SYNODICAL TREASURES

— by Martin R. Noland

During the January 2017 Symposia week at the Fort Wayne seminary, I had the opportunity to not only hear many excellent lectures, but also to renew many friendships with people in my synod—The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (hereafter LCMS)—and in other Lutheran synods here in North America and around the world. 

One little episode stands out in mind. I was waiting for the next lecture to start in the auditorium when a former seminary classmate of mine sat down next to Walter Dissen. Mr. Dissen is, among other things, presently a member of the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Board of Regents. My classmate said a few words, and then came the memorable phrase: “You know, Walter—you are a national treasure!” Nearly six years ago, my friend “Johannes” (a pseudonym) said that Mr. Dissen was a “synod treasure”[1] in his response to Dissen’s receipt of the Miles Christi Award. All plaudits are well deserved!

After the January Symposia, it occurred to me that I have had the unusual privilege of meeting, working with, being taught by, or working under a good number of “synodical treasures” like Mr. Dissen. These are steadfast confessors of the Lutheran faith, who throughout their lives have carried the burden of Lutheran orthodoxy and Scriptural inerrancy to the next generation. In many cases, they were in the middle of the “Battle for the Bible” in the LCMS. Some have suffered in various ways for their convictions. Others labored endlessly because of their convictions. All deserve our thanks, respect, and special consideration!

As a small gesture of thanks, respect, and consideration, I offer the following brief “Hall of Fame” of LCMS synodical treasures. Criteria are: a) steadfast confession in both the doctrine of orthodox Lutheranism as found in the Book of Concord and the issue of Biblical inerrancy and authority; b) national influence within the LCMS, either through its national offices, seminaries, universities, auxiliaries, ministerial training programs, national conventions, or publications directed to the membership; c) retired or of retirement age. 

I have excluded those who have passed to glory, since their names belong to the history of our synod. In the listing of what I consider some of their most significant contributions to the synod, I apologize in advance for any errors of fact or detail. Names are listed in alphabetical order by surname, not in order of distinction.

 
 

(1) Rev. Dr. Thomas Baker — leader among conservative students at the St. Louis seminary prior to the walk-out (he graduated in 1971); author of Watershed at the Rivergate[2]; former editor of Affirm newsletter; and career-long work in and with Balance, Inc., later with Affirm, Inc.

(2) Rev. Dr. Karl Barth — member of the President’s “Fact-Finding Committee” (1970–71) investigating the St. Louis seminary; South Wisconsin District President (1970–82); and President of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1982–90).[3]

(3) Mr. Walter Dissen — attorney; key member of the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis Board of Control (1971–83) during the seminary’s crisis, walkout, and rebuilding phases; member of the Commission on Appeals (1983–95) during the Robert Preus case; member of the Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne Board of Regents (1995–2007) during its rebuilding phase; member of the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis Board of Regents (2013–present); president of the Lutheran Concerns Association (2010–present); and editor of The Lutheran Clarion newsletter (2010–present).[4]

(4) Mr. Richard Hannnenberg — lay member of the 1969 “Continuation Committee”[5]; one of the lay founders of Balance, Inc. (later Balance-Concord), which published Affirm newsletter, with career-long work in and with these organizations and a persuasive lay voice at national and district conventions.

(5) Rev. Dr. Steven Hein — assistant to J.A.O. Preus, LCMS President, in the turbulent years just prior to the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis crisis and walkout (1972–73); leading on-campus conservative theological voice and Professor of Theology at Concordia Teacher’s College/Concordia University, River Forest, IL (1975–98); author of The Christian Life: Cross or Glory[6]; director of the Concordia Institute for Christian Studies (1988–present); and member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium of Classical and Lutheran Education (2001–present).[7]

(6) Rev. Dr. Robert Kuhn — Central Illinois District President (1985–95), during which time he was a close friend and ally of Dr. Al Barry in the Council of Presidents; First Vice-President of the LCMS (1995–2000), in which office he continued his support for Dr. Barry; member of the LCMS Board of Directors, nine years as chairman (2001–13); and LCMS 6th Vice-President for East-Southeast Region (2013–2015).

