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Wilhelm Loehe in the context of the nineteenth century.

In a paper commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod James L. Schaaf wrote: "Wilhelm Loehe deserves all the gratitude we Lutherans who live on this side of the ocean are capable of expressing." (1) Even C. F. W. Walther, with whom Loehe certainly had some disagreements, wrote about Loehe in 1852: "Next to God it is Pastor Loehe whom our synod must almost solely thank for the happy increase and rapid strengthening in which it rejoices; it must rightly honor him as its real spiritual father." (2) Indeed Wilhelm Loehe was the co-founder of the Missouri Synod, sending many future pastors to that synod, and also established the seminary in Fort Wayne. He also founded an educational institution in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1852, and moved it to Dubuque, Iowa, the following year because of problems with the Missouri Synod. He then helped to pay for Wartburg Seminary in what was to be the Iowa Synod. As Schaaf correctly stated in his doctoral dissertation, "Without Loehe there would be no Lutheran church in America as we know it today." (3)

Who was this person who, though he never set foot on this continent, still influenced the Lutheran Church in the nineteenth century as much as Henry Melchior Muhlenberg did a century earlier?

A child of his time

Loehe grew up in the time of Romanticism. As a reaction to Enlightenment rationalism, Romanticism considered the romantic as the beautiful without boundary or the beautifully infinite. In the first variety, beauty without boundary, Romanticism led to pantheism, as we notice in the British poets John Keats (1795-1821) and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) and their appreciation of Roman and Greek antiquity. The other variety, the beautifully infinite, proved more interesting for theology. It led back to the classical ideal of the medieval period and its Christian roots, as can be seen in the conversion to Roman Catholicism of representatives of the Romantic Movement such as Friedrich von Schlegel (1772-1829) and the development of the art style of the Nazarenes which until today influences popular piety in Europe and North America. It is not accidental that Loehe's hairstyle resembled that of the Nazarenes. The pietistic awakening in Germany, in which Loehe participated, was influenced by idealism, romanticism, confessionalism, and neo-Lutheranism. It attempted to stem the tide of rationalism and liberalism as can be seen in the case of the Prussian Union.

The Prussian Union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches proclaimed in 1817 was the result of the endeavors of King Frederick William III (1770-1840) to overcome inner-Protestant division. It also was advocated by those coming from the Enlightenment and who saw in confessionalism a relic of the past. The idea was to leave behind the divisive confessionalism among the Protestants and to form one united church. This enforced union led at once to emigrations of Prussians of conservative Lutheran persuasion to found the Lutheran Church of Australia and of like-minded Saxons to establish what later became the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod in North America. Both laity and clergy were involved in this exodus. Also, in the same year that the Union was proclaimed, Pastor Claus Harms (1778-1855) from Kiel published anew Martin Luther's 95 theses and added 95 of his own. He rejected rationalism and advocated an ecclesial doctrine guided by Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions as its norm.

These theses, published at the 300th anniversary of Luther's own theses, intensified the discussions about unionism and made Harms popular far beyond Germany. He received a theological and a philosophical doctorate from the University of Kiel (1834) and was even called to be bishop of St. Petersburg in 1819, a call he declined, as well as a similar call in 1843 to become successor to Schleiermacher at Berlin's Trinity Church. (4) He was by no means a narrow confessionalist but considered Roman Catholics as brothers, though in error. He could even condone intercommunion with nonrationalistic Christians from the Reformed side. He preserved the Lutheran confession for his own Schleswig Holstein church, now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of North Elbia.

What Harms did for the North, August Friedrich Christian Vilmar (1800-1868) did for his native state of Hesse. He was born and grew up in a country parsonage at Solz, northeast of Frankfurt am Main, and studied theology at Marburg from 1818 to 1820. Through the encounter with rationalism there, he went from faith to unbelief. Yet this move was not long-lasting. From 1823 onward he held various teaching positions. During these years he renounced his rationalism, first expressing the idealist notion that the world is the feeling of God. Then, through his encounters with the church fathers, especially Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Tholuck's Guido and Julius, or Sin and the Propitiator Exhibited in the True Consecration of the Sceptic (1823, Engl. trans. 1836), he "arrived at an unwavering faith in Christ.... Realizing that all he sought was to be found in the Lutheran Church, a process begun by the careful study of the Augsburg Confession and its Apology." (5) Luther's hymn "Dear Christians, one and all, rejoice" (Lutheran Book of Worship, #299) and Article 12 of the Augsburg Confession on repentance expressed most exactly his own thoughts on the deep reality of sin and grace.

After this conversion experience, Vilmar was director of the classical high school at Marburg from 1833 to 1850. Then he served for five years as acting superintendent. When the prince elector of Hesse did not approve his election as superintendent in 1855, he was appointed professor of theology at Marburg University. Vilmar became the most influential professor in the university. His program was set forth in Theology of Facts Against the Theology of Rhetoric (Theologie der Tatsachen wider die Theologie der Rhetorik, 1856), where he stated that the confessions in their entirety are binding and not just a selection of them, because "half confessions ... are no confessions at all, since they are crumbling and uncertain confessions." (6) Against the impending union between Lutherans and Calvinists he placed the strongest emphasis on Lutheranism, especially when attempts were made to discard the Augsburg Confession. Similar to Loehe, he also advocated the freedom of the church from the state, and he was vigorously involved in the conferences of Lutheran pastors in both parts of Hesse, Hesse-Darmstadt in the South and Hesse-Kassel in the North. At Marburg University Vilmar lectured on homiletics, hymnology, and the Reformation. Central to his theological witness was the certainty of the presence of Christ in the church on Earth. He even predicted the downfall of the nation as a result of its apostasy from the living God and through the rejection of his law.

Then we have in Berlin Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg (1802-1869), professor of Old Testament exegesis, who, as Schaff reported,
is one of the most unpopular and yet one of the most important and
influential men in the kingdom of Prussia. He leads the extreme right
wing of the orthodox party in the Established Church, and is the
uncompromising opponent of all rationalists and semi-rationalists, all
latitudinarians and liberals. He is simply professor, although an editor
of a semi-weekly church gazette, and holds no seat [in the church
government] nor does he ever preach. (7)

This sums up in a nutshell the significance of Hengstenberg, who was born in Westphalia as son of a Reformed pastor, studied classical and oriental literature and philosophy at the University of Bonn, did intensive studies in Arabic, and got his Ph.D. in 1823. He attended few lectures in theology but nevertheless wanted to be a theologian. Johann August Wilhelm Neander (1789-1850), a church historian and a representative of the awakening, introduced Hengstenberg, who was brought up in a moderate theological rationalism, to the leaders of the awakening in Berlin, such as Baron Ernst von Kottwitz and the Gerlach brothers. Having married Therese von Quast (1812-1861) in 1829, Hengstenberg was even more at home in that circle. When the conservative ecclesial-theological gazette Evangelische Kirchenzeitung was founded, Hengstenberg was asked to be its editor. As such he exerted considerable influence on church politics in Prussia and beyond. Though he had been charged with a romanizing tendency, because he regarded the Roman Catholic Church as an ally in opposition to rationalism and pantheism, he stood on decidedly Protestant ground. Under his leadership the Kirchenzeitung first supported the revival of piety and a vital Christianity in Germany, standing solidly on the basis of the Protestant Union as established in Prussia. But gradually it assumed an exclusively confessional tone, and by 1848 it had become the organ of the Lutheran part of the Protestant Church in Prussia. The Lutheran view of the Lord's Supper was more and more advanced, and with all its privileges the Lutheran confession was guarded within the Church of Prussia. This was not so much a turn against the Reformed church as the fear that both the Reformed and the Lutheran church would be transformed into a more liberal unionistic church.


Then there was Friedrich August Gottwald Tholuck (1799-1877), who had also come under the influence of Baron von Kottwitz. He became a decided supporter of the Protestant Union and deplored the confessional and denominational controversies in Germany. Tholuck considered his own studies of seventeenth-century Lutheran theology as an instruction and warning against any attempt to zealously revive what some considered the best state of the church, i.e., Orthodoxy, but which was then followed by rationalism. (8) His Hours of Devotion (1840; Engl. transl. 1853) gives witness to his evangelical piety with fresh enthusiasm. It had a large influence then and is still used today. A variety of commentaries, such as on Romans, the Gospel of John, Hebrews, and the Psalms, came from his pen and were all translated into English. Thousands of students owe to him their spiritual formation. German theologians as different as Julius Muller (1801-78), Richard Rothe (1799-1867), Johann Tobias Beck (1804-78), Albrecht Ritschl (1822-89), Wilhelm Herrmann (1846-1922), and even Adolf von Harless (1806-79) studied with him.

In the same time frame we could also look at the main proponent of American revivalism, Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875), or in England to the christocentric theology of the heart of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). With his poetic sensibility and creative use of the imagination, Coleridge contributed to a movement that became something very different from what it was first conceived to be, the so-called Oxford Movement. (9)

There are primarily three people who contributed something characteristically to the success and the thought of the Oxford Movement: John Keble (1792-1866), John Henry Newman (1801-90), and Edward B. Pusey (1800-82). Generally speaking, the Oxford Movement was more a movement of the heart than of the intellect, concerned more with prayer than with belief. Its members always saw dogma in relation to worship, the numinous, conscience, and moral distress. Similar to the romantic poets and novelists, to the evangelicals and pietistic theologians, the Oxford Movement revolted against the predominance of reason and religious skepticism.
Their leaders wanted to find a place for the poetic or the aesthetic
judgment; their hymnody shared in the feelings and in the vocations of
the romantic poets; they wished to find a place and value for historical
tradition, against the irreverent or sacrilegious hands of critical
revolutionaries for whom no antiquity was sacred. (10)

Without going into detail here about the Oxford Movement, I want to close this reference with an episode. In 1841 the Prussian King Frederick William IV (1795-1861) in collaboration with William Howley, the Anglican Primate of Canterbury (1828-48), appointed to the seat of Jerusalem an Anglican bishop, Michael Solomon Alexander (1799-1845), an ex-rabbi, who was in apostolic succession. Newman asked himself how the Anglican bishops could reprimand him for moving so close to the Roman Catholic Church, as he believed the Anglican formularies would allow, and on the other hand they fraternized with Protestant bodies "without any renunciation of the errors or regard to their due reception of baptism and confirmation." (11) He wrote in protest to the bishop of Canterbury claiming that "Lutheranism and Calvinism are heresies, repugnant to Scripture, springing up three centuries since, and anathematized by East as well as West." (12) Why, he asked, would his church, which considered itself to be Catholic, connect itself in intercommunion with groups that are strictly sectarian? He wrote: "From the end of 1841, I was on my death-bed, as regards my membership with the Anglican Church." (13)

To round up the picture, we could also include a few Scandinavians such as Nikolai Grundtvig (1783-1872) or Carl Olof Rosenius (1816-68). Considering these different formative persons, the emergence of Loehe comes as no surprise. Yet Loehe was not just a product of his environment.

A child of his ancestors

Many of Loehe's ancestors had been elected to public office. His great-grandfather was twice mayor of the city of Nurnberg; his maternal grandfather had also been mayor several times. Several of his forebears acquired considerable wealth through frugality and clever investments. His maternal grandfather was especially well off. Not surprisingly, Loehe was proud of his family, and family relations meant a lot to him. While we know little of the religious life of Loehe's ancestors, they certainly did not stifle his religious development. One incident from earlier generations seems to have been especially important for him. When his grandfather, Adam Christoph Walthelm, wanted to marry his grandmother, he asked for his mother's blessing. Loehe's great-grandmother, Anna Katharina Walthelm, gave that in a letter of December 4, 1752, and Loehe said that this letter gladdened his heart whenever he read it because
this same letter contains a good witness of the time of his youth of my
grandfather and the blessing of my great grandmother, a blessing which
through God's and my savior's grace may also be inherited by myself and
my poor children. Amen. I wish that the letter of my great grandmother
be held in honor by my people and that they honor the ancestors' piety
through thankful remembrance. (14)

