The patriarch of the Missouri Synod, C. F. W. Walther, left Europe with the police after him. Walther parents were given legal custody of their two grandchildren (Theodor and Maria Schubert), but Walther stole them away from his father's parsonage while his father was gravely ill. Ferdy's brother, another ordained pastor, helped with the criminal enterprise.
Walther had the children hidden from the police, who began looking for them and issued warrants for Walther's arrest. His future mother-in-law was arrested.
Walther was scheduled to leave with the Saxons on the ship Amalia, the one that sank with all lives lost. The police intended to arrest him, so he left on the next ship chartered for the group. The children were hidden away and brought later to America.
Martin Stephan Forum:
In Germany, Martin Stephan Sr. knew Walther, then a student who was starving himself to death in a form of ascetic pietism. Stephan reassured Walther that to obtain salvation, he did not need to resort to this practice, and saved this young man's life (by Walther's own admission). Walther received counsel more than once thereafter from Dr. Stephan in Germany.
The "Great Walther," prior to his leaving Germany for the States with the emigration, kidnapped two children, Theodor and Maria Schuber, children of his deceased sister, and in the court appointed guardianship of Walther's own father and mother. Before leaving Germany, Walther evaded warrants for his arrest and changed ships to elude the law, taking the children with him, leaving his father devastated, and as reported by a neighboring pastor, Georg Pleissner:
"What a faith [Walther], which can separate himself from his parental home with such devilish cunning and dark treason." (As quoted in: In Pursuit of Religious Freedom: Bishop Martin Stephan's Journey, by Philip G. Stephan, Lexington Books, 2008.)
Before disembarking in New Orleans, Walther's brother and eight others others initiated and signed the investiture of Stephan as Bishop, on January 14, 1839 in the Bay of New Orleans.
Today, Walther's actions might gain him a life sentence in prison. They brought great shame to the immigration society, whose leaders either condoned (Stephan) or shared (Vehse) in the crime.
The Missouri Synod Myth has God moving CFW to another ship, so he could lead Lutherans out of the wilderness.
Moreover, Walther and the others had to know about Stephan's adultery before they left for America. Stephan was known for being with women late at night, on evening walks and such, with the police very suspicious about his intentions and actions. Even today, a pastor who arranges to be alone with women is going to be fall under suspicion and bring people down.
My initial reading of In Pursuit of Religious Freedom, by Stephan, has shed light on many aspects of Missouri Synod history and doctrine. Stephan was a cult leader with cult followers. They pledged obedience to him as their bishop-for-life, but Walther suddenly discovered Stephan's adultery soon after they arrived in Missouri.
Walther took advantage of the confessions of two women to lead a mob to Perry County and get rid of Stephan, taking the mantle of cult leader for himself. The outrageous behavior of Walther has always been known. The facts about deposing Stephan actually penetrated the misty water-color memories of the way we were. People like Robert Preus were known for admitting that Missouri was especially nasty in how it treated leaders.
Mrs. Ichabod asked, "Why did we not know about the kidnapping before?" The book is new, but many of the facts are not. I offered two possible reasons:
- No one really cares about Missouri history or Walther, apart from the LCMS. Someone could be ordained and serve in the LCA with as much knowledge of Walther as most WELS pastors have of Hoenecke.
Sorry, Missouri - Lutheran history is not all about you.
- Anyone who knew a lot about Walther from within Missouri would be eviscerated for telling the truth about him. Hence, there will never be a good analytical biography of Walther unless someone from the outside does it.
I will post more about Stephan in the future. Some helpful links are below. Pope Paul Without a Call went Medieval on the Stephan family when the book came out.
Martin Stephan Forum
The kidnapping, from Philip Stephan's book.
Paul Sauer's notes on Martin Stephan, followed by sour notes from Paul McCain, MDiv.
Walther's future mother-in-law arrested in connection with the kidnapping.
Martin Stephan in Wikipedia.
It's the Missouri way.
Don't get me mad.