(7) Rev. Dr. Walter A. Maier, Jr. — professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield/Fort Wayne (1965–present); editor of Affirm newsletter (1970–73); author of Form Criticism Re-Examined [8]; author of “Crossroads” letter to 1973 synodical delegates; and 2nd-5th LCMS Vice-President (1973–95).

(8) Rev. Dr. John W. Montgomery — after colloquizing into the LCMS in 1965, Dr. Montgomery gave a series of ground-breaking lectures (November 1965 to May 1966) to the LCMS Council of Presidents, the joint seminary faculties, and to Midwestern LCMS Pastor and Teacher Conferences, which lectures were published in volume one of Crisis in Lutheran Theology[9]; regular columnist for the Evangelical flagship journal Christianity Today (1965–83); and a leading critic of the theologies of Karl Barth, Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann, summing up much of his opposition to Liberal Christianity and radical theologies in works such as Crisis in Lutheran Theology, The Suicide of Christian Theology, and God's Inerrant Word.[10]

(9) Deaconess Betty Mulholland — leader among nine deaconesses, who together with Dr. Paul Zimmerman, President of Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois, established the Concordia Deaconess Conference in 1979 for LCMS deaconesses and deaconess students who wanted to be faithful to the official LCMS doctrinal position.[11]

(10) Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel — Preceptor of Westfield House, Cambridge, U.K., the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (1958–1967); Dean of Chapel and Professor of Theology at Valparaiso University (1967–1983); Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1983–2008); translator of Hermann Sasse’s essays in the Concordia Publishing House We Confess series[12] and of other Sasse material; and co-founder and co-mentor with Ronald Feuerhahn of the Colloquium Viatorum group of LCMS graduate theology students, meeting annually at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis (ca. 1992–99).[13]

(11) Rev. Herman Otten, Jr. — leader among conservative students at the St. Louis seminary during its liberal years (he graduated in 1957); editor of Christian News newspaper (1962–present); and publisher of numerous books and resources through Lutheran News, Inc.[14] 

(12) Rev. Walter Otten — pastor of Saint Paul Lutheran Church, Brookfield, Illinois for most of his career; in his early years, a member of the Chicago Study Club, meeting in Oak Park, Illinois in order to counteract the influence of ecumenism and liberalism on the LCMS; in his later years, a founder and leader of the Northern Illinois Confessional Lutherans (aka NICL), which met in the western suburbs of Chicago for the same purposes; and an effective opponent of liberal professors at Concordia Teacher’s College, River Forest, IL in the years prior to the formation of Seminex and the AELC.

(13) Rev. Dr. Daniel Preus — a founder of the Minnesota Confessional Lutherans during his years as a pastor at Truman, Minnesota (1978–86); a founder of the Association of Confessional Lutherans (1992–present); Director of the Concordia Historical Institute (1995–2001); First Vice-President of the LCMS, during which time he spoke publicly about the error of the district president who was involved in the Yankee Stadium worship service (2001–2004); Director of the Luther Academy (2005–2012); 3rd-5th LCMS Vice President (2010–present); and author of Why I Am A Lutheran: Jesus at the Center.[15]

(14) Rev. Dr. David Scaer — leader among conservative students at the St. Louis seminary during its liberal years (he graduated in 1960); Professor of Systematic Theology and New Testament at Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield/Fort Wayne (1966–present); editor of Concordia Theological Quarterly[16] (1970–94, 1999–present); author of three volumes in the Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics series[17]; and prodigious author of theological articles, sermons, and books.[18]

(15) Rev. Dr. Wallace Schulz — Lutheran Hour Associate Speaker (1977–2002); 2nd, 4th, and 5th LCMS Vice-President (1995–2004); Evangelist for the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (2002–10); editor and publisher of Good News magazine; and while serving as Vice-President, he became the judge of the church-court case involving the Atlantic District President for his participation in the ecumenical, inter-faith worship service at Yankee Stadium in September 2001.[19]

(16) Rev. Dr. Edwin S. Suelflow — for many years, his congregation in Milwaukee, Walther Memorial Lutheran Church, was the mailing address and production base for the Affirm newsletter of Balance, Inc.; District President of South Wisconsin District (1988–94), during which years he was a close ally and supporter of Dr. Al Barry; and during which time, he and Dr. Barry worked together to convince the various conservative and confessional Lutheran organizations in the LCMS to cooperate in the nomination and election of synodical officers and board members.

