Last in a Series of Three Articles

At the conclusion of his volume on American Protestantism (1961), noted church historian Winthrop S. Hudson observed that Lutheran denominations have experienced rapid growth rates since World War II, “with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod making the greatest gains,” and saw in this phenomenon a bright hope for U. S. Protestantism, since Lutheranism has been “less subject to the theological erosion” experienced by other American churches. As pointed out in our articles of January 17 and March 28, the last few years have considerably dampened such hopes. “Theological erosion” has taken place, and its results are concretely visible.

The synod’s gigantic 1967 “Ebenezer” fund drive was a sorry failure, and no small reason for this was the dissatisfaction of lay Missourians with the leaders of their church who have done little to stop the advance of theological deviations and who appointed as head of the fund drive the president of the Concordia (River Forest) Teachers College, a consistent defender of his institution’s latitudinarian religion department. While enrollments in accredited theological schools in the United States have increased significantly this academic year, the Missouri Synod seminaries have experienced a marked decline (see CHRISTIANITY TODAY, News, Dec. 6, 1968). Why is Missouri’s trumpet no longer sounding a clear note, and what can be done to remedy the situation?

The reason for Missouri’s current theological crisis is to a large extent sociological. Here one observes the “ghetto” phenomenon so characteristic of immigrant groups. During the first century of its existence, the Missouri Synod ...

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