American Lutheranism - Volume 2: The United Lutheran Church (General Synod, General - Council, United Synod in the South)
by Friedrich Bente
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American Lutheranism VOLUME II The United Lutheran Church (General Synod, General Council, United Synod in the South) By F. BENTE St. Louis, Mo. CONCORDIA PUBLISHING HOUSE 1919


American Lutheranism will appear in four volumes, this present second volume to be followed by the first, dealing with the early history of Lutheranism in America.

The third volume will present the history of the Ohio, Iowa, Buffalo, and the Scandinavian synods.

The fourth volume will contain the history and doctrinal position of the Missouri, Wisconsin, and other synods connected with the Synodical Conference.

As appears from this second volume, our chief object is to record the facts as to the theological attitude of the various Lutheran bodies in America, with such comment only as we deemed necessary.

As to the quotations from the Lutheran Observer and other English periodicals, we frequently had to content ourselves with retranslations from the German in Lehre und Wehre, Lutheraner, etc.

Brackets found in passages cited contain additions, comments, corrections, etc., of our own, not of the respective periodicals quoted.

If errors, no matter of whatever nature they may be, should have crept in anywhere, we here express our gratitude for corrections made.

Further prefatory and introductory remarks will accompany Vol. I, which, Deo volente, will go to the printers forthwith.

F. Bente, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo.

May 28, 1919.


THE UNITED LUTHYERAN CHURCH.................1-11 Merger.........................................1 Constitution...................................5 Character......................................9 THE GENERAL SYNOD.........................12-175 Organization..................................12 Character.....................................19 Constitution..................................22 Evaluation....................................25 Doctrinal Basis...............................32 Basis Interpreted.............................40 Unionism......................................48 Union Letter of 1845..........................58 Christian Union...............................63 Theology Reformed.............................68 Revivalism....................................76 "American Lutheranism"........................89 Definite Platform Controversy................101 Position of District Synods toward Platform..111 General Synod's Attitude toward Platform.....117 York Convention..............................123 Secessions and Separations...................130 Influential Theologians......................136 Missouri's Influence.........................153 Explanatory Statements of Doctrinal Basis....158 Restatement of Basis.........................161 Actual Conditions............................166 Un-Lutheran Practise.........................170 THE GENERAL COUNCIL......................176-227 Synods Composing the Council.................176 Charles Porterfield Krauth...................181 Other Representative Theologians.............187 Constitution.................................190 Subtile Unionism.............................195 The Four Points..............................198 Akron-Galesburg Rule.........................202 Interdenominational Fellowship...............204 Attitude toward Lodges.......................207 Chiliasm.....................................210 Other Aberrations............................212 Romanism.....................................214 Synergism....................................217 Liberalistic Trends..........................220 Equivocal Doctrinal Attitude.................224 THE UNITED SYNOD SOUTH...................228-243 Organization.................................228 Doctrinal Basis..............................229 Indifferentism...............................232 Un-Lutheran Practise.........................234 Tennessee and Holston Synods.................236 Common Service...............................241

The United Lutheran Church.


1. Origin of the New Body.—On April 18, 1917, at Philadelphia, the Joint Quadricentennial Committee, appointed by the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod in the South to arrange for a union celebration of the Reformation, decided that the merging of the three affiliated general bodies would be "the fittest commemoration and noblest memorial of the four-hundredth Reformation Jubilee." Accordingly, the presidents of these bodies, being present, were requested to form a joint committee, which should prepare a constitution for a united Church and present the same to the three general bodies for their consideration, and, if approved, for submission to the District Synods. The constitution, framed by the committee, was in the same year adopted by all of the three general bodies, the General Synod, which, in 1820, had been founded for the express purpose of uniting all Lutheran synods in America, being the first to assent to the Merger during its session at Chicago, June 20 to 27, 1917. The various District Synods also having approved of the union and having ratified the constitution, the Merger was consummated at New York City, November 15, 1918. Dr. F. H. Knubel, a member of the General Synod, was elected President of the new body— "The United Lutheran Church in America." Of the total number of Lutherans in America (63 synods, 15,243 congregations, 9,790 pastors, 2,450,000 confirmed and 3,780,000 baptized members) the United Church embraces 45 synods, 10 theological seminaries with 46 professors and 267 students, 17 colleges, 6 academies, 3,747 congregations and mission-posts, 2,754 pastors, almost 1,000,000 baptized members, and 758,000 confirmed members, the General Synod contributing 364,000, the General Council 340,000, and the United Synod in the South 53,000. The United Church is the second largest Lutheran body in America, the Synodical Conference outnumbering it by only about 50,000 confirmed members. The merged bodies will continue to exist legally until no property rights are imperiled. In 1919 it was decided to consolidate the Lutheran, the Lutheran Church Work and Observer, and the Lutheran Church Visitor. The new church-paper will be The Lutheran, with Dr. G. W. Sandt as editor-in-chief.

2. Refusing to Enter the Merger.—The United Lutheran Church, according to the Lutheran, "has inaugurated a new era of progress for our beloved Lutheran Church. . . . Three names have gone down, but a new and greater name has arisen from their ashes." This, however, was not the view of the Iowa and Augustana synods, though both indirectly, through their connection with the General Council, had for years been in church-fellowship also with the General Synod, hence, consistently might have entertained scruples to join the Merger no more than the Council. When, at Philadelphia, October 25, 1917, the General Council passed on the Merger, Dr. M. Reu, the representative of the Iowa Synod, was the only delegate (advisory) who voted against it. Pointing especially to the fact that the General Synod, at its last convention in Chicago, had elected as president a man [Dr. Geo. Tressler] who was publicly known to be a Mason of a high degree, Dr. Reu warned against the union, as it would practically mean the abandonment of the Council's position on pulpit- and altar-fellowship, as well as on the lodge-question. The Kirchenblatt of the Iowa Synod: "It is apparent that the influence of the General Synod on the General Council has paralyzed the practical principles of the fathers, and that the contemplated Merger is tantamount to an anulment of these principles, as far as the official practise of this new church-body will come into question. And yet, just this life, the ecclesiastical life and practise of the ministers and congregations, is the mirror in which the real confessional attitude may be seen. We [Iowa] owe much to the General Council, and will always remember this gratefully, but now our roads separate and we must part. American [?] Lutheranism [?], [tr. note: sic] which the General Synod has always stood for, and which has had its adherents also in the General Council, especially among its nativistic representatives, will control also the new church-body. This, according to our understanding, means that a far-reaching influence of a Reformed nature will manifest itself, especially with respect to church-practise and the attitude toward all manner of societies and antichristian lodges." (Lehre und Wehre, 1917, 521. 572.)

3. Withdrawal of the Augustana Synod.—For more than a decade prior to the Merger the current within the Swedish Augustana Synod had been running against the General Council. Accordingly, to the Augustana Synod the contemplated union was an occasion rather than a cause for refusing to join the movement and for severing her connection also with the Council. Indeed, at the convention of the General Council at Philadelphia, October 25, 1917, all of the Augustana representatives had cast their votes for the new organization. At her last convention, June 8, 1918, however, the Synod, in spite of the most strenuous efforts on the part of the delegates of the General Council to draw her into the union, passed the resolution: "Resolved, That the Augustana Synod does not at this time see its way clear to enter the proposed merger of the United Lutheran Church in America, but declares itself in favor of a federation of Lutheran church-bodies in North America." A subsequent resolution severed her connection with the Council. The reasons advanced by the Augustana Synod for her action were not of a doctrinal or confessional nature, but rather pertained to the interest of her peculiar work among the Swedish population of our country. Yet the course chosen by the Augustana Synod was, at least part, the result also of the secret fear that the new body would rapidly sink to the level of the doctrinal and practical laxism of the General Synod. Warning against the Merger, the Lutheran Companion, of the Augustana Synod, wrote: "We must hold ourselves aloof from spiritual fellowship with such churches or denominations, some of whose factors advocate and defend lodgism, dancing as a pastime for the young people under the auspices and sanction of the church, etc." (L. u. W., 1917, 522.) Disappointed on account of the withdrawal of the Augustana Synod, the Lutheran, of the General Council, commented: "The Augustana Synod has subordinated unity of faith to unity of race. This is as un-American as it is un-Lutheran, and the day of its real Lutheran union is thereby indefinitely postponed. . . . We are persuaded that this separation was willed by man and not by God, though we also believe that He will, in the end, overrule it for good. . . . The Augustana Synod has missed its opportunity; it has limited the sphere of its influence; it has placed synodical and social interests as a clog in the wheel of the Lutheran Church's progress as a whole, and set the Church back a generation or more to start afresh on the pathway to its ultimate goal. . . . Lutherans are now to be fenced off into social groups to be known as the Swedish, the Norwegian, the German, and the English divisions of the Lutheran forces in this country." (L. u. W., 1917, 522; 1918, 329 ff.)

4. Attitude of the Ohio Synod.—Though representatives also of the Ohio Synod served on the Joint Quadricentennial Committee in order to arrange for a union celebration of the Reformation together with the representatives of the General Synod, the Council and the United Synod South, the official organs of the Ohio Synod were severe in condemning the Merger. The Lutheran Standard, August 4, 1917: "There are chiefly two practical differences that keep us apart, namely, that concerning altar- and pulpit-fellowship and that concerning the lodge. Concerning the first point the constitution [of the Merger] has nothing to say whatever. Relative to lodge-membership, the general body will have only advisory power." The Kirchenzeitung, of the Ohio Synod, May 12, 1917: "The great and glorious work of Dr. Krauth in the Council has been nullified. The General Synod's practise of fraternizing with the sects will prevail. What is sound and good in the Council will crumble; the proposed union is a great victory for the lax portion of the General Synod and a pitiable defeat for the Council. Indeed, we shall be told about the 'salt' that the Council may be in the new body, but that is an old, old game, which cannot fool people any more. And this to celebrate the Reformation Jubilee! Would that Luther could return and with the thunder of his scorn shatter this celebration of his work! Where unionism has its jubilee, all true Lutherans turn away in sorrow and anger." (Luth. Witness, 1918, 406.) However, considering that pulpit- and altar-fellowship, where-ever justified, clears the way for all other external unions, and that Ohio representatives served on the Quadricentennial Committee for a union celebration of the Reformation, the above criticism, warranted though it be, will hardly be viewed as consistent.


