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Edmund Reim 1892-1969

[Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from an obituary that appeared in the September 1969 issue of the Lutheran Spokesman, reflecting the very high regard in which Professor Reim was held by all.]

“The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.” In Professor Reim, the Lord gave much to the CLC. Much has now been taken away. Professor Reim was our theologian, and thanks to the Spirit of God, he was a biblical theologian of the first rank. Before he spoke, he always listened with a carefully trained ear to what his Lord was saying in the Scripture.

We can never measure his influence upon the new church body. His spirit imbued it from the beginning. It was his courage and boldness in 1957 at New Ulm, Minnesota which strengthened others to separate from their former synods. For the honor of God’s Name he was willing to give up the presidency of the Wisconsin Theological Seminary at the zenith of his career.

His boldness at that hour was not the boldness of a fighter, for a fighter he was not. He was one of Jesus’ peacemakers. He worked with all his energies to prevent the CLC from becoming a belligerent sect. In the formative years, he warned again and again of the dangers of legalism and pride.

He truly worked tirelessly for his Lord who died for him. After the age of retirement he came to Mankato to establish a seminary – or should one say – create. For it was established without facilities and resources. Even in the last year of his life, after he knew that he was dying of cancer, he continued to give of himself, teaching in the seminary and writing articles for the Journal of Theology and the Lutheran Spokesman. “Lord, Thou hast given us much and we were not worthy. Now, Thou hast taken away. Lord, have mercy upon us! Christ, have mercy
upon us.”

Edmund C. Reim finds a place in this Spokesman series because he was called to leadership positions in the church during times of crisis

When Professor August Pieper neared retirement from the Wisconsin Synod seminary, the listing of nominees favored importation of a German theologian who could help perpetuate a strong German Lutheran culture. With others, Reim urged calling someone who could help transition to the training of pastors for ministry in English-speaking America. He was called.

While seminary president, Reim also served as secretary of a special inter-synodical relations committee, which provided leadership to the synod in the crisis time of fellowship relations with the Missouri Synod. When the 1957 synodical convention of WELS deferred action, Reim resigned as president of the seminary.

As the Church of the Lutheran Confession was organized (“born of necessity”), it called Reim to start a seminary as part of Immanuel Lutheran College. The first classroom was a table behind the furnace in the undercroft of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Mankato. From that beginning has sprung a stream of faithful, committed pastors. God be praised. Reim continued a leadership role in the course of ILC development until his last days. On his sick bed, he was laying out the course of his Latin class for the new semester.

How successful?

Evaluations of Reim’s leadership vary. To some, he was a “troubler of Israel,” and his resignation from the WELS seminary a relief. To many others, he was simply the right man for the needs of the hour, a gift from the Lord to His church. “So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

The making of the man

Edmund Reim’s mother died in his early infancy. His father, Adolph, was a pastor and teacher at Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minnesota. His grandfather, Gottlieb, also a pastor, came to America as a medical missionary. His beloved wife, Selma, was the daughter of John Schaller, President of the Wauwatosa seminary and descendant of three generations of Lutheran pastors.

It’s in the blood, you might say.

These informal recollections are from Rollin A. Reim, 94. With brothers Robert and Norbert—all pastors—he joined his father in the formation of the CLC. Rollin Reim currently lives in Belmont, California.