Archive for the ‘Buffalo Synod’ Tag

Feast of Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe (January 2)   2 comments

Loehe

Above:  Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe

Image in the Public Domain

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JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE (FEBRUARY 21, 1808-JANUARY 2, 1872)

Bavarian Lutheran Minister and Coordinator of Domestic and Foreign Missions

The name of Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe comes from the calendars of Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) and the Lutheran Service Book (2006).  The former lists him as a “renewer of the church,” and the latter simply as a pastor.  Both descriptions are accurate yet inadequate.  The fact that I honor Loehe indicates that I respect him, not that I agree with him all of the time.  I cannot, in fact, think of anyone with whom I never disagree.

Our saint, who was frequently at odds with his ecclesiastical superiors, proved that life in exile need not prevent one from leaving an impressive legacy.  The native of Furth, near Nuremberg, Middle Franconia, lost his father, a shopkeeper, at the age of eight years.  Loehe studied at Nuremberg before matriculating at the University of Erlangen in 1826.   At first Loehe leaned toward Reformed theology, but encounters with the Lutheran Confessions changed his mind.  Our saint, who graduated in 1830, became an ordained minister the following year.  From 1831 to 1837 he served at a series of churches.  He alienated many people, especially his superiors.  Loehe, a minister of the Bavarian state Lutheran church, argued against state control of the church.  He also opposed rationalist influences in the Lutheran Church on one side and Pietistic minimalization of sacraments on the other side.  Holy Communion, Loehe said, was the proper center of parish life.  Our saint, a confessional Lutheran, circulated a proposed confessional basis for the church.  His superiors were not impressed.  From 1837 to his death in 1872 Loehe served a small church in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, an out-of-the-way village.  This was ecclesiastical exile.

He speaks the Word the bread and wine to bless:

“This is my flesh and blood!”

He bids us eat and drink with thankfulness

This gift of holy food.

All human thought must falter–

Our God stoops low to heal,

Now present on the altar,

For us both host and meal!

–Loehe, translated by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.; text copyrighted in 2002 by GIA Publications, Inc.; quoted in the Lutheran Service Book (2006), hymn #639

Loehe was a Neo-Lutheran, a member of a movement similar to the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism.  His exaltation of the Holy Communion prompted many detractors to accuse him of Crypto-Catholicism.  Another theological issue in the minds of some critics of Loehe was his stress on the catholic nature of the Lutheran Church as its Confessions defined it.  For Loehe, to whose theology the cross of Christ was central, the Lutheran Confessions conformed without deviation to the New Testament.   He wrote at least two hymns which exist in English translation.  I quoted one stanza of one of those hymns above.  The second hymn, “O Son of God, in Co-Eternal Might,” has graced my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Loehe operated an ambitious foreign missions program from Neuendettelsau, where he founded a school for missionaries.  In 1841 he became concerned about the needs of Lutheran churches in the United States.  He encouraged many German emigrants to settle in the Saginaw valley of Michigan in 1845. Our saint also prepared and published maps to encourage German emigrants to settle in extant German immigrant communities in North America.  In 1845 Loehe commenced a mission among Native Americans.  The founding of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, took place during the following year.  Loehe sent missionaries not only to North America but to Australia, New Guinea, the Ukraine, and Brazil.

Loehe’s effect on North American Lutheranism was great.  He initially supported the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States (1818-1930), one of the more conservative Lutheran synods.  Pastors Loehe had sent and who had affiliated with the Joint Synod of Ohio became disenchanted, however.  They complained about the following issues:

  1. The lack of an acceptable confessional standard,
  2. The ascendancy of the English language at the seminary, and
  3. The progress of the process of Americanization.

These pastors and Loehe helped to found the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, now The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in 1847.  The Missouri Synod also acquired the seminary at Fort Wayne and the mission program among Native Americans.

Relations between the Loehe forces and the Missourians broke down, however.  One reason was disagreement regarding the theology of ordained ministry.  The Missourian position held that the congregation held all powers and rights of ordained ministry via its participation in the priesthood of believers.  The congregation, therefore, transferred these powers and rights to the minister when it called him to serve it.  Loehe rejected this transference theology.  It was, he argued, an example of “American mob-rule.”  No, our saint said, ministerial authority was independent of the congregation a pastor served.  Such authority came directly from God via ordination, he argued.

Another issue was contention between Loehe and the Missourians concerned interpretation of the Lutheran Confessions.  The Missourian position held that the Lutheran Confessions were in complete harmony with the scriptures.  There was, therefore, no ambiguity on any issue.  Loehe disagreed.  As I established a few paragraphs ago, our saint thought that the Lutheran Confessions conformed without deviation to the New Testament.  He stated, however, that the only proper context in which to interpret the Confessions was historical.  Loehe concluded, therefore, that both the Lutheran Confessions and the scriptures left room for a variety of opinions about certain controversial questions.  For example, is the Pope the Antichrist?  And how much interest may a banker charge morally?  Loehe’s tone was both confessional and irenic.

The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and Other States, or the Iowa Synod for short, separated from the Missouri Synod in 1854.  Its first confessional statement was one paragraph long:

The synod subscribes to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church because it recognizes all the symbolical decisions on controverted questions before or during the time of the Reformation as corresponding to the divine Word.  But because within the Lutheran Church there are different tendencies, the synod espouses that one which strives for greater completeness by means of the confessions and on the basis of the Word of God.  In the founding of congregations the synod is not content with mere acceptance of its principles of doctrine and life, but requires probation and therefore re-established the catechumenate of the ancient church.  The goal to be sought in its congregations is the apostolic life; to attain this, official and fraternal discipline is to be practiced.

–Quoted in E. Clifford Nelson, editor, The Lutherans in North America–Revised Edition (1980), page 182

The Missouri Synod, the Joint Synod of Ohio, and the Buffalo Synod agreed that the preceding statement was too vague and that subsequent elaborations were inadequate.  The Buffalo Synod, the Joint Synod of Ohio, and the Iowa Synod resolved their differences in time, however, for they merged to form The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), a predecessor of The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987), a predecessor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Loehe also established a motherhouse for deaconesses at Neuendettelsau.  These women lived communally, practiced celibacy, provided social services (mostly in Bavaria), and made paraments for church buildings.  Our saint sent six deaconesses to North America.

Loehe, who married in 1837, spent most of his life as a widower.  His wife died at age 24, leaving him to raise four children.  That must have been difficult for him.

Our saint died at Neuendettelsau on January 2, 1872, after suffering a stroke.  He was 64 years old.  He had used his time on the planet well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VON HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, we praise your for your servant Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:25-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of John Caspar Mattes (November 8)   1 comment

Mason City Globe-Gazette, June 18, 1945, page 5

Above:  A Clipping from the Mason City Globe-Gazette, Mason City, Iowa, June 18, 1945, Page 5

Accessed via newspapers.com

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JOHN CASPAR MATTES (NOVEMBER 8, 1876-JANUARY 27, 1948)

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Liturgist

My research for adding some one to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days often entails consulting hymnal companion volumes.  These, I find, are of mixed value, due to frequently incomplete and occasionally inaccurate information.  I am, nevertheless, not overly critical of such books, for, via the wonders of technology, I can conduct research at home easily much of the time.  Much of this research would have been difficult, if not impossible, for the editors and authors of hymnal companion volumes decades ago.  (The oldest such volume in my library dates to 1935, although I have electronic copies of older hymnal companions.)  For example, in preparation for this post, I consulted newspapers via newspapers.com and old journals which Google has digitized.  I did this at my desk at home in Athens, Georgia.  I write these statements to explain the existence of information which contradicts certain information I read in Lutheran hymnal companions dating as far back as 1942.

This post is my attempt to write an accurate and concise account of the life of John Caspar Mattes (1876-1948), a man who was to my theological right. (And yes, many people are to my theological left.)  He was a Confessional Lutheran.  I am, however, a collegial Episcopalian, so I acknowledge the difference in opinions while dismissing their importance.  He was a giant for Christ.  Our saint’s liturgical work and hymn translations have survived him.  Some of his translations of hymns have enriched my spiritual life.  Such a man deserves recognition.

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Trenton Evening Times, November 13, 1908, Page 1

Above:  A Clipping from the Trenton Evening Times, Trenton, New Jersey, November 13, 1908, Page 1

Accessed via newspapers.com

John Caspar Mattes entered the world at Easton, Pennyslvania, on November 8, 1876.  His parents were Henry Louis Mattes (1825-1908) and Adelaide Havemann Mattes, who died, aged 91 years, in March 1927.  (She had lived with her son and his family for a long time by then.)  The Mattes family was staunchly Lutheran.  Henry Louis Mattes, a church organist, had helped to found the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918), which broke away from the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S.A. (1820-1918).  (I like to refer to Taylor’s Law of Denominational Schisms, which is that most of them occur to the theological right, usually out of a quest for doctrinal purity.  The result, more often than not, is the propagation of Donatism.  The study of religious history confirms this conclusion.)  Our saint graduated from Lafayette College, Easton, Pennsylvania, with his B.A. degree in 1898.  His next stop was the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mount Airy (near Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1901.  Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, granted him an honorary D.D. degree in 1925.

