Monday, February 28, 2011

The Galesburg Rule...

History is filled with loose ends and lost opportunities.  One of those represents the loose end and lost opportunity of some closer tie and even fellowship between the General Council (under the leadership of Charles Porterfield Krauth) and the Missouri Synod.  In the backdrop of the General Synod and its more "liberal" approach, Krauth prepared a series of theses on pulpit and altar fellowship. It became known as the “Akron-Galesburg Rule (short hand - Galesburg Rule),” and it basically said “Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only, and Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only.” This Rule was not without its permitted exceptions but it was  a watershed moment in the seemingly relentless drive of Lutheranism (General Synod) toward ecumenical relationships that ignored, overlooked, or wrote off Lutheran distinctives. 

The dates for this are long ago:  the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (the General Council) began in 1867 at the efforts of seven regional Lutheran bodies who had left the General Synod.  Krauth stood in opposition to Samuel Simon Schmucker (not the jelly and jam kind) who had led Lutheranism in America away from its Confession and toward a theological understanding more at home with the Protestantism of the US at that time.

History is a cycle and if we fail to learn its lessons the first time, it will come around again and offer us another shot at it.  So we face a situation remarkably similar today.  On one hand we have a Lutheranism willing to forgo all sorts of Lutheran distinctives in favor of a broad ecumenical endeavor in which diversity is more the organizing principle than unity of confession.  This same group has jumped on the bandwagon of social change and expressed support for same sex marriage and opened the ministerium to gay people in PALMS (publicly accountable, life-long, monogamous, same-gender relationships).  On the other hand, we have a Lutheranism which is united in opposition to these but not so much united together (LCMS, WELS, ELS, et. al.).

Which gets me back to the Galesburg Rule -- once a hallmark of Lutheran identity and confession.  We continue to await a person like Krauth who can rally those opposed to the Schmuckerisms of our present day situation (in the ELCA toward mainline Protestants and in Missouri toward evangelicals) and lead us back to some unanimity and unity about what it means to be Lutheran in this place and at this time.

We are in a crisis situation -- a crisis of leadership.  This is not only because we face of dearth of individuals with national identity, authority, and persuasive character to lead us.  This is also because we do not want to be led.  It seems now more than ever we are content with the fractures as long as they hold out a place for each of us as Pastors and parishes in which to hide and do our own things.  We in Missouri face a group of people who are constantly moving the markers of purity to make it a smaller and smaller path.  They in the ELCA face people who are constantly moving the markers of openness until no one is excluded no matter what they believe (except perhaps, traditionalists).  Yet we have not united or sought the unanimity which allows us to become a force for reckoning the way the Galesburg Rule became a force to rally and reframe the American Lutheran identity for years to come.

Ahhhh for a Krauth to be raised up today and take advantage of the environment in a way that our fore bearers did not in the middle and late 1800s....  

Just some Monday thoughts as it rains cats and dogs outside...


Paul said...

I'm awaiting Pastor Harrison's first "Hirtenbrief" (shepherd's epistle)that will begin to do exactly what you are pointing out. We may not want leadership, but we certainly are in dire need of it, and I believe most will respond positively to substantive, theological persuasion.

Pastor Jim Wagner said...

Sadly, in the ELCA the Galesburg Rule is gone, lost, forgotten. But at the risk of getting clobbered, I wonder if it was ever really accepted in Missouri. For the most part Missouri altars and pulpits were closed not only to non-Lutherns but to most other Lutherans as well.

I cannot help but believe that had Missouri been less sectarian and more open to fellowship, the ELCA would not be where it is today.

On the other hand the ELCA drift toward liberal Protestantism makes a perfect foil for Missouri's conservatism.

Anonymous said...

The Galesburg Rule of 1875 was real
common sense Eucharist Policy that
the laity could understand: Lutheran
altars for Lutherans only.

In 1969 the LCMS voted for altar and
pulpit fellowship with ALC. This was
applauded as reaffirming Galesburg

In 1981 the LCMS voted to stop the
1969 agreement with the ALC because
they ordained women.

So a LCMS Midwest parish communed
its members' ALC relatives from the
West Coast for 12 years. Then in
1981 the pastor had to tell those
visiting relatives they were no
longer welcome at the parish altar.
Or the pastor could tell them LCMS
Communion Policy was a political
football kicked around and voted on
but that he still upheld the
Galesburg Rule.

Clint Hoff & Family said...

I love Krauth, not only was he bright and solidly Lutheran, but he wrote in English.

Pastor Jim Wagner said...

