The World Citizen
Published by G. Zahm, 290 Main Street, Buffalo, N.Y.
|June 29, 1839, page 1, column 1
(From the article in Anzeiger des Westens, June 2nd)
Several weeks ago the undersigned felt compelled to speak up against many evil rumors spread in Germany and published in this newspaper concerning our Bishop Stephan. Since at that time our own observations and any criminal investigations hanging over the man remained thoroughly inconclusive, we held fast to the belief in his absolute adherence to the Lutheran faith and we had no reservations in emigrating with him to America and publically voicing our total conviction of his innocence.
Unfortunately in the last few weeks we have had an experience, which has conveyed to each one of us such humiliating disillusionment that our hearts are filled with disgust and horror. Stephan truly is guilty of the sins of lust, infidelity and hypocrisy, and in making this full and voluntary confession it is we, who now have unmasked him and have immediately communicated the necessary facts to others.
Whereas in the past we have defended this man in ignorance and voluntary adherence, we now state that God has opened our eyes with his grace-filled guidance and we divest ourselves of this deeply fallen man.
We pray to God that He, who has so clearly embraced our congregations and those who traveled with us, will protect us and others from the shameful consequences of this massive scandal.
St. Louis, May 27, 1839.
With regard to the protest we registered in this newspaper on April 29th of this year we aver that we rendered a false account out of absolute ignorance of Bishop Stephan's crimes and we hereby formally withdraw that statement of protest.
Stephan will be immediately dismissed and ejected from our purchased settlement in Perry County.
St. Louis, May 27, 1839.
The preceding declaration was verified by testimony from victims and concerned parties and it left no doubt concerning what the greater portion of the German public, on both sides of the ocean, had surmised for years and corroborated recently. Special reports were issued and only incredible confusion and intentional blindness could continue to hide his transgressions from his neighbors - namely the faithless hypocrisy and outrageous tyranny that the "true servant of God," Martin Stephan, committed against his congregation, the so-called Old Lutherans. For twenty years this wily sinner knew how to maintain the halo of piety before most of his adherents and the world. He separated the members of a congregation of practiced faith and service to God from their friends and relatives, indeed he ripped them from their fatherland and their families. He fled his fatherland and the world, sought out a new portion of the earth with his adherents, placed them in helpless and precarious circumstances and subjected them to the meanest tyranny - for the singular and sole purpose of satisfying his uncontainable hunger for honor and money and facilitating his lascivious activities. He has already been divested from the property, just when he was close to his goal of having a bishop's palace and establishing his domain for all time; the mask has been torn away and his activities have been halted, but darkness still prevails concerning the next set of issues — separating him from physical and spiritual control over the congregation, administration of the congregation's property and whether with the dismissal of
|June 29, 1839, page 1, column 2
Stephan we bring the domination to an end or merely change leaders. Neither the undersigned pastors nor the lay committee of the congregation are eager to discuss this. It is also certain that with the unmasking of Stephan a significant defect in the church accounts has been discovered but the "Explanation" is mute on this point and speaks only of Stephan's "concealed sins of lust, infidelity and hypocrisy."
Steps need to be taken in order to correct matters, which until now were handled under the direct authority of Stephan, whose influence has spread and clamped firmly upon the minds and fates of his adherents. Administrative guidance of congregational affairs has either already been taken over or needs to be. Above all else the well-being and security of the congregational members, to this point very much disillusioned and mistreated, must be considered. Indeed every friend of humanity must sympathize with their situation. This is not just our private opinion, which we express, but that of many countrymen, who are aware of the situation and from whom we heard reports. We have even heard about the matter from our American citizens and we have heard many slanted interpretations of the matter. What is heard causes such great excitement that we are asked to give information through the public newspapers, therefore we must acknowledge that the public is not indifferent in this matter and it wants to have full disclosure with the demarcation between the guilty and the innocent.
(From the same newspaper of June 9th)
Stephan's Removal; What Followed; Current Situation of the Congregation
Today unfortunately we have to report to our readers that our worst suspicions concerning the crimes Stephan committed against his congregation are now substantiated and that our worst fears concerning the fate of those deceived are beginning to come to fruition. So as not to prejudice the reader we will briefly recount what has come to us from various reliable sources this past week regarding the events.
On Thursday morning (May 30th) the portion of the congregation, which had decided to seek Stephan's removal, left St. Louis and landed at the new settlement and went to the house where Stephan was under close watch since a determination of his fate was not yet certain. Stephan was well aware that he was under surveillance since several times he shouted from the house that "a conspiracy against him was in the works," and that precautionary measures had been taken to address any attempt at his removal. After three hours of careful deliberation at the front of the bishop's house, the deputation, in its attempt to exclude the clergy ["Sgitze die Geistlichkeit"] dared to enter. This was the most unwelcome task in the world, performed in the knowledge of each individual's weakness and complicity; for years his congregation had been accustomed to silent obedience. It also demonstrated that the faint heartedness of the pastors was not completely groundless since the bishop addressed the faithful in an imperious tone, scarcely acknowledging their right to remove him, considering the whole matter a malicious and ambitious plot and insisting upon his innocence and the congregation's reliance upon him. This group was not able to convince the bishop to yield; they managed to remove his mistress but after a brief time she elbowed her way through thirty men and returned to her lord and master. — A second deputation, consisting of Dr. Vehse and Mr. C. Bimpage, had greater success; through them the bishop acknowledged his offenses — something which he had not done before nor would do again later — he played the unmasked betrayer and begged for indulgence. They promised him decent treatment provided he turn over the embezzled funds of the congregation. In a search of his effects 130 large and a few small gold pieces were found hidden in his socks and many valuable items were locked in a small chest. However a certain number of notes from the Missouri Bank has still not been discovered even though the bishop was assured that $100 more would be added to that amount for travel and other expenses. The next morning Stephan took his leave, going to the other side of the Mississippi and landing on the shores of Illinois, harried by the disgust of the maltreated and disillusioned congregation. Here he would suffer the first and the hardest punishment of his life because his own, ill-bred son refused to accompany his aging father into peril and destitution.
As previously mentioned, with the public removal of Stephan the pastors and the assistants, who were present, experienced their own self doubts.
|June 29, 1839, page 1, column 3
They had not dared to investigate Stephan's actions and dealings themselves because their own complicity in the matter would, of necessity, come to light! More now on this subject.
After dragging along hundreds of destitute old men, women and children to a strange place where more than half had to camp out in the elements without a roof over their heads, where the lack of supplies and life's necessities is felt more strongly with each passing day and no hope is at hand to improve their circumstance through hard work, where the torrential rains of the spring not only soak, wash away and destroy the personal effects of the group but also create the environment for fever, after doing all this with specific and grizzly intention of firmly chaining the group to one man's tyranny, that man begins to place the final links around them so that the sacrifice for his clergyman's greed is completed. The first step to this is the elimination of the slightest possibility for members to leave the community and the means of regulating this are the changing of credit permits, the introduction of lay committees and new regulations and finally new concessions and pledges from the pastors.
Up until now the members of the community received receipts for deposits made to the credit account, which were undersigned by two appointed cashiers. These cashiers have found here in this country that their names were not just on the receipts for the sake of formality because many times they were dragged into court by former members of the community and forced to put up sizeable sums if they wished to forego being imprisoned. They are now attempting to extricate themselves from the onorous responsibility and measures are being taken to collect and rewrite all issued credit contracts so that no individuals are personally responsible for repayment. One can scarcely doubt that the force of this blow would place the community squarely in the hands of its leaders since it would not be able to maintain a credit account and it would be fully at the discretion of the administrators whether or not to pay out the funds on demand!
The second step - the appointment of lay committees was done to make retreat from the community impossible and to reinforce authority. They were told that they would have a free hand in the committee elections and they should be careful; — however after the election they had to yield unconditionally to the rules and regulations and there could be no more talk of withdrawal.
The third step - the reinstallment of the pastors with renewed pledges to them is deemed necessary because their complicity and partial collaboration in Stephan's misdealings is known and acknowledged by the congregation members. Now a challenge is issued to the membership to pardon the pastors and allow them to preach anew the word of God to them. Their current misfortune may be their greatest reason for staying together and letting bygones be bygones.
In order to convey these last two points to the portion of the congregation which remained in St. Louis, last week Dr. Vehse held a meeting on Thursday evening. At his suggestion a 6 member committee was appointed and it was resolved that a respected German of this city, who did not belong to the congregation but who had served it in many ways, be appointed committee president. "He might not be a Christian," it was commented, "but if he has grace in him, and a knowledge of worldly affairs, people could place their trust in him as an experienced man well acquainted with the current situation." Whether or not the position has been offered to anyone or accepted is not yet known. This much is certain, that the committee was immediately formed, that it convened and was given its instructions concerning what it was to do and what it was permitted to do by the over-committee, that the committee was independent from the over-committee. At this same meeting Dr. Vehse also declared that Pastor Löber, a man of irreproachable character — and thus singular amid all — had advised that the other pastors be forgiven for their complicity in Stephan's affairs and that they once more be obeyed. In the spirit of this advice it was resolved that Pastor Walther, who had declared himself too unclean to continue preaching the gospel, be offered forgiveness and allowed to return to his teaching duties.
Matters have progressed thus far. In the knowledge that they have been deceived, that their wives and daughters have been dishonored, that they are in deepest peril of dissolution and in the knowledge that it was not Stephan alone who brought them to this unfortunate situation, this congregation still has not let this serve as a warning. Instead it blindly places itself anew in the arms of those who turned them into mere tools! — It is of the utmost necessity
|June 29, 1839, page 1, column 4
that the entire German population take these poor, deceived and broken men in hand and give them the means to become self reliant individuals. Give them the hope of rebuilding themselves by means or their own moral and physical power. May the above announced meeting arouse the interest of the Germans so they might be of assistance to these poor people to the extent that they still can be helped!