them and nothing certain can be concluded or ordered from them because they used their freedom, and regardless of whether or not they were certain about some things, neither law nor need was laid down for us to follow their examples." — Even stronger is the testimony in Luther's Works,, Walch Edition, Volume X, p. 286: "In total, this and all ordering is to be used so that where a misuse comes into being, it may be quickly abolished and another created. Just as the King Hezekiah had smashed and destroyed the bronze snake, which God himself had commanded be created, lest the children of Israel misuse it. Therefore the orders shall promote faith and the love of it and not the detriment of faith. When they no longer do this they are already dead and buried and no longer worth anything, like when a good coin is counterfeited, invalidated and changed so that it can be misused. Or when new shoes become old and worn, no longer wearable so they are thrown away and a new pair is bought. Order is an superficial thing, as good as it might be it can fall to misuse and thus it is no longer order but disorder. No order exists and has value unto itself, such as how papist order was to be observed; rather the proper use of order pertains to love, dignity, strength and virtue because proper use give it value and misuse makes it worthless." Here Luther wants us to know that church order, as good as it might be, should be "quickly done away with," if through misuse it becomes detrimental to faith and love. —

Now when the men of the Reformation allowed any of the old church orders of their time to stand, it was done without a binding law for those, who followed, and it would be a highly shameful misuse of any of the orders if we preserve them as "necessary" and "things pertaining to divine order" and lay them before our congregations as binding.

In no way do we despise these things and even less are we enemies of good Christian order for the most part; rather much more it is our intention that these things should produce the fruit of true faith for all times within true Christian congregations freely and without duress - note well, that for the sake of unity and love they should be subjugated; concerning which conditional church order might be installed for this and any individual case, we mean that it must not only be left to regional cirsumstances but that it must first be based on a clear understanding of the doctrine of Christian freedom and thus it is grounded not as a primary tenet but for all time only as a means to the command of loving thy fellow man.

Because of this it stands to reason that at times it is not possible to preserve the old church orders everywhere. "One need not hold strictly to the old canons as they have been proclaimed, the Apology says; the statutes are dismissed daily even by those who maintain them most vehemently." The men of the Reformation were compelled to allow much of the regimen of the old church to fall away, as we have already shown in the above examples; how much shall we again be compelled to cast off here in America - will it be some of the old Lutheran church orders or the entirety of representative governing;


this need not be the first thing we establish. Grant it, even if it were possible to meld all the old church orders into a unity and install them among us, the shame would be undeniably greater than the gain; even if to a certain extent it were taught that they have a binding force, then people would and could have to preserve the church in this and no other way to serve God truly. With regard to this the chastising word of the Lord in Matthew 15, 9 confronts us: "You serve me in vain if you teach such doctrine, which is nothing but human law." The path of faith would be perverted and Christian freedom buried for all time if they again taught as the Galatians had, — May God in His Grace protect us from this.

With regard to the individual points concerning requisites in the first part of your pastoral letter, we make the following observations:
a) that in Numbers 1 and 2 much more is being discussed concerning the inner vocation to ministerial office, which seems not to be discussed with regard to rite vocatus in the 14th Article of the Augsburg Confession. Indeed nothing is discussed in the 14th Article concerning how a parte vocandi is to be observed, whereby one is tested to see if he has the gift of the Holy Spirit and in reality is converted to God. Even though it may have tested for the spirit at the time and afterward, the church may easily deceive itself yet the rite vocandus still has its legitimacy. However if what should have been discussed concerns the least negative indications through which the ones, making the choice, and the chosen one could have assurances of God's will, then according to Luther's teachings it would be that one would not strive for the office and run to the ones, doing the choosing, but rather that one would be chosen by a committee, which has the power to call him and which presses him to take the office, even though in a few cases it has been someone who may covet the office of bishop out of godly zeal. Luther provides testimony for this in his works, Walch Edition, Volume IV, p. 767:
"However if we have said that no one may teach in the congregation unless he is called to it by God and that anyone may know what a call from God might be, let it be observed: it is a call from God when a individual, even against his will, is encouraged and called to ministerial office by the authority of his superiors, be they spiritual or worldly men. There is no authority unless it comes from God, as St. Paul says. Therefore what both authority and governing body bestow comes from God Himself. We read in the Old Testament that no history or series of events has turned out well where one has not first turned to God and then received an answer either through an angel or a man. How unfortunately the children of Israel have struggled, we read in Book 4 of Moses; we see the same thing in Maccabees. Beloved, do not doubt that if God wants to have you He will not seek you out, for He will send an angel from heaven, who will lead you. — And I maintain that this may be the primal cause why in this day and age there are no bishops or priests or monks teaching the word of God in the church, indeed there may be no one left, who awaits God's call, rather they race and chase after the pastorate and preaching post and the institution for the life of idleness and the full belly. Thus it is at this time either dispair or the idle and good life which not only produces monks but also bishops and priests. You will not understand this divine calling any better,


"than when you pay attention to the history of the holy scriptures and all the holy men in the church, those who have taught through God's calling and who have done great things throughout the ages, such as Augustine, Ambrose, and the holy apostle St. Paul, who preceded them.

"However so I will not create any problems for anyone, let me speak of those, who come to preach and teach the word of God; to these I say, give serious thought to the fact that you should be sent by God, as St. Paul says in Romans 10, 15: 'How is it that you preach if you have not been sent? As it it written: How wonderful are the feet of those who proclaim the peace, who proclaim its goodness.' And Malachia says: The lips of the priest should preserve the teaching so that the people may seek the law from his mouth, for he is an angel (that is, a messenger) of the Lord Zebaoth.' Concerning the others, however, who come to the status of bishop or heads of orders or other similar priestly and spiritual position, who do not trouble themselves with the function of preacher, I consider it unnecessary that they be called since in this day and age the position is nothing other than a particular way in which God may be served, according to St. Paul's meaning: Each has his own individual talents; some do this, others that. —

"Thus people should not be spurned, who summon up the courage out of godly and good intentions to strive not for their ease and enjoyment, for praise or the soft life, but rather endeavor solely that they may teach and preach God's word; what rare birds they are and indeed people should praise such men, as St. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3."

b) In Number 3 we could find confirmation in neither the old Christian orders nor in later practice that candidates for ministerial office may have also administered the sacraments without tentaminis causa, thus still without having the office itself.

c) In Number 4 we find it incorrect that ordination is the "admission" to ministerial office because ordination is only the church's public confirmation to the vocation. — Furthermore we believe that there is much more in reference to the examiniation of one called to church service as it has been stated: "If preachers are at hand, who are recognized by the congregation as being of proper faith, then it is in accordance with divine order that they be deemed capable by said congregation and installed to the post of preacher." —

d) In Number 5 we notice that the Tentamen (testing) as well as the congregational praying and the acknowledgement of the church servants provides many proofs of good and wholesome orders but none of these may be raised as a necessary condition (conditio sine qua non —).

e)In Number 6 we may not agree with the proposition that according to Matthew 28 and Luke 24 Christ himself was ordained in his youth; in part it may have been that ordination was at the time deemed a divinely necessitated order, which it most certainly is not, or in part it may have been that we could not find in the passages pointed out the true character of ordination.

f) In Number 7 except for the already mentioned distinction between divine and merely good human ordering we are at a loss to understand it, especially with regard to


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

Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks