The Life of the Reverend J. An. A. Grabau, Pages 43 - 47


These people had taken up a collection for the poor of the congregation, which amounted to 300 dollars, and they sent it to Pastor Grabau. At the next assembly of the congregation the poor declared that they had found work and a means to earn a living and thus did not need the money, therefore the money should be used to begin building a house of God. The entire congregation thanked God for graciously hearing their prayers and giving them help. A corner lot was purchased at Goodell and Maple streets and the construction of what became the Trinity Church began. On December 2, 1839 the congregation had incorporated under the name "The Old Lutheran Church." On March 1840 church construction began and on the first day of Pentacost of that year the first church service was held there. On that same day their persecuter, King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, died.

Two Pommeranian school teachers who had emigrated with the congregation, Zion and Dreier, were appointed to the school, which first was held in an old frame house on Court St., and then on Sycamore St., and finally in the basement of the new church. Soon after a third teacher had to be appointed because the number of children grew. In 1840 a congregation from the Town of Eden in Erie County near Buffalo and in November of the same year another congregation from Canada, approximately 16 miles from Buffalo joined. Besides his congregation in Buffalo Pastor Grabau tended the congregations of the Genesee Canal, Eden and Canada. The roads at that time were new and often difficult to traverse. At times he made the longer journeys in heavily laden wagons without spring suspensions, which were drawn by teams of oxen. Often he had to return in wooden or rack wagons. But he did all this gladly and with joy for the honor of Jesus and the service of his church, shying away from no exertion or danger so that he would remain true to the office to which he had been appointed.

In Germany Satan had tried to destroy the church through persecution by the authorities; for Grabau it was an even greater worry that this congregation find its place of refuge in America and that they be able to serve their God peacefully and unmolested by the authorities.


Perceiving far-reaching dangers he raged against some within the congregation, namely those proud and ignoble people who would incite the congregation to mutiny.

Some of the previously-mention Silesians, who had arrived in America, were brought before Pastor Grabau and the church committee and charged with the task of properly resolving the matter with Mr. Angas even if it was just a letter of apology. However these people refused to do anything and they began to stay away from the church and rant about this charge and about Pastor Grabau. For this they received a Christian warning and they were eventually invited to appear before the congregation, but only two people came and these people would not accept the warning. Instead these people claimed that the old Lutheran Dresden Catechism, which was used in the school, was false and they assailed it with the grossest of blasphemies. The two school teachers, Zion and Dreier, joined in with them. These two had often made similar declarations openly in front of the children. They were warned about this and finally when the warning did not work they were dismissed. Eventually this so-called Roggenbuck gang had to be excommunicated from the congregation and they received written notice of this. One day they assembled in a vacant area near the church and they burned the notices of their excommunication (which they called papal bulls), along with the Dresden Catechism and Pastor Grabau's name. After this deed (which they considered to be imitation of holy Luther, who had publically burned the papal bull of his excommunication but which was here truly mutinous and sinful), they appointed a man from their group, called Anercy, to be their minister but they soon after dismissed him as they continued their games until 1841 when a Saxon minister from Missouri by the name of Bürger became their advocate and priest. *[1.]

At this time there also arose a mutiny in Eden - 1847 and '48.

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[1.] * The mutineer priest Bürger published a book in which he wished to justify himself and every other group of mutineers - in it were the falsest lies and slanders against Pastor Grabau. In the 2nd Synodal Letter of the Buffalo Synod is the following from p. 48. One can rightly see from Bürger's book of slander what is described in the impartial church and heresy history of Gottfried Arnold, at one time a great theologian of the Lutheran Church: "The entire book is composed of blatant lies, and where the man discusses the proper, unadulturated defense of evangelical truth or tries to excuse malicious rogues, condemned heretics and virulent enemies of the church something seems to lock in place, thus he sets forth what seems to be undisputable truth in his book of blasphemes." - From Neumeister's Spiritual Library. Return to text


(See the detailed report on this in the 2nd Buffalo Synodal Letter, pages 59 - 70.) Mr. Bürger in Buffalo also took this gang of mutineers under his protection and both the Buffalo and the Eden gangs allied themselves with the Missouri Synod, which had organized in Chicago in 1847. The pastors of the Missouri Synod, who had previously defended and protected the gangs in Wisconsin, sent ministers to them and had thus proven themselves destroyers, persecutors and enemies of the church and to this day they persist with their sins.

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II.

Beginning of the Doctrine Dispute
with the Missouri Synod

When in the year 1840 the lack of a sufficient number of ministers brought about general disorder, certain congregation members took it upon themselves to fill the duties of ministerial office in contradiction to the 14th Article of the Augsburg Confession. Pastor Grabau felt called upon to issue a pastoral letter warning against such unsanctioned ministry, for there were elements necessary to proper ministry, which were bound together with the Word of God and the Symbols of the Church.

