Speaking of BJS in Canada, Walt Otten Checks in with Steadfast Lutherans from the Past

(A few weeks ago we heralded the first international BJS chapter. It is up in Ontario, Canada. Pastor Otten in his regular column takes us north of the border again for another Steadfast Lesson from the Past. Be sure to check out our other regular columns for posts you may have missed.)

This STEADFAST LESSONS FROM THE PAST does not arise out of a search of this retired writer’s files, as Rossow directed him to do for his posts on this website. “There,” Rossow said, “you would find material that would reveal how faithful brothers in years past boldly confessed and defended confessional Lutheran theology.”

Instead, this comes from a search of the files, but that search was not precipitated by looking for material for a post in BROTHERS OF JOHN THE STEADFAST. A look into this old man’s files was occasioned by hearing of the sad reality that the first congregation in Canada to join the Missouri Synod, St. Peter Lutheran Church of Rhineland, Ontario, because of a decrease in membership, is no longer worshipping in that place where it was first founded in 1854 by Pr. Wm. Loehe’s first Sendling, Pr. Adam Ernst. Ernst was present at First St. Paul of Chicago when the Missouri Synod was founded there in 1847, and was one of the original signers of Synod’s first constitution. The remaining members of St. Peter of Rhineland, which he founded, will become one congregation with St. Luke Lutheran Church of Tillsonburg, Ontario. St. Peter of Rhineland was where this writer was ordained 50 years ago and was served by him from 1959-1962.

Found in this writer’s St. Peter files was the 50th anniversary booklet of the Ontario District Walther League, 1910-1960. One may well question the name “The Ontario District Walther League.” Was not the “Walther League” the youth group of the local congregation, not the youth group of the District? Yes, most congregations in Ontario had their local congregational Walther League, but many of the local Walther Leagues also voted to join the District’s “Walther League.” The Ontario District Walther League was a federation of local Walther Leagues that had independently voted to join the district league. The district’s Walther League held annual conventions. There officers were elected that organized and planned joint activity for all the local leagues. It worked well. 1960 marked the 50th year of such activity. An anniversary booklet was prepared. It reveals what the Walther League once was. Page two explains the booklet’s cover. The cover was designed by and the explanation was written by the president of the Ontario District Walther League, Paul Pollex. Paul would later enter the seminary and become a pastor, but he had not yet done so in 1960. What Paul designed and wrote brought joy where there had been sadness for this nostalgic reader. The cover is almost totally black. Of the cover Paul writes,

“Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.’ Rev 2:10

On the cover the almighty wounded hand of God the Son gives the crown of life to all who have been faithful to Him throughout their lives. The Way of Life is represented by the three vertical golden lines. Man is set upon the Way of Life which leads to God by the power of God the Spirit using as His means the Word and Sacrament…

Gold is the colour of the crown of salvation, of joy, of peace. Black is the colour of sin, sorrow, and eternal death.

Man is lost in total darkness of sin. In the blackness of sin appears the golden rays of God’s love. Love is manifested in the Hand nailed to the cross. It is this Hand which reaches down into man’s life of death and fills all of life with the golden ray of life and hope and joy. It is this message of love that is employed by the Holy Spirit to lead us to the Way of Life.

We live our lives in the framework of this love. Satan would draw us from the Way. At times we do fall, we fall back into the outer darkness of sin. But again the Hand of love and grace intervenes and returns us to the Way of Life.

The Walther League programme, shown as the insignia, has always stood on the Way of Life. It has and does show us the way we should go. At this golden anniversary of the Ontario District Walther League we should pray that this unswerving guideline will continue to lead us and the youth of the future in the way we should go, so that we too shall receive the crown of life.”

When Walther Leaguer Paul Pollex wrote this he was not writing for BROTHERS OF JOHN THE STEADFAST, but what he wrote not only shows us what the Walther League once was, did, and confessed, but what it is that the BROTHERS OF JOHN THE STEADFAST seek to preserve.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Speaking of BJS in Canada, Walt Otten Checks in with Steadfast Lutherans from the Past — 2 Comments

  1. Inspiring post, Pastor.

    I understand that in the 60’s the national Walther League fell under the sway of the “peace movement” and also the liberal theological currents of the day (historical criticism, etc.). They even invited the communist folk musician Pete Seeger to play/speak at their national conference! I don’t know if synod moved to put the kabash on them after that, if they just dwindled out due to a loss of real identity and the growth of other options for youth, or what. Probably a combination of things.

    Put it really is a shame what happened to the Walther League. I know of a few couples 20-30 years older than me that met at WL functions. And they share the faith witnessed by Paul Pollex and the steadfast youth of Ontario so many years ago.

    Thanks be to God that He has blessed a similar movement today for young, orthodox Lutherans: Higher Things. I have been blessed and encouraged by the witness and zeal of several young people who are or have been involved with HT, and have attended a couple of their national conferences.

    Organizations like HT, BJS, Lutheran Heritage Foundation, and, of course, the radio program Issues, Etc., give me encouragement that the Lord is renewing our synod and kindling in us the fire of His love. It has been a long winter for the LCMS. Thanks be to God for this blessed spring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.