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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fick 8: Congregation is free, supreme authority– New Melle, Mo.; C.S. Meyer's poor history

      This continues from Part 7 (Table of Contents in Part 1), publishing an English translation of C.F.W. Walther's biography of Pastor C.J. Hermann Fick. —
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      After weeks of translating this biography, and nearing the finish of it, I marveled at how detailed it was, at how it strengthened my faith (but see below for an alternate view).  —  We discover in this portion where New Melle, Missouri is.  I wonder if New Melle will today hear the Christian message of its first pastor?  And what a message he brought to them!  Will today's LC-MS hear the Christian doctrine concerning a Christian congregation?
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This translation by BackToLuther (BTL), taken from Der Lutheraner, Vol. 42, Nos. 14 (July 15, 1886) to 18 (September 15, 1886). All underlining is emphasis from original. All highlighting by BTL. — This portion:– vol. 42, #16, p. 121-122..
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In Memory of Our Unforgettable Fick.
(by C.F.W. Walther; Part 8, cont'd from Part 7)

In March of the same year [1847], a public appeal of the German Evangelical Lutheran congregation at New Melle, St. Charles Co., Mo., appeared in a local political paper in which those who were inclined to become their preacher were called upon to get in touch. Now that Fick was here to wait for a job in office, he could not shake off the thought of whether that call coming into his hands might not be a hint from God for him. He therefore answered. The letter of Fick has been preserved by the congregation at Neumelle and has been kindly sent to us by the present preacher, Pastor Matushka, for use in this biography. It was written on March 2, 1847 and, with the omission of the introduction and the conclusion, reads as follows:
“For the many souls who are here in North America, it is certainly of the utmost necessity for an evangelical Lutheran church to hold fast to God's words and Lutheran doctrine if they are not to fall into the hands of the Methodists and other erring teachers, as unfortunately happened here and there. That is why it is the sacred duty of a [page 122, col. 2] Lutheran preacher to teach God's Word pure and clear, so that the souls are built up in the most holy faith in which they are faithfully educated by their parents and teachers, and thus, with God's help, above all are preserved from error and disunity. If a church is so united in doctrine and in faith, then it will certainly resist victoriously the approaches and conversion attempts of the sectarians, and will grow and increase, and flourish in all respects with God's help.