For Loehe the blessing of his parents was equally important. He remembered well the blessing he received from his father, though his father had died when Loehe was just eight years old, and he hoped that his mother's blessing would uphold the one of his father. When Loehe left his hometown, Furth, in fall of 1831 to take charge of his first vicariate in Kirchenlamitz, he entrusted to his diary:
Then in God's name and in thick fog into the carriage--and among the
bells chiming for prayer driven away. Blessing upon my dear city. In
passing blessing of my soul for the graves of my folks and for those who
I have blessed into grave and for the aunt living across the way. (15)

Loehe maintained contact with his family throughout his life, especially with his mother but also his brothers and sisters and their relatives and with the relatives of his wife. Both his own mother and his mother-in-law died in his parsonage. His mother-in-law had depressions for a long time, and Loehe was often her counselor. When she died in 1843 in Neuendettelsau, Loehe buried her in the newly dedicated cemetery and composed a moving curriculum vitae. His own mother was a person he both respected and loved: "In all important decisions of his life he counseled with her beforehand. She supported his way and often suffered through it with sorrow since she often did not understand her son." (16) Being the oldest of the remaining sons--there had been six girls and five boys of whom five died in infancy--he felt himself to be the representative of the family for whom Loehe cared all his life. The same is true with regard to his own children. He helped them financially as much as he could, for instance, using the proceeds from royalties to pay off the debts he incurred for them.

But Loehe never made extensive travels and spent most of his years in the small village of Neuendettelsau. It was so decrepit that he exclaimed during his first visit there, not knowing that it would be his home for 35 years until his death: "Not dead I would want to be in that dump." (17) Did he have then any first-hand experience of the wider world, or was he a pious and somewhat naive country parson? It would be contrary to his ancestral heritage of merchants, administrators, and mayors that he would not be interested in the world.

Already in his first vicariate in Kirchenlamitz he was concerned about factory workers and their spiritual needs. This was not just a theoretical concern; he visited the young people working with machines. (This was the beginning of the rapid industrialization in Germany.) While he was helping out as assistant pastor in Altdorf, he wrote to a friend in Kirchenlamitz in 1836:
I live near one of the most important commercial and industrial cities,
have my home in a second one, have my office in a country town where I
can observe what kind of water flows from those ponds to us. I have more
opportunity to observe the concrete of things than you do, dear brother,
also more opportunity and a profession to observe how the poor souls
besieged from so diverse elements find no way out of the labyrinth and
despise the thread of yarn offered to them to trace the way to the exit.

Note his awareness of the ecological problems caused by rapid industrialization.

Also with a view to Neuendettelsau we notice that he attempted to alleviate the crying needs of his time by establishing places to take care of the sick, schools for small children and factory workers, and boarding houses for female factory workers. (19) There were no factories in rural Neuendettelsau, but Loehe always remained in close contact with his friends and (financial) supporters in Furth, Nurnberg, and Erlangen and the social problems in these cities. Besides urban poverty, which he attempted to alleviate, there was also rural poverty. Through his many endeavors in Neuendettelsau, he improved the lot of many people who before his arrival there had no prospect for the future.

Regarding politics, Loehe was an astute observer and commentator. Since his youth he had been an avid reader of newspapers and usually read several of them. Klaus Ganzert, editor of Loehe's collected works, comments that Loehe's letters are a treasure trove for contemporary history. (20) He even was chosen as an elector for the 1848 St. Paul's Parliament in Frankfurt. It comes as no surprise in the post-Napoleonic era that he had no appreciation for the French, because they had heavily dominated Germany. Yet he always preferred peace over war. Nevertheless he commented extensively on the wars of 1866 between Prussia and Austria and of 1870-71 between Germany and France. When the Prussians came to Neuendettelsau in 1866, he also realized how to judge the situation in the heartland of Roman Catholic Bavaria:
Everything is full of hatred caused by religion. But I will not talk
about all of this. The Prussian officers were for visit in Heilsbronn.
But they tried in vain to be greeted by the Bavarian military. These are
our events. (21)

With regard to economic matters Loehe was a true descendant of his family. He was an organizer, administrator, and financier. Money played an important role in his life. Yet this was not true for him personally. Like his ancestors, he lived frugally. We may guess that the reason why he never visited America was because he thought that such a journey would have been too expensive. Yet for his numerous charitable enterprises he needed considerable sums of money, and he was quite successful in acquiring it. He had many contacts with influential people and persons of means and never shied away from asking them for money. To build the deaconess motherhouse or to pay for the seminary in Fort Wayne, to mention just two projects, he seldom got big money. In Neuendettelsau, it usually was, as it is still today, that many small contributions add up to large sums. Moreover, he collected books which then were sold on the used-book market, again to obtain money. As already mentioned, his royalties also helped to defray the costs for his projects.

As he wrote to his brother Max, who was the "accountant" of the Gesellschaft fur Innere Mission, he was not afraid to die poor. But he wanted to leave no debts behind. Therefore he suggested starting a debt retirement plan to reduce the burdening debt. Because his careful administration of funds was well known, he easily obtained loans when necessary. It was especially important for Loehe that even the smallest amount was accounted for and that no contribution was used in a different way than shown forth in the books.

While Loehe was a person of high self-discipline and order, he was not legalistic. As he wrote in an article "On Order":
Order is nothing but the appropriate relationship of a part to the whole
and to the other parts or the consonance of all parts to the whole; as
soon as a part is not in its right relationship, the harmony of the
whole is disturbed, and it results in discord. God is the creator of the
total whole and all its single parts are ordered to a whole so that they
are in complete harmony. (22)

This means that God is a God of order and not of chaos. In being good stewards of his created order we should emulate God. This even goes for Loehe's meticulous handwriting. It shows that indeed he understood himself to be a child of God, following God's plans in his own personal life and his interaction with others.

A child of God

Already in his boyhood Loehe had a religious outlook, as he confessed:
In our small yard there was a chopping block, I gathered the children of
the rent people who lived in our house, put on a black apron to serve as
a gown, stepped onto the chopping block, which served as a pulpit,
preached, sang, and prayed. Sometimes my mother would say to my father:
"A minister is lost in that boy if you don't let him study." (23)

Loehe loved worship from early on, especially the liturgy, the hymns, and the Lord's Supper. It was his father's custom to take his son to the highest loft in St. Michael's church in Furth, and Loehe remembered with joy the one service he attended with his father at the time of a synod meeting in Furth that most likely took place before Loehe was even four years old. (24) The week of confirmation was a week of the big festival for Loehe. There was the family gathering, the joyful ringing of the church bells in Furth, and the private confession. As Kenneth Korby relates, "Receiving the sacrament was an unforgettable moment for him, rounded out by his sister saying, 'Einen Tag wie diesen bekommt unser Wilhelm nicht wieder, bis er die Ordination empfangt'" (Our Wilhelm will not have another day like this one until he receives ordination). (25)

During the first two decades of the nineteenth century, the Elector Maximilian I Joseph (1799-1825) and his secretary, Maximilian Joseph von Montgelas (1799-1817), forcibly introduced Enlightenment precepts in Bavaria and in the newly acquired region, central Frankonia. Wilhelm Loehe could not escape this influence, since the spirit of rationalism had entered the schools. But at home he was spared, because his mother read daily in Johann Starck's Andachtsbuch (1712) and in Johann Arndt's Paradiesgartlein (1612), devotional literature stemming from pietism. (26) In contrast, for instance, to Walther (1811-87), Loehe personally never struggled with rationalistic temptations and therefore had no need of a conversion. He had direct contact with the Basel and Wurttemberg types of pietism through the Christentums-gesellschaft of Johann Urlsperger (1728-1806), which had opened a chapter in Nurnberg in 1781. (27) There also was a group of Herrnhuter (descendants of the Herrnhut Community founded in 1727 by Count Nicholas of Zinzendorf in present-day Saxony) there who had survived rationalism and who gathered around the merchant Tobias Kiessling, who, though himself not actually a Herrnhuter, supported Protestant Christians in the Eastern European Habsburg area with money, Bibles, tracts, and moral support. (28) So studying theology was a natural for Loehe.