(17) Rev. Dr. William Weinrich — resisting the lure of liberalism at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (he graduated in 1972), he went on to receive the doctoral degree Insigni cum laude from the Faculty of Theology at Basel, Switzerland in October 1977; Professor of Early Church History and Patristic Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (1975–present); president pro tem of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (1995–96), during its difficult transition year; academic dean at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (1996–2006); 3rd and 4th LCMS Vice-President (1998–2004); editor of Revelation[20] in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; editor of Greek Commentaries on Revelation[21] and Latin Commentaries on Revelation[22] in Ancient Christian Texts; and author of numerous other books and articles.[23]

(18) Rev. Dr. Dean Wenthe — resisting the lure of liberalism at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (he graduated in 1971), he went on to receive the Th.M. degree from Princeton Theological Seminary (1975) and the Ph.D. degree from the University of Notre Dame (1991); Professor of Old Testament at Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield/Fort Wayne (1971–77, 1980–present); President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne (1996–2011); President of the Concordia University System (2014–present); Associate Editor of the Concordia Self-Study Bible[24]; General Editor of the Concordia Commentary Series by Concordia Publishing House; editor of Jeremiah/Lamentations[25] in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; and author of numerous other books and articles.[26]

(19) Mr. Al Wipperman — lay member of the 1969 “Continuation Committee”; one of the lay founders of Balance, Inc. (later Balance-Concord), which was the publisher of Affirm newsletter, with career-long work in and with these organizations; and a persuasive lay voice at national and district conventions.

If you have the privilege of meeting any of these persons in the days and years ahead, make sure that you thank them for their service to our synod and to confessional Lutheranism world-wide. If you have the time, ask them out to lunch or dinner to learn about their experiences in the church. If you have the time and skills, consider recording and telling some of their stories—with their permission—in journals such as the Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly, LOGIA, and other venues that will pass on these stories to the next generation of faithful Lutherans.

 
  As an extension of LOGIA, LOGIA Online understands itself to be a free conference in the blogosphere. As such, the views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of LOGIA’s editorial board or the Luther Academy.  
 

Footnotes

[1] See http://steadfastlutherans.org/2011/06/concordia-theological-seminary-awards-miles-christe-award-to-walter-dissen; “Johannes” attribution is #2 in the comment section; accessed January 31, 2017.

[2] (Sturgis, MI: T. Baker 1973).

[3] For a sampling of Dr. Barth’s engaging style of speaking and writing, see his collection of blog articles in: Karl L. Barth, Just a Chip Off the Old Blog (Milwaukee: PIP Printing, 2008).

[4] For current subscriptions and resources, see http://lutheranclarion.org; accessed January 31, 2017.

[5] On the “Continuation Committee,” see James C. Burkee, Power, Politics, and the Missouri Synod (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011), 105.

[6] (Irvine, CA: New Reformation Publications, 2015).

[7] For a brief curriculum vitae of Dr. Hein, see http://www.sslc-cos.org/bio_hein.htm; accessed January 31, 2017.

[8] (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1973).

[9] John Warwick Montgomery, Crisis in Lutheran Theology, vol. 1 (Minneapolis: Bethany Lutheran Fellowship, 1967).

[10] For Dr. Montgomery’s biography and extensive bibliography, see http://www.jwm.christendom.co.uk and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Warwick_Montgomery; accessed January 31, 2017. For other biographical details, see his festschrift’s foreword and tribute sections: Dembski & Schirrmaker, eds., Tough-Minded Christianity: Honoring the Legacy of John Warwick Montgomery (Nashville: B &H Academic, 2009).

[11] The official doctrinal position of the LCMS is described in Article Two of its Constitution. The other eight deaconesses were: Mildred Brillinger, Kay Gudgeon, Clara Strehlow, Luella Mickley, Cheryl Naumann, Nancy Nemoyer, Joyce Ostermann, and Ruth Stallmann. The full story is told in: Cheryl D. Naumann, In the Footsteps of Phoebe (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009).

[12] Hermann Sasse, We Confess, 3 vols., tr. Norman Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1984–86); this is primarily translations of selected essays from Sasse’s In Statu Confessionis.

