Unsung Steadfast Heroes of Past LCMS Battles, by Pr. Walt Otten

(Editor’s Note: Pastor Otten writes the BJS regular column “Steadfast Lessons from the Past.” The columns are archived here. Walter Bouman, well known liberal, of whom he writes here left the LCMS and became an ALC pastor in 1977. He died in 2008. The lesser known pastors and laymen that brother Otten brings to our attention are the real heroes.)


“Brother Rossow you want two columns a month under the theme STEADFAST LESSONS FROM THE PAST?”


His reply, “Yes, old man, just dig into your files!”


That digging revealed those who were “steadfast” in the past.


The March 19th, 1967 issue of THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control of Concordia Teachers College of River Forest, Illinois was considering giving tenure to Dr. Walter Bouman, a member of the faculty. The REPORTER indicated that the Board of Control was asking for information from the church at large concerning Dr. Bouman.


Two years earlier THE LUTHERAN WITNESS REPORTER reported on a presentation that Dr. Bouman had given at the Northwest Indiana Pastor’s and Teacher’s Conference held at Valparaiso, Indiana. The conference dealt with the theme “Evolution and/or Creation.” Besides Dr. Bouman two pro evolution professors from Valpo were participants, as well as Dr. John Klotz, Dr. Paul Zimmerman and Professor Rusch, all creationists. The REPORTER article included the words, “In his theological analysis Dr. Bouman advanced arguments supporting the thesis that the conflict in the evolution   issue is not posed by science or by the nature of the Bible texts or by the position of the Lutheran Confessions, but ‘by a theological opinion   about the nature of inspiration.'” The article continued, “He found fault with the ‘theory of inspiration’ held by Lutheran dogmaticians which makes inspiration the ‘direct communication of otherwise unknowable information.'”


Dr. Bouman’s actual words at the conference were “If, in the process, he (the scientist) discovers facts which do not support the world view of the biblical writers, the church today really has very little difficulty living with both the fact that is discovered and with the Scriptures which is still continues to listen to…The point I’m trying to make here is this. That where the scientific research confronts us with a fact, there we can manage to find a new way to interpret the Scriptures even though a man as revered in our own tradition as I’m sure all of us revere Dr. Pieper thought otherwise.”


Dr. Bouman had said essentially the same thing in an article he prepared for the 1965 LUTHERAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION YEARBOOK. In his unedited copy he wrote, “The evangelical approach, because it hears the Word of God as Law and Gospel, is neither bound to Biblical cosmology nor deaf to the Word of God as expressed through biblical cosmology.” In that article, which evaluated Lutheran education materials, he wrote of the Primary Religion Series for the 8th grade,

“In the 8th grade one of the objectives is that the children accept the ‘biblical account of creation’ and receive ‘the courage to support and defend it.’   How sad. Our children deserve something better than this. If one begins with Law and Gospel, then learns something about the literary history and the literary nature of the Genesis prolog…then we should have no fear of theories which can possibly expand our vision of God’s working.”


What did the Board of Control hear from the church at large when it asked for information concerning granting tenure to Dr. Bouman,  when he   had so publicly written and spoken? Who would teach us a lesson of STEADFASTNESS?


There were seventeen “letters of protest.” The names of those who wrote such letters of protested are perhaps not know by many, now forty one years later.


Four of the seventeen letters came from laymen. Their names are here mentioned out of deep respect for these Brothers of John the Steadfast, who for the most part are now in the presence of Him Whom they confessed and served.  Three of the four were from the Northern Illinois District. One was Gerhardt Freundt, a consulting engineer. If the open hearing that preceded the 1962 Cleveland convention of the Synod was recorded, and that recording were still available, one today could hear his evangelical and dramatic appeal to Dr. Martin Scharlemann to no longer hold the views that he expressed in his controversial essays. (Dr. Scharlemann eventually recanted his views and became a staunch supporter of conservativism but prior to that had embraced elements of the liberal higher criticism.)


Another who protested was Karl Heinecke of Western Springs, Illinois. Karl served his Lord in a most unassuming way. It was he who was most responsible for THE WEST TOWNS DAILY CHAPEL over station WTAQ. For many years the Gospel was broadcast daily on this program from this station at 8:00 a.m. It reached all of Chicagoland and Northern Indiana. Countless homebound Christians were daily sustained by it.    It was he who organized and scheduled 10 Missouri Synod pastors for their biweekly Gospel broadcast.


Another layman, who sent a letter of protest, was a dear friend of this writer, Marv Toepper, deeply committed to Christ, Christian education and Lutheran confessionalism from his earliest days at Grace Lutheran Church of Chicago. Grace was then served by  Pastor Elbert, a member of the old Chicago Study Club, whose members read THE CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN with gratitude.


The one layman who protested, who did not come from Illinois, was Ralph Lohrengel. His home was in Michigan. Ralph alone remains as the one of the four laymen who still serves as a “steadfast” servant in the church militant.


Five of the “letters of protest” came from pastors of the Northern Illinois District. Pastors Robert Kamphoefner of Immanuel in Dundee; Pastor Martin Lopahs of St. Paul, Round Lake;   Pastor John Lutze of Immanuel, Downers Grove; Pastor Ray Wessler of St. John, Calument City; and Pastor Harold Krueger of Lake Zurich all dear friends wrote urging the Board of Control of the River Forest college not to grant tenure to Dr. Bouman. One of these pastors and his congregation, St. Paul’s of Round Lake, left the Synod after the 1971 Milwaukee convention of synod for the failure of that convention to fully address and faithfully confess all the issues then facing the synod. Dr. Bouman was still on the River Forest faculty, with tenure.