5. Doctrinal Basis.—The Constitution of the United Lutheran Church provides: "Article II: Doctrinal Basis. Section 1. The United Lutheran Church in America receives and holds the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and as the only infallible rule and standard of faith and practise, according to which all doctrines and teachers are to be judged.—Section 2. The United Lutheran Church in America accepts the three ecumenical creeds; namely, the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian, as important testimonies drawn from the Holy Scriptures, and rejects all errors which they condemn.—Section 3. The United Lutheran Church in America receives and holds the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a correct exhibition of the faith and doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, founded upon the Word of God; and acknowledges all churches that sincerely hold and faithfully confess the doctrines of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession to be entitled to the name of Evangelical Lutheran.—Section 4. The United Lutheran Church in America recognizes the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Large and Small Catechisms of Luther, and the Formula of Concord as in the harmony of one and the same pure Scriptural faith."—"Article IV. Section 2. Any Evangelical Lutheran synod applying for admission which has accepted the Constitution with its Doctrinal Basis, as set forth in Article II, and whose constitution has been approved by the Executive Board, may be received into membership by a majority vote at any regular convention."

6. Further Confessional Statements.—Among the other sections of the Constitution expressing directly or indirectly the confessional and doctrinal attitude of the new body are the following: "Article VI: Objects. The objects of the United Lutheran Church in America are: . . . Section 1. To preserve and extend the pure teaching of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. (Eph. 4, 5, 6; the Augsburg Confession, Art. VII.) Section 2. To conserve the unity of the true faith (Eph.4, 3-16; 1 Cor. 1, 10), to guard against any departure therefrom (Rom. 16, 17), and to strengthen the Church in faith and confession. Section 3. To express outwardly the spiritual unity of the Lutheran congregations and synods, to cultivate cooperation among all Lutherans in the promotion of the general interests of the Church, to seek the unification of all Lutherans in one orthodox faith, and thus to develop and unfold the specific Lutheran principle and practise, and make their strength effective."—"Article VIII: Powers. . . . Section 6: As to the Maintenance of Principle and Practise. The United Lutheran Church in America shall protect and enforce its Doctrinal Basis, secure pure preaching of the Word of God and the right administration of the Sacraments in all its synods and congregations. It shall also have the right, where it deems that loyalty to the Word of God requires it, to advise and admonish concerning association and affiliation with non-ecclesiastical and other organizations whose principles or practises appear to be inconsistent with full loyalty to the Christian Church" [weak and misleading, if Freemasons and similar lodges are meant; the more so, as quite a number of the clergymen in the Merger are lodgemen]; "but the synods alone shall have the power of discipline" [conflicts with principle of unity in doctrine and practise].—"Article III. Section 7. In the formation and administration of a general body the synods may know and deal with each other only as synods. In all such cases the official record is to be accepted as evidence of the doctrinal position of each synod, and of the principles for which alone the other synods are responsible by connection with it." This section, according to which the new body assumes responsibility only for the official doctrine and practise of the District Synods as such, but declines to answer for what the congregations, pastors, and laymen may teach and practise, unduly limits the responsibility for false doctrine and practise, conflicts with the Scriptural rule of Christian fellowship, and stamps the United Church as unionistic.—"Article VIII: Powers. Section 5: As to Doctrine and Conscience. All matters of doctrine and conscience shall be decided according to the Word of God alone." [What of sections 2, 3, and 4 of Article II on Doctrinal Basis?] "If, on grounds of doctrine or conscience, the question be raised as to the binding character of any action, the said question shall be referred to the Commission of Adjudication. Under no circumstances shall the right of a minority be disregarded, or the right to record an individual protest on the ground of conscience be refused."—"Article XII: Commission of Adjudication. Section 1. A Commission of Adjudication shall be established, to which shall be referred, for interpretation and decision, all disputed questions of doctrine and practise, and this commission shall constitute a court for decision of all questions of principle or action arising within the United Lutheran Church in America, and which had been properly referred to it by resolution or by appeal of any of the synods. . . . Section 4. The consent of at least six members shall always be necessary for a decision." According to this article, unanimity in questions of doctrine and practise is not required—a violation, once more, of the principle of Christian unity!

7. A Legislative Body.—Among the doubtful paragraphs of the Constitution are also the following: "Article III. . . . . Section 6. Congregations representatively constituting the various synods may elect delegates through their synods to represent them in a general body, all decisions of which, when made in accordance with the Constitution, bind, so far as the terms of mutual agreement make them binding, those congregations and synods which consent to be represented in the general body."—"Article VIII: Powers. Section 4. If synods have had due and legal opportunity to be represented in the conventions of the United Lutheran Church in America, they are bound by all resolutions that have been passed in accordance with this Constitution; but each synod retains every power, right, and jurisdiction in its own internal affairs not expressly delegated to the United Lutheran Church in America."— "Section 7: As to Books of Devotion and Instruction, etc. The United Lutheran Church in America shall provide books of devotion and instruction, such as liturgies, hymn-books, and catechisms, and no synod without its sanction shall publish or recommend books of this kind other than those provided by the general body."—"Article XIV: Synods. Section 1. No synod in connection with the United Lutheran Church in America shall alter its geographical boundaries without the permission of the general body." According to the sections quoted, the United Lutheran Church is not a mere advisory, but a legislative body.

8. Relations with Non-Lutherans.—According to the Lutheran Church Work and Observer the question of cooperation with other than Lutheran bodies is left open by the constitution of the United Lutheran Church. Construed in its historical context, this means that the United Church tolerates, and does not disapprove of, fraternal intercourse with the sects. The Constitution provides: "Article VI: Objects. The objects of the United Lutheran Church in America are. . . . Section 7: To enter into relations with other bodies in the unity of the faith, and to exchange official delegates with them."—"Article VIII: Powers. Section 1: As to External Relations. The United Lutheran Church in America shall have power to form and dissolve relations with other general bodies, organizations, and movements. To secure uniform and consistent practise, no synod, conference, or board, or any official representative thereof, shall have power to independent affiliation with general organizations and movements." Does this and the preceding section refer also to non-Lutheran movements, organizations, and bodies, such as the Federal Council, of which the General Synod was a member? In the Lutheran Church Work and Observer, January 3, 1918, Dr. A. Pohlman suggested that the "Merger idea be enlarged so as to include all Protestant denominations, in order to get better known in America, increase our prestige and influence, and take a more decided interest in the affairs of the world." "We can well afford," says he, "to rub out some of those things which conceded to be secondary." More contact with the other denominations would obliterate much of the "foreign" from our Lutheranism, and make us an "American Lutheran Church."


9. Actual Position of the New Union.—The Merger did not come as a surprise, for the uniting bodies, being of a common origin, had for a long period occupied essentially the name position as to doctrine and practise, exchanged delegates, and cooperated in various ways. Nor was it accompanied by any essential change in the doctrinal or practical attitude of any of the synods and congregations now constituting the new body. Yet it will be admitted that, by merging, the General Synod, constitutionally, made a confessional stride forward, while, as to their official attitude toward Lutheran practise, the United Synod in the South, and especially the General Council, took a step backward. For the level and measure of the new Union will naturally be that of the most liberal of the united bodies, viz., the actual present, practical as well as doctrinal, position of the synods which constitute the General Synod. According to the Preamble of the Constitution the object of the Merger was "to make the inner unity, which we" [the official bodies as such] "have with one another manifest in common confession, defense, and maintenance of the faith, and in united efforts for the extension of the Kingdom of God at home and abroad." However, the new Union was not the result of any discussions of, and subsequent agreements and settlements in, any doctrinal or practical differences. The "inner unity" of the merging bodies themselves, especially of the General Synod, never was a real agreement in the truth, but rather an agreement to disagree with respect to Lutheran doctrines and practise. The United Church was not born of real inner Lutheran unity of the spirit, but of the desire of external union, in spite of the lack of real doctrinal agreement. The Merger is in more than one way a concession to the original unionistic spirit of the General Synod. Especially the absence, in the Constitution, of a paragraph directed against pulpit- and altar-fellowship with non-Lutherans, and of a definite and satisfactory statement pertaining to antichristian societies, cannot but be viewed as an ex professo lowering of the Lutheran standard to the laxism always prevailing in the General Synod. The real doctrinal and confessional position of the United Lutheran Church, apart from the merits and demerits of its Constitution, is, in the last analysis, not so much determined by its official declarations as by the actual conditions prevailing in its synods and congregations. The real standpoint of a Church is not the one written and subscribed to on paper, but which manifests itself in her actual teaching, life, and practise. Judged, then, by what the merging bodies actually were immediately prior to their union, the real United Lutheran Church in America is not nearly on a par with what its doctrinal basis would seem to warrant. G. A. Tressler, the former president of the General Synod, said in the Lutheran, November 7, 1918: "My hope and wish is that, as far as the United Lutheran Church is concerned, it may merge our best and submerge the rest." What of this "best"? And what is "the rest"? The history of the three merging bodies will tell.

10. National Lutheran Council.—According to Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution, it is the object of the United Lutheran Church "to cultivate cooperation among all Lutherans in the promotion of the general interests of the Church; to seek the unification of all Lutherans in one orthodox faith." The ultimate goal of the United Lutheran Church self-evidently is the organic union of all Lutheran synods and congregations of this country as "The Lutheran Church in America," or, at least, "The Federated Lutheran Church in America." "The National Lutheran Council," organized September 6, 1918, in Chicago, is, no doubt, viewed by many as a stepping-stone to, and a means for the attainment of, this end. The United Lutheran Church, says the Philadelphia Seminary Bulletin, "is but part of a larger movement in the direction of Lutheran unity and activity for which we thank God and take courage. Illustrations of this are: The National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers' and Sailors' Welfare, The National Lutheran Council, and the proposed Central Lutheran control of all American Lutheran Foreign Missions." (1919, 2, p. 4.) The objects of the National Lutheran Council are: statistical information; publicity in all matters that require common utterance by the Lutheran Church; representation of our Church in its relation to entities outside of itself; dealing with the problems arising out of war and other emergencies; the solution of problems arising from social, economic, intellectual, or other conditions, or changes affecting religious life and consciousness; the fostering of true Christian loyalty and the maintenance of a righteous relation between Church and State as separate entities with correlated, yet distinctly defined functions; provision through the National Lutheran Commission for the spiritual welfare of the people who are living and working in the 24 "War Production Communities," part of which work is to be done in cooperation with other denominations; to serve in solving the problems of the Lutheran Church in European countries where the war has upset political, social, and religious conditions; to adjust matters on the Home Mission field, in order to restrict and stop destructive competitive church-work; to discourage, ignore, and abandon public polemics among Lutherans; to prepare a statement defining the essentials of a catholic spirit as viewed by the Lutheran Church. With the exception of the Synodical Conference (always wary of entangling and unionistic alliances), practically all of the Lutheran synods in America are connected with the National Lutheran Council. (L. u. W., 1919, 86 ff.) A meeting of the presidents and representatives of various Lutheran bodies, culled by the National Lutheran Council and held in Chicago, March 11 to 13, 1919, adopted a number of statements on reconciliation, absolution, the means of grace, justification, faith, conversion and election. However, these declarations, though, as far as they go, apparently not in dissonance with the Lutheran confessions, cover neither all the doctrines controverted in our Church, nor all of the disputed points involved in the doctrines dealt with at Chicago. With respect to lodgism the Conference resolved: "We promise each other that it shall be our earnest purpose to give a fearless testimony, and do our utmost to place our respective church-bodies in the right Christian position in this matter." (Lutheran, March 27, 1919.) The results attained by the Conference will be referred for approval to the bodies represented: United Lutheran Church, Joint Synod of Ohio, Iowa Synod, Buffalo Synod, Augustana Synod, United Danish Synod, Norwegian Church, Free Church.

The General Synod.


11. Discouraging Beginnings.—The oldest Lutheran synods of America are the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, organized 1748; the New York Ministerium, 1786; the Synod of North Carolina, 1803; the Joint Synod of Ohio, 1818; the Synod of Maryland and Virginia, 1820; and the Tennessee Synod, 1820. They embraced about 35,000 members, over one-half of them belonging to the Pennsylvania Synod. On October 22, 1820, at Hagerstown, Md., four of these synods organized as the "General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America," with David Kurtz of Baltimore as president. According to its preamble the Constitution was adopted by the following synods: "The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania and the neighboring States, the German and English Evangelical Lutheran Synod in the State of North Carolina and the bordering States, the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium in the State of New York and the neighboring States and countries, and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Maryland, Va., etc." (Proceedings, 1829, 49; 1839, 47.) The Pennsylvania Synod was represented by 5 pastors and 3 delegates, the New York Ministerium by 2 pastors, the North Carolina Synod by 2 pastors, and the Maryland Synod by 2 pastors and 1 delegate. Since 1811 C. A. Stork (Storch) and especially Gottlieb Shober (Schober, a Moravian, serving Lutheran congregations) of the North Carolina Synod had been prominent among the promoters of the general body. The "Mother Synod" of Pennsylvania, which at the same time was planning a union with the Reformed, took the initiative in the movement. At the convention at Harrisburg, 1818, they declared it "desirable that the various Lutheran synods should stand in closer connection with each other," appointed a committee to prepare a feasible plan of union, and invited the different synods to send representatives to her next meeting in Baltimore, 1819, where the contemplated Lutheran, union was the principal topic of discussion. A tentative constitution, drafted by Shober and a committee of the Pennsylvania Synod, was approved with 42 against 8 votes and published over the signatures of its officers,— the so-called Planentwurf, which, in a somewhat modified form, was adopted 1820 at Hagerstown as the Constitution (Grundverfassung) of the General Synod. At the first regular convention of the new body, held at Frederick (Fredericktown, Friedrichstadt), Md., in October, 1821, twenty delegates were present, representing the synods of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Maryland-Virginia. It was a beginning fraught with discouragements. Owing to religious indifference, the rationalistic New York Ministerium had immediately permitted its connection to lapse, till resumed in 1837. The Tennessee Synod violently condemned the new body as hierarchical, and because its constitution did not so much as mention the Bible and the Augsburg Confession. The Ohio Synod, which, in 1819, after a discussion of the Planentwurf, had approved of the formation of a General Synod, now stood aloof, because a number of her ministers denounced its Constitution, not for confessional reasons, but because of its alleged hierarchical features. (Graebner, Geschichte 1, 701.) In 1823 the Pennsylvania Synod declared her withdrawal on account of the union planned with the Reformed, and because some of her congregations, fearing infringements of their liberties, protested against the connection. It was due chiefly to the exertions of S. S. Schmucker, then but twenty-five years of age, that the second regular convention, 1823, in Frederick, was held, the newly organized West Pennsylvania Synod forming the third body required by the constitution.

12. From the Early Proceedings.—The report of 1823 closes as follows: "On bended knees, and with hearts filled with holy emotion, the brethren then united with the Rev. J. G. Schmucker in a most impressive address to the mercy-seat of Christ, in an acknowledgment of the gratitude for the past blessing of the great Head of the Church, and in humble supplication for the future guidance of His Holy Spirit. And when they had sung an hymn, they separated to return to their several abodes." (8.) Regarding the withdrawal of the Pennsylvania Synod, the resolution was adopted: "Resolved, That it is with feelings of deepest regret that we learn from the minutes of the Synod of Pennsylvania that they were induced by peculiar circumstances, for the present, to recede from an institution which they aided in establishing, and which they still profess to regard as proper and highly beneficial to the interests of the Church; but that this Synod entertain the highest confidence in their brethren of Pennsylvania, and confidently trust that they will without delay resume their connection with the General Synod." (5.)— The "Address of the General Synod to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States," added to the Minutes of 1823, remarks: "Whilst the General Synod, with due deference to the judgment of this respectable Synod, cannot divest themselves of doubt as to the expediency of the temporary recession of the Pennsylvania Synod from the general union of the Lutheran Church, they rejoice that in the very act of withdrawing they declare their unaltered conviction of the propriety and utility of such a union, and intimate that their recession shall continue only until the prejudices against the General Synod shall in some measure have subsided. But, most of all, the General Synod rejoiced in the measures which have already been taken by the brethren west of the Susquehanna, among whose churches these prejudices do not exist, to return to the general union of the Lutheran Church." (11.)The minutes of 1823: "Several delegates were absent in consequence of indisposition, but a representation of a majority of the synods in connection with the General Synod being present, the brethren, in reliance on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, proceeded to business." (4.) With respect to the fears expressed by Tennessee that the establishment of a General Synod would endanger both the Lutheran and American liberties, the "Address" of 1823 states: "The brethren of this Conference [Tennessee], as well as individuals in some other sections of the United States, have heretofore doubted the utility of the General Synod; but it is hoped their apprehensions will be dissipated when a few years of experience shall have demonstrated its utility, and when maturer reflection on the nature of our constitution shall have convinced them that, if ever our Church at large should so far degenerate as that a majority of any future General Synod should not only be so void of common Christian integrity, but so destitute of every sentiment of probity and honor, as to wish those evils which have been feared, still even then the attainments of them would, in our happy government, be physically and civilly impossible." (14.) Repudiating the charge of the Tennessee Synod that the object of the General Synod was an amalgamation with other Protestant denominations, and urging the Carolina and Tennessee Synods to cover their doctrinal differences by charity, the "Address" continues: "Whilst the General Synod disclaim the intention which has perhaps, through want of better knowledge, sometimes been attributed to them, namely, to form a union of different denominations, one object at which they aim certainly is to prevent discord and schism among the different portions of the Lutheran Church. It is therefore with much pleasure that they perceive that the Carolina Synod adopted measures at their last session to bring about, if possible, a reconciliation with several brethren [Tennessee Synod], who had seceded from them. And the General Synod cannot forbear recommending to both parties the exercise of that charity, toleration, and forbearance which were so illustriously exemplified in the life of our divine Redeemer, and urging on them the impressive declaration of His Apostle: 'Follow after charity'; 'Charity suffereth long and is kind,' 'seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked'; 'charity beareth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.' Therefore we beseech you, brethren, by the mime of our Lord Jesus Christ, 'that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.'" (12.)

13. Vigorous Growth Following Disappointments.—During the period of 1831 to 1864 a large number of district Synods joined the General Synod. The Hartwick Synod, organized 1830 in Schoharie Co., N.Y., by seven pastors who had separated from the New York Ministerium in order to satisfy more fully their craving for revivals, was admitted by the General Synod in 1831; in 1908 it merged in the New York Synod. The South Carolina Synod, organized 1824, entered the General Synod in 1835. The New York Ministerium returned 1837. The Synod of Virginia, organized in 1829 by eight ministers and two lay delegates and confessing the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, was admitted by the General Synod in 1839. The Synod of the West, embracing Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, of which Wyneken was a member till 1845, was organized in 1835 and united with the General Synod in 1840. In 1846 this body was divided into three parts; one called the Synod of the Southwest, located in Kentucky and Tennessee, another called the Synod of Illinois, located in the State of Illinois, and the third retaining the name of the Synod of the West, located in Indiana.(Proceedings, 1848, 47.) The East Ohio Synod, since 1836 a separate English branch of the Ohio Synod, united with the General Synod in 1841. The East Pennsylvania Synod, founded 1842 by nine ministers withdrawing from the Pennsylvania Ministerium, who advocated the use of the English language, revivals, and greater liberty in the form of worship, was received by the General Synod in 1842. The Allegheny Synod, organized 1842 by ministers and congregations of Western Pennsylvania, united in 1843. The Southwest Virginia Synod was also admitted in 1843. The Miami Synod was organized 1844 in Ohio and joined the General Synod in 1845. The Illinois Synod, a descendant of the Synod of the West, was organized 1846 and joined the General Synod in 1848. When, in 1867, this Synod was dissolved, the greater part amalgamated with the Illinois District of the Missouri Synod. The Wittenburg Synod, organized 1847 in Ohio, was admitted 1848. This body was led by Ezra Keller and S. Sprecher, professors of Wittenberg College, Springfield, O. The Olive Branch Synod of Indiana and adjacent parts was organized in 1848 and received into the General Synod in 1850. In 1894 the Middle Tennessee Synod united with the Olive Branch Synod. Its device is an olive branch upon an open Bible; its motto: "In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas." The Pennsylvania Synod reunited with the General Synod in 1853. The Texas Synod, organized 1851 by Rev. Braun (sent by Dr. Passavant) and eight ministers from St. Chrischona, joined the General Synod in 1853, the General Council in 1868, and in 1895 the Iowa Synod as its Texas District. The Synod of Northern Illinois, organized 1851 by English, German, Norwegian, and Swedish ministers in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, was also admitted in 1853. The Pittsburgh Synod, the so-called "Mission Synod," whose policy was largely shaped by W. A. Passavant, was organized in 1845 and admitted by the General Synod in 1853. In 1867 it joined the General Council. The Kentucky Synod and the Central Pennsylvania Synod, which was organized in the year 1855, joined the General Synod in 1855. The Synod of Northern Indiana, organized 1855, the Synod of Iowa, organized 1852, and the Synod of Southern Illinois, organized 1856, were received in 1857. In 1897 the Synod of Southern Illinois united with the Synod of Central Illinois as Synod of Central and Southern Illinois. The Melanchthon Synod was admitted in 1859; the Franckean Synod, organized 1837, and the Synod of Minnesota, organized 1860, in 1864. The Minnesota Synod joined the General Council in 1867 and in 1872 the Synodical Conference.

14. Secessions and Accessions.—The title "General Synod" was for the greater part of her history descriptive of, not what the General Synod was, but what she desired to become. In a letter to Solomon Henkel, dated January 23, 1826, Henry Muhlenberg remarks: "Of the seven Lutheran synods only three belong to the General Synod, and yet its representatives assume the name 'The General Synod of the Lutheran Church in the United States'!" In 1829 there were 74 ministers in the synods connected, and 123 in the synods not connected, with the General Synod. In 1834, of 60,971 Lutheran communicants the General Synod had 20,249 and the Ministerium of Pennsylvania 26,882. In 1860 the Lutherans in America numbered 245,000 communicants, about two-thirds of whom belonged to the General Synod, then embracing 26 district synods with 1,313 pastors and 164,000 communicants. The following decade, however, marked a heavy decrease. Owing to unguarded resolutions with respect to the Civil War, the Southern Synods withdrew, and in 1863 organized the General Synod South. In 1866 the oldest and strongest synods seceded and immediately formed the General Council. The consequent numerical loss was more than 200 pastors and 76,000 communicants. After these reverses a number of smaller synods acceded to the General Synod. In 1867 the Susquehanna Conference, formed in 1845 and belonging to the East Pennsylvania Synod, organized as Susquehanna Synod and resolved to unite with the General Synod. Susquehanna University, at Selinsgrove, is located in her bounds. The Synod of Kansas, organized in 1868 by ministers and laymen in Kansas and Missouri, was received 1869. Midland College and the Western Theological Seminary are upon its territory. The German Wartburg Synod united 1877. It had been organized 1875 by the German Conference of the Synod of Central Illinois formed at the dissolution of the Illinois Synod in 1866 by ministers who remained loyal to the General Synod, among them Severinghaus, the editor of the Lutherischer Kirchenfreund. The Kirchenfreund was succeeded by the Lutherischer Zionsbote, established in 1896 as a joint organ of the German Wartburg and Nebraska Synods, representing at the same time the German interests of the entire General Synod. The German Nebraska Synod was organized in 1890 and admitted by the General Synod in 1891. Its congregations are located in Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, and the Dakotas. The Wartburg and Nebraska Synods received a part of their ministers from Breklum and Chrischona. As to pulpit- and altar-fellowship and lodge-membership, the Wartburg and Nebraska Synods have not been as liberal as the English Districts of the General Synod. The Rocky Mountain Synod, embracing the territory of Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, was organized in 1891; the California Synod in 1892. The New York Synod was admitted in 1908. In 1859 seven English pastors, withdrawing from the New York Ministerium, formed the Synod of New Jersey. Again in 1866, on account of the withdrawal of the Ministerium of New York from the General Synod, fifteen ministers separated and organized the Synod of New York. In 1872 both united as Synod of New York and New Jersey. This body, in 1908, merged with the Hartwick, Franckean, and Melanchthon Synods, thus forming the present Synod of New York. Prior to the Merger in 1918, when the whole Lutheran Church in America embraced 2,450,000 confirmed and 3,780,000 baptized members, the General Synod ranked third in size among the general bodies. It reported 474,740 baptized members, 364,000 communicants, 1,857 congregations, with 1,426 pastors. Apart from a number of benevolent institutions and colleges, the General Synod maintained theological seminaries in Hartwick, N.Y.; in Gettysburg, Pa.; in Springfield, O.; in Selinsgrove, Pa.; in Atchison, Kans.; in Lincoln, Nebr.; in Breklum, Germany. In 1825 S. S. Schmucker was elected professor of Gettysburg Seminary. He served till 1864. The school was opened in September, 1826, with ten students. In 1830 E. L. Hazelius entered as second professor. In 1833 he was succeeded by Charles Philip Krauth, who served till 1867. Among the succeeding professors were H. I. Schmidt, 1839-43, Hay, Brown, C. F. Schaeffer, C. A. Stork, Valentine, Richard, Singmaster. The General Synod supported foreign missions in Liberia and India. "Father" Heyer, a scholar of Helmuth, was the pioneer American Lutheran missionary in India. The chief periodicals are The Lutheran Quarterly (now Vol. 42) and the Lutheran Church Work and Observer. The Lutheran Observer, which merged into the last named organ in 1916, was established in 1831 by Morris and edited by B. Kurtz from 1833 till 1861.


15. Object Not Unity, But Union.—In the Lutheran Observer, January 2, 1863, H. Harkey wrote: "Some say that unity must precede union. But the Bible demands that we unite. Hence those who magnify these differences [among Lutherans] and endeavor to keep us separate are the greatest sinners in the Church." This has always been the view of the General Synod: union, irrespective of doctrinal differences. But, while striving after true unity in the Spirit is always and everywhere of divine obligation, external organic union is not an end per se divine. And while efforts at organic union, even at their best, always remain a matter, not of Christian duty, but of Christian wisdom and liberty, all endeavors at union which disregard the divine norm of Christian fellowship are anti-Scriptural. At the organization of the General Synod, however, the sole ambition was to unite the whole Lutheran Church in the United States in a well-organized and imposing body. The object was not unity, but governmental union. Dr. Valentine said in 1905: "Though the primary object of its organization was not confessional, but practical, looking to fellowship and cooperation on the basis of acknowledged Lutheran standing, the General Synod at once placed a positive Lutheran basis under its practical work." (Luth. Cycl., 193.) The fact is that the question whether the uniting bodies were truly Lutheran and in doctrinal agreement was neither asked, nor investigated, nor presupposed, but simply ignored. W. M. Reynolds said in 1850: "The constitution of the General Synod does not present a system of doctrine, a confession of faith. On the contrary, this constitution itself confesses that it was drafted 'only for purposes of government and discipline,' and expressly denies the right 'to any General Synod to make changes in matters of faith which in any way might burden the consciences of brethren.'" (Lutheraner, April 30, 1850.)

16. Conceived in Indifferentism.—Unionism and indifferentism mark the character of the General Synod from its very beginning. And how could this have been otherwise? The un-Lutheran spirit of the General Synod was not so much acquired as inherited. The Pennsylvania Synod, while promoting the Pan-Lutheran union, was at the same time planning a union with the Reformed! In 1819 and 1822 resolutions were passed to this effect. And before this, in 1792, the same Synod had adopted a constitution in which the Lutheran Symbols were not even mentioned. One of the reasons for severing her connection in 1823 was the fear that the General Synod might prove an obstacle in the way of the contemplated Lutheran and Reformed union. In the New York Ministerium Socinianism ruled supreme. Quitman, for twenty-one years its president, permitted rationalists only in his pulpit, and in 1814, with the consent of his synod, he published a catechism denying the deity and atonement of Christ. F. C. Schaeffer, of New York, in a letter to the convention at Baltimore, 1819, urged the Pennsylvania Synod "to leave nothing undone that might serve, in a proper way, to bring about a union of the different Lutheran synods in the United States." But in the same breath he proceeds: "It is also desirable that another object, of gravest importance, should be duly considered—a closer union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches in our States. In this laudable and truly evangelical cause our brethren in Germany [Prussian Union, 1817] have set us an excellent example . . . as the Lutherans and Reformed in Germany are united in one Evangelical Church, and are no longer separated as different churches, but form one fold, the true Germans in America will, in this respect, try to imitate the Germans in Germany." (Spaeth, C.P.Krauth, 1, 323.) In North Carolina, where the rationalistic Catechism of Velthusen was used, conditions were no better. Shober, of the North Carolina Synod, who served on the committee appointed for the drafting of the Planentwurf, and exerted himself to the utmost in the interest of the Lutheran union, was a Moravian, who, though serving Lutheran congregations, harbored Reformed views and reveled in the prospective dawn of the grand union of all Protestant denominations, to which, according to his views, the General Synod was to serve as a stepping-stone. Accordingly, the aim of the General Synod neither was, nor could be, confessional unity, but, ad intra, a mere external organic union, irrespective of doctrinal differences, and ad extra, a unionistic intercourse with the Reformed and other Protestant denominations. And throughout its history this has remained the paramount object of the General Synod. In accordance with this policy she has made concessions in both directions, as required by expedience and the circumstances, to doctrinal laxism as well as to Lutheran confessionalism, the latter especially during the last decades. Union was always the primary, true unity hardly ever even a secondary consideration. The plan, however, of sacrificing, in a merger with the Reformed, its own identity as an independent Lutheran body was never directly adopted by the General Synod. It was, partly, in this interest that, in 1862, at Lancaster, the General Synod resolved "that as the erection of Union Churches is not always productive of Christian union and brotherly love, but rather of strife and contention, we recommend to all our ministers and people to build no more such churches." (18.) In its address of 1823 the General Synod "disclaimed the intention to form a union of different denominations." (12.) If by "union" they meant a merger, then the General Synod throughout its history has remained true to the declaration of 1823. For, though always encouraging some sort of union with all evangelical denominations, the General Synod as such has never taken a stand in favor of an amalgamation with these bodies.