[13] Biographical essays on Dr. Nagel may be found here: L. Dean Hempelmann, “Foreword,” in his festschrift: Krispin and Vieker, eds., And To Every Tongue Confess: Essays in Honor of Norman Nagel on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday (Dearborn, MI: Nagel Festschrift Committee, 1990), ix-xiv; and his second festschrift: Matthew Harrison, “Foreword,” William M. Cwirla, “In the Way of the Law and the Gospel: Classroom Reminscences,” and Rudolph H. Blank, “A Visit with Norman Nagel,” in Vieker, Day, Collver, eds., Dona Gratis Donata: Essays in Honor of Norman Nagel on the Occasion of His Ninetieth Birthday (Manchester, MO: Nagel Festschrift Committee, 2015), xi–17.

[14] For current subscriptions and resources, see http://www.christiannewsmo.com; accessed January 31, 2017.. Some persons may question whether Pastor Otten should be included in this “honor roll,” citing his journalistic methods, or pointing to various political or theological opinions which he advocates; but no one can deny his influence in the period being considered or his steadfast confession of the authority of the Lutheran Confessions and the inerrancy of Scriptures. Therefore he belongs in this group of LCMS “confessors.”

[15] (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2004). For a brief biography of Vice-President Preus, see Klemet Preus, “Daniel Preus: Protecting and Promoting the Lutheran Ethos,” in his festschrift: Scott Murray, et.al., eds., Propter Christum: Christ at the Center, Essays in Honor of Daniel Preus (n.p.: Luther Academy, 2013), xiii–xix.

[16] For current subscriptions, see http://www.ctsfw.edu/resources/concordia-theological-quarterly/subscribe-to-ctq; accessed January 31, 2017.

[17] For this series, see http://www.logia.org/luther-academy-books; accessed January 31, 2017. Dr. Scaer wrote the volumes in the series on “Baptism,” “Christology,” and “Law and Gospel and the Means of Grace.”

[18] For a complete bibliography of Dr. Scaer’s writings from 1963 to 2008, see Peter C. Bender, et.al., eds., In Christ: The Collected Works of David P. Scaer Lutheran Confessor, vol. 2 (Sussex, WI: Concordia Catechetical Academy, 2008), 245–288. For a brief biography of Dr. Scaer, see Lawrence R. Rast, “David P. Scaer: A Biographical Appreciation,” in his festschrift: Dean O. Wenthe, et.al., eds., All Theology is Christology: Essays in Honor of David P. Scaer (Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 2000),15–18. Another bibliography and his works hosted on the CTS-FW website may be found here: http://www.ctsfw.edu/about/faculty/dr-david-scaer

[19] For details on the Yankee Stadium case, see Herman Otten, ed., Crisis in Christendom: Seminex Ablaze (New Haven, MO: Lutheran News, Inc., 2004).

[20] New Testament Vol. 12, general ed. Thomas Oden (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005).

[21] General ed., Thomas Oden (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2011).

[22] General eds., Thomas Oden and Gerald Bray (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2011).

[23] A curriculum vitae and his works hosted on the CTS-FW website can be found here: http://www.ctsfw.edu/about/faculty/dr-william-weinrich

[24] General ed., Robert G. Hoerber (St Louis: Concordia Publishing House, ca. 1986).

[25] Old Testament Vol. 12, general ed., Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2009).

[26] For a brief biography of Dr. Wenthe, see: Lawrence R. Rast, Jr., “Dean O. Wenthe: A Biographical Appreciation,” in his festschrift: Just and Grime, eds., The Restoration of Creation in Christ: Essays in Honor of Dean O. Wenthe (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014), xvii-xxi; for a brief bibliography, see “A Select Bibliography,” in ibid., xxii–xxv. Works of note by Dr. Wenthe and his works hosted on the CTSFW website can be found here: http://www.ctsfw.edu/about/faculty/dr-dean-wenthe

Book Review: Lutherans in America

Lutherans in America: A New History. By Mark Granquist. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015.