He also sent this pastoral letter to the Saxon pastors in Missouri in order they they may apprise their Christian communities. Criticism arose concerning this pastoral letter and the published tenets of church hierarchy, doctrine and fundamental principles. Pastor Grabau had to reject this criticism as contrary to the Word of God. The Missouri ministers continued to defend their positions and began to take exception to the practice of excommunicating members. Opposition congregations were established and the battle, which has now raged for 39 years between the Buffalo and Missouri Synods, commenced. In the 1st Synodal Letter of 1845 the following may be read: "You all know that since 1840 false opinions have arisen within our own congregations; these have been brought about in the irrational, self-serving desire to impart falsified and individual interpretation to pure doctrine concerning Christ's person and station, concerning the unity of both sides of his nature, concerning law and gospel, and much more.


Because their ignoble dispute was directed specifically towards the pastors, they became particularly embittered towards them and seized the holy office of the ministry for themselves in contradiction to the teaching of the 14th Article of our unchanged Augsburg Confession, which prohibits anyone not ordained to the office to publically teach or administer the sacraments. Gang leaders arose among them who preached, baptised, absolved, married, and distributed the Eucharist without ordained appointment. These leaders held bitter resentment against the church. One of our pastors at the time drafted a righteous-faith Christian notice of warning or pastoral letter, which although it showed many weaknesses and had been hastily composed, became a great blessing to many souls who received it as a true voice of admonition. The congregations were thoroughly apprised of the old church ways and saved from the dangerous new ones. However there were many souls who had already succumbed to much pietistic heresy and confusion and who railed against this letter, claiming it was new symbology and hastening their departure from the church; they've never indicated what they would have done if they had received a different letter of warning. Afterwards they strengthened themselves among those, who believed to have discovered what within our church structure was neither proper nor thoroughly deliberated knowledge, and those who believed that the pastoral letters had not properly extolled Christian freedom and Christian priesthood. They believed doctrine may have strayed too far from the mark with regard to ministerial office and the high esteem for the old Lutheran church hierarchy. In Prussia people told us that we had carried doctrine concerning the Eucharist too far and had shadowed other teachings. It seldoms goes differently with the defense of any issue. "The pastoral letter has little meaning anymore for us and our congregation. At the time it served under the aforementioned circumstances to bring up necessary issues and it served its purpose, namely to guard against confusion and mutiny. Now the mutineers have turned it into their favorite bone of contention along with the old Dresden Catechism of 1683, which has again been used in our schools since 1836. Of this pastoral writing in 1840 we also have letters to the Lutheran ministers in the State of Missouri, who by then had separated from Stephan, which were sent in fraternal trust


"that we might seek the Christian communion with them, which could not be achieved in Germany. Here we proved to be unexpectedly and involuntarily on opposite sides of the issues from them, in general due to the proper appointment to the holy office of the ministry and particularly due to Christian ordination of prospective servants of the church. We maintained these things according to God's Word in 2 Timothy 2:2, 1 Timothy 5:22, Acts 1: 23 -26 and 14:223, Titus 1: 5, 1 Peter 5: 1 and 2:
  I. Proof of ability to carry out the ministerial office
 II. Election by the congregation
III. Ordination of the candidate by the current servant of the church
All three parts were necessary for the properly faithful church without rebelous separation and willful exclusion. We hold these three things necessary in accordance with God's order and precepts for proper vocation. The Missouri ministers on the other hand require mere examination on the part of the congregation ( examination of the spirit 1 John 5: 1) and with the selection of the congregation they do not see to it whether the selecting congregation is part of the church or a mutinous gang. For ordination they hold to II Timothy 2:2, which is only a command to Timothy but not to the church. Ordination has no permanent apostolic decree behind it, rather mere temporal commission like in Acts 15 with the prohibition of blood feast with the heathens. They have already indicated these opinions to us in their new church order of 1839. We had to fall into dispute with them because they no longer behaved as honorable brothers in office with our pastors; rather they sent for schismaticly blasphemous, mutinous preachers and publically sided with our church enemies. Thus we have once again sent them a letter, in as conciliatory a tone as possible, and have asked them as brothers to change their dangerous ways; however we received mawkish response. We considered it advisable to bear the scorn and not reply further."

In Pastor Grabau's dispute with the Saxon pastors in Missouri as in later battles, our synod found it necessary to side against the ever encroaching Missouri pastors in their estranged ministry. It became ever more apparent that it stemmed from Stephanist confusion. At one time they themselves had held it as infallible that one must first be ordained. It was for this reason that the pastors had left the Union.


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Text provided by the Reu Memorial Library, Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa - Call No. BX8080.G72 G7
Imaging and Translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Edited January 17, 2006