17. Features of the Constitution.—The charge of Romanism, made especially by the Tennessee Synod against the General Synod, was not without foundation. The Planentwurf of 1819 provides: "Until, however, the formal permission and consent has been granted by the General Synod, no new established body shall be recognized among us as a ministerium, and no ordination performed by it as valid." This section was omitted in the constitution adopted 1820. The Planentwurf of 1819 furthermore provides: "The General Synod has the exclusive right, with the consent of a majority of the special synods, to introduce new books for general public use of the churches, as well as to make emendations in the liturgy." (Graebner, Geschichte, 1, 691 f.) This section was embodied in the constitution of 1820. According to Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution adopted in 1820, the General Synod reserves for itself the right of approving all such books and writings "as a catechism, form of liturgy, collection of hymns, or confession of faith," proposed for the use of the church. "No synod," the section prescribes, "and no ministerium connected with the General Synod shall therefore publish for public use any new book or writing of the kind mentioned without previously having submitted a complete copy to the General Synod, and heard her opinion, or criticism, or advice in the matter. Whenever the General Synod shall deem it proper, they may propose to the special synods and ministeriums new books or writings of the kind mentioned above for general or special public use. The special synods and ministeriums also shall duly heed a proposal of this kind, and if any one of them should not consider such a proposal appropriate, it is to be hoped that the reasons will be given to the next General Synod, in order that they may be entered in the minutes of the General Synod." (Proceedings, 1829, 51.) In the amended constitution of 1835, Article III, Section 2, eliminating the objectionable features, reads as follows: "Whenever the General Synod shall deem it proper or necessary, they may propose to the special synods or ministeriums new books or writings, such as catechisms, forms of liturgy, collections of hymns for general or special public use in the church. Every proposal of this kind the several or respective synods may duly consider; and if they, or any of them, shall be of opinion that the said book or books, writing or writings, will not conduce in the end proposed, they may reject them, and adopt such liturgical books as they may think proper." (Proceedings, 1839, 48.) The first report to the General Synod on the state of the Gettysburg Seminary begins as follows: "In presenting to the Supreme Judicatory of the Lutheran Church in America an account of the progress of the institution so recently founded," etc. (Proceedings, 1827, 13.) The constitution of 1829, framed and adopted for and recommended to the District Synods, provides for the expulsion and punishment of congregations that refuse to submit to the resolutions of Synod as follows: "If a congregation heretofore connected with a Synod should refuse to obey the resolutions of that Synod or the precepts of this formula [constitution], it shall be excluded from the connection with that synod as long as its disobedience lasts, and without special permission from the president neither any other synod nor a Lutheran pastor or candidate shall serve her." (Proceedings, 1829, 30.)

18. Doctrinal Features.—The Planentwurf states: "The General Synod has no power to make or demand any changes whatever in the doctrines of faith adopted heretofore among us." In the constitution of 1820, Art. III, Sect. 2, this was amended as follows: "But no General Synod shall be allowed . . . to introduce such alterations in matters appertaining to the faith, or to the mode of publishing the Gospel of Jesus Christ (the Son of God and ground of our faith and hope), as might in any way tend to burden the consciences of the brethren in Christ." (1829, 51; 1839, 48.) Interpreted historically, this section was evidently intended to make the General Synod safe, not indeed for loyal Lutheranism, but, on the one hand, for evangelicalism over against Unitarianism and, on the other hand, for confessional indifferentism and doctrinal freedom with respect to the distinctive doctrines of the Evangelical denominations. A. Spaeth remarks: "The Radicals, or New-measure men, who in their generation had not heard the Gospel preached and the faith of the Church taught according to the pure Confession of Augsburg, might look upon any attempt to go back to that Confession and to stand by it as an 'alteration, and tending to burden their consciences.'" (1, 334.) It was to serve the same indifferentistic purpose when Article III, Section 5, declares: "The General Synod may give advice or opinion when complaints shall be brought before them by whole synods, or congregations, or individual ministers concerning doctrine or discipline. The General Synod shall, however, be extremely careful that the consciences of the ministers be not burdened with human laws, and that no one be oppressed by reason of differences of opinion on non-fundamental doctrines." (1829, 52; 1839, 49.) The original reading of this section, as adopted 1820, omits the clause "on non-fundamental doctrines" found in the constitution published in the minutes of 1829, thus granting absolute doctrinal freedom. (Graebner, 708.) For the words "human laws" the amended constitution of 1835 substitutes "human inventions, laws, or devices." (1839, 49.) Dr. Spaeth: "As the bulk of the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church was classified by the leaders [Schmucker, Kurtz, etc.] with 'human inventions, laws, and devices' or, at the very best, with 'non-fundamental doctrines,' any pastor or professor might feel perfectly safe in throwing overboard the mass of these symbolical books and their contents without fear of having to answer for it." (334.) Article III, Section 8, evidently intended to satisfy the craving for a closer union with the Reformed and other Evangelical bodies, reads as follows: "The General Synod shall . . . be sedulously and incessantly regardful of the circumstances of the times, and of every casual rise and progress of unity of sentiment among Christians in general, in order that the blessed opportunities to promote concord and unity and the interests of the Redeemer's Kingdom may not pass by neglected and unavailing." (1839, 50; 1829, 53.)— According to Article III, Section 2, quoted in the preceding paragraph, the General Synod claimed the right to propose to the special synods not only catechisms, forms of liturgy, and collections of hymns, but also a confession of faith. Appealing to this section, S. S. Schmucker, in 1855, claimed that he was within his constitutional rights in urging the General Synod to substitute the Definite Platform for the Augsburg Confession. Spaeth: "It was, with a good show of justice, claimed by the American Lutheran side in the General Synod that the very constitution of the body entitled it to make a new revision even of the Augsburg Confession!" (335.) It was in keeping with these principles as well as the conditions then prevailing in the Lutheran synods that the constitution adopted at Hagerstown contained no confessional basis whatever, not even a mere reference to the Augsburg Confession. Shober, probably in order to obviate the charges of the Tennessee Synod, made an effort to have a recognition of the Augsburg Confession incorporated in the constitution, but failed. That the omission was intentional is apparent also from the fact that the General Synod maintained its silence in spite of the vigorous protests of the Tennessee Synod and her refusal to join the general body, especially for the reason that neither the Bible nor the Augsburg Confession was mentioned in its Constitution. "With this constitution before him," says Spaeth, "the editor of the Lutheran Observer, Dr. Benjamin Kurtz, in Baltimore, was right in stating the case after this manner (Lutheran Observer, April 16, 1852): 'We admit that the General Synod never formally or by express resolution repudiated or abandoned the doctrinal basis (as laid down in the Augsburg Confession and the Catechism of Luther).' But did it ever either formally or tacitly profess belief in that basis? What necessity is there for a body formally to repudiate or abandon what it never received or adopted? It is a notorious fact that the symbolic basis had been abandoned in the Church, to a very great extent, before the General Synod was called into existence, and at its organisation special pains were taken to guard against all possibility of its future imposition upon the Church. In defining the doctrinal position of the General Synod, the manifest intention was to give to each other, and to establish for posterity, a pledge that the doctrinal basis should never be allowed to interfere with their consciences." (335f.)


19. Serving, in a Way, the Lutheran Church.—Apart from the name there was nothing of genuine Lutheranism in the constitution of the General Synod. "The name," said Dr. Mann in 1855, "is the most important characteristic of the General Synod." "Hatte man," he continues, "dem Leib die Knochen und die Eingeweide und das Herz herausgenommen, so konnte man in den leeren Balg hineinschieben, was man wollte, und der Name Lutherisch blieb ja." In a letter dated April 15, 1857, he said of the General Synod: "Wer kann dieses mark- und kraftlose Ding, dieses verwaschene, um jeden individuellen Zug gekommene Gesicht der lutherischen Kirche gerne sehen?" (Spaeth, W. J. Mann, 174. 180.) C. P. Krauth declared in 1845: "It cannot be denied that the name Lutherans in this country simply states an historical fact without giving in any case a sure index to the views, feelings, or practises of those who bear it." (Spaeth, C. P. Krauth, 1, 119.) Yet, even the mere name, the mere empty skin of Luther, was not without some value. It served as a constant reminder of the lost crown, and kept numerous Lutherans from joining the sects. The union of Lutherans into a general body gave a standing to the Lutheran Church among the denominations, and thus, in a way, strengthened the Lutheran consciousness. It diminished the threatening danger of a merger with the Reformed in Pennsylvania and with the Episcopalians and Presbyterians in North Carolina. And by inserting the confession of "Jesus Christ as the Son of God and ground of our faith and hope" into its constitution, the General Synod may also have acted as a check on the inroads of Socinianism. Furthermore, the General Synod created a certain interest in the Lutheran Church of America abroad, especially in Germany, and roused her energies at home. In 1825 the General Synod established a theological seminary at Gettysburg, Samuel S. Schmucker being its first professor, with a free dwelling and a salary of $500 for the first year. In the same year it was "resolved that an agent be sent to Europe without delay, in order to receive contributions in moneys and in books for the use of the Seminary; and that our beloved and honored colleague Mr. Benjamin Kurtz be such agent." (8.) The minutes of 1827 report that Kurtz had collected $12,000. (27.) In 1837 Schmucker made a similar tour in America, collecting from Congregationalists and others $14,917 for the Seminary Fund. Only if Gettysburg will nourish, said I. Oswald in the Seminary Report of 1837, "we can expect that the Gospel-trumpet will be blown from the Wittenberg in America with the result that the Germans who have settled in the various States and are scattered in our extended countries (some of whom are famishing for lack of knowledge, and by reason of circumstances are outcasts of the church) will hear and come to adore the Lord in His holy mountain." (1837, 61.) In every direction the General Synod developed a lively activity. In 1842, the year of the Muhlenberg centennial jubilee, the General Synod made strenuous efforts to raise a fund of $150,000 for its charitable institutions. (1841, 53 ff.) "What is this sum," it was said, "for a church numbering 100,000 members and more than 25,000 families? It amounts to only $1.50 for each member, and not even $10 for every family!" In 1857 the General Synod resolved: "That the churches in connection with the General Synod be recommended to observe our regular ecclesiastical festivals in commemoration of the fundamental facts of our religion, viz.: Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, and Whitsunday, in the hope and persuasion that by the divine blessing they will be found to be, as they have often proved, occasions of reviving to our congregations." (32.) In 1866 the resolution was added: "That it be recommended to the ministers and churches in our connection to celebrate the thirty-first of October in each year in commemoration of the commencement of the Reformation." (42.) In 1879, the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Luther's Catechism, the General Synod resolved that we "reaffirm our appreciation of Luther's Smaller Catechism as the best manual of instruction preparatory to church-membership." (39.) In the same year the resolution was adopted: "That in view of the fact that 1880 will be the semicentennial of the Augsburg Confession, every pastor of the General Synod be requested to preach on that subject on or near the twenty-fifth of June in that year." (40.) The General Synod organized the "Parent Educational Society" for assisting ministerial students; the "Central Missionary Society" for domestic missions; the "Foreign Mission Society" for work in India; and established a "Pastors' Fund," a book company, etc. The General Synod was always on the alert to draw Lutherans in all parts of the country into her circles. Thus, e.g., when, in 1839, the Saxons had arrived in Missouri, the General Synod passed the resolutions: "1. That a special committee be appointed to open a correspondence with the companies of Lutherans recently arrived in the United States from Germany, and represented by Dr. Charles Vehse and others, and the Rev. Mr. Stephan; 2. that the committee write in the name of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States, giving a sketch of the history and objects of this body, with any other intelligence which they may think it important to communicate, and requesting of Dr. Vehse and the Rev. Mr. Stephan and their respective associates any information which they may think proper to make relative to their own history, their present situation, and their future prospects." (19.)

