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Buffalo Synod.

1. Till 1886 its official name was “The Synod of the Lutheran Church Emigrated from Prussia.” Its original mems. had left Ger. 1839 under J. A. A. Grabau* of Erfurt in protest against the Prussian Union.* Small groups settled in New York City and Albany, the majority in the Buffalo area, and another group near Milwaukee. Only a few immigrants came later, because royal pressure in behalf of the Prussian Union faded after 1840. The syn. was organized June 25, 1845, at Milwaukee by 4 pastors and 18 lay dels.

2. At first there were high hopes of combining Grabau's adherents with the Saxon immigrants of 1839 and the Luths. affiliated with Loehe's* enterprises; in opposition to the other Luth. syns. of that day these groups were all unequivocally committed to the Luth. Confs. But such hopes were frustrated by disagreements that developed, esp. on the doctrine of the ministry.

3. Grabau held that ordination is a divine inst. performed by previously ordained men, through which God confers the authority of the ministry on men whom the proper officials of the ch. have found qualified for office. For the sake of good order pastors could demand cong. obedience in all matters not contrary to the Word of God. Grabau was convinced that his view was Biblical and confessional and that it could help check the growing spirit of sectarian congregationalism. When his 1840 Hirtenbrief came to the Saxons, who had a much more congregational view of the ministry and ordination, controversy ensued. Bitter strife continued for many yrs., esp. because the Missouri Synod* felt bound to give pastoral care to individuals and groups that were unwilling to submit to Grabau's views. All efforts at reconciliation were in vain because the starting point of the groups and the basis of their appeal to each other were so different. Grabau regarded Mo.'s doctrine as sectarian; Missouri regarded Grabau's as hierarchical and romanizing. 1859 the Buffalo Syn., in what amounted to a decree of excommunication, renounced all fraternal relations with Missouri.

4. Resistance among Buffalo Syn. clergy to Grabau's views and methods led 1866 to a heresy trial of Grabau by his own syn., which rejected his distinctive views and asked him to renounce them. Schism followed on his refusal and suspension. 3 pastors remained loyal to Grabau. 12 joined the Mo. Syn. 6 formed an indep. anti-Grabau group that claimed to be the real Buffalo Syn.; it disbanded 1877, most pastors and congs. joining the Wisconsin Syn. See also Buffalo Colloquy.

5. After 1866, and even more after Grabau's death 1879, the Buffalo Syn. gradually modified its views on the ministry, pastoral authority over congs., the strict practice of private conf., and frequent use of the ban and excommunication. It always retained its deep loyalty to the Luth. Confs.

6. Grabau's Hirtenbriefe and the Kirchliches Informatorium were voices of the syn. before the schism. After 1866 the official ch. paper was Wachende Kirche. The syn.'s Martin Luther Coll. and Sem., est. 1840, at Buffalo, New York, furnished a steady small supply of pastors and teachers; closed 1930. The Buffalo Syn. had 44 pastors, 51 congst., 10,341 bap. mems. in New York, Can., Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota when it became part of the American* Lutheran Church in 1930.

See also Iowa and Other States, Evangelical Lutheran Synod of, 1, 5, 9.

P. H. Buehring, The Spirit of the American Lutheran Church (Columbus, 1940); J. F. Köstering, Auswanderung der sächsischen Lutheraner im Jahre 1838, 2d printing (St. Louis, 1867), pp. 84–112; R. A. Suelflow, “The Relations of the Missouri Synod with the Buffalo Synod up to 1866,” CHIQ, XXVII (April, July, October, 1954), 1–19; 57–73; 97–132; Protokoll über die Verhandlungen des Colloquiums gehalten in Buffalo, New York, vom 20. November bis 5. December 1866, alternate title Das Buffaloer Colloquium …, rev., signed, and pub. by the collocutors of both sides (St. Louis, 1866); complete hist. of the Buffalo Syn. pub. intermittently in Wachende Kirche, LIV (June 15, 1920)–LXIII (December 1929). FWM

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

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