He began his theological studies at Erlangen in the winter semester 1826-27. He developed a long-lasting friendship with the Reformed theologian Johann Christian Krafft (1784-1845), professor of dogmatics and pastoral theology since 1818. Krafft, a representative of the theology of the awakening, inspired him to read dogmatic theology, and this led him to the writings of David Hollaz (1648-1713), the last great dogmatician of Lutheran orthodoxy. "Hollaz, a professor of dogmatic theology in the 18th century, impressed upon the young theology student a deep appreciation for the Lutheran faith. This faith was not necessarily that of Luther or even of the confessions, but rather of Lutheran Orthodoxy." (29) At that time Erlangen theology was at its height. Besides Krafft there were the professors Adolf von Harless (1806-79), Johann Hofling (1802-53), Gottfried Thomasius (1802-75), and Johann Christian von Hofmann (1810-77). Important for them was a personal faith and a deeper immersion into the theology of Luther through reappropriation of the Lutheran confessions.

During the summer semester of 1828 Loehe went to Berlin, where Schleiermacher's style of preaching impressed him. Loehe discovered that theology was not a dead subject. It was a life issue, individually experienced, but ultimately expressed in the confessional books of the Lutheran Church as a faith of the community. It was not a faith based on "me and my God" but a faith lived out and nourished by the community. When Loehe moved to Neuendettelsau, his first and only actual pastorate, he did not just administer the congregation by conducting funerals, marriages, and baptisms and preaching regularly on Sunday; he set his mind to revive the spirit of this congregation. He reintroduced private confession, which had been neglected due to the Enlightenment. In 1858 alone he administered an estimated 2,250 individual confessions. (30) He concentrated on the upbuilding of the congregation, leading it to the celebration of the Lord's Supper. He introduced a new worship setting, Order for Christian Congregations of the Lutheran Confession (Agende fur christliche Gemeinde des Lutherischen Bekenntnisses, 1844). While writing this liturgy he scoured not only the Lutheran tradition but also pre-Reformation and counter-Reformation works and even Greek and oriental liturgies. He was active in pastoral theology and published as a result of his parish work The Protestant Pastor (Der evangelische Geistliche, 2 vols., 1852-58). He tried to introduce the anointing of the sick but was prohibited in doing that by the church authorities. Nevertheless, we are told that many sick were healed through his prayers. It is not surprising that he had contact with Pastor Johann Christoph Blumhardt (1805-1880) in Bad Boll, who had roots in pietism and who also prayed for the sick.

Because the Roman Catholic king of Bavaria was the actual head of the Lutheran Church in Bavaria, Loehe called "the connection between state and church an unfortunate mismarriage." (31) And with regard to the revolution of 1848, when people were clamoring for more democratic rights, Loehe predicted: "Now it [the union of state and church] is dissolving. What God has not joined together, goes asunder--and now everybody wants to help the church through a constitution." Loehe too was pressing for a constitution of the church. When initially his pleas brought no response, he even considered leaving the state church together with other like-minded pastors.

In 1845 Loehe published Three Books Concerning the Church, Offered to Friends of the Lutheran Church for Consideration and Discussion. In this publication he wanted to show what the church actually is.

For Loehe the church is first of all community. It separates itself from the world and "gathers into the indestructible Church of God" as the one church at all times. (32) This church, gathered from all people, has its center in the apostolic word and is both visible and invisible. Because we have many separate churches, their peculiarities are their confessions, and the sign of the purest particular church is the "scripturalness" of her confession: "The Scripturalness of its Confession is the distinguishing mark of the Particular Church which has the most Truth or the whole Truth, and therefore she deserves the name of the Church before others." (33) He asked then to compare the confession of the church of which one is a member with the word of God and comes to the conclusion: "For no one has ever yet proved that our Confessions err even in one single point. It always is so--every simple reader who compares our simple doctrines with the clear words of the Holy Scriptures, must justify our Confessions." (34)

The Lutheran Formula of Concord was for Loehe the final point in the doctrinal process. Because the Reformation "is finished in doctrine; it is unfinished in the consequences of doctrine," it needs to be applied, and for Loehe this meant that one must recognize "all that could be done with it for the salvation of the world and the Church." (35) According to Loehe, there was unfinished business, and not just in terms of the practical consequences in everyday life, as he showed with the many works of mercy that he initiated and that emerged out of the little village of Neuendettelsau. Unfinished business also held true with regard to the foundation for these works.

