At Home in the House of Pieper: Now is the Moment for “Ecumenical Lutheranism” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson)

This is the fourth in a series of excerpts from writings of the first five presidents of our synod–Walther, Wyneken, Schwan, Pieper, and Pfotenhauer–all included in a book by Pastor Matt Harrison, “At Home in the House of My Fathers” (available through

Today’s selection comes from Franz Pieper, the fourth president of the Missouri Synod, seminary professor and president, and arguably the most influential dogmatician in our synod’s history. Incidentally, yesterday, June 3, was the 79th anniversary of Pieper’s death in 1931.

In his introduction to his translation of this essay, Harrison comments on how timely Pieper’s vision of a true “Ecumenical Lutheranism” is:

Now is the moment for the Missouri Synod to humbly but decisively hold forth her vision of an “ecumenical Lutheranism” that is committed to the classic interpretation of the Scriptures and the quia subscription to the Book of Concord. . . . Now is the moment for “ecumenical Lutheranism” as Pieper understood it, a Lutheranism that simply desires to be Lutheran. (p. 668)

This excerpt is from Pieper’s 1930 article on “Ecumenical Lutheranism”:

By God’s grace, we [Missourians] would like to do our part to serve the Lutheran Church throughout the world, so that the Church of the Reformation, our precious Lutheran Church, might achieve the unity desired by God. To this end it is necessary that we ourselves understand the correct–that is, the scriptural and also confessional–“ecumenical Lutheranism.”

By the “Lutheranism” that according to God’s will should come to be acknowledged throughout the entire world–and in this sense is “ecumenical”– we understand that Lutheranism which . . . will only teach and confess what the Lord of the Church has given to all Christians and especially to all those who teach in the Church. It will only teach and confess what the Lord has commanded to be taught and confessed. Genuine Lutheranism is, in respect to its doctrine, nothing more and nothing less than simple Christianity. . . .

The sole treasure of the Lutheran Church is its pure doctrine, which in all parts is in agreement with the Scriptures. Therefore it is incumbent upon us that by God’s grace we remain united in the pure Lutheran doctrine. . . .

Finally, we should remind ourselves of one thing. We should not forget that “ecumenical Lutheranism,” as it comes to expression in the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, cannot be retained without the continued fight against attacks from within and from without. In this struggle we must not become weary. The great treasure for which we struggle is worth the fight. (pp. 669, 673, 674)

Yes, I agree with Pastor Harrison: This is Missouri’s moment! Pieper’s vision of a genuine “ecumenical Lutheranism” has never been more timely. We have an open door right now to work with fellow Lutherans around the world who are looking to Missouri for partnership in confessionally faithful Lutheranism. I have met many of these good brothers from other lands–from Africa, from Asia, even from Sweden! It is exciting to see the opportunities the Lord is laying before us! It’s time!


At Home in the House of Pieper: Now is the Moment for “Ecumenical Lutheranism” (by Pr. Charles Henrickson) — 10 Comments

  1. Has any effort been made to distribute free copies of this book to the voting delegates? I realize it is getting late–perhaps a postcard giving an email they can send to for a free copy?

    I also realize that if half took the offer that would be over $10,000. And granted that the price is already fantastic–when I bought my copy recently at CPH in St. Louis I told my wife that, at only $19.99 for a hard cover volume several inches thick, on a per pound basis it is the greatest bargain in theological books ever!

    But distributing it free to interested delegates would be a great donation, if there happen to be any willing donors out there! Or perhaps someone would subsidize the delegates for 50% off the already low price, which might even be better. People love getting a special bargain–although as I say it really is a bargain already.

    I literally could not put my copy down. Not “heavy” reading at all but quite fascinating and amazingly applicable to our times.

  2. Actually, quite a few were given away at the regional gatherings. I know I was given a box of them to distribute. Several other people had boxes to give away as well. So just at our regional BRTF meeting, NWD, SWD, SELC, & NID there were probably 3-4 boxes given out.

  3. Great quote. Lutheranism is simply true Christian doctrine. And that is the SOLE treasure of the Lutheran church.

  4. Looking in from Winnipeg Canada I can only hope and pray that Pr. Harrison is elected the next President of the LCMS because yes, it is time. I have read his Little Book of Joy and it is a treasure and must order at Home in the Church of My Fathers soon.

  5. I was listening again to Pr Wilken’s presentation at the BJS conference on “The Myth of LCMS Exceptionalism”.

    He mentions a quote from Pr Weedon that “The denomination (LCMS) is fiction, the Confessions are Truth”. He refers to members of the Preus family in attendance being in a truer fellowship with their family non-LCMS relatives than with some “LCMS” members and pastors.

    There were/are confessional Lutherans outside the LCMS. There will be confessional Lutherans if/when there is no more LCMS.

  6. @jim_claybourn #7
    I think in a very similar vein to the Pieper quote, and your quote, here is a quote from an article by Pr. Prof. Hermann Sasse, from The Springfielder, Spring 1967 edition, entitled: “CONFESSIONAL CHURCHES IN THE ECUMENICAL M0VEMENT WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE to LUTHERAN WORLD FEDERATION. I think the entire article is a must read:
    These are good fighting words and good fighting words are also encouraging:

    “We know that our church throughout the world has still confessors. We know that there are still many faithful Lutherans also in the churches belonging to the L.W.F. We refuse to believe that our churches will fall a prey to that evil spirit of an “ecumenism” which has nothing to do with the true ecumenicity of the Church, but is a spiritual disease which
    destroys that by which the Una Sancta lives, the authoritative Word of God and the sacraments as Christ has instituted them. We know how great the dangers are for our churches, as for all churches. If our bishops and presidents are no longer guardians of the doctrine, let them go. God will judge them. If our professors are no longer teachers of the Word of God, but talkers who in their vanity and self-conceit think they can solve all problems of the church by way of a dialog, let them talk. But let them not expect from our congregations that they pay the exorbitant costs of their conferences which produce nothing but papers with which nobody is satisfied. Let us remind our professors of Luther’s word: “Non in doctrina, sed in disputatione veritas amittitur,” not by teaching, but by discussing the truth is lost. And if they are ashamed of the doctrine of their church in this age of uncertainty, relativism and unbelief, let us remind them of the courage of Luther who dared to resist the skepticism of the man who was at that time the spokesman of European education and scholarship, with the words: “The Holy Spirit is no skeptic.”

  7. To #7. I was Lutheran before I was Lutheran. Meaning after years of Bible study and trying to sort out my faith, once I became an LCMS Lutheran, I realized I has been Lutheran in my heart all along even while calling myself a Methodist, then a Baptist, then an Evangelical Free. Only when I came to the LCMS did I realize all my Bible study was schooling me in a faith that was not lining up with the other denominations I had belonged to. I may not feel a kinship with all LCMS members, certainly not with the Willow Creek crowd, but I will always bear the name Lutheran Christian written on my heart, for that is what I was before I even knew it. Kind of like the song, “I was country before country was cool”. Ha.

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