There were no jokes on April Fools’ Day at the headquarters of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in St. Louis. It was a day that amounted to a high-noon showdown between four district presidents of the LCMS and LCMS president Jacob A. O. “Jack” Preus, along with the denomination’s board of directors. Preus and the board wanted the four to state their willingness to comply with synodical regulations governing the ordination and placement of ministerial candidates. The four men refused to budge and instead countered with proposals that in effect called for the undoing of actions taken at last year’s convention of the 2.8 million-member church in Anaheim, California (see August 8, 1975, issue, page 31).

His patience at an end after months of haggling and pleading, