The Destinies and Adventures of the Stephanists who emigrated from Saxony to America - pages 69 - 73

May God bless our departure and arrival and make us here the blessed of the Lord, the Creator of heaven and earth.

            St. Louis, March 9, 1839
                        The Old Lutheran Emigrant
                        Congregation from Germany
                        and its Bishop, Martin Stephan.

However even here the congregation's battle-loving countryman, Heinrich Koch, gave response.

Illumination on the "Response to friendly and unfriendly Welcomes."

Those who allow themselves to be deceived by this article might actually be led to the opinion that Pastor Stephan and his ministry suffered harsh persecution in their fatherland for the sake of freedom and reasoned, pure doctrine. But it's well known by everyone that every faith worthy of indulgence is tolerated in Saxony by its constitution and what is rejected by popular opinion is most worthy of rejection.

It was certainly this way for a long time with the Stephanist sect and in particular with Pastor Stephan in Dresden. Caricatures and poems of ridicule circulated among thousands there and were sold to the public in many bookstores. The latest was the so-called vinyard tale, which along with the earlier story from the district of Falkenhof, so outraged the public that trade masters denied work to their journeymen if they were Stephanists. The police did not prosecute people when members of the sect were publically assailed.

If this can happen among a populace as enlightened as that of Dresden then there certainly must be some reason for it which is supported by facts. It's certainly true that these and many other rumors circulated about Pastor Stephan have discredited the congregation in the eyes of the public. It is hoped that Pastor Stephan will be able to refute these "arrows poisoned with lies and shot at him from Europe" and completely vindicate himself as to why the morals and customs police so harshly persecuted him. At one point he was divested from his clerical status and placed under investigation and it was this action which prompted the emigration to America.

"The future will teach who we are and what we seek here," replied the Stephanist ministry in its retort. However people judge other people by their past lives and from that project what their futures will bring. The past of this man is so clouded that we figure his future will be pitch-dark.

The retort further states, "there were 30 million true believers during the golden age of their holy religion." However it must be remembered that this golden age never existed unless you consider it during the time of the Roman hierarchy with its inquisitions and splinter groups. If Luther were alive today he would be throwing stones of censure against these old Lutheran pastors instead of the devil. I could easily point to examples from Luther's writing to conclusively support my arguments but why bother when the following facts prove that Luther's noble teaching is already contradicted.

The priests of this sect teach:

"that everything which exists in Germany is eternally damned to perdition," especially in attempting to arrange hearings with the mothers of families. The priests worked on these confused women who then tried to save their families from damnation. If they succeeded in bringing these people over to their sect, it advanced the clergy's plans. In cases where it didn't work, many women left their husbands and families to go with their seducers to America. Long-standing ties of marriage, love and friendship were destroyed in this manner and people, who had never before considered separation, and children, who had never before been deprived of their mothers, now found themselves alone in two different hemispheres.

We have their songs of exultation derived from their condemnation of our fatherland and the German people as a whole, whom they called "outcasts of God, a wanton race and a nest of vipers." In Bremen the priests had these songs printed up and distributed among the congregation. These songs provide evidence of just how much discord they had sown, of how confused their religion was and of how their claim to religious tolerance of others is pure hypocrisy.

On one hand they describe our fatherland turning into Sodom and deserving eternal damnation and on the other hand they envision a new Canaan in America. They wish to establish Zion where the current inhabitants will welcome them with open arms and take part in their true religion. The true knight of God leads them as a second Moses leading the new children of Israel. He can bring manna from heaven and break through the enemy lines with a sword as the hero Gideon. Angels held watch over

their ships to protect the faithful from every peril.

What can be expected in the future, I ask, from pastors who rebuked a child afflicted with the mange while on the ship and said that he should suffer for his sins and asserted that it would be better to beat this child with a switch until the evil spirit was driven from him rather than allow a doctor to treat him. When a storm arose they deliver sermons of terrible reproach to the congregation saying that God created the storm to punish them for their sins. The congregation was supposed to submit to any punishment, no matter how harsh, as proscribed by the apostolic church. They taught that they held the keys to the gates of heaven and that God had given them the power to open or close those gates as they saw fit and condemn or sanctify. And finally it is not conviction or truth which binds the congregation as Christ and Luther declared it should be but a forced oath. While on the Selma the congregation members were brought in small groups before 3 pastors in a locked room where they were forced to swear in the name of the Trinity and the three divine truths that they were "immoral and sinful" men unworthy of eternal life because they offended the holy and true servant of God, Stephan, too often. They had to humbly ask for forgiveness. They made the people promise to stay true to the congregation, that is, the ministry and to acknowledge the true servant of God as their bishop,

provide him with a bishop's salary,contribute money for churches, schools, financial support for the clergy, the school teachers, etc. They had to sign the nearly three-page oath or face expulsion from the congregation and they were forced to believe that their signatures were being signed before God and placed in the eternal book of life.

Indeed anyone who could exercise such ill will as to systematically silence his fellow human beings must have a soul as hard as ice which can no longer be thawed out by the warmth of human love.

I can easily bear the misapprehension of many people, as is already the case. But there are others who feel like me and consider it a duty to make these clerics as innocuous as possible since they have already begun with the proselytizing and have obtained money from one individual.

In the end may the Stephanist congregation see that I have nothing against them, as certain individuals have falsely contented. My feather is directed only against their priests. In all my articles I merely wish to point out that our Lutherism gives us the freedom to research and make delcarations as a basic human right; it does not demand blind faith, the dissolution of reason or worthless dependency as unfortunately we see among the Stephanist sect.

                                                Heinrich Koch.

Go to pages 74 - 78

Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825

Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks