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Church and Ministry, Walther's Theses on.

Theses from C. F. W. Walther's* Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt; an elaboration of his 1841 Altenburg* Theses. The 1850 Mo. Syn. conv. authorized preparation of a formal reply to the Buffalo* Syn. and its leader, J. A. A. Grabau,* in regard to the controversy that had arisen bet. the 2 syns. on ch. and ministry. Walther submitted theses and an outline for a book to the 1851 Mo. Syn. conv.; they were discussed and approved. Shortly thereafter Walther and F. C. D. Wyneken* went to Ger. to confer with authorities there on the dispute, to do further research for the book at the Erlangen library, and to arrange for its pub.; it appeared in Erlangen 1852. It contains copious testimonies from the ch. fathers and orthodox Luth. theologians and is regarded as a classic statement on ch. and ministry.

The 9 theses on the ch. distinguish bet. the ch. in the proper (eigentlich) sense of the term, i. e. the communion of saints or the totality of believers in Christ, and the ch. in a figurative (uneigentlich) sense, i. e., visible groups, or congs. (particular chs.). The ch. in the proper sense may be described as invisible, though its presence may be identified by concrete marks, namely the Word of God purely preached and the Sacraments administered according to Christ's institution. Walther was contesting the view of Grabau that tended to identify the community of true believers, known only to God, with a particular empirical or institutional form of the ch.

The 10 theses on the office of the pub. ministry were directed in part against what were considered hierarchical tendencies in Grabau's position. They begin by affirming vigorously that the pub. ministry (1) is different from the ministry of the royal priesthood common to all believers, (2) is a divine, not a human institution, and (3) is obligatory, not optional, for the ch. Walther avoided the view (e.g., of J. W. F. Hofling*) that the pub. ministry is merely a derivation of the gen. priesthood, a soc. expediency, a dispensable feature of ch. order left to human discretion. But he held that, though God created the office and calls ministers, the pub. ministry is not a special class in the ch.; it is not an autonomous, self-perpetuating institution, indep. of and superior to the gen. priesthood of believers. Rather, the pub. ministry is transmitted (übertragen; hence: Übertragungslehre, doctrine of transference or transmission) by God through the cong., the possessor of ch. powers. The ministry exercises in pub., on behalf of the corporate body, the same powers that any spiritual priest may exercise privately. The theses guard the rights and responsibilities of the laity and preserve the divine institution, distinctiveness, and inalterability of the pub. office of the ministry.

C. F. W. Walther, Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt, [5th ed.] (Zwickau, Saxony, 1911) and “The Church and the Ministerial Office,” tr. A. G.[räbner], TQ, I (July 1897), 271 to 276; W. Dallmann, W. H. T. Dau, and T. Engelder (editor), Walther and the Church (St. Louis, 1938), pp. 47–86. KW


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

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