Four congregations, either via their voter’s assembly or board of elders, submitted “letters of protest.” The board of elders of Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor A.O. Gebauer\ and the board of elders of Holy Cross Lutheran Church of Cary, Illinois, served by Pastor Robert Hess urged the Board of Control not to grant tenure. St. Andrews Lutheran Church of Chicago, served by Pastor Martin Frick and St. Paul Lutheran Church of Brookfield, Illinois, served by this writer, also so urged that tenure not be granted. St. Andrews of Chicago, and their pastor, Martin Frick, would also leave the Synod after the Milwaukee convention for the same reasons as did St. Paul of Round Lake.


Four “letters of protest” came from outside Illinois. Pastors Richard Borchers of Fairmount, North Dakota; Pastor Harold Braun of St. Paul, Minnesota; Pastor C.A. Rathjen of Muscoda, Wisconsin; and Pastor Waldo Werning of Milwaukee all expressed their desire that Dr. Bouman not be given tenure.


There were fifteen “letters of commendation.” With one exception these were letters from individuals. The one exception was a letter from the church council of Ascension Lutheran Church of Riverside, where Dr. Martin Marty held membership. Ascension Lutheran Church would leave the LCMS in the Seminex days.


Individual “letters of commendation” came from Dr. Alfred Fuerbringer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. In his letter he told the Board that Dr. Bouman had taught summer courses at the St. Louis Seminary.


Dr. Arthur Repp, the Academic dean of the St. Louis Seminary also wrote a “letter of commendation.” He also mentioned the fact that Dr. Bouman had taught at the seminary.


The executive director of the CTCR, Dr. Richard Jungkuntz, urged the board to grant tenure, as did the former President of the Northern Illinois District, Pastor Erwin Paul. The word “former” in identifying Pastor Erwin Paul has much to do with Dr. Walter Bouman, but that’s for another column.


It was forty one years ago so the fact that some of these letters were handwritten is not unexpected. Such a letter was received from the President of the Minnesota District, urging tenure. It was written by President Alfred Seltz.


The Dean of the Chapel at Valpo, Pastor William Buege, also urged the Board to grant tenure, as did Dr. Bouman’s own pastor, Dr. F. Dean Lueking of Grace Lutheran Church of River Forest, a congregation that also left the LCMS.


The chairman of the Theology Department of Concordia Teacher’s College of River Forest wrote similarly. That chairman was Dr. Ralph Gehrke, who himself was found guilty of teaching contrary to the Word of God.   But that’s another story.


A “letter of recommendation” came from the Secretary of Campus Ministry, Pastor Reuben Hahn.


Other pastors who supported the granting of tenure were Pastor Kurt Grotheer of the Lutheran Church of St. Luke in Itasca, Illinois, Pastor Daniel Fuelling of Zion, Bensenville, Illinois, Pastor Walter Lamp of   Mount Olive in Rockford, Illinois, Pastor Dennis Schlecht of Christ the King in Schumberg, Illinois, and Pastor James Manz of First St. Paul, Chicago.  


Space and time do not permit comments on the content of all the letters. Some of those supporting tenure were very careful in what was said. To share the contents of these letters would be most revealing, but hopefully the source for all of the above “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE, River Forest, Illinois, MEETING, MAY 23, 1967, 2:00 P.M.” is available at Concordia Historical Institute and not only in the files of this writer. Many of those letters reveal even more clearly the issues that gave birth to Seminex than the Blue Book.


President Oliver Harms was ultimately involved in the matter. The May 23rd meeting did not find the Board granting tenure. President Harms subsequently wrote to those opposing tenure to supply adequate documentation for their opposition to the granting of tenure. “BOOK 1, MATERIAL FOR THE ELECTORS of CONCORDIA TEACHERS COLLEGE” contains a 20 page response to the request of Dr. Harms. That response is most revealing.  But this 20 page document did not stop the granting of tenure, it was ultimately granted. To some it seemed that the granting of tenure was unnecessarily long delayed. The Board heard from those concerned about the delay. One such letter came from Pastor Rueben Spannaus, head of Lutheran Child and Family Services.


But who were the “STEADFAST” ones in this matter. Were   the church leaders the steadfast ones? Was it the Seminary President or the seminary Dean, or the CTCR executive secretary? Were they the “steadfast” ones? Were the District Presidents the “steadfast” ones? Was the chairman of the theology department “steadfast?” No, rather the response of these men revealed the deep theological and confessional dilemma the Synod was facing.


Who were the steadfast ones? They were laymen and “just” pastors of congregations, yes, one was a district Stewardship  Exec, but the others were pastors without any position in the Synod except a “divine call” to serve a Christian congregation.


And now, as Paul Harvey says, for “the rest of the story.” In a paper delivered April 9th, 2002 entitled “CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN RESOURSES FOR ADDRESSING THE STUDY OF HUMAN SEXUALITY” Dr. Bouman, by then a member of ELCA, not because he had been disciplined by Missouri, employing the same theological principles he did in the 1965 LEA YEARBOOK, discusses homosexuality, and those theological principles are for still another column. It is a 30 page paper, heavy with footnotes. He says that there are three options or alternatives suggested for the one who is homosexual or lesbian. One of the suggested alternatives is “celibacy.” He writes, “The one alternative which is not open to the Lutheran tradition is the requirement of celibacy.” He supports his assertion that celibacy is not an option by quoting a famous theological source which says “No human law or vow can nullify a command or institution of God.” From whence does this assertion of Dr. Bouman come? It comes from the Augsburg Confession. Where is it found? It is found in the article on the Marriage of Priests. He writes of this quotation of the Augsburg Confession “This seems to be equally applicable to the situations of persons with homosexual orientation.” So we cannot expect a homosexual to be celibate.


Tenure anyone?

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