The Third Synodal Letter, Pages 18 - 22


only through faith derived from the profession of belief in faithful souls. Therefore we believe that those, who properly profess faith in Christ, call themselves Christians and thus may be seen with the naked eye, are truly the church; we also believe that the interspersed hypocrites do not make the Lord's church invisible. * (After being read before the synod and accepted, a treatise drafted by the senior member of our ministry was adopted in refutation of the Missouri heresy concerning the church.) See Supplement 1.

In the fourth tenet the Missourians make the statement "that the secret, hidden, invisible church was the true and sole proprietor and bearer of divine and heavenly wealth, right, authority and office, which Christ had acquired, and these things exist in the church." This verdict was reached after due consideration of cited biblical passages, which are supposed to lend proof, and after inquiry by the synod as follows: We hold fast to our symbolic books, which never state that there is a secret, hidden church, which no one sees or knows about and which is the proprietor of divine authority and office; yet in the 3rd Article of Faith in the great catechism holy Luther states: "The Holy Spirit uses the church to carry forth the word, whereby it bestows and augments sanctity; thus we believe that in Christianity we have the forgiveness of sins as it occurs through the holy sacraments and absolution and above all else through the comforting words of the complete gospels. Therefore heed far and wide to what is preached concerning the sacraments and above all else see that the complete gospel and all offices of Christianity, which are also necessary, continue without interruption. Everything in Christianity is ordered just this way; lest people receive ineffectual forgiveness for their sins, there is the Word and there are signs to comfort and direct our minds for as long as we live here on this earth. However, outside of Christianity where there is no gospel, there can be no forgiveness and thus no sanctity. Behold, everything should be the office and work of the Holy Spirit, for He initiates the sanctifying and daily increases it through these two things: the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins." For all times the symbolic books teach that Christ the Lord has instilled within His church the spiritual, divine, heavenly wealth evident in the gospel and the preaching office, which He established.

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* Summary. The Missourians teach about a secret church within a visible group; we teach about a visible, professing church derived from faith. The Missourians say, the invisible, secret, faithful souls within the group are the veritible church; we say, the baptised, faithful professors of Jesus are the church, which is assembled for the preaching of the gospel and the administration of the holy sacraments.

Compare Luther's Epistolary sermon for the 17th Sunday past Trinity - "One body and one spirit, etc." "St. Paul indicates and teaches here what the proper Christian church is, and thus shows how one may recognize it - namely that it is no longer an individual church but God's people on earth with one faith, one baptism, one profession in God the Father and Christ, etc. These people hold to one another and remain harmonious in this accord. Whosoever would be holy and approach God must allow himself to be so situated and be of the one body; outside of these parameters no one may be holy." Return to text


This can be seen in Article 28 of the Augsburg Confession and in many other places. * In this we see that our symbolic books do not seek to teach about the spiritual, divine, heavenly wealth to a secret, hidden and invisible church, whose people we do not know, but rather a visible assembly of the faithful gathered around the gospel and the preaching office, where the word of God is clearly and purely taught and the sacraments are administered in accordance with the way they were instituted by Christ. This visible church is the abode of God and it is the true proprietor of all spiritual, divine and heavenly wealth by virtue of the power of the gospel and true preaching office as ordained by Christ. This is the comforting teaching of the Lutheran church by which the certainty of the forgiveness of our sins does not rest upon the authroity of hidden, holy people in the crowd or on their piety and sanctity. Instead this exists in the gospel and it cannot be separated from the holy preaching office. As St. Paul says in Romans 1, 16: The gospel is a power, which God uses to make things holy; and in Romans 10, 10 he states: Faith comes from preaching. — The 12 passages cited by the Missourians do not offer the slightest proof that there is a secret, invisible church, which is the sole proprietor of the spiritual, divine and heavenly wealth and office.

3) In the 6th and 7th tenets they teach that a visible group, for whom the word of God and the sacraments are living, also have the heavenly wealth and authority but not because of the gospel of Christ and the preaching office instituted by Him but because within the group there exists a concealed, invisible church even if there are only 2 or 3 people. — Thus the word of God and the divine preaching office are again reduced to nothing and all spiritual wealth, power or authority exist as a platonic ideal residing in 2 or 3 unknown people, which according to the 4th tenet are the sole proprietors and bearers of spiritual wealth and authority.

4) Finally they stray so far in the 7th and 8th tenets that they say there are children of God in heretical congregations. They stated that even where God's word and the sacraments were not entirely pure, it is a holy church of the chosen which assembles. If the word and the sacrament have not been entirely renounced but instead remain living. § — Here it is apparent that thse are heretical congregations with impure teachings and sacraments,

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* Bmg, p. 110: "One may attain this wealth in no other way than through the preaching office and the assistance of the holy sacraments." Return to text

Löhe, in the three books of the church, pages 43 and 44: Now since the invisible and the visible churches are so completely united that one is included by the other and this is a proprietor of all the wealth of the invisible church, then it is apparent that one may not treat the visible church with scorn on account of the hypocrite; indeed it is even more apparent that anyone wishing to belong to the invisible church must also belong to the visible one. — In a word, the visible church remains the tabernacle of God among men and without it there is no sancitity, etc. See Kirchliches Informatorium, Volume 1, page 72. Return to text

§ It is not stated what remains alive; probably baptism and the bible. Return to text


and yet they are considered groups of the appointed * within which one may find the children of God. Thus they consider a group of seduced people and heretics a groups of the appointed, in which there are children of God. However we know that, with the exception of small baptised children, when souls, awakening through reading of the holy scriptures and especially through more propitous instruction, find themselves amid mutineers and sects, they reach out for pure Christian teaching and begin to righteously believe, acknowledge, profess and lay claim to Christianity. This brings about a true spiritual exodus from the sect and they are no longer within the sect, rather they live outside of it and God the Lord soon leads them to an open and faithful church where God's word is clearly and purely preached, for the Holy Spirit unites true Christendom from the world and from the gangs and sects. It is certainly true that no one becomes holy in a gang or sect; this occurs only for those who have already spiritually divested themselves from the gangs. — Further information on what we think exists in the false church, to which God calls, can be found in the July 15, 1851 edition of the Kirchliches Informatorium under the heading, "The Church of Jesus on Earth."

5) When our symbolic books state, as for example Article 8 of the Augsburg Confession, "In as much as the Christian church is nothing other than the assembly of all the faithful and the holy," and the Apology, Article 4, "Thus the true church is the kingdom of Christ, which is the assembly of all the holy," these statements stand as opponents to the godless and the hypocrites mixed within the assembly and with these words nothing is taught about an invisible, secret church as opposed to a visible one. It expressly states on page 301 of the Bmg edition, "Thus the church is the entity in which there exists one true profession of Christ and one true confession and profession of faith and truth."

6) The Missouri Synod has maintained that there are children of God even in heretical congregations and that even where the word of God is not purly preached there still exists a church of the chosen. In tenet 9 it states, only communion with the invisible church was unconditionally necessary for sanctity — this turns the duty of shunning heretical sects and congregations into a hypocrisy. The warning is hypocrisy itself — thus if communion is created solely with the invisible church then what use is it for people to leave the sects? St. Paul approached the matter better than these frivolous men when he said in Romans 10, that men first become holy when they verbally profess their faith and thus render themselves to the visible, true church. And 1 Corinthians 6, 14 - 18 speaks of setting down the foreign yoke of the unfaithful as a condition for sanctity. Christ set down similar things in Matthew 10, 32 and 33. This miserable Missouri doctrine is a good

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* In general the appointed are all men and in particular they are those who have heard and continue to hear pure teaching. Return to text


cover for the unitarians, who collectively seek their comfort in the communion with the invisible church and spurn the necessity for profession in a visible church and communion within it. This doctrine is totally erroneous. For when a man attains proper faith and belief in Jesus Christ through the mercy of God, God also demands of him that he righteously acknowledge his savior just as the thief did on the cross. When someone has faith from the heart, he becomes righteous and when he verbally acknowledges his faith, he becomes holy. For the sake of his own sanctity each individual is responsible for standing by the true church in righteous and open profession against that, which is false, and for suffering with the church due to the existence of that which is false. However the gentlemen from Missouri have certain privileges, no one knows where they come from - they consider it unnecessary to acknowledge Christ and his truth and to unconditionally acknowledge the communion within the true and visible church (which does not exist for them.) We deem that it is unconditionally necessary to acknowledge Christ and thus to depart from the sects.