Loehe opted for a strict confessional church. He also wanted independence from the state. The government of Bavaria, through the radical representative of rationalism, Munich city librarian Dr. Ghillany, achieved in 1848 the dismissal of the president of the Munich church headquarters, Friedrich von Roth. (36) Loehe now wanted a church founded on the Lutheran Confessions and a corresponding church discipline. The congregations should be constituted anew, and a synod should elect its own president. There seemed to be no success for such a free church, independent of the state, so he wanted all serious Lutherans to gather independently from the state church as a community of Lutheran Christians for an apostolic life. Many did not want such a split, but Thomasius, professor of dogmatics and university preacher at Erlangen, resonated with Loehe's idea.

At the February 1849 meeting of the General Synod of Bavaria in Ansbach, Loehe again pressured the delegates to push for renouncing the supremacy of the state and advancing the separation between Lutherans and Reformed, in addition advocating strict adherence to the Lutheran Confessions by pastors and teachers of religious instruction. Moreover, he wanted the old hymnal abolished, which contained rationalistic hymnody, and church discipline introduced. Because the synod only vouched its unwavering allegiance to the Lutheran Confessions, Loehe was still contemplating leaving the state church. Von Hofmann admonished him to be patient, because a renewal of the church should not start from the outside but must begin from within. Thomasius, too, appealed to Loehe not to confuse the pious and confessional members of the church of Bavaria by his leaving.

Thomasius and Hofmann met with Loehe and then asked the Erlangen theological faculty to appeal to the royal consistory superior in Munich. Each candidate for the ministry should subscribe to the Lutheran confession as a witness to the facts of Christian faith and life in congruence with Holy Scripture and should also vow to serve the church accordingly. Furthermore, the faculty should state that those who teach heresy, without naming Ghillany, had excluded themselves from the Lutheran Church. The faculty submitted that petition to Munich, a petition that still did not quite satisfy Loehe. Nevertheless, through influential friends, also from the Erlangen faculty, Loehe was persuaded to stay in the church and not start his own separate organization. While still unhappy with the Erlangen mediating way, Loehe complied and therefore was able to deeply shape the Lutheran Church of Bavaria to this day.

In his childlike faith he always felt he followed God's will, even when it was not according to own liking. Nevertheless, he felt free to seek out help for his cause from influential friends or other people. Being a child of God did not mean for him not to resort to external means to bend God's ear or even God's arm. Like any child, he showed the sinful inclination to have his own way, and therefore, because he was quite human, he can be considered a saint even in the Lutheran tradition.


What makes Loehe so special? In Northern Germany Claus Harms brought the church back to Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions. The same can be said for Vilmar in Hesse. Hengstenberg in Berlin had a wider influence than these two, but his confessional and theological slant was similar. Loehe also was a confessional theologian with a deep piety. But he was more than that. He was a multi-talented and multi-interested person. He initiated the deaconess movement in Neuendettelsau similar to Fliedner in another part of Germany. He cared for those who were uprooted by the rapid industrialization of Germany in the nineteenth century. In this way he was similar to Johann Hinrich Wichern. He sent young men to various parts of the world, especially to North America, to help emigrants found and strengthen their own Lutheran churches.

His influence on the liturgical life of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria is felt to this day. Reforming the rationalist worship service, he gleaned from the best sources of the Orthodox tradition, the Roman Catholic faith, and from Lutheran quarters. He adapted to this purpose whatever could upbuild and stimulate people to laud and praise God in Christ Jesus. He had a passion for people and therefore a passion for the church and its Lord.

Faith active in love became true in Loehe's life and work. Through his own example and guidance he could inspire others to do likewise. In that respect he was not better than others; God's gifts were just put to greater use through him.

Hans Schwarz

University of Regensburg

1. James L. Schaaf, "Wilhelm Loehe and the Missouri Synod," Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 45 (May 1972): 53.

2. Quoted in Schaaf, "Wilhelm Loehe and the Missouri Synod," 65.

3. James L. Schaaf, "Wilhelm Loehe's Relation to the American Church. A Study in the History of the Lutheran Mission" (Ph.D. diss., Heidelberg, 1961), 3.

