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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


95. Refusing to Join in with General Synod. -- The practise of the Tennessee Synod squared with her doctrinal position. Also church-fellowship was regarded as a matter, not of expediency and policy, but of conscience. In the conclusion to their |Objections against the Constitution of the General Synod| the committee declared: Since a general connection of all ministers in a General Synod would exalt the clerical state to a high degree above the people; since greater burdens might then be imposed on the people, and ministers could thereby live more comfortably; since our widows and orphans also might then live with much ease and our missionary services would be amply remunerated; and since the union with the General Synod would increase our popularity and decrease our burdensome labors, -- |we, therefore, would freely join in with them if we could do it with a good conscience,| and |if we could justify such conduct before the judgment throne of Christ.| (R.34; B.30.) In accordance herewith Tennessee, at her first meeting, resolved: |It cannot be tolerated that a teacher of our conference have any connection with the so-called Central or General Synod, for the reason which will be adduced afterwards.| (5.) The minutes of 1826 record: |Whereas there is a report in circulation, both verbally and in print, that some of us, members of the Tennessee Conference, should have said that we now regard the General Synod as a useful institution; that we disapprove the turbulent conduct of a certain member of this body; that we (some of us) pledged ourselves to leave this body if we cannot succeed in having said member expelled, we deem it our duty hereby to inform the public that we are unanimously agreed in viewing the General Synod as an anti-Lutheran institution, and highly disapprove it, and are the longer, the more confirmed in this opinion; and that we know of no member among us whose conduct is turbulent or immoral, and hence have no desire either to expel any one, nor do any of us intend to withdraw from this body. Neither do we know of any member among us who is not legally ordained. We testify that we live in brotherly love and harmony. September 5, 1826.| (6.) In 1839 the General Synod publicly denounced the Tennessee Synod, charging her with un-Lutheran as well as unchristian doctrine and conduct. The matter, brought to the attention of Tennessee by a petition from the congregation at New Market and from Coiner's Church, was disposed of by the following resolutions: |1. Resolved, That it is to us a matter of small importance whether the General Synod recognizes us as an Evangelical Lutheran Synod or not, since our orthodoxy and our existence as a Lutheran body in no wise depends on their judgment.2. Resolved, That we cannot recognize the General Synod as an Evangelical Lutheran body, forasmuch as they have departed from the doctrines and practises of the Lutheran Church.3. Resolved, That under present circumstances we have no inclination whatsoever to unite with the General Synod, and can never unite with them, except they return once more to the primitive doctrine and usages of the Lutheran Church.4. Resolved, That Pastor Braun be appointed to draw up our objections to the General Synod, and to show from its own publications wherein that body has departed from the doctrine and usages of the Lutheran Church, and submit his manuscript to this Synod at its next session for examination; and that, if approved, it be printed.| (B.1841, 11; R.1842, 8.) In this connection the Tennessee Synod likewise resolved in no wise to take part in the centenary of the Lutherans in America as recommended by the General Synod. (15.) At the next session of Synod the committee reported that they had examined the manuscript submitted by Rev. Braun, and that it was |well calculated to place in their proper light the views and practises of the General Synod and expose its corruptions and departures from Lutheranism, as well as to evince the fact that the Tennessee Synod still retain in their primitive purity the doctrines, and adhere to the usages of the Lutheran Church.| (10.) When, in 1853, the Pennsylvania Synod called upon all Lutheran synods to follow their example and unite with the General Synod, Tennessee took cognizance of this matter in the following resolution: |Whereas we regard the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as the authorized and universally acknowledged Symbol of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and consequently the belief and acknowledgment of it, in its entireness, as essential to the existence of Lutheranism in its integrity; and whereas we profess, in our synodical constitution, to believe the doctrines of the Christian system as exhibited in this symbol, and have pledged ourselves to teach according to it; and whereas the doctrinal position of the General Synod, as we understand it, is only a qualified acknowledgment of the Augsburg Confession, as we think it evident, a) from the constitution of this body, in which there is no clause binding its members to teach according to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, and not even a distinct mention of this instrument; b) from the constitution recommended by the General Synod to the District Synods connected with it; c) from the form of oath required of professors in its Theological Seminary, when inducted into office; d) from the construction placed upon its Constitution by the framer of that instrument, and other prominent members of it; e) from the various publications made by distinguished members of the General Synod, in which distinctive doctrines of our Church confessions are openly assailed, and for doing which they have never been called to account: be it therefore 1. Resolved, That we cannot, under existing circumstances, take any steps toward a union with the General Synod.| (8.)