 At long last there is a successor to The Lutherans in North America, edited by E. Clifford Nelson and first published when Gerald Ford was our president. Comparison between the Nelson volume and Mark Granquist’s new history of the Lutheran churches in America is difficult because the former had a stable of authors, each contributing on his period of expertise. There was an unevenness going from Theodore Tappert to some of the lesser lights. Now Granquist tells the story himself, so the strengths and weaknesses are at least equal throughout. The comparison is not between apples and oranges but between different kinds of apples. They have much in common but finally are not meant to taste exactly the same.

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Granquist frames the story of American Lutheranism as a history of who came to America and when, who came into fellowship with whom and when, and how the faithful dealt with the innumerable changes America constantly brings. Granquist offers with the greatest possible precision tables and charts tracking Lutheran population, membership figures, and the various church foundations, mergers, and splits throughout all the years since Rasmus Jensen, the Danish pastor, was the first Lutheran minister to serve and to die in the New World. Anyone interested in telling this story will have to touch on common themes and figures. The derelict pastor Jacob Fabricius appears in colonial New York and then on the Delaware. Muhlenberg arrives in 1742 from Halle by way of London to set things in order and establish the first American Lutheran synod in 1748. In him the worlds of German Lutheran Pietism and British America meet: he is sent by the Halle Fathers with the urging and benediction of Michael Ziegenhagen, Lutheran chaplain to the Hanoverian English court. The Missouri Synod is established and grows extremely rapidly in the nineteenth century, even as Eastern Lutherans differ widely about what it means to be Lutheran. In the twentieth century Lutheran union eventually becomes almost everyone’s spoken or unspoken goal, and in a certain skepticism about the ultimate value of merger Granquist makes a very valuable contribution to Lutheran historiography.

This pessimism about merger is the child of the disappointing story of the ELCA. Readers learn that the Commission for a New Lutheran Church (CNLC), established in 1982 to bring the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church together, bequeathed all of its own tensions to the ELCA, when the new church came into existence in 1988. Strife over the doctrine of the ministry, the nature of ecumenism, the role of quotas in church governance, and the nature of human sexuality were all present on the CNLC, and so have been with the ELCA from its founding. Since 1988 it has in some measure declined in membership each year, and as early as the mid-1990s a task force on human sexuality drew up a report commending the ordination of actively homosexual candidates for the ministry. This report was hastily withdrawn when prematurely leaked to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

To go deeper into the past, Granquist even observes that the bureaucratic difficulties of streamlining various groups into one and financially sustaining the one new church were present even in the ALC and LCA, although they had formed more than twenty-five years before the ELCA’s birth. He sees the difficulties experienced by the ELCA, the fruit of the hopes of so many Lutherans throughout American history, as endemic to any church body seeking to be nationwide and multiethnic in America. The General Synod, established in 1820, experienced theological dissension almost immediately, despite the relatively much greater homogeneity of the church body and the nation in the Era of Good Feelings. It even was the cause of a church split before its founding, when the Tennessee Synod formed as an exodus from the North Carolina Synod in opposition to a potentially nationwide church body. How much more, then, will there be dissension and variation in church bodies today that span across the United States and throughout the numerous social classes and ethnic groups America contains?

With a much appreciated lack of noticeable rancor toward the Missouri Synod and other Synodical Conference church bodies, Granquist points out the growing theological heterogeneity of the LCMS in the 1950s and 1960s, in part explaining it by the great demographic changes coming to the Synod with an influx of non-Lutheran, non-Germanic adult converts as the LCMS spread out into the growing suburbs of postwar America. At the very same time lifelong Missourians pursued theological degrees outside of the Synod in large numbers, so that in both church and academe Missouri was less separate than ever. Missouri then began to face the same challenges of integration and Americanization that the General Synod had debated back when the Ministerium of Pennsylvania withdrew to preserve its German heritage. All American Lutherans struggle with almost all the same social, political, and economic challenges, but their different histories lie in how they respond in their preaching and teaching.

It’s in that crisis of confession and theological discernment that one wishes Granquist presented a more theological view of theology. Words drawn from diplomacy crowd out theological words, so that a controversy over confessional subscription or the election of grace is often described in terms of “balance,” “moderates,” “the extreme,” as if everything is finally political. If the church’s history has anything to do with the calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying of the whole Christian church by the Holy Spirit, then a church historian has to make theological judgments. At any given time someone made a true confession and someone did not; if that is not the case, then church historians awash in relativism are of all theologians most to be pitied.

