we were convinced of his sincere Lutheran profession of faith and we had no reservations in emigrating with him to America. It is this conviction of his innocence that we wish to discuss here.
Unfortunately in the past few weeks we have learned certain facts, which to a man cause us shameful disappointment and fill our hearts with disgust and horror. Stephan has indeed been guilty of the secret sins of lust, faithlessness and hypocrisy and we must be the ones who voluntarily unmask him. We are the ones who must communicate the facts concerning him to others. In the past we have defended this man in ignorance and freely chosen devotion. Now we must declare that God has opened our eyes through his graceful intervention and we have divested ourselves of this deeply fallen man.
We hope to God that he, who until now had seemed to have so much in common with us and the congregations emigrating with us, will prevent further scandal resulting from his shameful actions to touch us and others.
St. Louis, May 27, 1839
In reference to the protest we registered in this newspaper on April 29th of this year, we too wish to declare that we were not aware of Stephan's true character;
we were completely ignorant of his crimes and formally wish to withdraw our previous testimony. Stephan will be immediately dismissed and removed from our purchased settlement in Perry County.
St. Louis, May 27, 1839
The editorial staff added the following postscript:
The above published declaration, containing the statements of the injured parties and those directly involved in the affair, confirms what the greater German public on both sides of the ocean has suspected for quite some time. It confirms the latest special reports and indicates that the affair could only have remained hidden for so long because of incredible confusion and intentional blindness. — And in particular it confirms the faithless hypocrisy and blatant tyranny of the "true servant of God," Martin Stephan towards his congregation, the so-called old Lutherans. For twenty years this cunning sinner has known how to
maintain the appearance of sanctity before most of his followers and before the world. He has ripped them away from the traditional faith and religion of their friends and relatives; indeed he has divested them of their fatherland and their families. He has fled his fatherland and the rest of the world, sought a new part of the world with his followers, left them here in helpless and precarious situations and subjected them to the harshest tyranny, — once and for all in order to satisfy his immeasurable greed for honor and money and to support his lustful habits. Just as he is about to fulfill his wish and have his bishop's palace, from which he intended to rule for all time, he himself took off the mask and showed his hand.
However dark clouds still reign over those most closely associated with him — those with whom he shared the worldly and spiritual leadership of the congregation and the administration of the congregation's financial resources. With Stephan's dismissal is this dispicable domination brought to an end or is there merely a change in leadership? Neither the pastors, who signed the declaration, nor the lay committeemen of the congregation have seen fit to address this issue. Along with the revelation of Stephan's crime there came news of a significant deficit in the community's accounts. The "declaration" says nothing of this; it speaks only of the "secret sins of lust" and Stephan's "faithlessness and hypocrisy."
Above all else certain steps need to be taken to set matters right.
These matters include affairs previously handled under Stephan's direct authority and the way they influenced people and determined the fate of his followers; who has assumed the decision making concerning the congregation's business affairs and who should take this over in the future; who will see to the well being and security of this much abused and deceived congregation, for surely any humanitarian would be interested in their fate.
We are not just stating our own opinions here but those expressed by many concerned fellow countrymen from whom we have heard. Even our American citizens from many walks of life have heard of the affair and have been much disturbed by what they have heard. They have asked for more information through the newspapers, which leads us to believe that the public in general is not indifferent to the matter but rather wants full disclosure of the details and identification of the guilty and innocent parties.
To satisfy these proper and reasonable demands the following will be necessary:
1) Hand Stephan over to the civil authorities and furnish complete details and testimony concerning his outrageous extravagance and his draining of the congregation's accounts so he may be punished in accordance with the law and the innocent will be cleared of wrongdoing.
It is a perverse and malignant idea
|to confirm what is already known by so many but it's better for the German reputation if people put and end to the indecency rather than cover it up. The affair is so well known that it casts an poor light on us German immigrants as a whole. The only way to clear innocent parties of blame is to ruthlessly expose the guilty parties. To vindicate Stephan's closest associates and to see if it is possible to redeem their reputations, full disclosure becomes even more necessary since cirsumstances seem to indicate that it was unlikely that Stephan could have conducted his secret life for so many years without others knowing about it. There is positive proof going back several years that Stephan took nightly walks and had nightly liaisons with a number of young women from his sect. His closest associates knew this and they explained to others that these were harmless episodes. There is positive proof that while in Saxony Stephan was never investigated by the government because of his teachings or his faith. However he was arrested by the police for attempting to bring the word of God to young women under cover of spruce trees. The police had these choice words for him: "If Christ had hidden himself behind the bushes then His teachings would not have provided much light, Mr. Stephan!" Even this episode was well known years back. There is further positive proof that his friends had to put up security bonds to cover up a deficit in the charity fund.|
Go to pages 99 -103
Copy of text provided by the Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks