The president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is making some bold efforts to restore doctrinal integrity in theological education. His latest moves at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, renewed a furor over biblical inerrancy in the denomination, but Dr. J. A. O. Preus vows to persevere.

“It is quite obvious to me that some things must be changed,” said Preus in a letter sent last month to all Missouri Synod congregations, pastors, and teachers. “I am convinced that there has been teaching which is at variance with the way in which our Synod understands the Word of God and its confessional position.”

Preus took his stand in a case involving Dr. Arlis J. Ehlen, an assistant professor of Old Testament exegesis on and off for seven years at Concordia. The matter came into the open last December when Ehlen was examined by the seminary’s Board of Control for renewal of contract. A four-year extension would have given him tenure. The board reviewed Ehlen’s position in several meetings and after resolving not to renew his contract later reversed itself, granting him, by a reported 6–5 vote, a one-year extension. (Six other teachers were given full-term contracts.)

Preus then directed the seminary president, Dr. John H. Tietjen, to “see to it that Doctor Ehlen teaches no course in which he will have opportunity to advocate his higher critical views concerning Biblical interpretation, effective at the beginning of the spring quarter of the 1971–72 school year.” Tietjen refused to comply, contending that neither he nor Preus had the authority to implement such a prohibition. Ehlen began teaching three courses as scheduled.

Last month Preus released a set of theological guidelines dealing mostly with the approach to Scripture and suggested that the board use them in examining faculty members for doctrinal purity.

Elected in 1969 as an avowed theological conservative, Preus believes he has a mandate from the Missouri Synod constituency. He had been president of Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois. Acting upon numerous complaints he launched an investigation of the doctrinal teaching at the St. Louis school and won endorsement for the probe at last year’s denominational convention. A report on the investigation, based in part on interviews with the other forty-eight professors, is due to be made public this summer.

Those who have taught or studied at the seminary already know what the findings will reveal. Says one professor: “For the past ten years the historical-critical method of interpreting Scripture has been quietly but relentlessly introduced into the teaching at the seminary. A casual reading of the Concordia Theological Monthly, edited by the faculty, will reveal that biblical interpretation is now carried out in the Missouri Synod with no regard, in many cases, to the divine authority, inspiration, inerrancy, Christocentricity and unity of Scripture, Lutheran principles long held in reverence and faithfully employed throughout the synod.” It is said that though pro forma adherence is given to the Lutheran confessions, they are no longer regarded as an essential aspect of the exegetical enterprise.

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Persons close to the situation say that those in the anti-Preus faction of the synod did not choose to make the historical-critical method the chief issue in their bid for ideological control. But they were obliged to face up to it in the Ehlen case.

Preus says he opposed renewal of Ehlen’s contract because the professor was “unable to state that he believed in the historical facticity of certain of the miraculous elements surrounding the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egyptian captivity.”

Tietjen says that he has had a number of doctrinal discussions with Ehlen and that Ehlen “has stated that he affirms the facticity of what the Scripture intends to present as fact.” But Tietjen also says it is impossible for any faculty member to teach his assigned courses at a seminary level of instruction “without using historical-critical methodology.”

Tietjen has been president of Concordia since 1969. He holds the Th.D. from Union Seminary. Before coming to Concordia he was editor of the American Lutheran and public-relations chief of the Lutheran Council in the U. S. A.

Tietjen’s hand was strengthened when it was announced last month that the American Association of Theological Schools would send a review team to Concordia. Some conservatives say the threat of a loss of accreditation is being used to stop Preus’s investigation. The AATS associate director is Dr. David Schuller, a former faculty member at Concordia and one-time candidate for the seminary presidency. Presumably he will disqualify himself from the AATS review, which is to be conducted by Dr. C. Benton Kline, president of Columbia Seminary (Southern Presbyterian), and Dean Allen Graves of Southern Baptist Seminary.

Meanwhile, Ehlen continued to teach. The 40-year-old scholar is a graduate of Concordia who has been a pastor of churches in Rochester, New York, and Yuba City, California. He studied at the University of Bonn, Germany, and Brandeis, and has a Th.D. from Harvard Divinity School.

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Religion In Transit

The U. S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) has given $40,000 to the New Rochelle, New York, school district for a feasibility study of the controversial tuition voucher plan by which private schools would be tax-funded. Meanwhile, parents of children in Kansas City, Missouri, church schools have gone to court to seek a favorable ruling on a voucher plan there.

The closest the Churches of Christ denomination ever gets to a convention is an annual Bible Lectureship at Abilene Christian College in Texas, attended this year by 10,000.

This year’s “Best Score from an Original Cast Show Album” Grammy Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences went to “Godspell.”

Reputedly the largest Christian flag ever made (36 by 58 feet) was unveiled at an Evansville, Indiana, pre-Easter rally sponsored by Tri-State Youth for Christ. It was made by 100 youths who sewed every night for more than a week.

Florida voters went on record four to one in favor of a constitutional amendment to permit prayer in public schools. Prior to the election, Church of Christ minister John B. Book set off a furor in the Florida legislature by offering a prayer in which he favored capital punishment and opposed compulsory busing of school children.

Jesuit Superior Charles W. Dullea of Rome’s Pontifical Biblical Institute has warmly endorsed attendance of Catholics at evangelist Billy Graham’s crusades because Graham preaches “complete and unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ.” And two Roman Catholic dioceses will participate in the Key 73 outreach, with the American bishops considering membership on a national basis at their meeting this month in Atlanta.

A national interreligious assembly of 500 meeting in Chicago last month appealed to President Nixon to intercede with Soviet leaders on behalf of oppressed Soviet Jews, and voted to send a delegation to Russia to seek to visit political prisoners. Rabbi Marc H. Tanenbaum plans to lead the group.


New Episcopal bishop Wesley Frensdorff, 45, a German-born Jew whose parents died in a Nazi concentration camp, was ordained last month in a hall over a Las Vegas gambling casino. He is the first bishop of the Nevada diocese.

Russian novelist Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn, known to be a deeply religious man, has openly demanded greater religious freedom in the Soviet Union and sternly denounced leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church for failing to take a stand against the atheistic Council for Religious Affairs. He implored the church to bring the Christian-spirit back to the people. Scores of priests who uttered similar sentiments in the past have vanished from public ministry.

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Maj. Gen. Francis L. Sampson, a Catholic and formerly army chief of chaplains, is new president of the United Service Organization (USO).

American Baptist clergyman and teacher David T. Shannon has been named dean of faculty at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He is the first black dean of a predominantly white denominational seminary.

Mennonite leader J. B. Toews has resigned as president of Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno, California, to teach and write.

Bob Jones III, president of Bob Jones University, has branded the Jesus movement “undeniably wicked” and unbiblical in a twenty-cent booklet. And theologian Carl F. H. Henry says the movement has “only a limited future” unless it gains “theological power” in providing a Christian alternative to the prevalent culture.

Self-ordained part-time minister Benjamin Franklin Miller, 42, a white, was charged by Stamford, Connecticut, police with strangling five black women.

J. Lester Harnish, president of Eastern Baptist seminary and college since 1968, will bow out in July to pastor the Third Baptist Church of St. Louis.

World Scene

The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), which includes most of the Orthodox and major Protestant churches on the continent, has elected United Methodist bishop Abel T. Muzorewa, a Rhodesian nationalist leader, as president. The AACC pledged assistance to “liberation movements” struggling against “colonial, racist rule.”

Evangelical tribespeople of South Viet Nam may be slated for annihilation if Communists have their way. Hanoi radio claims the “stubborn resistance of these Christians has been a primary force in repelling Communist advances in the central highlands,” according to Bishop Chandu Ray. Meanwhile, a Catholic bishop in Phnom-Penh charges that priests are being “systematically eliminated” by Communists in Cambodia.

Total membership in the Baptist Union of Great Britain and Ireland fell by 5,800 to a new low of 262,265 last year, but baptisms increased.

More than 210,000 listeners responded to a recent two-month contest offer by a Korea “Lutheran Hour” radio series beamed over the twenty-four-station government network. Fifteen transistor radios and 1,000 booklets were given away.

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Three Russian refugee rabbis in Israel have appealed to world Jewry to prevent the installation by Soviet authorities of Rabbi Israel Schwartzblatt of Odessa as rabbi of Moscow; they claim he is an agent of the secret police.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance, since 1911 the dominant Protestant missionary force in Viet Nam, is carrying out its own version of “Vietnamization.” It turned over $600,000 worth of operational real estate, along with the administration of many programs, to the Tin Lanh Church, the indigenous denomination spawned by the CMA. The CMA will continue to finance them.

Paris police drove hundreds of Catholics protesting Soviet persecution of Christians away from the Russian embassy into a side street where they prayed for an hour.


ALICIA V. DAVISON, 59, hostess of Fellowship House, the Washington, D. C., center for the National Prayer Breakfast movement, and Religious Heritage of America’s 1971 Church Woman of the Year; while touring in Hong Kong, of a heart attack.

RUBEN JOSEFSON, 64, archbishop and primate of the Church of Sweden (Lutheran); in Stockholm, after a long illness.

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