4. Cf. Lorenz Hein, "Harms, Claus," in Theologische Realenzyklopadie (TRE) 14:447.

5. J. Hausleiter, "Vilmar, August Friedrich Christian," in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge 12:190.

6. August F. C. Vilmar, Die Theologie der Tatsachen wider die Theologie der Rhetorik, 4th ed. (Gutersloh, 1876; reprint: Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1968), 79.

7. Philip Schaff, Germany: Its Universities, Theology, and Religion (Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1857), 300.

8. Cf. August Tholuck, Lutherische Theologen Wittenbergs im 17. Jahrhundert (Hamburg: Friedrich and Andreas Perthes, 1852), and Das akademische Leben des 17. Jahrhunderts mit besonderer Beziehung auf die protestantisch-theologischen Fakultaten Deutschlands nach handschriftlichen Quellen, 2 vols. (Halle: Eduard Anton, 1853, 1854).

9. For the influence of Coleridge on the Oxford Movement see Martin Roberts, "Coleridge as a Background to the Oxford Movement," in Pusey Rediscovered, ed. Perry Butler (London: SPCK, 1983), who claims that Coleridge had "at least an unconscious influence on the development of the Tractarian tradition" (p. 34). He asserted some influence on Keble and a more implicit one on Newman.

10. So Owen Chadwick in his insightful essay "The Mind of the Oxford Movement," in The Spirit of the Oxford Movement: Tractarian Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1990), 2. Whether "the 'nature-mysticism' of romantic poetry was determinative of their conception of religion," an idea disclaimed by Eugene R. Fairweather, editor of The Oxford Movement (New York: Oxford University, 1964), 4, remains an open question.

11. John Henry Newman, Apologia Pro Vita Sua, ed. Ian Ker (London: Penguin, 1994), 136.

12. Newman, Apologia, 138.

13. Newman, Apologia, 141.

14. Loehe, quoted in Wilhelm Lohe. Gesammelte Werke, ed. Klaus Ganzert (Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1986), 1:34.

15. Ibid.

16. Ganzert, 1:37-38.

17. Loehe, quoted in Ganzert, 1:87.

18. Loehe, quoted in Ganzert, 1:40.

19. For the following see Ganzert, 1:40-41.

20. Ganzert, 1:41.

21. Loehe, quoted in Ganzert, 1:43.

22. Loehe, quoted in Ganzert, 1:51.

23. Loehe, quoted in Theodor Schober, Wilhelm Lohe. Witness of the Living Lutheran Church [Ger. 1959], trans. Bertha Mueller, manuscript ed., 5.

24. Kenneth F. Korby, "The Theology of Pastoral Care in Wilhelm Lohe with Special Attention to the Function of the Liturgy and the Laity." Th.D. thesis, Seminex in Cooperation with LSTC (Chicago, 1976), 14.

25. Korby, The Theology of Pastoral Care, 38.

26. Korby, The Theology of Pastoral Care, 37.

27. Korby, 43-44.

28. Gottfried Thomasius, Das Wiedererwachen evangelischen Lebens in der lutherischen Kirche Bayerns. Ein Stuck suddeutscher Kirchengeschichte (1800-1840) (Erlangen: Andreas Deichert, 1867), 90-91.

29. David Ratke, Confession and Mission, Word and Sacrament: The Ecclesial Theology of Wilhelm Lohe (St. Louis: Concordia, 2001), 20.

30. Wolfhart Schlichting, "Lohe," TRE 21:411.

31. Loehe, "Aphorismen uber die neutestamentlichen Amter" (1848/49), in Gesammelte Werke, ed. Ganzert, 5/1:320, for this and the following quote.

32. Loehe, Three Books Concerning the Church, Offered for Friends of the Lutheran Church for Consideration and Discussion, trans. Edward T. Horn (Reading, PA: Pilger Publishing House, 1908), 14.

33. Loehe, Three Books, 94.

34. Loehe, Three Books, 102.

35. Loehe, Three Books, 158, 160.

36. For the following see Peter Aschoff, Die Kirche im Leben und Werke von Gottfried Thomasius (1802-1875) (Gutersloh: Gutersloher Verlagshaus, 1999), 31-44.
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Author:Schwarz, Hans
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Apr 1, 2006
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