Granquist rightly notes that S.S. Schmucker was more Lutheran than his immediate predecessors in early America, but he is fuzzier on the exact differences between the General Synod and the General Council. It makes it hard for the student to see what all the fuss was about. The Missouri Synod is described in relation to seventeenth-century Lutheran orthodoxy, rather than particularly stringent adherence to the Lutheran confessions. This makes it hard to see why the LCMS objected to the General Council’s Akron-Galesburg Rule, since everyone claimed to be Lutheran. This lack of theological precision makes the old ULCA’s offer of fellowship to any church claiming to be Lutheran seem reasonable and even logical, whereas Missouri and much of Midwestern Lutheranism saw it as the acceptance of error.

Granquist points out succinctly and brilliantly that where nineteenth-century Lutherans presumed the Bible’s authority and clashed over the Confessions’ authority, twentieth-century Lutherans simply clashed over the Bible’s authority. Full-blown Protestant liberalism came late to American Lutheranism, and his suggestion that what he and Maria Erling have called the Lutheran Left, devoted to social and political progressivism as well as theological liberalism, rose to prominence only with the formation of the ELCA is fascinating but undeveloped. Even in the 1920s Charles M. Jacobs’ promotion of Erlangen theology at the Philadelphia seminary provided a way for American Lutherans to differentiate between the Word of God and Scripture. Much work remains to be done on both the Lutheran Left and the rise of biblical criticism in American Lutheranism, without which we have a lot of trouble explaining the events of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in both the LCMS and the ELCA and her predecessor bodies.

There is a disappointingly large number of typos in the book. Tulpehocken, the site of an early congregation in frontier Pennsylvania, is sometimes spelled correctly but most often spelled “Tuplehocken.” If that seems obtuse, words like “programming” and the last name of The Lutheran Hour’s founder, Walter A. Maier, are both misspelled, along with a host of other names. At one point the Formula of Concord appears to have been written in 1580, but three years are the difference between that single confessional document and the entire Book of Concord. More effort on its own history would be appreciated from Fortress. The very brief “excurses” between chapters, taken from columns appearing in the Metro Lutheran, repeat things said better elsewhere, except the pieces on Thea Ronning, a Norwegian-American missionary to China, and on Hispanic Lutheranism, the book’s final excursus touching on the Lutheran churches in Puerto Rico and Mexico. Granquist admirably seeks to cover the entirety of his subject’s breadth, although this will leave the author and the reader at times breathless. Based on his knowledge of the Augustana Synod, the reader will learn more about it than, say, the Wauwatosa gospel or the doctrinal differences on the ministry between the LCMS and the WELS. But space and time are limited, and Granquist covers all the main events and characters with as much thoroughness as 300-odd pages allow. His coverage of American history at the opening of each chapter sets the church’s history within the world’s history, where it belongs, since we are “in the world.”

If the world is impossible to escape, then every Lutheran church will face the challenges and opportunities it offers. Nothing will ever stay exactly the same, for better or worse. We all became or are even now still becoming Americans. The question at the end of reading this very valuable book is how an American can be a confessional Lutheran. All sorts of answers have been offered to that question, but one should pay particular attention to the Synodical Conference, which alone of any large church body did not pursue an organic union of its various constituent parts. While requiring a stringent confessional standard and actual teaching and practice in accord with that standard, the Synodical Conference contained the Midwestern and partly Eastern Germans of the LCMS (eventually with its annexed English District and the Finns of the old Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America), the Midwestern Germans of what became the Wisconsin Synod, the Norwegians of the old Norwegian Synod and then the ELS, the Slovaks of the SELC, and in the LCMS what was by far American Lutheranism’s largest contingent of African-Americans. This is greater geographic and ethnic diversity than almost any other nationwide Lutheran confessional group, with perhaps greater doctrinal and practical unity than anything preceding or succeeding it. It could be that the organic merger and bureaucratic efficiency so long sought missed the point; that one hymnal, one seminary, or one church body cannot contain the linguistic, ethnic, and regional variety of American Lutherans. Yet unity might be found again as it has been found in the past: in a clear and unanimous confession.

Rev. Adam Koontz
Lititz, Pennsylvania