Lutheran Quarterly, Volume XXVIII/3
This volume celebrates the fortieth anniversary of the formation of the Selbständige Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche (SELK) on June 25, 1972. It is packed with details about various efforts to unite Evangelical Lutherans in Germany who declared independence from state churches. The first seven chapters each treat groups of Lutherans that had formed in reaction against the Union Church: I. The Old Lutherans and II. The Immanuel Synod, both in Prussia; III. The Lutherans in Baden; IV The Lutheran Free Church, in Saxony and other states; V. The Renitente Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession; VI. The Lutheran Church in the region of Hesse; and VII. The Free Churches in Hannover. Six topical chapters deal withVIII. World Mission; IX. Jewish Mission; X. The Diaconate; XI. Educational Efforts; XII. Efforts at larger unions; and XIII. Ecumenical Issues.
A separate companion volume provides detailed historical documentation from the past two hundred years. The present volume lists such documents, along with Leaders and sites that played important roles. Including the editors, who serve on the faculty at the Lutherische theologische Hochschule in Oberursel, Germany, eight authors contributed chapters. Thirty photographs are primarily of major players. This volume also discusses two other independent German Lutheran groups, the ELFK (Evangelische-Lutherische Freikirche) and the ELKiB (Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Baden).
Brief comments from the early chapters will have to suffice to give a taste of the volume. Chapter I describes how the Prussian State, under Friedrich Wilhelm III, sought to streamline church administration through a union of Lutheran and Reformed Churches in the early 1800s. The resulting forms for pastoral examinations, ordination, Eucharistic fellowship and the pressure for a common liturgy brought tensions to a head. When the union was established in 1830, pushback from »Lutherans« followed. Johann Gottfried Scheibel, a professor in Breslau, was the first of many to lose a teaching or pastoral position. The harshest blow was struck by infantry and cavalry against the parish in Hönigern on Christmas Eve, 1834. Friedrich Wilhelm IV lightened the pressure in 1847 so that those who wanted to continue as »Old Lutherans« could have limited freedoms. Chapter II describes how others during this decade left the union church but came up with a different way to structure the church; a separate Immanuel Synod was formed (1864).
Prussian expansion during the 1860s and unionistic pressures brought other groups of Lutherans into the discussion about forming their own free churches. Chapter III speaks of Lutherans and the Reformed uniting in Baden in 1821. Carl Eichhorn, pastor in Nußloch/Heidelberg, rejected that solution and left for confessional reasons in 1850, joining the Prussian Lutherans. Others left as well; three other separate groups that formed in Baden united only in 1903.They remain independent (the ELKiB). The union in Saxony (Chapter IV) dates to 1817. In 1846, Friedrich August Brunn led those who left that union, supported by both Wilhelm Löhe and C.F.W. Walther. Later, Karl Georg Stöckhardt and some missionaries formed the Evangelical-Lutheran Free Church in Saxony, offering greater participation by the laity. Stöckhardt later came to the U. S. and taught for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
Space precludes even brief comments from the other chapters. This volume gives a taste of the key events that led to the formation of the churches that now form the SELK and matters of church polity, sacramental practice, and mission emphases important to it. It is a helpful, though brief overview and introduction to the background of the SELK.
Thomas H. Trapp