96. Attitude toward North Carolina Synod. -- In her relations with the North Carolina Synod the practise of Tennessee was in perfect keeping with her doctrine, her actions tallying with her words. In 1820 they declared: |No teacher of our Conference may take seat and vote in the present Synod of North Carolina, since we cannot look upon them as a truly Evangelical Lutheran synod.| (B.1820, 9.) Neither was it tolerated that a member of the Tennessee Synod at the same time be a member of the North Carolina Synod; witness the case of Seechrist. (R.1826, 4.) Furthermore, Tennessee declared that steps looking to a union with the North Carolina Synod would be contemplated only if the respective pastors of that synod were to |revoke their doctrine in print as publicly as they had disseminated the same, and would give entire assent to the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession.| (1824, 11; 1825, 6.) At the sixth convention, 1825, the committee previously appointed to negotiate with the North Carolina Synod reported that the ministers of that connection had refused to deal with them, 1. Because this |committee did not entitle them as a genuine Lutheran body; and 2. because we appointed farmers to constitute the committee.| (6.) With respect to the first grievance Tennessee declared: |We must here observe that we cannot consistently grant to the Synod of North Carolina this title, because we maintain that they departed from the Lutheran doctrine. This is the very design in preferring the questions, in order to ascertain whether they adopted different views, since they published their doctrines. We, therefore, entreat them not to be offended when at this time we cannot grant the desired title, but to be contented until a union with respect to doctrine shall have been effected.| (R.1825, 6.) Thus Tennessee was careful to avoid even the appearance of denying her convictions. Dissimulation was not in her nature. True to her convictions she formulated the address of her second petition for negotiations as follows: |To the Rev. Synod of North Carolina, who assume the title Lutheran, but which we, at this time, for the reason aforesaid, dispute. Well-beloved in the Lord, according to your persons,| etc. (R.1825, 6.) Similar language was employed in the invitation of December, 1826, which the Tennessee committee (Daniel Moser and David Henkel) sent to Pastors Stork, Shober, Sherer, and other pastors of the North Carolina Synod to conduct a public debate, that every one might be enabled to decide for himself |who are the genuine and who the spurious Lutherans.| The invitation reveals a spirit of love, fairness, and willingness to yield in every point which was not a matter of conscience, as well as true Lutheran conscientiousness and determination not to yield a single point in violation of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Symbols. Here Daniel Moser and David Henkel who wrote the letter of invitation state with true Christian frankness: |You call yourselves Lutherans, and we call ourselves the same; notwithstanding there is a division. You have accused us with teaching erroneous doctrines, and we, notwithstanding the appellation you give yourselves, deny that your doctrines correspond with the same or with the Holy Scriptures.| (27.) |We are willing to forgive all private conduct which we conceive erroneous and criminal in you. You ought also to be willing to forgive what you conceive to be the same in us. But as we differ with you in the fundamental doctrines of the Christian religion, an ecclesiastical union is impracticable, until the one or the other party be clearly refuted and convinced.| (29.) The following were mentioned as the chief points of difference which ought to be discussed: |1. The person and incarnation of Christ, etc.2. Justification.3. Repentance.4. Good Works.5. Holy Baptism.6. The Lord's Supper.7. Church Government.| (R.1827, 26.) An offer of union made by the North Carolina Synod, in 1847, was answered by Tennessee as follows: |Resolved, That we accede to a union with the said Synod only on the platform of pure and unadulterated Evangelical Lutheranism -- a union which we shall heartily rejoice to form, as is evident from the repeated overtures we made to bring about such a desirable state of things.| (R.1847, 9.)

97. Attitude toward Other Southern Synods. -- Tennessee was conscious of representing nothing but the pure truth of unadulterated Lutheranism also over against the Synods of South Carolina, Virginia, and South West Virginia. Despite enmity, contempt, and slander, they were unwilling to enter into any unionistic compromise at the expense of the truth as they saw it. As for the Synod of South Carolina (organized 1824), the Tennessee Report of 1838 recorded the following protest: |Whereas the Synod of South Carolina has recently employed various scandalous means in order to bring the Ev. Luth. Tennessee Synod into disrepute, in particular by the annotations contained in a sermon delivered by Pastor Johannes Bachman, D. D., which was published with the approval and by the support of said Synod (the aforementioned sermon, unless its evil influence is hindered, is well calculated to make a false and unfavorable impression upon otherwise honest minds, and to represent our doctrine, synod, and pastors as being the objects of scorn, disdain, and constant persecution); and whereas we believe that we stand on the primitive ground of the Lutheran Church, and that the doctrine of the glorious and memorable Reformation, which was wrought through the especial mediation of the Saxon Reformers, Dr. Martin Luther and his immortal assistants, exactly agrees with the Word of God, which we regard as the only infallible norm of faith and life: 1. therefore be it Resolved, That we regard the actions of the South Carolina Synod toward us as impolite, ignoble, dishonest, and uncharitable.2. Resolved, That we look upon the assertions in Dr. Bachman's sermon as utterly unfounded and without the slightest approach to the truth, but as base calumniations, well calculated to insult (beschimpfen) our Synod.| At the same time Pastors Braun and Miller were appointed a committee to publish a refutation of Bachman's sermon. (B.1838, 11.) In his address delivered on November 12, 1837, Bachman, as President of the South Carolina Synod, had voiced, with a squint toward Tennessee, among others, the following sentiments: |We have never boasted of being an exclusive church, whose doctrines are more Scriptural or whose confessors are purer than those of other denominations round about us. . . . We will gladly unite with every friend of the Gospel in producing the downfall of sectarianism, though not the obliteration of sects. Our pulpits have ever been open to the servants of every Christian communion, and we invite to our communion tables the followers of Jesus regardless of what particular denomination they may belong to.| Dr. Bachman, in direct contravention to what the Henkels had maintained over against Stork and Shober of the North Carolina Synod, expressed his own indifferentistic and Reformed doctrinal position as follows: |If Baptism is regeneration, why, then, does not every one who has been baptized in infancy walk with God from his Baptism? Why does not every one lead a pious life? Evidently, such is not the case!| |As a matter of fact, for a hundred years the Lutheran Church has abandoned the moot question of the body of Christ, etc., and has left it to the consciences of its members to decide what they must believe according to Holy Writ. This we may do without deviating from the faith of our Church, since at our ordination, especially in this country, we confess nothing more than that the fundamental articles of the divine Word are, in a manner substantially correct, presented in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession.| (Kirchl. Mitt.1846, 34 f.) In the same year (1838) the Tennessee Synod instructed its secretary to inquire of the president of the Virginia Synod (organized 1829 at Woodstock) why, according to the resolution passed at their last meeting, they do |not recognize the members of the Tennessee Conference as Evangelical Lutheran pastors.| (B.1838 12.) And, when, in 1848, the Western Virginia Synod (Southwest Virginia Synod, organized 1841) requested an exchange of delegates, Tennessee answered: |Resolved, That, although it would afford us the highest gratification, and we most sincerely desire to see those who are one with us in name also united in doctrine and practise, and in that case would most cheerfully unite and cooperate with them in such measures as are calculated to advance and promote the cause of truth, yet we wish it to be distinctly understood that, however much a union is desired, it can only be effected upon the assurance of a strict adherence to the doctrines and usages of our Church as set forth in its Symbols; and until we can have this assurance, we, on our part, can consent to no such union.| (R.1848, 8.)

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