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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


114. Refusing Fellowship to Non-Lutherans. -- The purpose of the General Synod was an external union of all bodies bearing the Lutheran name, irrespective of their differences as to doctrine and practise, and to cultivate intimate fraternal relations with other Evangelical denominations. The Tennessee Synod, on the contrary, was not only opposed to any kind of union with non-Lutheran churches, but also sought to bring about a separation of the true Lutherans from the spurious Lutherans, and to unite the former in defense of true Lutheranism against Reformed and other corruptions then prevailing in the Lutheran synods. Unity in the spirit, unity in doctrine, unity in faith and confession, was viewed by Tennessee as the sine qua non, the absolutely necessary condition, of all church-fellowship, church union, and cooperation. This appears from their attitude toward the North Carolina and other synods, as described above. While Stork, Shober, and others advocated a union not only with the General Synod, but with all religious bodies in America, the Henkels and their adherents declared at the |Quarreling Synod,| 1820: |The general union of the numerous religious parties, though a very desirable matter, is not to be hoped for, as we can clearly see that such a thing is impossible at this time. How should it be possible? Some teach: Christ died on the cross for all men to redeem all. Others teach: This is not true; He died only for the small number of those who, according to the holy will and the wise counsel of God, are elected from eternity and are compelled to be saved; the rest of mankind, also according to His wise counsel, God, from eternity, has ordained and elected unto damnation, and they must be lost. Again, some teach: Baptism is necessary to salvation, because Christ and His apostles teach thus. Others hold: This is not true; Baptism is a mere outward sign indicating obedience toward the command of the Lord and nothing more; Baptism is not at all necessary unto regeneration, as regeneration is wrought by the Holy Spirit without any means whatever. Some say: It is right to baptize children. Others maintain: Infant Baptism is an institution of the Pope. Others: It is of the devil. Some reject every kind of baptism. Such and similar are the people who constitute the present so-called Christendom: opinions, opposing one another, and that always will be opposed to each other! All these are supposed to be united in one church, and to become one congregation and one flock, all under the care of one shepherd. That would be like stabling together sheep, goats, lambs, cows, oxen, horses, bears, wolves, wildcats, foxes, and swine, and putting them under the care of one shepherd, saying, 'Here you have a united flock which now you may feed and pasture in peace; you have many heads under one hat, take your place among them.' That some were much displeased by this objection to the general union is not to be wondered at, for some of that stripe were present. There were also some of almost all religious parties in attendance.| (B.1820, 26.) It is apparent from these statements that a general union of all denominations, irrespective of their doctrinal differences, was certainly not relished by Tennessee in 1820. Twenty years later Synod still occupied the same position. In 1841, after discussing an appeal which had gone out to unite all the different religious parties in one big body, Tennessee |resolved that whereas the Church of Christ is a gathering of all true believers, and is not now, nor ever has been, divided; and whereas it is impossible that all the different, contradictory teachings should agree with the Word of God; and whereas it is also impossible to bring about a Christian union of all the different denominations without the unity of opinions; and whereas the teachers do greatly differ in their views on religion and the form of church-government: a union of all the various denominations in one large body is both impossible and improper; and even if brought about, instead of furthering the kingdom of our Redeemer, it would harm the welfare thereof and jeopardize the religious liberty of our happy land.| (B.1841, 11.)

115. Refusing Fellowship to False Lutherans. -- That the attitude of Tennessee also over against those whom they regarded as false Lutherans was of a most determined and consistent nature, and free from all unionism, has been shown above. Nor did they regard this a mere matter of policy, but of conscience. With respect to their public testimony against the errorists of the North Carolina Synod the men of Tennessee declared: |Should any one raise the accusation that it was unbecoming for us as teachers of the Gospel to publish and reveal this matter here [in the Report of 1820], to him we give the answer: The prophets in the Old Testament did also contend against every erroneous doctrine, and the Apostles Paul, Peter, and John marked all such as taught false doctrine, and warned the Christians against them. If, however, it can be proven from Holy Writ that we proclaim erroneous or false doctrine, we will suffer ourselves to be corrected. We cannot, however, for the sake of keeping the peace, let everything pass and approve of everything they preach, for we know that it does not agree with the Holy Scriptures. It is certainly our desire to be able to live and continue to work in peace and union with all members of the entire Synod. We cannot, however, unite with them at present [because they were not agreed doctrinally]. We consider it our supreme duty and obligation to defend the doctrines of our Church against all false teachings; and though they proceed from such as call themselves Lutheran preachers, we cannot on that account spare them nor keep silence in this matter, even if we could thereby win their favor and the favor of all great men on earth.| (1820, 31.) With special reference to Shober, Stork, and their compeers Tennessee declared: |Should we help them to cover such bold things as you have here read [errors concerning Baptism, Lord's Supper, etc.], because they belong to our organization and bear the name Lutheran? Can we do this with a good conscience?| (1820, 31.) True, at the |Quarreling Synod,| 1820, the Henkels were charged with having served all religious parties with the Word and Sacrament. They admitted that this was true, and expressed their confidence that it had not been without blessing, at least, for some. But they added: |This, however, must also be taken into consideration, that they [the Henkels] had always taught such people what our Church teaches, and that they had never preached anything else in deference to them, or to please them. Now, if any one was agreed with our doctrine, and hence felt free to hear our doctrine and to commune with us, we could not hinder him. We do not regard the name of such people, but what they believe.| (1820, 25.) However, one will admit that the practise of Tennessee at this early date does not appear to have been fully consistent. The Report of 1820, for example, records: |With the Evangelical Reformed David Henkel had no quarrel that we know of, for many of them, who are members in good standing, receive Communion from him.| (18.) The following remark of the same Report uncovers a similar inconsistency: |Should any one who has been baptized according to Christ's command, and who has been confirmed in another church, desire to commune with us and to be in fellowship with our Church, it shall be permitted him, and he may be looked upon as a member of the Church without being baptized or confirmed for the second time.| (5; 1831, 8.) These shortcomings, how ever, do not dispute the fact that the Tennessee Synod, in a manner most energetic and persistent, endeavored to steer clear of, and opposed every kind of, unionism with the sects, as well as with unfaithful Lutherans. In 1886, however, Tennessee, untrue to its noble traditions, participated in the unionistic organization of the United Synod in the South, and in 1918 she joined the Lutheran Merger, which brought her into complete fellowship with all the unionistic synods that constituted the General Synod, opposition to which having been the primary cause of her separate organization in 1820.

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