The Man without a Church

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Just about everybody in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has heard of Herman Otten. The mere mention of his name is enough to make some LCMS “liberals” foam with rage. On the other hand, many “conservatives” won’t openly identify with him. His story oozes with interest and irony, especially in light of the hubbub in the LCMS over the certification and ministerial placement of the Concordia Seminary seniors at Seminex (see following story).

Otten, 41, publishes Christian News, a ripsnorting 16-page weekly tabloid (circulation: 14,500) of mostly conservative news and views about LCMS affairs and personalities. He is also pastor of the 120-member Trinity Lutheran Church in New Haven, Missouri, a small tent-manufacturing town astride the Missouri River bluffs about sixty-five miles west of St. Louis.

Raised in New York City and a lifelong Missouri Synod Lutheran, Otten got his B.D. from Concordia (St. Louis) in 1957. He earned an M.A. degree in history from nearby Washington University the same year and went on to receive an S.T.M. from Concordia in 1958.

During his years at Concordia Otten and a band of fellow-conservatives discovered a group of students and professors “who denied the inerrancy of Holy Scripture and other doctrines of the Christian faith.” After a series of discussions with the alleged liberals Otten and his friends voiced their concerns to the seminary administration but were rebuffed. In 1958 Otten took “proof” of liberalism at Concordia (notes from faculty lectures) to then LCMS president John Behnken, who referred the matter back to the seminary. Faculty members expressed outrage at Otten for complaining off campus.

Meanwhile, Otten was serving Trinity as a student supply preacher. In 1958 Trinity issued ...

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