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November 2014 (Vol. 59, No.10)

Dear Saints of Grace,

This article serves as Part Three of a Four Part series giving a very brief breakdown of Lutheranism in America (specifically North America). Last month covered the 18th Century - and so we move on.

The 19th Century

In the dawning of the 1800’s, things began to move westward, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The Appalachian Mountains and trouble with Native Americans caused the move out west to be slow. Individuals trying this journey were forced to take either a northern route, which led to Ohio and Kentucky; or a southern route, which led down into the Carolinas and over into Tennessee.

As you might remember from the last newsletter, the mid-18th century organization began within the Lutheran churches in the eastern parts of the new world, namely, the Pennsylvania and New York Ministeriums. Formation continued in the 19th century as a father and son team named Henkel, worked hard to establish synods (or church districts) in the newly growing United States of America. David Henkel especially proved to be an asset to the strengthening of Confessional Lutheranism in America. Synods from his efforts were established in North Carolina in 1803, Ohio in 1818; and Tennessee in 1820. Of these, the Tennessee Synod carried the most Confessional voice by demanding that any church wanting to belong to it must subscribe to the Confessions completely. There would be no exceptions (the flow of confessionalism officially returns).

Near this same period, Samuel S. Schmucker began a General Synod in 1820, to try to coordinate theological educations, mission possibilities, and a centralized treasury. This eventually brought about a seminary in Philadelphia in 1826. The General Synod, though large in size (including churches in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania and Virginia), was sadly, was NOT Confessional, again relying on just the ‘fundamental’ doctrines, while the rest of God’s Word could be maligned (the ebbing continues). The synods that Henkel helped to establish refused to recognize the General Synod because of its lack of adherence to the Confessions.

Although confessional Lutheranism was alive, it was still in the minority during the early to mid-1800’s. But things began to change for the better with the arrival of F.C.D. Wyneken in Baltimore, MD in 1838 (the flow gets stronger). Wyneken stayed in contact (via letters) with Wilhelm Loehe, a confessional Lutheran in Germany. After Wyneken made it to the midwest, Loehe sent confessional missionaries. In 1845, Wyneken left Wilhelm Sihler in charge of creating and maintaining the 1st confessional Lutheran seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN.

Here’s where we come in! The Missouri Synod was officially established when our first Constitution was adopted in Chicago on April 26, 1847. Our synod was known to be one of the most Confessional Synods in America. In the 1860’s the PA. Ministerium left the General Synod and a Missourian named C. P. Krauth started the General Council. It was moderately Confessional. C. F. W. Walther, not liking this moderateness, formed a Synodical Conference. Before talks with other Synods even began, they held ‘free conferences’ to see if these Synod bodies would fully subscribe to the Confessions. If they would not, there was no reason to talk. This led many to hold that the Missouri Synod was too strict. Their confessionalism would be tested in the coming 20th century. We’ll delve into that next time.

With you IN Christ!