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Historical Markings

Where Have We Been?

Where Are We Going?

. . . Now we can attempt a summary of the Missouri Synod in 1920 after 75 years of history. It was a strong church, loyal to the Gospel, confessionally courageous, filled with a mission zeal that had caused it to be a mustard tree indeed where thousands upon thousands found rest. It was well-organized and well-disciplined so that its efforts to promote the Gospel were unhindered by inefficiency and lack of unity. As such it was a great vessel of God to spread the true Gospel to countless people in our land. Its mission zeal in foreign work brought it to India, China, Africa, and Latin America. It spread throughout Canada.

Its weaknesses came from the flaws of Walther since he was so great that he dominated the picture not only in his own lifetime, but for the entire 75 years. The weaknesses we have mentioned led to its becoming more and more Missouri: Missouri-minded, Missouri-conscious, Missouri-loyal. The people were trained not only in the Word and doctrine, but in the knowledge that one must remain in the Missouri Synod until death. Thus the ecumenical spirit was lacking. There was antagonism toward the outside; there was a great lack of even knowing what else was going on in the ecclesiastical world. All literature read by clergy and laity was produced by Concordia. So though it was strong and large, it was strikingly uninfluential in America. It engendered much antagonism which cannot be laid alone to its confessional position, but also to its partisan presentation of the Gospel, its insistence on Missourian and Waltherian ways and expressions.

. . . Rebellion against the legalistic rigidity was bound to come. Missouri wanted growth above all, and its isolationist policy was beginning to hurt. . . . Young men in Missouri began to attend the secular universities and their associated theological schools. . . . Because their awakening came not from sound teachers within the synod, but from without, they were misdirected. They sought for a living theology and an ecumenical spirit, but they sought it in the Protestant and false Lutheran world; and they sought to make Missouri an influential power in world religion. . . . The emergency situation of World War II made it quite easy. The chaplaincy program alone was enough to train an entire generation of congregational leaders in unconfessionalism.

–from ‘A CENTURY OF JUDGMENT AND GRACE’ (1964, Rev. W. Schaller Jr.)