“But yet another evil often threatens to split and destroy Evangelical Lutheran congregations, in that often unseen people creep into the sacred office of the preacher, who then often give great offense by obvious heresies or by a shameful way of life. There it is now a proper grace of God in that our new fatherland is a free country, and that here the most complete freedom of conscience prevails. Therefore, if a preacher gives an outrage, then the church has not only the right, but according to God's Word also the duty to relieve such an unworthy one of his office. In general, the freedom of conscience is such a precious and glorious good that it is to be wished that all preachers and congregations seek to preserve it seriously, so that they do not, as is the case in some parts of Germany, become devices for the bondage of men.
“The proper constitution of a church, on the other hand, is the one that follows the Word of Christ: one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren”. [Matt. 23:8] Therefore, when a church calls a preacher, he receives from the church the right and the duty to administer the sacred ministry, that is to distribute the sacraments, to practice pastoral care, to visit and comfort the sick and the troubled, and to preach the Word of God and the Lutheran doctrine. And then it is a precious thing that we have the small Lutheran Catechism and the Augsburg Confession, in which the pure doctrine of God's Word is expressed so simply and clearly that every Lutheran Christian has in it a certain guideline for his faith.
But as far as the administration of the congregation is concerned, the institutions and other things that serve the good of the church, no individual has the right to force an Evangelical Lutheran congregation into anything, because the congregation is free and has the supreme authority. [oberste Gewalt] Therefore, all the members of the congregation, as well as the leaders and preachers, have the right to vote and to discuss the affairs of the congregation in fraternal fellowship, with the majority of the votes being decided because that is the most just.
“Some churches contract with their preacher for a period of time, half a year, or a year, believing that this is the best way to protect themselves against bad preachers. But I frankly confess to you that it is against my conscience to be accepted by a congregation for a certain time. For if a preacher is hired for a certain time by a church, he is not a properly appointed preacher before God, but a hireling. Such a one, as the Lord Christ says, does not respect the sheep, John 10:13, and does not serve the church for God's sake, but for the sake of money. He does not truly love his church, but as soon as he can get a better job that brings in more money, becomes faithless to his congregation. And the congregation is also at a great disadvantage, because if they hire a preacher for a certain time and [page 122, col. 3] makes a contract with him, it may be easy for the preacher to give offense immediately afterwards, by heresy or by a bad way of life, and that then the congregation must continue to maintain such a person for a long time, during which time he can do much harm. Nor does the church benefit from a hired preacher, because he can have no love for his congregation and for his holy vocation, since he administers his office only for money and not out of love for God and for his brothers. On the other hand, according to God's Word and Luther's doctrine, when a church calls a preacher for so long as he faithfully and conscientiously administers his holy ministry in God's Word, then God takes him either through death, or with permission the congregation is called into another sphere of activity.
“If the congregation wishes me to give an “election” sermon, I ask that I may appoint a Sunday on which to come to New Melle. Also, I would like to have more accurate information about the circumstances of the congregation. At the same time, I cordially ask you to reply to my letter as soon as possible, as I would like to have speedy certainty, as other congregations turn to preachers here as well.”
Based on this letter, the congregation invited the candidate Fick to deliver an “election” sermon on the following Palm Sunday. This happened as well, whereupon Fick was unanimously chosen by the congregation to be their preacher and pastor. But since many preparations were required by the congregation to receive their preacher, it was agreed by both sides that the introduction to the office should take place only on Sunday after Pentecost. This corresponded to Fick's wishes to a great extent, since the opening of the first annual assembly of the Missouri Synod in Chicago was scheduled for April 24 of the current year, in which Fick eagerly wished to take part. This also happened to his, and the whole synod’s, great joy.
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Jack Cascione
"Reclaim News"
      When I first translated Fick's pronouncement concerning the Christian congregation, I was a little stunned at how blunt it sounded – I had to double check the German original to be sure that I was translating it correctly. How similar it sounded to Jack Casione's shibboleth for the doctrine that C.F.W. Walther taught.  How hard this is to swallow by even the most conservative teachers and leaders in today's LC-MS who would claim that this is not the teaching of Walther or Pieper since they also strongly defended the divine institution of the Ministry.  But note well! This biography was written by none other than C.F.W. Walther himself in the pages of his Der Lutheraner concerning his “favorite pastor”.
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Carl S. Meyer
LCMS Historian
      As mentioned at the top of this blog, I was so happy to have discovered this biography.  And with every column I translated, I became even more convinced that this biography was a great treasure for Lutheranism and Christianity!  So it was quite a shock to subsequently discover that the Director of Concordia Seminary Graduate Studies, Carl S. Meyer († 1972), wrote an article for Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly (CHIQ) in their August 1972 issue commenting on Walther's writing of two biographies in his lifetime.  I was repulsed when I read various veiled and not so veiled criticisms of Walther [my comments in red]:
  • p. 193: “It is readily evident that they belong to the writings of der alte Walther.” [What does this mean?]  “… The two biographies reveal a warm and personal side of C. F. W. Walther not evident readily elsewhere except in some of his letters.” [So when Walther taught that preachers should preach to the people “You are already saved, so that you might believe”, it was not “warm and personal”?]
  • p. 200: “He did not know Wilhelm Dilthey’s concept of the scientific nature of biography. … He was no Plutarch,…” [I suppose I should look up what Meyer might have meant with these obscure comments, but... I won't.]
  • p. 204: “Walther’s emphasis on the religious experiences, the actual conversion experience of an individual, so characteristic of Pietism…” [Meyer stopped just short of calling Walther a Pietist (or did he?) as he did so elsewhere.]
  • p. 206: "Walther does not tell about the Erweckungsbewegung [revival movement in Germany] in these biographies, although he amply documents unionism and Rationalism. That the emigrants had motives other than religious ones for leaving Germany is not acknowledged. We sense a lack of perspective and the want of a balanced presentation.  [This is a false charge and leaves one to wonder if Meyer read Walther's writing completely.  Walther mentions Louis Harms, Superintendent Catenhusen, and even Wilhelm Loehe.  Let the reader judge against the Director of Graduate Studies of Concordia Seminary, Carl S. Meyer!]
I wonder that Carl S. Mundinger and Walter O. Forster, two other LCMS historians, were on a first-name basis with Carl S. Meyer. – I am publishing this article of Meyer >> here << (in violation of CHIQ's copyright) so that the world can judge whether Carl S. Meyer, the great LC-MS historian, was a true Church Historian... or not. — In the next Part 9...

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