"I have allowed myself to remain among the poor and humble people on this earth, who call out the name of the Lord. (Zephaniah 3, 12.) Item: I will give them their teacher, and bread and water in sorrow, Isaiah 30, 20. The church may be compared to a monarchy or absolute sovereignty to the extent that its leader is Christ; it is an aristocracy, or government by the most noble members, to the extent that they are servants of the church on this earth; those who listen may be compared to the respectful students." So much for Melanchthon.
"It's possible that faith may have grown, withered then died in invisible local congregations within the holy Christian church. However no passage from the bible shows that this holy Christian church remained merely invisible in the world. It remains undivided from the visible church because none are chosen except those ordained (by God's pure word). The papists could not impose upon us the teaching that the church was absolutely and simply invisible in itself and through us; — if this were the case, then even if the professors of Jesus could not be seen by the world, they would still be recognizable to one another and even if they were actually unseen, they would still be visible in their actions and characteristics. Similarly, the sun does not cease to be visible when the clouds cover it. The church does not cease to be visible even if the professors of Jesus have to hide in caves."
Dealing with the accusers of Pastor
A few of them were invited at 5 in the evening - Stricker, Töpel and Fried. Lörsch. Others were invited to come at 8 in the evening - Karstens and Fried. Frey. But they all came together at 8 PM, including many, who had not been invited - Peter Schuster, Walz, Ludw. Herbst, Rosa Hanselmann, Chr. Bökmann, F. Wendt, Wilhelm Amrbein. Even excommunicated Daniel Nitschke and Johann Frey Sr. were among them.
The meeting, consisting of the current church administrators, most of the congregation members and the above-named guests and their companions, was opened with a prayer. Pastor Grabau turned to guest Heinrich Töpel and confronted him with the letter, sent to us the day before and signed by 18 individuals. In the letter it was stated that these 18 people had withdrawn from Pastor Winkler because he he had acted contrary to the word of God and the written articles of Lutheran faith. Grabau questioned the man on how he knew that Pastor Winkler had acted contrary to the word of God and the articles of faith?
Answer: The proof is contained in the acta or correspondence, which they had carried on with Pastor Winkler in March 6th. This was supported by Fr. Stricker, the leader among them. After this Pastor Grabau took the letter of the 7 accusers from March 6th and read it aloud, and then another letter for the above named dated March 12th. Bother letters brought up 2 main points of contention.
1. The accusers believe that all those, who had been excommunicated by Pastor Winkler in the past year, were excommunicated unjustly and in contradiction to the established church order.
2. The accusers propose that the most appropriate course of action would be to call back those excommunicated by the pastor in the previous month (February) of 1850 by next Sunday at the latest. They were of one mind that these two things were their major complaints and Töpel declared that there was no talk of false teaching. It was repeatedly clarified that the word and the sacrament were pure. The first main point of contention was examined. Pastor Grabau showed them that they might not have provided any examples of incorrect exemptions in their letter to Pastor Winkler because the letter merely stated: in all the proofs presented, they believed they had found no justification for the excommunications in accordance with Matthew 18, and if this were the case then mighty transgressions had resulted. They were convinced that the charge of rebellion against those excommunicated could not be proven. Here they were reminded that this may have been their interpretation of the facts but there was no proof. Anyone might say they couldn't find this or that and therefore consider these people innocent but that doesn't render sufficient proof of their innocence. People should have to present evidence for why others should consider them innocent. Heinr. Karstens came forward and said that the excommunications should be considered unjust because they occurred without previous and sufficient warning and thus were contrary to Matthew 18: 15 and 17.
The response was given that this is correct, an excommunication is unjust if all the warnings have not been issued, therefore it must first be investigated to see if these excommunications took place without the warnings and then still further it must be esatablished that a sinner was warned 3 times; however before this can be examined the nature of the sin must be established, because the Lord Jesus says, "If your brother sins against you, etc."
Karstens and all those present were convinced of the justice of this rebuke, but they stood up and retorted with great vehemence that Winkler had raged against them with equally great vehemence and said, "I will have nothing more to do with you. I have torn up your letter." Karstens had responded, "You are no longer my spiritual caregiver." The reply was given that this proposal and charge must also be properly investigated first. Friedrich Stricker responded that Pastor Winkler had treated Pastor Krämer shoddily. Even though Pastor Crämer [sic] had good intentions, Pastor Winkler treated him like a county court judge. The dreadful treatment of Krämer made it clear that God's verdict had already been pronounced over Winkler; therefore they could
no longer acknowledge him as their pastor. He was told that this was not a righteous and Christian conclusion. If Pastor Winkler had done so much to Mr. Crämer, then this was a sinful act and if this is proven, then he must seek repentance and reconciliation. All must submit to a formal investigation to see if Pastor Winkler acted sinfully as they had claimed. If the charges are proven, he will then be admonished to repent by his church court; however if he remains unrepentant, then he must be removed from his office by an act of excommunication delivered by the church court. Only then can they be free of him. If they were of the opinion that they could and would be his judge and withdraw from their pastor because of sinful actions without further ado, they should know that this is not the Christian way, rather injustice, selfishness and mutiny. But before anything else, the sins of those excommunicated must be investigated. If these excommunicants are guilty of the sin of mutiny, then that too must be investigated to see if they should be warned in accordance with God's order. However if they are not guilty of the sin of mutiny, then the order of excommunication is invalid.