The brief interlude between 1969 and 1981 is often memtioned as a time of fellowship that ended in disappointmnet for both churches. By 1969 however the future die (no pun intended) of the ALC/ELCA was already cast. Witness the 1970 ordinations.

I would argue that the time for fellowship and Galesburg was in those years between 1875 and 1960, when Missouri could have been a genuine partner with the old ALC and certain other synods. As it was Missouri chose to stand over against them in a way the did not prove very positive.

Perhaps the outcome would have been the same. We'll never know. But my guess is that had there been genuine fellowship with Missouri all those years the old/new ALC would have been reluctant to break it.

Anonymous said...

As a lay person who was once in the ELCA, I saw no indication that the laity were in any way determined towards all the innovations. However, neither were they disposed to oppose false teaching by demanding the resignations of false teachers. I think that all of the innovation came from the seminaries and pastors. I am very sorry to say that, but it is what I saw and I believe why so many left.

Had Missouri had a closer relationship, it seems to me more likely they just would have been infected with the same. Then there would have been nowhere for faithful Lutherans to go to when they left the ELCA. My husband was lifelong ELCA but I just married into it somewhat uneasily. I am grateful that Missouri was there when he was finally convinced that the ELCA teaching was not appropriate for our children. Now our children have a place to grow up where they don't have to see a woman preaching on Sundays nor are they being taught the rest of the ELCA's errors while at once believing their parents and even the Bible support such teaching.

The road of fellowship with error seems too wide a path.

Fr. Lovett said...

To the "Anonymous" above: it is a mistake to think that because there is Missouri, there is a safe place to gather free from the ordination of women and liberal theology. It is everywhere and no church is immune to it.
On the other hand, I fully believe that Missouri - as a body - is the last bastion of orthodoxy in our country. But we must admit that she does tend toward sectarianism. And she will as long as she continues to be defined by her past rather than by the liturgy. Any church that defines itself by its history will loose itself. It is as our Lord says, "The one who finds his life will loose it."
But if we would embrace the liturgy - serving the Lord - then we would find our life. In my opinion, ACVII speaks of Sunday morning, not of doctrinal statements.

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

It is fascinating to me after all these years of being told by brothers and sisters in the ELCA that if only Missouri would stop being so sectarian we could be in altar and pulpit fellowship all the rancor between us would end. I was told again and again how ‘we’ were behind the times and it was destroying us from within and besmirching our Christian witness. It used to be that it was our sectarianism that kept us from stepping into the bright new light that the ELCA enjoyed. Now that the proverbial chickens (i.e., the teachings of Bultmann, have come to roost; meaning the ecumenism, hermeneutics, and social activism over sanctification that the ELCA has embraced is now causing strife and schism within their ranks it is once again time to point fingers at Missouri sectarianism.

The genesis of the ELCA can be laid at the feet of one Rev. Franklin Clark Fry, aka “Mr. Protestant,’ some 40 plus years before the St. Louis seminary majority walked off into the sunset to Eden (seminary) in 1972.

The ELCA didn't 'drift' into liberal protestantism, it was there when it's foundation was laid. Missouri has been speaking to the ELCA for years about what they were doing, and the direction they were going, and at every assembly the LCMS President's words carried more gravity and brotherly concern. President Kieshnick was as clear as anyone could be about the dangers of where the ELCA was going, and the majority did not listen. But its still seems to be our fault.

Anonymous said...

Attention Rev. Allen Bergstrazer

It was actually February 1974 when
85% of the students and 90% of the
faculty of Concordia Seminary in
St. Louis walked off the campus to
form Seminex with the assistance
of Eden Seminary and St. Louis

Fr. Lovett said...

I am a Missouri pastor, and absolutely happy and thankful for it. When I say that we sometimes appear sectarian it is because we dismiss pastors and theologians because they are ELCA, not because of what the pastor/theologian may actually believe, teach, and confess.
We must deal with the corporate body, but we shouldn't throw the baby out with bath water.

Pastor Jim Wagner said...

My point was NOT that Missouri and the ELCA could or should come into fellowship. That will not happen. But 60 or 90 or 120 years ago the churches that are now the ELCA were very different bodies, and some of them might well have been faithful fellowship partners had they been met with some sense of understanding.

The fact is, most Lutherans in America were pretty conservative Christians until about fifty or sixty years ago.

I am continually amazed at the respect Krauth now has among Missourians. But then he's been dead for generations!

Rev. Allen Bergstrazer said...

annon, I stand corrected. Thank you.