I was disappointed by this book. Burkee makes an almost convincing case that secular politics is what drove the conflict in the Missouri Synod, but those of us who lived through it know better. It will only convince the ignorant. With regard to his argument that characters on both side of the conflict were fighting for personal power and prestige—I have no doubt of that. That happens in every church fight, even at the congregational level. But I know many of the characters personally. The majority of them got involved only to defend their church and the Word of God; a few had less noble motives.
Finally, it appears that James Burkee, his dissertation readers at Northwestern University, Martin Marty, and the editors at Fortress Press were so committed to discrediting the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that they set aside the normal rules for the historical criticism of sources. No small irony there.
Here’s David Ramirez‘:
James C. Burkee’s recent book, Power Politics and the Missouri Synod: A Conflict That Changed American Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011), has received a fair amount of attention in American Lutheran circles. It is not a definitive or comprehensive history of the struggle within the Missouri Synod during the mid-twentieth century, nor does it seek to be. It is best considered a supplemental text for those who wish to study the conflict. It is certainly not going to change American Lutheran history, or how we view it. Prof. Burkee is to be commended for the hard work and long hours that went into researching, studying primary documents, and interviewing key players in the conflict. However, it is a work weak in analysis with little proof for its many sweeping assertions.