Events in the Year 1866
A mighty storm against our small synod raged in 1866 and it seemed that it would utterly destroy us, but the Lord God preserved the synod.
In this year hostility arose against Pastor Grabau from many of the synods of the day; this emnity may have been smouldering in certain hearts for a long time. The hostility evolved around repeated reminders from Pastor Grabau concerning preaching and conduct in office to Deacon Hochstetter as well as other pastors of the synod. Pastor Grabau's conduct was true to his Christian office and conscientious in his role as Senior Minister. In a sermon for the feastday of Paul's conversion and in the presence of many pastors, Pastor Grabau issued a first warning to instill conscientious loyalty and diligence into the ministers and he demonstrated from text (Acts 9, verse 22) how "the proof of derived doctrine is in accordance with and extracted from holy scripture, the main force of Christian preaching." For this Grabau was accused by Pastor von Rohr and Hochstetter of false doctrine. At the same time there was slander concerning this and other alleged encroachments in his capacity as Senior Minister, none of which were demonstrated or proven. To the contrary it has become public knowledge that several of these charges were proven to be purely suspect and untrue. See, for example, the testimony of Pastor Wüst in Wachende Kirche Volume II, October 1867, page 16.
A ministerial meeting was held in the beginning of March in which Pastor Grabau voluntarily resigned his post as Senior Minister and Pastor Wolläger of Milwaukee was elected Senior pro temps. This man along with the other assessors of the ministry (with the exception of the two accusers) delivered a verdict that doctrine such as that which Pastor Grabau had espoused, that evidence from and in accordance with God's Word provided the main force behind Christian preaching, was false. This was so because pure teaching was in itself God's Word and it carried power within itself therefore there was no
difference between pure teaching and God's Word. This verdict was handed down to Pastor Grabau.
News was passed back and forth by some members of the ministry that Pastor Grabau had fallen into false doctrine, etc. Indeed in Bergholz he was publically reprimanded for heresy. Pastor Grabau, after reading the ministerial verdict quietly and carefully, wrote to the Senior pro temps in Milwaukee. A portion of that letter went as follows: The verdict is wrong because there is indeed a difference between God's given word in the bible, which he spoke and wrote through the prophets and the apostles, and our preaching. Our preaching should not only carry pure teaching within itself but also this preaching must provide evidence and assurance from God's Word that it is pure teachings which we preach. It is an untruth that he spoke about the curse of Galatians 1: 8, and 9 concerning weak and ungifted preachers in his sermon for the feastday of St. Paul's conversion and that it was a misuse of God's Name by engaging in mere pulpit chatter. And although he did not wish to further resort to this curse (Galatians 1) he had to and he wanted to demonstrate that God would not let go unpunished such untruth and misuse of His Name wherever he discovered it. Finally Pastor Grabau continued to ask for a Christian colloquium to consider this doctrine so that Christian unity might be attained. To this he received the reply: "I cannot allow you to declare the verdict of the ministry false." "I have no authority to grant you a colloquium." Through some of his congregation members and from other districts, especially Bergholz and Martinville, Pastor Grabau found out that he was being slandered as a heretic by Pastor von Rohr. On the 18th of March he issued a Christian warning to his congregation (from the pulpit after the sermon) and he waited quietly and peaceably for the coming synod, which through God's Grace he hoped to reestablish unity. But when he heard how people were slandering him in other congregations and casting aspersion upon his personal character and ministerial honor, he communicated this with great sorrow to Deacon Hochstetter and the church committee on March 31st. He also said that Pastor von Rohr must be admonished. At the next meeting of the committee on April 8th he read a letter,
|which had been drafted beforehand, however certain members, who were publically known to be enemies of Pastor Grabau, protested so vehemently against sending the warning that the letter was rescinded. Pastor Grabau now saw that the time had arrived to bring the entire matter before his congregation and he did this at a communal assembly on the evening of April 8th. Soon after Deacon Hochstetter, along with 2 members of the church committee, wrote to the Senior Minister pro temps in Milwaukee: "Pastor Grabau is stirring up the congregation." In private people were questioning whether it was not advisable to suspend him. Zaumer and Brand were responsible for this last comment being sent to Senior Minister Wolläger. The Church Ministerium, which at this time was assembled in Milwaukee, was apprised of this letter but declared itself opposed to the suspension. Regardless the Senior Minister pro temps traveled to Buffalo as soon as the ministerial assembly was closed, assembled the pastors of the district, many of whom had become public opponents of Pastor Grabau. They wanted Pastor Grabau to come before the assembly and allow himself to be judged by it. Pastor Grabau however was awaiting the assembly of the synod and he refused their summons and he was suspended as one "who scorned his church ministerium." This decided and duly recorded suspension however should remain secret until the next Sunday under the pretense that people had requested a church visitation, during which the suspension would be announced. This plan became known. One of the members of the church committee questioned the Senior Minister pro temps after the announced visitation to see if a suspension would be enacted. On the following Sunday, April 22nd, the trustees closed the church so that such an outrage, the public decree of suspension, would not be committed against their true spiritual caregiver. When Pastor Grabau's opponents, pastors and congregation members found the church locked that Sunday they moved into the college; it was there that the suspension of Pastor Grabau was announced. When they saw that neither Pastor Grabau nor the larger portion of the church committee nor the congregation accepted this suspension, they resorted to subterfuge to make Pastor Grabau openly and actively acknowledge the suspension. The Senior pro temps went to him and convincingly asked him if he would for the sake of love and peace cease preaching until the commencement of the synod.|