B. The Nine Tenets on the Preaching Office

1) The first three tenets are correct yet it should be noted that each position instituted by God is holy; however the holy preaching office is not merely called holy due to its divine institution but also because it operates in the field of teaching and God's holy word and because it watches over the souls of those who should be holy. Therefore service to Christ should be valued as doubly honored and St. Paul calls this functioning of the bishop's office a precious work. However the person in office need not be holier than other Christians and children of God.

2) Tenets 4 through 9 contain the old worthless democratic teaching, which is completely contrary to divinely instituted ordering. They have made the worthless teaching somewhat more attractive, but it's still the same. The fourth tenet again states: To the preaching office belongs the function of the spiritual priesthood of the district congregations. * One would not find this statement in any Lutheran doctrine let alone in the symbolic books. The fifth tenet states that the proprietor of all church authority (the invisible church congregation) transfers the authority to the preacher; they make this a little more pleasant by saying, God transfers church authority by means of the proprietor and through those appointed by God. Ordination is not divine, merely a human confirmation of the vocation. This is the old Missourian doctrinal rubbish. In the 6th tenet it states, the preaching office is the highest in the church; in the 7th, this preaching office has the authority to preach the gospel, administer the sacraments and have jurisdiction over the spiritual court. Unconditional obedience is due when the preacher

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* Herein the office is understood merely in its functioning; any individual in the congregation, or at least any capable person, would be able to set things down next to each other for examination. In comparison to this, there is Article 5 of the Augsburg Confession, which understands the office as an independent, divine institution within the church. Return to text


conveys God's word; (in the 8th tenet) yet he has no authority to execute and practice the ban without giving information in advance (to the district congregation). In the 9th tenet, the preaching office certainly has the God-given right to judge teaching, however the laity also has this divine right.

Verdict of the Synod on These Tenets

a) Here we have false teaching concerning appointment to the holy preaching office and contempt for Christian ordination.
b) It is a lie to state it is God's ordering that the district congregation transfers the rights of its spiritual priesthood to the preacher as proprietor of all church authority. It is error, that it is divine teaching and ordering which makes the preaching office an extension of the congregation. Furthermore it is erroneous that the preaching office should be the highest office in the church and have the power of the spiritual court and yet may not exercise the ban without giving information in advance to the congregation. The congregation must first empower him and then transfer full authority to him, as Dr. Sihler's published letter indicates. * And finally, once again we have the confused blending of the bishop's office to judge teaching with the private right of all Christians to examine the spirit.

VIII.

The Verdict of Our Synod's Authorized Body in the Matter of the Detroit Mutiny of 1850

1) Discussions between the three synodal authorities and Stricker and his gang in Detroit on July 23, 1850 (The Crämer band of mutineers)

After reading the record of the first set of discussions and completing its inquiry, the synod declared that these negotiations were conducted in a completely just and Christian manner in accordance with the word of God and with all patience and love; a proper means of establishing the truth had been adopted and it was ascertained that the rebels were guilty of injustice and sin since they did not accept the synodal authorities' instructions and warnings. (See Supplement 2)

2) The Second Group of Discussions with these People, July 24, 1850.

After reading the record of this set of discussions and completing its inquiry, the synod declared that this set of negotiations with the rebels had also been conducted properly and in a Christian manner and that their supposed objections had been properly refuted just as they had been the day before. Since they would agree to nothing, it is apparent that they have departed as men unwilling to repent. (See Supplement 3)

3) The Verdict concerning the Disputed Matter in the Lutheran St. Matthews Church in Detroit, from July 27, 28 and 29, 1850 - drawn up by Pastors Grabau, Kindermann and von Rohr as Synodal Deputies (Supplement 4)

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* See the appendix to the Second Synodal Letter, page 150. Return to text


Go on to pages 23 - 27


Copy of text provided by the A. R. Wentz Library, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, PA

Imaging and Translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks