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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


72. |Untimely Synod| of 1819. -- The leaders of the North Carolina Synod, Stork, Shober, Jacob Scherer, Daniel Scherer, Miller, and others, cherished a sanguine hope of uniting all churches into a national American Church, despite doctrinal differences. What could be more delightful, and what in all the world could be more desired, they declared in 1820, than |to bring about a general union of all religious parties throughout the entire land, that the glorious prophecy might be fulfilled: that they might all be one flock who are all under one Shepherd.| (Tennessee Report 1820, 25.) The scheme also of organizing a Lutheran General Synod (for which purpose the Pennsylvania Synod had invited all other Lutheran bodies to attend its meetings at Baltimore in 1819 in order to discuss plans for this projected Pan-Lutheran union) was exultantly hailed as a step in this direction by leaders of the North Carolina Synod, notably by Shober. Accordingly, in order to enable the North Carolina Synod to take part in the meeting at Baltimore, the officers of Synod autocratically convened that body five weeks before the time fixed by the constitution. Shober was sent to Baltimore as delegate, and took a prominent part in drawing up the |Planentwurf,| the tentative constitution for the organization of a General Synod. This irregular meeting of the North Carolina Synod was later on known as the |Untimely Synod.| It provoked much ill feeling and led to the organization of the Tennessee Synod in 1820. (Tenn. Rep.1820, 49.) At this |Untimely Synod| David Henkel was charged with teaching transubstantiation, because he had preached the Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper to his congregations. Synod found him guilty, and degraded him to the rank of catechist for a period of six months. Says the Report of the Tennessee Synod, 1820: |David Henkel was to be entitled to his former rank in office only when, after a period of six months, sufficient written evidence should have been submitted to the President that peace obtained in his congregations, and that no important accusation was lodged against him by others, especially by the Reformed [Presbyterians], whereupon the President would be empowered to confer on him the privileges of a candidate until the next synod.| (18.) The following statement of the same Report characterizes the doctrinal attitude of President Stork and other leaders of Synod: |We [the Henkels] have written evidence that, when a paper was read at said 'Untimely Synod' containing the statement that the human nature of Jesus Christ had been received into the divine nature (dass die Menschheit Jesu Christi in die Gottheit sei aufgenommen worden), and that therefore He possessed all the divine attributes, the President [Stork] declared that he could not believe this. And when it was said that such was the teaching of the Bible, he answered: 'Even if five hundred Bibles should say so, he would not believe it!' And to our knowledge he was never called to account for this statement.| (20.) The autocratic actions of the leaders of the North Carolina Synod and their adherents virtually resulted in a rupture of Synod in the same year. For the dissatisfied party held a synod of their own at Buffalo Creek, at the time specified by the constitution, and ordained Bell and David Henkel.

73. |Synod of Strife| (Streitsynode). -- The meeting at Lincolnton, N. C., 1820, which followed the |Untimely Synod,| was marked by painful scenes and altercations and the final breach between the majority, who were resolved to unite with the General Synod, and the minority, who opposed the union and accused the leader not only of high-handed, autocratic procedure and usurpation of power in contravention of the constitution, but also of false doctrine, and publicly refused to recognize them as Lutherans. On Sunday, May 28, Synod was opened with a service in which Stork preached German and Bell English. Monday morning the preachers, delegates, and a great multitude of people from the neighborhood returned to the church. They found it occupied by Pastors Paul Henkel, Philip Henkel, David Henkel, and Bell, who refused admission to the rest. After some parliamenteering, written and verbal, both parties entered the church. The Henkels report as follows: |They [the opponents] took their stand on the fact that the majority was on their side and according to it everything should be decided. Accordingly, before they came to us in the church, they first delegated one of their preachers with two questions directed to one of our preachers. The first was: 'Whether he intended to separate from the North Carolina Synod?' The second: 'Whether he was willing to be governed by a majority of preachers and delegates in the matters disputed?' He, giving him no decisive answer, came to the rest of us and told us. We answered in writing: 'That we neither intend to separate ourselves from Synod, nor would suffer ourselves to be governed by a majority; but that we wanted everything investigated and decided according to the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession and according to the constitution or order of our church, nothing else.' In the mean time the minister delegated came to us where we were gathered and demanded a verbal answer to the same questions. We then gave this answer also verbally, whereupon he said with an arrogant gesture and autocratic tone: 'That is not the point; I only ask, Do you want to, or do you not want to?' We answered: 'We did not want to.' He declared, 'That is all I desire to know'; and saying which he rapidly turned about and hastily ran away from us. In the mean time the multitude of our opponents moved toward us, proposing the same questions. We answered as before. The leaders among them endeavored to maintain that, in order to decide the dispute, we were not bound to the constitution, but only to the majority of the votes of the preachers and delegates, which majority they had; and that it was reasonable and fair for us to act according to it in this dispute. But we thought that the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession (being assured, as we were, that it can be proved by the doctrine of the Bible) should be of a greater weight to us than the voice of a majority of men who are opposed to the doctrine and order of our Church. After a brief altercation of this kind they went into the church, and we followed. Here the President [Stork], in a long speech in German, endeavored to prove what he had asserted before. The Secretary [Shober] made a still longer speech in English, in which he endeavored to prove that we were not at all bound to act according to the constitution or order of our Church; although he himself, with the approval of Synod, had written the constitution and had it printed, this was not done with the intention of making it a rule or norm by which we, as members of Synod, were to be guided in our transactions; it was merely a sort of draft or model according to which, in course of time, one might formulate a good constitution, if in the future such should become necessary. However, it was proved [by the Henkels] from the constitution itself that it had been received as just such an [official] document, sanctioned, after previous examination and approval by several ministers, by Synod and ordered to be printed. To this he [Shober] answered that such had not been the intention of Synod. Haste and lack of time had caused him to write it thus without previous careful consideration; therefore, now everything had to be governed and judged according to the majority. But we were of the opinion that it would prove to be a very unreasonable action to reject a constitution which a few years ago, according to a resolution of Synod, had been printed and bound in 1,500 copies, the money being taken from the synodical treasury, and sold at 75 cts. a copy.| (Tenn. Rep.1820, 24.) The question concerning the violation of the constitution would, no doubt, have been settled in favor of the Henkels, if they had not opposed the leaders in their union schemes and charged them with false doctrine and apostasy from the Lutheran Church. Says the aforementioned Tennessee Report: |Even though the officers with their adherents (die alten Herrn Beamten mit ihrem Zugehoer) could perhaps themselves have thought so far [as to realize the arbitrariness of their procedure with reference to the 'Untimely Synod'], yet the desire to organize the General Synod and to bring about a union with all religious bodies, especially with the Presbyterians, was so strong as to outweigh everything else| [even an imminent breach]. The leaders finally admitted that both parties had erred, and declared their willingness to pardon everything if the minority would reunite with them. The Henkels, however, declared that they could have no fellowship with people who were addicted to false doctrines concerning Baptism and the Lord's Supper, and rejected the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession. They also declared their impatience with the contemplated |general union of all religious denominations,| saying that such a union was no more possible than to bring together as one peaceful flock into one fold |sheep, goats, lambs, cows, oxen, horses, bears, wolves, wild cats, foxes, and swine.| At this juncture one of the officers, dissolving the meeting and leaving the church, exclaimed: |Whoever is a true Lutheran, may he come with us to the hotel of J. H.; there we will begin our Synod!| The minority answered: |Whoever wants to be a true fanatic (Schwaermer), may he go along; for you are no real Lutheran preachers: you are fanatics (Schwaermer) and to them you belong!| A young teacher added: |According to the testimony of Holy Scripture, it is impossible for us to regard you as anything but false teachers.| Then one of the old ministers, turning toward the assembly, said: |Now you yourselves have heard the boldness and impertinence of this young man, who charges us, old and respectable ministers that we are, with false doctrine.| Similar utterances were made by others. The report concludes: |However, they left the church without defending themselves against such accusations, except that one of the old ministers said at the exit of the church that he was much astonished. But we could not help that.| (Tenn. Report 1820, 27.) As Bell joined the Shober party, his ordination at Buffalo Creek was declared constitutional and ratified as valid. Shober now reported on his cordial reception by the Pennsylvania Synod and on the transaction which led to the adoption of the |Planentwurf| for the contemplated organization of the General Synod. The document, after its individual paragraphs had been read and discussed, was adopted by the North Carolina Synod by a majority of 15 to 6 -- a result which Shober had forestalled in a letter to the Pennsylvania Synod assembled at Lancaster, stating |that the greatest part of the members of the North Carolina Synod had adopted the so-called Planentwurf,| and expressing the hope that the General Synod might be established. After adopting the |Planentwurf,| the North Carolina Synod elected Pastors Shober and Peter Schmucker delegates to the convention of the General Synod, which was to convene at Hagerstown, Md., October 22, 1820. Only a few ministers from Tennessee being present, the Henkels resolved not to transact any business at this time. (27.)

74. Doctrinal Dispute at Lincolnton. -- The points disputed at Lincolnton did not only refer to the autocratic actions of the leaders of the Synod and their union schemes, but also to the doctrines of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, regarding which the minority charged Stork, Shober, and their followers with holding un-Lutheran and anticonfessional views. The discussions on these doctrines caused James Hill, a Methodist preacher who was present, to address a letter to Synod in which he said: |For almost thirteen years which I have spent in this county [Lincoln Co., N.C., where David Henkel preached], I have understood that the greatest number of your preachers in the county have taught that the baptism of water effects regeneration, and that the body and blood of Christ is received bodily with the bread and wine in the Lord's Supper, so that these doctrines, being so generally taught and confessedly believed, confirmed me in the conviction that they are the orthodox doctrines of the Lutheran Church. Last Monday [at the discussion on floor of Synod], however, I discovered, or believed to discover, that some members of your Rev. Synod entertained different views. . . . Now, in order that I may know how to conduct myself in the future toward so respectable a part of the Church of Christ [North Carolina Synod], I request the opinion of your Synod on the above points.| The answer, formulated by R. J. Miller and Peter Schmucker, and approved of by the ministerium, was: |We do not say that all who are baptized with water are regenerated and converted to God, so that they are saved without the operation of the Holy Spirit, or in other words, without faith in Christ.| |We do not believe and teach that the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are bodily received with the bread and wine in the Holy Supper, but that the true believer receives and enjoys it spiritually together with all saving gifts of His suffering and death, by faith in Jesus Christ.| (681.) According to the report of the Henkels, the doctrine of predestination as taught by the Presbyterians was also touched upon, for in it we read: |One of the members declared, and sought to maintain, that it was impossible for a man to fall from the grace of God after he had once been truly converted. Another denied the doctrine of Baptism as laid down in our catechism and in the Second and Ninth Articles of the Augsburg Confession. The offer was made to a third to prove to him from his own handwriting that he denied the doctrine of the Lord's Supper as set forth in the Tenth Article [of the Augsburg Confession]. They offered to have the letter read; but our opponents did not agree to this. A book was placed before him and a passage was pointed out to him, in order that he might read what Luther, of blessed memory, himself teaches on this question. He closed it angrily and pushed it away. A fourth put the question: 'Can I not be a [Presbyterian] predestinarian and also a Lutheran?' For he believed that the [Presbyterian] doctrine of predestination could be proven from the Bible. He received the answer: 'If he believed as the Predestinarians believe, then he belonged to them, and might go to them, it did not concern us.' -- For these reasons we believed to be all the more certain that they were not true Evangelical Lutheran preachers, and this we also told them without reservation.| (Tenn. Rep.1820, 24 f.) In connection with the doctrine of regeneration by Baptism, the Henkels also referred to the error of the enthusiasts, gaining ground increasingly within the North Carolina Synod, viz., that conversion and regeneration was effected by anxious shrieking, united praying, and the exertion of all powers of the body and soul. (32 f.) The rupture, then, was inevitable: the doctrinal and spiritual gap between Shober and his compeers on the one hand and the Henkels and their adherents on the other hand being just as wide and insurmountable as that between Zwingli and Luther at Marburg 1529. The leaders of the North Carolina Synod were not only unionistic, but, in more than one respect, Reformed theologians. The ministers who soon after united in organizing the Tennessee Synod declared with respect to the North Carolina Synod: |If they would adopt the name of what we believe they really are, and in this way withdraw from us, then we and other people would know what our relation was toward them. But if they intend to remain in our household, they shall also submit to its authority [Augsburg Confession], or we will have nothing to do with them.| (31.)

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