20. Exaggerated Estimates.—After what has already been said, the following evaluations of the General Synod will be received with a grain of salt. In the "Pastoral Letter" of the General Synod, written in 1831 by David F. Schaeffer, we read: "No church had to contend with so great difficulties as we have overcome by the help of God. As the English language is the language of our fortunate country, the untiring endeavors of our fathers to retain the knowledge of the German language among the youth were futile. Many who spoke German were not able to read this language. The consequences of this state of affairs were pitiable. The religious books of the parents were of no use, and in many cases true piety was gradually lost as well as the love for our Zion. In the mean time some Christian denominations who held their service in the English language were ardently endeavoring to promote the interest of religion and the growth of their churches. But the God of an Arndt, Spener, Francke, and of many other renowned founders and benefactors of our Church still lives. In this most critical moment, when our Church, which is distinguished for the simplicity of its service, the purity of its doctrines, and the excellency of its church-discipline, was about to sink into oblivion, just at this important moment the General Synod was brought into existence, and through this body the Theological Seminary and College grew up which now are in efficient operation and in a flourishing condition. Now our children may be instructed in all the different branches of the sciences by pious and well-trained teachers of our faith. Now, by our Seminary, the Church may be supplied with learned and pious preachers, who are able to instruct their hearers in both languages. And from this institute they will always go forth as brethren, inspired by the same spirit and led by the same principles." (Proceedings, 1831,22.) In 1857, Krauth, Jr., defending the General Synod, said: "She is the offspring of a reviving Lutheranism, born in the dawn that followed the night which fell upon our Church in this land, when the patriarchal luminaries of her early history had set on earth to rise in heaven. When the General Synod came into being, Rationalism still was in the ascendant in Europe. The names of Gabler and Bretschneider, of Wegscheider and Roehr, were names which had been held high in honor in the Lutheran Church in Germany. That Church had become what such men might have been expected to make her. Where their influence prevailed, she had become rotten in doctrine, destitute not only of the power of godliness, but even of the decencies of its forms, and ready, at the command of a royal devotee of Dagon, for a conjunction which she once would have regarded as the adding of a scaly tail and fishy fin to the fair bust of woman; but the bust was as fishy as the tail now, and they were frozen into happy conjunction. But this was not the Lutheranism which the General Synod desired to plant and perpetuate in the New World. When the Lutheran Church looked around her in her adopted land, she saw ignorance of her principles and prejudices of every hue prevailing against her. When she looked to her native land, all was thick darkness there. What was there on this side of the Atlantic or beyond it to inspire hope? Why not abandon the experiment as a thing foregone, and yield to the process of absorption into surrounding sects? It was at this crisis that the life of the Church displayed itself in the formation of the General Synod. The formation was a great act of faith, made, as the framers of her Constitution sublimely express it, in reliance 'upon God our Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God.' The framers of that Constitution should be as dear to us as Lutherans as the framers of our Federal Constitution are to us as Americans. When the General Synod became completely organized by the acknowledgment of the doctrinal Articles of the Augsburg Confession as a standard of faith, it was the only voluntary body on earth pretending to embrace a nation as its territory, and bearing a Lutheran name, in which the fundamental doctrines of Lutheranism were the basis of union. The General Synod was a declaration, on the part of the Lutheran Church in America, that she had no intention of dying or moving, that she liked this Western World and meant to live here. And she has lived and waxed stronger and stronger, and the General Synod has been a mighty agent in sustaining and extending her beneficent work, and is destined to see a future which shall eclipse all her glory in the past. Heaven pity the fate of the man who looks upon the General Synod as having been a curse to the Church, or an inefficient worker in it—who imagines that Lutheranism would be stronger if the General Synod were weaker, or that truth would be reared upon the ruins of what she has been patiently laboring for nearly forty years to build." (Spaeth, 1, 383.)

21. Spaeth, and Jacobs on the General Synod.—After referring to the unionistic, rationalistic, and Socinian degeneration in the Pennsylvania and New York Ministeriums prior to the organization of the General Synod, A. Spaeth continues: "With this powerful influx of rationalism, and with the tendency of the remaining positive elements of our Church to assimilate and unite themselves with the surrounding 'Evangelical Denominations,' there was evident danger for the Lutheran Church in America of losing her historical connection with the fathers, and surrendering the distinctive features for which they contended, and as a religious society becoming simply a member of the Reformed family. At this point of threatening disintegration and dilapidation, the first steps were taken toward the establishment of the General Synod, which was certainly an honest effort to improve the state of affairs, to gather the scattered members of our Lutheran Church, and to preserve her as such on this Western Continent. Viewed in this light, the formation of the General Synod was 'an offspring of reviving Lutheranism,' as Dr. Krauth called it. But the difficulty and danger arose from the fact that two conflicting and irreconcilable elements tried to unite in it with a sort of compromise, the one, latitudinarian, un-Lutheran, unwilling or unable to prize the treasures of the Mother Church of the Reformation, and overanxious to exchange them for Puritan legalism and Methodistic 'new measures'; the other, conservative, holding on to the inheritance of the fathers, and hoping almost against hope to bring the Church back to their good foundation. If the former element succeeded in keeping out of the General Synod's original constitution any direct and outspoken reference to the historic confession of the Lutheran Church, the latter might have thought themselves secure in the provision which denied to the General Synod the power 'to make or demand any alteration whatever in the doctrines hitherto received by us.' But the first-named party, at the outset, had the popular sympathy on its side; it was the 'American' over against the 'foreigner'; it was aggressive, and had the advantage of having able and determined leaders, and thus, during the first twenty-five years of the General Synod's history, easily ruled the day, while the Lutheran consciousness of the second party slowly awoke from its slumbers, and those that were to be its leaders on the day of battle were quietly maturing from boyhood into manhood." (1, 320.) H. E. Jacobs, endeavoring to view the origin of the General Synod in its historical context, writes: "The General Synod must be regarded as a very important forward movement, and its influence as beneficial. It necessarily was not without the weaknesses that characterized the Lutheran Church in America at that time. One who ignores the entire historical development will find much to criticize and condemn, when examined from the standpoint of what is demanded by consistency with accurate theological definitions and clear conceptions of church polity. But he will find just as much that incurs the same judgment in the proceedings of the synods that united to form it. The faults peculiar to each synod were lost, while only the common faults of them all remained. The General Synod was a protest against the Socinianizing tendency in New York and the schemes of a union with the Reformed in Pennsylvania and with the Episcopalians in North Carolina. It stood for the independent existence of the Lutheran Church in America, and the clear and unequivocal confession of a positive faith. It failed, as its founders in the several synods had failed, in specifically determining the contents of this faith. It was not ready yet, as these synods were not ready, to return to the foundations laid by Muhlenberg and his associates, and from which there had been a general recession from twenty-five to thirty years before. Lament defects as we may, the General Synod saved the Church, as it became anglicized, from the calamity of the type of doctrine which within the New York Ministerium had been introduced into the English language." (History, 361 f.)


22. First Statement on Doctrinal Position.—The "Address of the General Synod to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States" of 1823 contains the following reference to the doctrinal attitude of the General Synod: "An acquaintance with the history of the Christian Church in the past ages, as well as a knowledge of her present condition throughout the world, establishes the fact that mankind are prone on this subject to fall into contrary extremes; some maintaining that if our external conduct be correct, it matters not what we believe, and others contending that as long as our creed is sound, the Church has little to do with private deportment. But the principle which the General Synod conceive to be taught in Scripture, and which they would recommend to the Church at large, is this, that we should view with charity, and treat with forbearance, those who have fallen into an aberration of non-fundamental importance either from the faith or the practise of the Bible and the Augsburg Confession; and on the other hand, that we are bound 'not to eat with a fornicator, or a covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner,' but to 'put away from among us such wicked persons,' and that 'a man that is an heretic,' who denies a fundamental doctrine, a doctrine essential to the Christian scheme, we are in like manner bound 'after the first and second admonition to reject.'" (14.) A fair analysis of this document yields the propositions: The General Synod receives the Bible and the Augsburg Confession. It distinguishes between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines and aberrations from both. It holds that some of the doctrines of the Bible are not fundamental. It also holds that some of the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession are not fundamental. It enumerates neither the doctrines of the Bible nor of the Augsburg Confession regarded as non-fundamental. It defines fundamental doctrines as doctrines essential to the Christian scheme, hence, non-fundamental doctrines as not essential to the Christian scheme. Indirectly it admits that a doctrine essential to the Lutheran scheme is not necessarily a fundamental doctrine or a doctrine essential to the Christian scheme. It admits the inference that not all of the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession are essential to the Lutheran scheme. It denies that all the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession are essential to the Christian scheme. It holds that non-fundamental aberrations from the Christian scheme are not subject to church discipline. It also teaches that denial of some of the doctrines of the Augsburg Confession is not a matter of church discipline. In brief, the General Synod, according to the Address of 1823, held that there are errors subject to discipline, while others are not, but defined and enumerated neither the former nor the latter. It failed to draw a line of demarcation between the doctrines which may, and which may not, be denied with impunity. Indeed, the Constitution adopted 1820 speaks of "Jesus Christ as the Son of God and ground of our faith and hope." (Art. III, Sec. 2.) Possibly, however, the General Synod was not ready in 1823 to enforce the ban on Socinianism. That the sentiment against it was hardly as pronounced as is frequently assumed, appears also from the fact that the General Synod, in 1825, appointed a committee to prepare a hymn-book, liturgy, and a collection of prayers, in the English language, "adhering particularly to the New York Hymn-Book and German Liturgy of Pennsylvania as their guides." (11.) The New York Hymn-Book referred to was Quitman's and the Pennsylvania Liturgy the one of 1818, both tainted with rationalism. In the resolutions, however, adopted in the same year with respect to the Gettysburg Seminary, Jesus is confessed as "God over all, blessed forever." (5.) And the Pastoral Letter of 1829 declares that the Church is in need of a confession of faith in order to protect herself against the Socinians. (17.)

23. Gettysburg Subscription Limited.—At the time of organization of the General Synod, Samuel S. Schmucker and F. C. Schaeffer of New York apparently occupied a relatively advanced confessional position. According to a letter of Schmucker, dated Princeton, February 20, 1820, they had promised each other to labor with all earnestness that the Augsburg Confession should be raised again from the dust, and that every one subscribe to its twenty-one articles, and declare before God, by his subscription, that they agree with the Bible, not quatenus, but quia. (Singmaster, Dist. Doct., 44.) In 1826 Schmucker wrote, in defense of the Lutheran doctrine of the Person of Christ: "Only lack of insight and of clearness of intellect can mislead an honest opponent to impute a contradiction to the doctrine when it denies that the glorified body of Christ has the properties and is subjected to the laws which we call properties and laws of matter." (Lutheraner, April 12, 1852.) When, in 1825, the statutes for the government of the Seminary at Gettysburg were adopted, it was at the instance of Schmucker, the first chairman of the faculty and for nearly forty years a teacher at the Seminary, that the General Synod declared "that in this Seminary shall be taught in the German and English languages, the fundamental doctrines of the sacred Scriptures as contained in the Augsburg Confession of Faith," and that any professor may be removed "on account of error fundamental doctrines, immorality," etc. (5.) Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution of the Seminary, drawn up Schmucker and adopted by Synod, states that the Seminary is designed "to provide our churches with pastors who sincerely believe, and cordially approve of, the doctrines of the Holy Scriptures as they are fundamentally taught in the Augsburg Confession." Another article requires every professor-elect to publicly pronounce and subscribe the following declaration: "I believe the Augsburg Confession and the Catechisms of Luther to be a summary and just exhibition of the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God." And when Schmucker, September 5, 1826, was inducted into the "professorship Christian theology," D. F. Schaeffer, who delivered the charge, said: "As the Lord has signally favored our beloved Church, as her tenets are Biblical, and her veriest enemies cannot point out an important error in her articles of faith, no more than could the enemies of the truth at the Diet of Worms prove the books of the immortal Reformer erroneous, therefore the Church which entrusts you with the preparation and formation of her pastors, demands of you (and in her behalf I solemnly charge you) to establish all students confided to your care in that faith which distinguishes our Church from others. If any should object to such faith, or any part of it, or refuse to be convinced of the excellence of our discipline, they have their choice to unite with such of our Christian brethren whose particular views in matters of faith and discipline may suit them better. I hold it, however, as indispensable for the peace and welfare of a Church that unity of sentiment should prevail upon all important matters of faith and discipline among its pastors. Hence I charge you to exert yourself in convincing our students that the Augsburg Confusion is a safe directory to determine upon matters of faith declared in the Lamb's book." (Spaeth, 1, 336.) Accordingly Dr. Jacobs interprets the Gettysburg pledge as follows: "It was a pledge to a distinctively Lutheran position. Such an affirmation could never have been enforced in the proposed Lutheran-Reformed seminary which the ministerium [of Pennsylvania] had had in mind. It could not have been exacted of those who believed the confession to be in error on those points which divide the Lutherans from the Reformed. In justice, however, to those who might seem to have been acting a false part in making this affirmation while they believed the confession to contain errors, it must be stated, on the other hand, that the full force of the declaration was not so clearly apparent in a period directly following one when, as we have seen, the greatest living theologian of the Lutheran Church in America could distinguish no difference between the Augsburg Confession and the formularies of the Church of England." This interpretation appears to be in agreement with the solemn charge of Schaeffer, according to which the pledge refers to that faith which distinguishes our Church from others." However, Schmucker and his successors viewed the phrase "fundamental doctrines of the Word of God" as a restriction, limiting the subscription to the doctrines confessed by all evangelical denominations, thus eliminating from the pledge distinctive Lutheran doctrines. And the historical correctness of this view has never been satisfactorily refuted. Schmucker declared time and again: "The Augsburg Confession was not to be followed unconditionally; its binding force was expressly limited to the fundamentals. The professor's oath expressly limits our pledge to the Augsburg Confession to the fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures." He wrote: "After the abandonment of the General Synod, in 1823, by the Synods of Pennsylvania and New York, that body was chiefly sustained by the zeal and activity of younger men, in connection with a few beloved fathers who remained with us. At the very next meeting of the General Synod, in 1825, I had the pleasure, as well as honor, to introduce, for the first time in the history of that body, the recognition of the Augsburg Confession. At that time there were none amongst the friends of the General Synod who did not reject several tenets of the Augsburg Confession, such as private confession and absolution, as we all still do. Accordingly, the assent to the Augsburg Confession, expressed in the statutes for the Theological Seminary presented by me, was a qualified one; it should and was intended to bind only to the fundamentals of the Scriptures as taught in the Augsburg Confession. The language was well understood then, and was deemed clear and satisfactory; it has always been interpreted in the same way since, except by some, of late, whose predilections would incline them to find in it, if possible, some support for their more rigidly symbolic views." (Spaeth, 1, 338.) In the Evangelical Review, April, 1851, Schmucker declared: The General Synod established her theological seminary "not for the purpose of teaching the symbolic system of the sixteenth century,—for her leading members had all relinquished some of its features,—but, as her Constitution, adopted in 1825, explicitly declares, to prepare men to teach, not all the doctrines or aspects of doctrine in the Augsburg Confession, but the 'fundamental doctrines'; and not those aspects of doctrine which might be considered fundamental peculiarities of that Confession, but 'the fundamental doctrines of the Scriptures' those aspects of doctrine which Christians generally regard as fundamental truths of the Word of God. The symbolical books of the General Synod and the seminary at Gettysburg are the Bible and the Augsburg Confession, as a substantially correct exhibition of the fundamental truths of the Bible. To this the professorial oath of office in the seminary adds a similar fundamental assent to the two Catechisms of Luther. For the professors to inculcate on their students the obsolete views of the old Lutherans contained in the former symbols of the Church in some parts of Germany, such as exorcism, the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, private confession, baptismal regeneration, immersion in baptism, as taught in Luther's Larger Catechism, etc., would be to betray the confidence of those who elected them to office, and to defeat the design of the institution." (Spaeth, 1, 338 f.)

24. Doctrinal Statements from 1829 to 1835.—The Pastoral Letter of the convention of the General Synod in Hagerstown (Haegerstadt), 1829, contains the following statements: The object of the General Synod is not to introduce absolute uniformity also in non-essential doctrines; such a unity did not exist in the early Christian congregations; it is sufficient to adhere to the fundamental tenets of the Reformation; every teacher and layman is entitled to use his Bible without being bound by any human confessions; the General Synod merely demands acceptance of the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel as taught in the Augsburg Confession, and leaves everything else unlimited; but she does not agree with those who absolutely reject all confessions of faith; the Church is in need of a confession in order to protect herself against the Socinians; most of the confessions, however, have lost themselves into minute (spitzfindige) and doubtful dogmas, and thus encouraged the spirit of superstition and schism, and naturally must continue to do so, the longer, the more; in every one of the different orthodox [evangelical] denominations, frequently, indeed, in the same congregation, there are persons who differ as much in their opinions as the confession of their Church differs from that of other Churches; accordingly, there is no reason why synods bearing the name of Luther should not unite with the General Synod, though differing in their views as to non-fundamentals; the General Synod has no power to call members of individual synods to account for aberrations in doctrine or life; the most it can do is to admonish such a synod to investigate the matter; however, a synod refusing to demand orthodoxy in fundamentals can be expelled from the General Synod; in brief, the four synods now constituting the General Body are so many independent ecclesiastical jurisdictions, united only in order to promote brotherly love, and to combine their forces in the execution of such things as are of general benefit, and which no individual synod could perform. (16.) "The General Synod therefore," says the letter of 1829, "only demands of those who are connected with her that they hold the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel as they are taught in the Augsburg Confession, and leaves all other things unlimited." "Why, then," the letter continues, "should not all those synods of our country that bear the name of our immortal Luther, and have always yet retained the chief traits of this sublime Reformer, be united by the tender bond of the General Synod, notwithstanding the different opinions which they may entertain in; some points which do not touch the foundation of the Augsburg Confession?" (16.) It was in accordance with the sentiments expressed in this letter when the General Synod at the same convention in Hagerstown adopted for its district synods a constitution with a form of licensure and ordination containing the questions: "Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God and the only infallible rule of faith and practise?" "Do you believe that the fundamental doctrines of the Holy Scriptures are taught in a manner substantially correct (wesentlich richtig) in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession?" (43. 45.) Prior to 1864 the General Synod as such, however, was not in any shape or manner committed to the Augsburg Confession constitutionally. In 1835, when the Constitution was amended, Synod as such remained non-committal. The doctrinal basis then adopted and embodied in the Constitution does not mention the Augsburg Confession. It reads as follows: "All regularly constituted Lutheran synods holding the fundamental doctrines of the Bible as taught by our Church, not now in connection with the General Synod, may at any time become associated with it by adopting this Constitution and sending delegates to its convention, according to the ratio specified in Art. II." (Proceedings 1839, 49.) Evidently this deliverance, though marking an advance over the Constitution of 1820, intentionally omits a direct reference to the Augustana. Till 1864, then, the exact constitutional basis of the General Synod as such was not the Augsburg Confession, but the indefinite phrase: "the fundamental doctrines of the Bible as taught by our Church." All other confessional deliverances of the General Synod till 1864 may be summarized as follows: The fundamental doctrines of the Bible, i.e., the doctrines in which all evangelical (non-Socinian) Christians agree, are taught in a manner substantially correct in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession.

25. "A Solemn Farce."—The doctrinal basis of the General Synod, prior to 1864, is limited in more than one way. It does not embrace all of the Lutheran symbols. It includes only the twenty-one doctrinal articles of the Augustana. It binds only to the fundamental articles of the Bible. It presupposes that fundamental articles are such only as are agreed to by all evangelical Churches. It leaves the question whether all of those twenty-one articles of the Augsburg Confession are to be regarded as "fundamental doctrines of the Bible" undecided. It adopts the articles of the Augsburg Confession regarded as fundamental, not simply and absolutely, but merely as substantially correct." On the question of the ordination form of 1829 Krauth, Jr., commented in 1857 as follows: "What, then, is that question? We reply, in general: First, that the subject of her general affirmation is not the Book of Concord as a whole, but simply and purely the Augsburg Confession. Secondly, that not the entire Confession, but only the twenty-one articles of it which treat of doctrine, are specified in the affirmation. Thirdly, that only so far as these articles embrace fundamental doctrines does she make an affirmation. Fourthly, that of these she affirms that they teach the doctrines in a correct manner, and defines the correctness as a substantial one." (Spaeth, 1, 386.) J. L. Neve explains: "They [General Synod] considered what the Lutheran Church has in common with the other churches, and looked upon this as the fundamentals of Christianity, while the characteristic peculiarity of the Church of Luther, her special inheritance, was set aside as non-fundamental and unessential." (Geschichte, 90.) Accordingly, the General Synod, prior to 1864, did not subscribe to the distinctive doctrines of the Lutheran Church, but only to the doctrines held in common by the evangelical churches of Protestantism. Charles Philip Krauth, who was styled a Symbolist and Old Lutheran by the latitudinarians, declared in 1850, in his address before the General Synod at Charleston: "The terms of the subscription [to the Augustana] are such as to admit of the rejection of any doctrine or doctrines which the subscriber may not receive. It is subscribed or assented to as containing the doctrines of the Word of God substantially; they are set forth in substance; the understanding is that there are some doctrines in it not contained in the Word of God, but there is no specification concerning them. Every one could omit from his assent whatever he did not believe. The subscription did not preclude this. It is at once evident that a creed thus presented is no creed; that it is anything or nothing; that its subscription is a solemn farce." (Spaeth, 1, 370.)


26. Authentic Explanation of Doctrinal Basis.—In his Popular Theology, published for the first time in 1834, S. S. Schmucker wrote: "The General Synod of the Lutheran Church has adopted only the twenty-one doctrinal articles, omitting even the condemnatory clauses of these, and also the entire catalog of Abuses corrected. No minister, however, considers himself bound to believe every sentiment contained in these twenty-one articles, but only the fundamental doctrines. Accordingly, the pledge of adoption required at licensure and ordination is couched in the following terms . . .: 'Do you believe that the fundamental doctrines of the Word of God are taught in a manner substantially correct in the doctrinal articles of the Augsburg Confession?' The Lutheran divines of this country are not willing to bind either themselves or others to anything more than the fundamental doctrines of the Christian revelation, believing that an immense mass of evil has resulted to the Church of God from the rigid requisition of extensive and detailed creeds. . . . We can see no sufficient warrant for any Christian Church to require as a term of admission or communion greater conformity of view than is requisite to harmony of feeling and successful cooperation in extending the kingdom of Christ. . . . Had the early Protestants endeavored to select the principal and fundamental doctrines of Christianity, required a belief of them from all applicants for admission into their ranks, and agreed among themselves that discrepance of views on matters of non-fundamental nature should neither be a bar to ecclesiastical communion nor fraternal affection, they would have saved the Church from the curse of those dissensions by which piety was in a great degree destroyed and on several occasions the very foundations of Protestantism shaken." (Edition of 1848, 50 ff.) In 1850, attacking Reynolds in the Lutheran Observer on account of his defection from American Lutheranism, Schmucker stated: From the very outset the General Synod had abandoned the distinctive Lutheran doctrines, and nevertheless retained the Lutheran name; in spite of his deviations from the Lutheran symbols he, with perfect right, could call himself a faithful Lutheran. (L., 6, 139.) Schmucker, "the most authentic interpreter of the Constitution of the General Synod and that of its theological seminary," never identified the "fundamental doctrines of the Bible" with the twenty-one articles of the Augsburg Confession. According to him the fundamentals are obtained by striking from the Augustana everything that is objectionable to any Evangelical Church and retaining the remainder as the substance of Protestantism. All of the fundamental doctrines, Schmucker declared, are contained in the ecumenical creeds; everything else is trans-fundamental, not required by the General Synod for Christian union and communion. In his sermon at the convention in Winchester, 1853, Schmucker maintained that the essential, fundamental doctrines in which the General Synod demands agreement, are "the cardinal doctrines of the Reformation, the points of agreement between the different creeds of the sixteenth century," distinctive doctrines being points of non-essential, non-fundamental difference. According to Schmucker the General Synod's motto, "Uniformity in fundamentals and charity or liberty in non-fundamentals," never meant anything else than uniformity in the doctrines in which the evangelical denominations agree, and liberty with respect to distinctive tenets, also those of Lutheranism. In his Lutheran Manual of 1855 Schmucker wrote: "The founders of the General Synod were men of enlarged, liberal, and Scriptural views of the kingdom of Christ. Convinced of the gradual abandonment of the whole mass of symbolical books in Germany, as well as from the personal examination of them, of their want of adaptedness to the age, they regarded it as the grand vocation of the American Church, released by Providence from civil servitude, to reconstruct her framework, assuming a more friendly attitude toward sister churches, and so organizing as to promote Scriptural union among Protestants, and to bring up our church-institutions to the increased light of Biblical study and Providential development. This enlightened, this millennial attitude of the founders of the General Synod, the writer can confidently affirm, from personal knowledge, having been well acquainted with the greater part of them, and having been present at Baltimore in 1819, when the formation of the Synod was, after ample discussion, resolved on; and at Hagerstown, in 1820, when the Constitution was formed. But the Constitution speaks for itself; for it invested the General Synod with power to form a new Confession of Faith, and new catechisms, suited to the progress of Biblical light and the developed views of the Church. Subsequently it was believed that the necessities of the case would be best met by the retention of the Augsburg Confession, on account of its importance as a link in the chain of historical Christianity, and by prescribing its qualified adoption, viz., as to the fundamental aspects of Scripture doctrine. . . . It is an incontestable fact, which can easily be established, that the original standpoint of the General Synod, whilst controlled by the Pennsylvania Synod, was rejection of the binding authority of the old confessions. This is undeniably proved by their not even naming the Augsburg Confession in their Constitution, by their declining even a qualified recognition of it, and by their inserting a clause expressly giving authority to the General Synod to form a confession of faith; yea, even going further, and giving the same authority to each District Synod also. (See the original Constitution, Article III, Section 2.) It seems to me no intelligent and unprejudiced mind can resist this conclusion as to their doctrinal standpoint, whilst I and others who were present know it to have been as above stated." In his manuscript notes Schmucker says: "It is worthy of constant remembrance that during the first four centuries, under the immediate pupils of the inspired apostles and their successors, the voice of the universal Church under the whole heaven was that nothing more than fundamental agreement should be required for communion in the Christian Church and Christian ministry. Not a single orthodox church practised differently. All required assent only to the several ecumenical confessions, the so-called Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds. . . . No, the practise of binding the conscience of ministers and members to extended creeds, containing minor points, on which men in all churches and all ages have differed and ever will differ, and thus splitting up the Body of Christ without His authority, is, and must be, highly criminal. The fathers who founded the General Synod all considered the recognition of fundamentals as sufficient, and here, in this free country, determined to return to the practise of the earlier and purer centuries of the Church. These fathers were Drs. J. G. Schmucker, George Lochmann, C. Endress, F. W. Geissenhainer, Daniel Kurtz, H. A. Muhlenberg, P. F. Mayer, H. Schaeffer, and D. F. Schaeffer, Rev. Gottl. Shober, and Rev. Peter Schmucker, with their younger colaborers, Drs. Benjamin Kurtz, S. S. Schmucker [Charles Philip Krauth?]. [tr. note: sic] Holding this opinion, they did not introduce any recognition, even of the Augsburg Confession, into their original Constitution in 1820. But at the third meeting, in 1825, they adopted certain resolutions for the foundation of the theological seminary and statutes for its government, and bound its professors to the fundamental doctrines of Scripture as taught in the Augsburg Confession. They thus returned to the principles and practise of the earlier and purer centuries of the Church, when the influence of the Savior and His inspired apostles was more sensibly felt in the Church." (Spaeth, 1, 342. 337. 354.)

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