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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : EFFORTS AT UNITY AND PEACE.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

EFFORTS AT UNITY AND PEACE.

98. Attempts at Union with North Carolina. -- Though universally decried as the |Quarreling Conference,| Tennessee enjoyed and cultivated unity and harmony within, and zealously also sought peace and unity with other Lutheran synods. In 1826 all of the Tennessee ministers signed a document, denying a report circulated by their enemies, according to which Tennessee was disagreed as to its attitude toward the General Synod, and declaring: |We testify that we live in brotherly love and harmony.| The minutes add: |Thus it is evident that all the ministers of this body live in brotherly love, and entertain uniform sentiments.| (7.) Nor did the staunch, unbending doctrinal position of Tennessee prove to be a hindrance of, and a check upon, their efforts at unity and peace, but rather a spur to most earnest endeavors in this direction. Moreover, after having themselves fully realized that the Lutheran Confessions contain nothing but God's eternal truth over against the manifest errors of the Roman and other churches, it was, as shown above, the ambition and prayer of the Henkels to lead the American Lutheran synods out of the mire of sectarian aberrations back to the unadulterated Lutheranism of Luther and the Lutheran Symbols. When, in 1824, some members of the North Carolina Synod made proposals for a union of the two synods, Tennessee forthwith appointed a committee to negotiate with them. (10.) This committee was instructed to compile the controverted points of doctrine from the writings of the two parties, |and to put into one column what the ministers of the North Carolina Synod teach, and in an adjoining column what the Tennessee Synod teaches, so that every one may immediately perceive the difference.| In this way they hoped to enable every one to decide for himself which party taught according to the Augsburg Confession. In the interest of truth the committee was also authorized to direct such questions to the North Carolina Synod as they might see fit. (11.) It was, however, resolved that any further arrangements for union were not to be made until |said pastors, in case they would be convinced, recall their doctrine in print as publicly as they had disseminated it, and fully assent to the doctrine of the Augsburg Confession and to Lutheran order as it obtained before the institution of the General Synod arose.| (11.) Following are the questions which were directed |to the Messrs. C. Stork, G. Shober, Jacob Sherer, Daniel Sherer, Jacob Miller, Martin Walter, and to all other men belonging to this connection| (North Carolina Synod): |1. Do ye intend for the future to maintain what you have asserted, viz.: 'Baptized or not baptized, faith saves us?' Or upon mature deliberation, have ye concluded publicly to revoke the same as erroneous? 2. Will ye also maintain that the Christian Church may consist of twenty different opinions? 3. Do ye deny that the true body and blood of Jesus Christ are really present in the Lord's Supper, and administered and received under the external signs of bread and wine? and that also the unbelieving communicants do eat and drink His body and blood? Further, do ye deny that Jesus Christ, agreeably to both natures, as God and man, inseparably connected in one person, is omnipresent, and thus an object of supreme worship? 4. Do ye intend to relinquish the General Synod, if in case ye cannot prove the same to be founded in the Holy Scriptures?| (R.1825, 8; B.1824, Appendix, 2.) However, the Carolina Synod declined to answer. The Tennessee committee reported 1825: |The ministers of said connection [Carolina Synod] refused to answer the committee that was appointed last year to negotiate with them. The reasons of their refusal shall here be inserted: Said ministers assign the following reasons which we learn from Mr. J. Sherer's letter and their minutes: 1. That the committee did not entitle them as a genuine Lutheran body; and 2. because we appointed farmers to constitute the committee.| (R.1825, 6.) David Henkel wrote in 1827: |In the year 1822 I addressed a letter to them [North Carolina Synod]. . . . But they refused to accept the letter because they got offended with the address which was, 'The Lutheran Synod of North Carolina and adjoining States, so called.' The Tennessee Synod have since, at several of their sessions, made sundry propositions to them for a reciprocal trial, and have proposed some questions to them which they were requested to answer. But as they were not addressed in such manner as to recognize them as genuine Lutherans, they rejected every proposition. It must, however, be observed that they were not thus addressed through contempt, but rather through, necessity. One of the charges against them is that they deviated from the Lutheran doctrines; hence had we addressed them in such manner as to have recognized them as genuine Lutherans, they might easily have justified themselves under the covert of the address, and have produced it as an evidence against our charge.| (R.1827, 35.) However, though North Carolina had not even answered their letter, Tennessee did not relinquish her efforts at peace and harmony. In the following year, 1825, a memorial subscribed by nine persons was submitted, requesting Synod |to make another attempt to effect a union with the ministers of the North Carolina Synod; yet so that the genuine Lutheran doctrine be not thereby suppressed.| (R.1825, 6.) Pursuant to this request, |it was resolved that the questions again should be preferred in a friendly manner; and provided their answer should prove satisfactory, all the necessary regulations shall be made to effect peace and harmony.| (7.) At the same time Tennessee explained and justified their action of withholding from the North Carolina Synod the title Lutheran, and of appointing laymen, |farmers,| as they were styled by North Carolina, to constitute the committee. |It was believed,| David Henkel declared with respect to the latter point, |laymen would act more impartially, since the ministers are more immediately concerned in this controversy. Neither can I discover that all the farmers are so contemptible a class of people that Mr. Sherer could possibly be offended at the appointment!| (R.1825, 7.) Regarding the first point Synod declared: |We must here observe that we cannot consistently grant to the Synod of North Carolina this title [Lutheran], because we maintain that they departed from the Lutheran doctrine. . . . 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, 7.) In accordance herewith the letter to the North Carolina Synod was addressed 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!| (R.1825, 7.)

99. Debates at Organ and St. Paul's Churches. -- According to her resolutions of 1825, Tennessee was ready to establish peace and harmony with the North Carolina Synod. But one proviso had been added by Tennessee, limiting this action as follows: |Provided their [North Carolina's] answer should prove satisfactory.| If such, however, should not be the case, they proposed public discussions of the differences. The minutes continue: |But if in case their answers should not prove satisfactory, that we propose to them to appoint a certain time and place, and that each party appoint a speaker, for the purpose of exhibiting the disputed doctrines, so that the assembly, which may be present, may discover the difference; and that also all the arguments, on both sides, may afterwards be published.| (R.1825, 7.) In the following year, when the questions preferred were still unanswered by North Carolina, Tennessee resolved: |This Synod have made sundry proposals to the North Carolina connection for the purpose of amicably adjusting the difference which exists with respect to doctrine and other differences, but said connection have hitherto refused to comply with any of the proposals. Although it seems to be in vain to make any further propositions, yet this Synod deem it their duty to adopt the following resolutions: 1. That the Revs. Adam Miller, Daniel Moser, and David Henkel be authorized to proclaim and hold a public meeting at or near the Organ Church, Rowan Co., N.C. They shall continue said meeting at least three days, and preach on the disputed points of doctrine.2. That they invite the Revs. C. A. Stork and Daniel Sherer, who reside near said Organ Church, to attend said meeting, and give them an opportunity of alleging their objections and proving their doctrines. Further, that as many of the other ministers belonging to the North Carolina connection as may be conveniently notified be also invited to attend for the same purpose. This will afford an opportunity to a number of people to ascertain which party have deviated from the Lutheran doctrine. This meeting shall, if God permit, commence on the 4th day of next November.| (R.1826, 5.) The public meeting was duly proclaimed at Organ Church in Rowan Co., N.C., on the 4th of November. A notice was inserted into the weekly paper, and some of the ministers were individually requested to attend. However, not one of the North Carolina Synod ministers put in his appearance, or made any official statement of their reasons for not attending. Persons who had visited Rev. Stork quoted him as having said: |Let them [the committee] come to our Synod, which is the proper place to discuss these points.| (R.1827, 5.) Stork's remark suggested the arrangement of a second debate in connection with the prospective meeting of the North Carolina Synod in St. Paul's Church, Lincoln Co., beginning May 7, 1827. The Tennessee Report of 1827 records: |On the day appointed [November 4, 1826], Messrs. Moser and Henkel attended [the meeting at the Organ Church]; but none of the ministers whom they had invited. Whereupon sundry respectable members of the Lutheran community [in Lincoln Co.] requested the committee [of the Tennessee Synod, Moser and Henkel] to renew this invitation, and to make another appointment. The same request was also made by the Lutheran Joint Committee of this county [composed of members of several Lutheran congregations in Lincoln County], at their session on the 9th of last December . Accordingly, Messrs. Moser and Henkel renewed the invitation, and proclaimed another meeting.