Mattes Article 1915 01

Mattes Article 1915 02

Mattes Article 1915 03

Above:  An Article from The Scranton Republican, Scranton, New Jersey, July 26, 1915, Page 4

Accessed via newspapers.com

Stability characterized our saint’s ministerial career.  Mattes, ordained in the old Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States (1748-1918), served as the pastor of St. Michael’s Church, Allentown, Pennsylvania, briefly (1901) before accepting a call to the Church of the Savior, Trenton, New Jersey.  He remained there until 1915.  During his tenure the congregation grew substantially.  During that time Mattes made a name for himself as a translator of hymns, especially German ones.  In April 1915 our saint joined the committee for the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), which became the official service book-hymnal of the United Lutheran Church in America, or ULCA (1918-1962).  Mattes created a new arrangement of the History of the Passion (for use during Holy Week) and contributed six hymn translations.

Scranton Republican May 28, 1927, page 28

Above:  A Clipping from The Scranton Republican, May 28, 1927, Page 28

Accessed via newspaper.com

Mattes served in Scranton, Pennsylvania, from 1915 to 1938.  At first he was the pastor of Holy Trinity Church.  1927 proved to be an eventful year for our saint.  First, in March, his mother, Adelaide, died at the age of 91.  Four months later a son, John, died by drowning in a lake.  Between those two deaths Holy Trinity Church merged with Zion Lutheran Church (also in town) to form St. John’s Lutheran Church.  Mattes became the assistant pastor of St. John’s Church.  In time the word “assistant” dropped from his title.

Pittston Gazette, October 31, 1938, page 3

Above:  A Clipping from the Pittston Gazette, Pittston, Pennsylvania, October 31, 1938, Page 3

Accessed via newspapers.com

Mattes resigned his pastorate in late 1938 to become a professor of systematic theology at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, an institution of the more conservative American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).

Pittston Gazette, December 30, 1938, page 3

Above:  A Clipping from the Pittston Gazette, Pittston, Pennsylvania, December 30, 1938, Page 3

Accessed via newspapers.com

Mattes, a product of a leading family of the old General Council (1867-1918), complained–frequently in writing–about the United Lutheran Church in America, or ULCA (1918-1962).  He was a Confessional Lutheran, and one of the bases of the merger had been flexibility in theology.  (This helps to explain why most denominational mergers occur to the theological left.)  The ULCA permitted more theological flexibility than our saint liked.  Thus Mattes, who had served as the President of the Wilkes-Barre Conference of the ULCA and helped to create the Common Service Book, left for the American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) in 1939.

The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) was the result of the merger of three denominations:

  1. The Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States (1818-193o), which refused to join the General Synod (1820-1918);
  2. The Synod of Iowa and Other States (1854-1930), which separated from the Missouri Synod (1847-present); and
  3. the Buffalo Synod (1845-1930), which was of Prussian immigrant origin and strict doctrinal standards, out of reaction against the forced merger of the Lutheran and Reformed churches back home.

One consequence of the mergers which produced the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1960), which renamed itself The Evangelical Lutheran Church in 1946, and the United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962) was to inspire the three-way union which created the American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), whose ecclesiastical relations with the Missouri Synod irritated both the right wing of the Missouri Synod and the Missouri Synod’s more conservative ecumenical partners.  (I have been spending much time studying U.S. Lutheran denominations.)

Mattes taught at Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, from 1939 to 1948.  He died in that city on January 27, 1948.  Caroline Niedt Mattes, his wife, survived him, as did six of their children:  Henry, Alfred, Dorothea, Olga, Emma, and Charles.  Other legacies survive.  I think of his contributions to the Common Service Book (1917), the imprints he left in lives during nearly four decades of parish ministry, the influences which have passed down through his family, and the effects he had on students, and therefore on those whose lives they affected.

Mattes is a fine addition to my calendar of saints.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially John Caspar Mattes)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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