From this there ensued a discussion and instruction concerning the properly appointed church court. As he had in the beginning, Pastor Grabau explained how it had come about that we had accepted Pastor Winkler's request and invitation to be members of the committee, in the hopes that the 7 accusers would turn to a pastor from our synod. However this invitation had to be refused because the 7 accusers had turned to the Missouri Synod. It was also stated how our church ministry had advised Pastor Winkler that a committee was insufficient to the task and at present it was impossible to join a righteous faith Lutheran synod and turn this matter over to its court. Soon after Pastor Winkler declared his intention to join the Buffalo Synod. Before God it was of no consequence whether the court was composed of a church committee or a synod as long as the body was Christian and righteous. We advised them to allow the church court to judge Pastor Winkler and to bring their accusations before it. We declared and assured them that with God's help we would investigate the matter without bias and we would supply a verdict as we are duty bound by our office. We would not sell our souls for the sake of their favor and friendship nor for that of Pastor Winkler and his friends. We had come for the sake of love to seek out the truth and to establish peace, just as the Prophet Zachariah states in Chapter 8, "better to have truth and peace."
They received this explanation from Pastor von Rohr:
A. That above all else it was the court's duty, according to God's word, to seek out a just and peaceful solution and a means of reconciliation with their pastor in a manner pleasing to God. It was also their duty to make them aware of their sins, that they could not act as judges, but rather, as the Lord Jesus had commanded, they must tell the church.
B. They were shown how this had to be done under the current difficult circumstances. There would have been 2 ways open; the first would have been a committee, but it was recognized that this would be an imperfect and insufficient resolution to the matter at hand, plus it would be impossible to assemble such a group. We explained to them that it was not Pastor Winkler's fault that such a committee could not be appointed. Their constitution offered them a second choice. They could bring the matter before a righteous faith synod, which the accused acknowledged as confessing correct religious doctrine and which he himself would choose to judge him. We could be here specifically for that purpose. May God grant them the grace to see that if they had a church court before them and their pastor did not refuse also to appear, then they could submit their points of contention before us for our examination and arbitration, especially since they really had no other choice. They could neither act as judges themselves nor take the accused before their own synodal court.
We concluded our proposal with the clarification that in accordance with duty and conscience we had to take on this dispute, even if they did not consider us an impartial Christian court and did not want our verdict. We did not want to impose ourselves upon them, however we were responsible for serving the Christian church and congregation in Detroit, which had asked us to come. We also offered them our services and it was up to them to decide if they wanted to accept them.
We need to add a few words from the conversation, in which Pastor Kindermann went among them and explained how vocation binds them before God to their pastor and spiritual caregiver and therefore any investigation and verdict by a Christian court had to be requested by the entire congregation with the agreement of their pastor; however if they requested an investigation or wanted to hold court as a rebel group, it would look suspicious as if they were seeking injustice. To this Pastor von Rohr added, "and if the Missouri Synod accepts you as a false rebel group, then it makes itself guilty of the same sins, namely that it is seeking and carrying out something unjust and thus presenting anew its old sins and shame before the entire Lutheran church in Germany and North America, having already sent 6 or 7 gang preachers into our congregations.
Heinrich Krastens countered (perhaps having learned it from Cramer), that Pastor Winkler no longer had a ministry in Detroit since there were practically no members left since he had chased them out of the church (supposedly on the issue of private confession). Karstens received the response that concerning this matter, we would not have to look to men for the answer as if ministerial appointment came from men; rather ministerial appointment came from God through men.
The accusers raised several objections.
1. They thought that in accordance with Matthew 18, verses 15 through 17, they could judge and thus Pastor Winkler had already been judged. When this was refuted, they issued
2. the protest that we were a hierarchical court since we wanted to compel people with the power of heaven and establish ceremonies within the congregation by means of this power. When we showed them that this was incorrect and pointed out that we did not stand on power but on Christian teaching and true sanctity before God, another protest followed.
3. They had already held court proceedings, which were perfectly good, specifically that Pastor Cramer had been sent by the Missouri Synod. We showed them that this person could not have held court and again there was another protest,
4. that Pastor Cramer had been accompanied (by Pastor Gräbner, who had been sent by Löhe). They were shown that this Pastor Gräbner could not have been an elected member of the committee and thus had no ministerial vocation to judge.
5. It was then protested that the Missouri Synod was a good court and indeed better than ours, because we were hierarchical. They received the response that if Pastor Winkler wanted to join the Missouri Synod, he could then turn himself over to them in good conscience and we would not object. We would leave in peace for it was our only wish that the matter be dealt with in an ordained court.