| (25.) The request of the Lutheran Joint Committee reads as follows: |To Lutherans. The Lutheran Tennessee Synod had appointed a committee for the purpose of publicly debating some points of doctrine, which are in dispute between the aforesaid Synod, and that which is commonly called the Synod of North Carolina and adjoining States. Some members of the latter were invited and notified by the committee to attend at Organ Church, on the 4th ult., for the purpose of reciprocally discussing the aforesaid points of doctrine. Two of the committee attended, but none of the ministers of the North Carolina Synod. Whatever reasons they may have had for not attending, we, the members of several Lutheran congregations in this county, being assembled and constituting a joint committee for the purpose of regulating the internal government of the same, request said committee to proclaim another public meeting at a convenient place for the aforesaid purpose, and to invite the members of the North Carolina Synod to attend the same. We also hereby request the members of the North Carolina Synod to meet the committee [of Tennessee] in a friendly manner, in order to discuss the doctrines in dispute.| Moser and Henkel responded: |We . . . acquiesce in your request, and deem it pertinent to the manifestation of the truth.| (26.) They also published a proclamation, inviting the ministers of the North Carolina Synod to attend a public meeting to be held in St. Paul's Church, Lincoln Co., |to commence on the day after you shall have adjourned, and to continue at least three days.| (R.1827, 27.) Again invitations and notices of the projected meeting were printed, and a copy was sent to each of the ministers of the North Carolina Synod a few months prior to their session. And when the North Carolina Synod was convened, by special messenger, a letter was sent to the president for presentation to Synod, inviting them to attend the proposed debate, at the same time asking them to give their reasons in case they should refuse to comply with the request. On the following day the messenger, Mr. Rudisill, applied for an answer, and again on the day of adjournment; but in vain. The Report of 1827 records: |Mr. Rudisill handed this letter to the president, who, taking it, replied that it was not properly directed to them; notwithstanding it should be given to a committee appointed by this Synod, who should report on the same. On the next day Mr. Rudisill applied for an answer, but he received none. On Wednesday, the day of their adjournment, Mr. Rudisill again requested an answer, but he again received none. Neither did the Synod assign any reason for their refusal. Whereupon Mr. Rudisill publicly proclaimed that Messrs. Moser and Henkel would attend on the next day, i.e., on Thursday, and discourse upon these disputed topics, and invited all who were present to attend. Accordingly, Messrs. Moser and Henkel attended, but none of the ministerium of the North Carolina Synod appeared. The most of them, or perhaps all, had started on their way home. The members of the church who were present requested David Henkel to discourse on a few of those disputed points, with which he complied. After his discourse was ended, it was concluded that it was not necessary then to pursue the subject any further. The congregation, who were present, nominated a majority of the members of this committee to draw up the above statements. It was resolved that this report shall be laid before the next session of the Tennessee Synod and that the same shall be requested to annex it to the report of their transactions. It was further resolved that David Henkel be requested to write a treatise, in order to show the propriety and Scriptural grounds for the debate on the disputed points of doctrine, which was offered to the ministers of the North Carolina Synod.| (R.1827, 31 f.) Thus the repeated and cordial offers on the part of the Tennessee Synod to discuss and settle the differences were ignored and spurned by the North Carolina Synod. David Henkel wrote: |As the committee, who gave them the last invitation to attend to public debate, knew from past experience that to address the North Carolina Synod with the addition 'so called' was offensive, and was made a plea to evade a public trial, they addressed some of the principal ministers thereof agreeably to etiquette, by their personal names, and including all the others, believing that no rational man would be offended to be called by his own name. Neither did I hear that any of them objected to the address as offensive, nor to any of the propositions for the manner of conducting the debate. Notwithstanding this, and although they accepted a letter directed to them also by the committee, and promised the bearer to return an answer, yet they treated both the invitation and letter with silent contempt.| (35.) The repeated endeavors of the Tennessee Synod to draw the false Lutherans out of their holes failed. The Lutheran Church of America was destined to sink even deeper into the mire of indifferentism, unionism, and sectarianism.

100. Characteristic Address of Moser and Henkel. -- The truly Lutheran spirit in which Tennessee endeavored to bring about unity and peace with the North Carolina Synod appears from the following letter, published in connection with the debates proposed in the interest of union, and dated, |Lincoln Co., N.C., December 10, 1826|: |To the Revs. Charles A. Stork, G. Shober, Jacob Sherer, and Daniel Sherer, and all other ministers belonging to their Synod. -- Sirs! You call yourselves Lutherans, and we call ourselves the same; notwithstanding there is a division. You have accused us of teaching erroneous doctrines, and we, notwithstanding the appellation you give yourselves, deny that your doctrines correspond with the same or with the Holy Scriptures. It is hence somewhat difficult for some professors of Lutheranism to determine with which party to associate, as they have not sufficient information on the subject. We know no method which would be better calculated to afford the people information and an opportunity for both parties to prove their accusations than to meet each other, and debate the points in dispute publicly, according to the rules of decorum. -- Whereas we are informed that you intend to hold your next synod in St. Paul's Church in this county, on the first Sunday in next May, why we wish to try your doctrines, and why we wish you to try ours by the Augustan Confession and the aforesaid symbolical books, is because the important question in the dispute is, Who are the genuine and who the spurious Lutherans? For it is known that Lutheran ministers are pledged to maintain the Augustan Confession. But if you should at said meeting declare that the Augustan Confession contains false doctrine, and that Dr. Luther erred in any of the doctrines which are here proposed for discussion, we shall then, in that case, be willing to appeal exclusively to the Holy Scriptures. -- Whatever private misunderstanding may have existed between us heretofore, we notwithstanding intend to meet you in a friendly manner, without attempting to wound your feelings by personal reflections. That we intend publicly to contradict your doctrines as erroneous we beg you not to consider as an insult, as we expect and are willing for you to treat ours in the same manner. We pray you as our former brethren, do not despise and reject those proposals, as a compliance with them may have the salutary effect to convince either the one or the other party of the truth, and we are confident it will be beneficial to many of the hearers. -- 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 consider 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. -- We remain yours, respectfully, Daniel Moser. David Henkel.| (R.1827, 27.)

101. Probing Orthodoxy of Pennsylvania Synod. -- In the interest of doctrinal clarity and Christian unity the Tennessee Synod, in 1823, addressed to the Pennsylvania Synod the following questions: |1. Do ye believe that Holy Baptism performed with water, in the name of the Holy Trinity, effects remission for sins, delivers from death and Satan, and gives admittance into everlasting life to all such as believe, according to God's promises? 2. Do ye believe that the true body and blood of Christ are present, administered, and received under the external signs of bread and wine? Do ye believe that the unbelieving communicants also eat and drink the body and blood of Christ? We do not ask whether they receive remission for their sins, but simply, whether they also eat and drink the body and blood of Christ.3. Ought Jesus Christ to be worshiped as true God and man in one person? 4. Ought the Evangelic Lutheran Church, endeavor to be united with any religious denomination, whose doctrines are contrary to the Augustan Confession of faith? Or, is it proper for Lutherans to commune with such?| (R.1825, 9.) The Pennsylvania Synod, which immediately prior to that time had been planning to establish a union seminary with the German Reformed and to enter into organic union with that body, treated the request with silent contempt. Two years later Tennessee, patiently and humbly, renewed the questions with the following preamble: |In the year of our Lord 1823, a few questions were preferred to your honorable body by this Synod, but as no answers have been received, and as the reasons thereof are not known, we [Daniel Moser, Ambrose Henkel, John Ramsauer, Peter Hoyle] were appointed by our Synod to renew the request, and to solicit you to comply with the same. We most humbly beseech you to make known the reasons of your hope that is in you, because we believe if this be done, it will contribute towards restoring peace and tranquillity [tr. note: sic] among all genuine Lutherans. We, therefore, renew the following questions,| etc. (R.1825, 8 f.) |It was also resolved,| the Report of 1825 continues, |that the Secretary of this Synod be ordered to address a friendly letter to the Rev. Muhlenberg, member of the Synod of Pennsylvania, for the purpose of obtaining his counsel relative to the present affairs of the Church.