Deacon Hochstetter would also agree to this and in the mean time another pastor of the synod would administer to the Buffalo congregation or the sexton would read the sermon. Pastor Grabau, who in his good nature did not yet recognize the subterfuge behind the request and accepted the offer of friendship and love on face value, answered: "that he could indeed do that." However after further examining the matter he recognized the subterfuge of his enemies and realized that by fulfilling their wishes he would essentially be acknowledging the unjust suspension they had levelled against him. It became a matter of conscience to give public display of his non-acknowledgement of the suspension. To that end he went to the pulpit and delivered the sermon himself. When he rose to the pulpit on Sunday a portion of the congregation noisily ran out of the church along with the Senior pro temps and other pastors. Thus began the mutineer's church services in the college with Deacon Hochstetter installed as pastor and those, who had run out of the church, declared themselves the "proper Trinity ('synodal') congregation." After this the church fathers and the committee issued a warning to Deacon Hochstetter but the effort was in vain since the deacon remained in the service of the mutineers in the college. On May 8th or 9th it was declared by the church committee and the entire (true-remaining) members of the congregation that Deacon Hochstetter had abandoned his post in the church and had become a gang servant and opposition minister; they would no longer acknowledge him as their deacon. In 1857 he was further notified that he had committed a breach of his vocation since he had not been appointed pastor of a separate congregation (let alone an opposition one), rather he had been appointed deacon of the Trinity Church. For this reason he was dismissed from all service to the Lutheran Trinity Church *[1.]
Thus it stood as the synod assembled on May 28, 1866. However it soon after became apparent that most of the synodal members had already been approached and they stood on the side of Pastor Grabau's enemies since only a few of the them went to the Trinity Church while the majority went to the mutineers in the college. Even more apparent within the synod was the hatred and
[1.] * Remark - This declaration was hereafter designated by Pastor Grabau's opponents as an expulsion of Deacon Hochstetter, which is publically untrue and slanderous. Hochstetter himself had left his office and ministry, he was admonished to return but he rejected this and then the congregation declared that he himself had cancelled his vocation and thus was no longer its deacon. Return to text
emnity against the old Senior minister, which was no longer contained; rather words and gestures flowed freely and openly. At that time it was confirmed by them that from February onward Pastor Grabau's enemies had received advice in false teaching from the ranks of the church hierarchy, namely from herile ministerial and synodal authorities. One could see these things in their opinions and their comportment. (See Clarifications on the Synod of 1866.) Allegedly their doctrine had been the earlier doctrine of the Buffalo Synod, to which Pastor Grabau gave decisive argument in his letter of 1861 "Towards a Proper Understanding of Church Hierarchy." In this he proved that such a declaration was untrue.
Right up to the eleventh day of the Synod Pastor Grabau endured the most acrid and hateful derision and scorn even from former students, whom he had educated and otherwise provided for without financial remuneration. They proved themselves shamefully ungrateful and behaved like Judas towards him. On this same day two members of the synod insulted Pastor Grabau most grievously and only one of the other ministers attempted to halt such brutality. Pastor Grabau declared that "since he had been suppressed on all sides and had encountered nothing but hatred against his person and towards his statements and had even been grievously insulted, he found it necessary to separate himself from such a synod (that is, a meeting) in which an evil spirit reigned, until such time as a better attitude was shown to him." Three other pastors and four deputies left with him. These established the Buffalo Synod in pure teaching and practice and they soon afterwards elected Pastor Grabau their Senior Minister and presider over the synod. Pastor Grabau often commented, "The persecution and imprisonment in Prussia had not been as difficult to bear for him as the persecution and hatred of his own students and spiritual children (See Clarifications, 1866 etc.)" (Check Psalm 41, 10.) These people along with others delivered a verdict for his removal from the office of minister and director of the college. But as the Psalm states, "have done with a decision and nothing more will come of it," and so it was here. The Lord scattered them while under His Guidance the righteous Buffalo Synod flourished, with the grace of God it grew and Pastor Grabau was able see how many of his former enemies returned to it.
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 18, 2006