Friday, April 27, 2012

The Waltherian Spin on the Election Strife

The LCMS is Mormon-like in its
hagiography and veneration of C. F. W. Walther

F. A. Schmidt (1837-1928) was a member of the Concordia Seminary faculty in St. Louis, from 1872 to 1876. He graduated from Concordia and taught at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, until he joined the St. Louis faculty. The Preus family is quite prominent in the history of Luther College. Schmidt left Concordia in 1876 and served Luther College and other Norwegian institutions. Schmidt was fluent in Norwegian and English. (Suelflow, Servant of the Word, p. 104)

Suelflow dug up this nugget from the Lutheran Witness, which is quite illuminating, since it parallels how Walther treat the son of Bishop Martin Stephan:

Now someone among the friends or enemies informed Professor Schmidt that Dr. Walther had prevented his nomination by putting on such a face and shrugging up his shoulders in such a manner, when Professor Schmidt's name was mentioned, as to indicate he would not like Schmidt as a colleague. Though there is not a word of truth in this, Schmidt took it for granted and--now comes the worst feature--took it also as an affronting challenge of his [Schmidt's] orthodoxy, which he was found to avenge...We reasoned with him there, and not knowing the facts, we begged him for the sake of the Church, even if Walther should have done something out of the way, not to act in a rancorous spirit, but to consider that God had given him more knowledge and talents than others, to employ these in the maintenance of harmony and peace in the Church, and not to destroy his own usefulness, that our Professors should not make the whole Church suffer for the infirmities they find with their brethren. But he had his mind fixed. (Suelflow, p. 110f. - citing Meyer, Log Cabin to Luther Tower, p. 70.)

Without the details about Walther making a face, this story is told repeatedly about the real cause of the election controversy - it happened because Schmidt was not elected to the job.

Walther's chosen disciple was elected instead. Contrary to Suelflow, Fuerbringer said that Pieper's election to the post was unusual. The synod convention elected Pieper, while Fuerbringer said the best approach was the "electoral college," which I assume meant going out to the districts. WELS pretends to do that when manipulating votes.


Fuerbringer was irenic in his presentation of the old battles, and his tidbit suggests to me that his Uncle Walther created division by slighting one professor, selecting another one himself, and making sure it happened at a convention he could control. Walther was just as democratic as his disciple, Jack Cascione, allowing everyone to vote as long they agreed with him.

The arguments against Schmidt could easily be turned around. If he had been such a heretic, why did he teach at the seminary, the school from which he graduated? Walther called Schmidt "his hands."

The LCMS has dismissed the election controversy as turning on Schmidt's "rancorous spirit," self-destruction (!), and obstinancy. "But he had his mind fixed."

However, it is generally assumed and often affirmed that Walther chose F. Pieper for the job, a fact that WELS enjoys repeating, since the Pieper family was Wisconsin Synod. Needless to say, Pieper was slavishly devoted to Walther's UOJ, repeating the double-justification scheme of Knapp (Halle University, where Bishop Stephan and Hoenecke studied).

Excusing the election controversy through personal attacks against one man is troublesome for anyone studying the history of doctrine. The facts do not match the theory. For instance, Stellhorn came from the original Perryville cult and taught at Ft. Wayne, but he also parted company with Missouri.

Stellhorn was an author of the Error of Missouri.

In those days, before pension funds and synod ownership of property, men were much braver in discussing doctrinal issues. Nevertheless, it was difficult for men to part company with others who were related in doctrine and through family ties.

Later I will try to get into more detail about all this, which figures in the promotion and ultimate victory of UOJ - forgiveness without faith.
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