| (9.) However, these letters also remained unanswered. But, even this did not exasperate, nor exhaust the patience of, Tennessee, as appears from the following entry in the minutes of 1826: |At our last session a few theological questions were submitted to the reverend Synod of East Pennsylvania, and a letter to the Rev. Muhlenberg; but we received no answer, neither from the Synod nor from Mr. Muhlenberg. The cause of this delay we do not know; but we indulge the hope of receiving satisfactory answers before our next session.| (R.1826, 6.) In the same Report we read: |Several letters from Pennsylvania [not the Synod] were read in which David Henkel is particularly requested to visit that State for the purpose of preaching, and arguing the peculiar doctrines of the Lutheran Church. Resolved, That this Synod also solicit him to undertake this task. He agreed to do so, provided he can arrange his other business so as to be enabled.| (9.) In the following year, however, as no answer had arrived from the Pennsylvania Synod, Tennessee made the following declaration, which was directed also against the North Carolina Synod: |Whereas there are sundry ministers who appear under the disguise of Lutherans, notwithstanding [they] deny the Lutheran doctrines, and as they are patronized by several synods, this body deemed it expedient and to have a Scriptural privilege to demand of other bodies answers to some theological questions, in order to ascertain whether they differ in points of doctrine from this body. Accordingly, they submitted a few theological questions to the reverend Synod of Pennsylvania (now East Pennsylvania), and have waited patiently four years for an answer. But no answer was received. The secretary was also ordered by the session of 1825 to address a friendly letter on the subject to the Rev. Muhlenberg. The secrtary [tr. note: sic] complied with this order; but Mr. Muhlenberg has not as yet returned an answer. In order, therefore, to ascertain the sentiments of the several synods, as well as of individual ministers on sundry points of doctrine, it was resolved, 1. That there shall be a pastoral address directed to the Lutheran community, in which shall be shown what this body deem to be the genuine Lutheran doctrines relative to such points as are in dispute.2. That the several Synods, as well as individual ministers shall be requested, in the preface of the aforesaid contemplated address, to peruse and examine it; and then, in a formal manner, either justify it as correct, or condemn it as erroneous. That every synod and minister who shall be silent after having had an opportunity of perusing it shall be considered as fully sanctioning all its contents as correct, although they should teach or patronize a contrary doctrine.3. That David Henkel shall compile and prepare said book for publication, and that the other ministers of this body shall assist him in it. . . . This address is intended to be published both in the German and English languages.| (R.1827, 6 f.) Also from the Ohio Synod, which at that time practically identified itself with the indifferentistic attitude of the Pennsylvania Synod, Tennessee received but little encouragement in her efforts at purifying the Lutheran Church from the leaven of sectarianism. Says Sheatsley: |The minutes [of the Ohio Synod of 1825] report that David Henkel of the Tennessee Synod placed several theological questions before Synod. These were discussed in the ministerial meeting and answered, but as many of the older heads were absent, the answers should first be sent to them and then forwarded to Pastor Henkel. What the questions were we have no means of determining [no doubt, they were the same questions asked the Pennsylvania Synod], but, judging from the ability and bent of the doughty David Henkel, we may surmise that the questions involved some difficulties. In the following year Synod resolved that it could not answer these questions, since it is not our purpose at our meetings to discuss theological questions, but to consider the general welfare of the Church. This did not betoken indifference [?] [tr. note: sic] to doctrine, but it was then like it is now a Joint Synod; there was little or no time for the discussion of these matters.| (History, 73.)

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