Conference Report

Conference Report

February 13 & 14, 2016

by Paul Hinz, Conference Secretary

On a cold wintry morning, Winter Conference sessions opened at FREEA in Appleton, Wis., with Luther’s “Now Do We Pray God the Holy Ghost” (A New Song 117). The Chairman, Robert W. Christman, read the first three chapters of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians, in preparation for the study of chapter 4 later in the morning. After a prayer for enlightening wisdom from above, the devotion closed with Luther’s “Kyrie, Lord Father, Eternal God” (ANS 131).

The Fall Conference Minutes were read by Floyd Brand, substitute secretary for the Fall Conference, and were accepted.

The Committee studying the Policy & Purpose of Faith-Life reported that they were progressing well, and that they would present their proposals at the Summer Conference.

Opening announcements were:

1) Another section of books from the Marcus Albrecht library was made available.

2) Meal costs are $7 per meal, with a family ceiling of $60.

3) The new bound volume of Faith-Life is available, at $45.

4) Greetings were extended from various corners of the country.

5) The Choir will rehearse after dinner.

Presentations available for the Winter Sessions were:

1) “Peter” – A sermon on John 1:42 by J. D. (John Daniel) Jones – Timothy Chang

2) “The Future of the American Church,” the last chapter, by Leigh Jordahl – Michael Albrecht

3) An Introduction to the Epistle of James – Michael Albrecht

4) Galatians 4 – Paul Hinz

5) Karl Koehler’s “Master Mission,” the next section – Robert W. Christman, Reader

6) The Financial Report – Virginia Hinz

7) The Otto Gruendemann Story, Part I – David Meier

Paul Hinz led the study of Galatians 4, in the continuing study of Paul’s message to the fickle Celtic Christians of Galatia. Paul is trying in every possible way to open the eyes of the readers to their foolishness in departing from living by the instinct of faith in favor of living by a set of rules.

Paul employs three figures in Galatians 4 to wake up the spiritually lethargic Galatians. The first of the three pictures, verses one through eight, is the standard domestic arrangement. The heir will have control over his life and property once he comes of age. But until then, though the inheritance in a sense already belongs to him, he is not in control of it. Instead he is subject to guardians and tutors. In the eyes of the law he has no authority over his own affairs. During the Old Testament period, from Genesis through Malachi, the people of God were considered underage.

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son.” The essayist called attention to a number of hymns which present this truth with clarity and beauty: Luther’s “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice” (ANS 175, v. 5 & 6), Gerhardt’s “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth” (ANS 74, v. 3 & 4), Luther’s “All Praise To Jesus’ Hallowed Name,” (ANS 22, v. 1-6), and Herman’s ”Praise God The Lord, Ye Sons of Men” (ANS 29, v. 1-8).

Paul’s second illustration was the historical, verses nine through twenty. There he reminds his dear readers of the blessedness they had experienced when he preached the Gospel to them and they received it with open hearts. They were promoted to reigning with Christ. Paul sat down as it were and reasoned affectionately with the Galatians, like a parent pleading with a wayward child.  “Look what you have,” he was saying, “and look what you are choosing instead.”

Following the South-Galatian theory, Paul had arrived on the Galatian frontier battered and beaten. At first the people of Lystra meant to worship Paul and Barnabas as gods; in the end Paul was stoned and left for dead. They had treated him in a manner very “Galatian.”

The apostle demanded of them, “Have I now become your enemy for telling you the truth?” Many a faithful pastor has had similar experience. Often a pastor has been received at first with open arms, and before too long he has been shown the door. The culprit always is the truth hitting home.

The third picture is the Biblical Illustration, vs. 21-31. Here Paul, the trained logician, turned from the appeal to the heart to the logic of reason, using an “allegory;” an illustration with a deeper meaning at several points, reaching for every literary means at his command to reach the souls of the readers. He used the story of Hagar and Ishmael and Sara and Isaac, to contrast the outward church with the inward church. The outer church appears successful and thus looks down on the small and suffering church, which appears to be going under. Yet in the end it is the suffering church which prevails. “The Word they still shall let remain, and not a thank have for it.”

Discussion after the presentation revolved around “the fullness of the times.” When Jesus finally came, everything was in place culturally, linguistically, and historically, so that the Gospel could be proclaimed effectively to the nations. The flower of historical readiness was in full bloom.

After a tasty lunch served by the Conference ladies, Pastor Brand summarized the message of the fourth chapter of Galatians for the children, comparing children who are required to follow the rules with the
One who freely kept all the rules perfectly, the Lord Jesus Christ. Choir practice was postponed until later in the afternoon.

For the afternoon session, Michael Albrecht read an article written by Prof. Leigh Jordahl in 1968 entitled: “Schmucker and Walther: A Study of Christian Response to American Culture.”  It was the fourth and final offering in a book entitled: “The Future of the American Church.” Pastor Albrecht had discovered the book among the treasures of the Marcus Albrecht library.

Prof. Jordahl looked at the dissimilar yet analogous historical attempts to transplant the Lutheran church to American soil, by two seventeenth century American Lutheran pioneers, Samuel Simon Schmucker of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, founded in 1826, and Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther of Concordia Theological Seminary at St. Louis, Missouri, founded in 1839.The essay dealt with the manner in which these two Lutheran bodies with their respective traditions sought to resolve the problems of self-identity and adjustment to the American environment. These bodies, though determined to stay the course of their tradition, had in reality become “pragmatic adaptionists.”

This article, written almost 50 years ago, appeared as relevant as though it had been written yesterday. Prof. Jordahl stressed that, “Faithfulness to the best of our tradition demands a genuine “aggiornamento” that, “to let fresh air into the old house, goes back to the sources of our tradition.”

The discussion following expressed appreciation for Prof. Jordahl’s straightforward depiction of history and its application to life. He had been, after all, a teacher at Gettysburg Seminary in his early years. Self-criticism is vital to truthfully portraying history. The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day could not achieve this.

The acclaimed Reformation historian Heiko Oberman stressed “fairness to the dead,” that one must always give the dead a fair hearing.

The Gospel is active in history. It is not to be placed in a frame and hung on the wall to be spoken of frequently in admiration. Rather it is a creative and life-giving impetus that impels the faithful to react instinctively in the current environment, not that of yesterday or last year. Tradition may well be a good thing, but it readily hardens into traditionalism, and that is deadening.

The afternoon session closed with Alexander Pope’s, “Rise Crowned with Light, Imperial Salem, Rise!” (ANS 226), before adjourning for an evening of food and fellowship.  After the meal, the Faith-Life editorship contributors gathered to discuss upcoming issues and agenda, the start of a good tradition.

Maura Hinz taught the children’s lesson Sunday morning, Daniel chapter six, narrating the courage of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.”

Melvin Koss conducted the service for Invocavit, the First Sunday in Lent. Joel Hensel served as organist, Kevin Milner as cantor, and Peter Hensel as choir director. The service opened with “God the Father Be Our Stay” (ANS 121), and “Kyrie, Lord Father, Eternal God” (ANS 131). Dan Hinz read the Old Testament Lesson, Gen. 3:1-24. The Choir sang, “In the Midst of Earthly Life.” Paul Brand read the Epistle, II Cor. 6:1-10, and Mel Koss read the Gospel, Matt. 4:1-11. The Creedal hymn, “We All Believe in One, True God” (ANS 137) preceded the sermon. Mel Koss preached on the Gospel, “The Temptation of Jesus.” The Children’s Anthem, “Go to Dark Gethsemane” (ANS 78) followed the sermon.  With the confession of sins, the Service of the Sacrament followed.  The distribution hymns were Luther’s “Jesus Christ, Our Blessed Savior” ( ANS 290) and “May God Be Praised Henceforth” (ANS 292).  The service concluded  with a rousing piano postlude.

The Sunday noon dinner was the customary chicken dinner with the trimmings, served by the ladies.

The Sunday afternoon session opened with the first of two parts of the history of Otto Gruendemann, one of the original Protes’tants, presented by David Meier. The previous Conference had given him the assignment, as he is grandson of both Pastor Gruendemann and Pastor Albert Meier, who figures into the forthcoming second part of the history especially. This assignment had been given with the youth of Conference especially in mind. The sources for the report were family archives of both Otto Gruendemann and Albert Meier, the “Gruendemann Case” as presented in Faith-Life, and recent interviews with surviving Gruendemann children. Especially telling was Gruendemann’s fervent appeal to the Manitowoc County judge, laying out the predicament in which he and his family found themselves. This letter was a reminder of what the early Protes’tants had suffered for the sake of the Gospel.  The presentation closed with Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is our God.” The printed version of the presentation is included in the Spring 2016 issue of Faith-Life.

After a short break, Ginny Hinz presented the Annual Financial Report.

Robert W. Christman read an advisory letter to the committee of five who are studying the “Policy and Purpose” of Faith-Life, with Michael Horvath, the chairman.

The final offering for the afternoon was Michael Albrecht’s introduction to the Epistle of James, entitled, “Faith Without Works Is Dead: The Faith-Life Epistle of James.” Pastor Albrecht examined the identity of James, the author; the significance of the letter as a catholic epistle together with its placement in the New Testament canon;  and Martin Luther’s attitude toward the book of James, not as cut and dried as commonly perceived. Luther’s depiction of faith as life in his “Preface to the Romans” and the message of James are very compatible.

The presentation reminded a listener of a J. P. Koehler axiom, “Take the speaker the way he means to be taken.”

Winter sessions closed on the wings of “One Thing’s Needful!” (#184 vs. 1 & 6 ANS).  It was written by a German Lutheran pastor, Johann Schroeder. Six months after his ordination his wife died, in 1696. The following year he wrote the hymn. A year later he himself entered eternity, at the age of 32. Most fitting that this man should have authored such a hymn!


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