6. They said they had nothing against our Buffalo Synod and wished to join it if they could dismiss Pastor Winkler and be given another pastor. They were instructed that we would then fall into papal hierarchical existence if we permitted this; whenever a congregation or a party disputed with its priest, the bishop would come and take the priest away and put another in his place so the dispute would come to an end. The dismissed priest and the congregation would remain unreconciled and all would go the way of corruption. The church of God could not handle things that way. It had to urge reconciliation between the children of God and the pastor and thus show them the way, just as we had been doing that entire evening. If reconciliation and peace arose and then the pastor later received a vocation from another Christian congregation, then he could peacefully leave with a clear conscience and his successor would enter under peaceful circumstances. True reconciliation with their spiritual caregiver arbitrated by the church court would make a dismissal unnecessary.
7. Those excommunicated, especially Nitzschke and several others accusers protested that they must have the sacrament and the school and could no longer wait, so they had to call a preacher. Karstens said that they had committed themselves with their own hands and their signatures and they could no go back. They were reprimanded and told that according to the teachings of Luther, they must respect even an unjust ban, to the extent that it was unjust,
and they must tolerate it as long as necessary until the just God revealed the injustice by means of a properly appointed church court. Since the court was already here, they wouldn't have long to wait. Even if they had a preacher and could forget their transgression, they would commit a great sin by receiving the sacraments if they had not been cleared by the court and remained unpardoned.
8. When they were told that they could not receive the eucharist without risking damnation as long as they remained resolute against their pastor, having acted as judges and dismissing him, they protested, "Why did Pastor Grabau give the eucharist to Pastor Winkler before his departure if he has not reconciled with them?" (Nitzschke and Karstens) Nitzschke received the answer that the pastor had no instructions to reconcile with excommunicated persons when he received the eucharist. Karstens received the reply that if he would just listen to us it would become clear to him why Pastor Winkler was able to receive the eucharist since we were convinced that he would acquire a keener insight. We warned and pleaded with Nitzschke to let go of the openly expressed hatred he had for his spiritual caregiver; if he did so he would then be able to accept the good advice we had given him. To this Nitzschke replied, "I am not evil. I have never been evil and I will ever be so."
9. Finally Pastor Grabau urged them yet again to make a decision quickly on whether they wanted to accept our Christian church court. Chr. Bökmann, who was standing at the door, turned around and said, "Oh sure, Winkler chooses a court, which won't bite him." Pastor Grabau responded to all that after 15 years we had become quite accustomed to such unjust talk and scorn.
10. Yet another protest arose from the discussion, namely each one (that is, each synod) says it is right. They received the same reply as the one given by the evangelist St. John to all Christians: examine the products of the spirit (that is, the teachings and the synods) to see if they are from God. If you will only peruse our synodal letter and compare it with Löber's book, you will see whether we or the Missourians hold fast to the teachings of our symbolic books in our ministry and our office. 2. You have been present at all of our transactions, so you can test to see whether we have established a righteous court in accordance with the word of God.
11. Since they could bring up nothing to refute this, Karstens said that he had signed the request for a preacher from the Missouri Synod and he would stand by his decision. Fr. Lörsch sought the support of Stricker, saying "You are the secretary. Show yourself to be a man with the others!" (1) Pastor Grabau responded, "There are many different types of men, who are Christian!" In closing, a letter written by Luther in 1531 was read aloud to them. This letter had been printed by the Missouri Synod in the Lutheran. They were not pleased to hear this
and they said, "Anything can be put in print. Who knows if it's true." We answered that it was their synod, which published it, and it was Luther's letter. They were happy to listen to it then as it was read aloud. In the letter blessed Luther himself defined it as ministerial and church robbery when one voluntarily withdraws from his minister and allows himself to be appointed to the ministerial post by a portion of the congregation. They remained silent as they listened to this and had nothing to say afterwards. The session was closed with a prayer.
Detroit, July 24, 1850.
The recording of the above transaction was shared with all those church administrators and congregation members, who were present on July 24, 1850. All attested that what was recorded was true and accurate.
Second Transaction with Friedr. Stricker
There was another discussion, which took place yesterday evening, Wednesday, July 24th, between us and three of the 7 accusers - Friedrich Stricker, Friedrich Lörsch, and Heinrich Töpel in the presence of the church administrators, with the exception of Jäger, and some of the congregation members, such as Jacob Murrer, Jac. Mühlmann, Heinrich Karstens and Caspar Garei.
At 9 o'clock yesterday evening the three named accusers handed over another letter, which was opened by Pastor Grabau. The letter was read aloud. They were reprimanded because according to the contents of their letter or, as they called it, their resolution, they would persist in the same sins as yesterday, namely:
1) that they rejected and would not accept the current Christian church court and they maintained that by such a venue no investigation could take place because their constitution forbade it and because Pastor Winkler had acted contrary to it and contrary to God's word.
2) that they could not have acted differently than the way they had in accordance to God's word; it was clear that they had to publically renounce Pastor Winkler and name a new pastor.
It was made clear to them that they were persisting in the same sins as yesterday, creating schism and publically acting as judges. Stricker responded that there could be no church court here
Go to pages 68 - 72
Copy of text provided by the A. R. Wentz Library, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, PA
Imaging and Translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks