27.10.11

Reprise: Sasse on Walther's Churchmanship, in honour of the 200th anniversary of the latter's birth

'It was the context in which Lutherans found themselves in the American Midwest - where a land quickly opened up for settlement was subsequently swamped by immigrants from all the European nations and churches - which made the Lutheran Church there a missionary church. In this context, the church had to gain her members through missionary outreach, and her congregations were, like all churches in the US, gatherings, assemblies or societies of individuals who had consciously decided to belong to the church of their choice. This is the distinctly American trait in the character of the Missouri Synod, which derives from the history of that nation, and the same trait is found in all the other Lutheran synods of western America. However, it is given its strongest expression in the Missouri Synod, for this version of Lutheranism possessed that which in a mission situation really makes a church a missionary church: the awareness of a particular calling and a firm conviction about what is to be believed (dogma), which alone makes missionary preaching possible. The self-understanding of the early Missourians of being a remnant of pure Lutheranism was refined through catastrophe and by Walther's preaching and pastoral care into a truly Lutheran consciousness of being church - an assembly standing on the foundation of justifying grace and drawing its life from the means of grace. This explains the Missouri Synod's awareness of a particular calling and the dogmatic conviction that is inseparably bound up with it - which is tied to Lutheran Orthodoxy.'


From Confession and Theology in the Missouri Synod, Letters to Lutheran Pastors No. 20, July 1951.

(Sasse begins this section of his essay by noting the profound influence of Lutheran Orthodoxy on the founder of the Missouri Synod, Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther.)

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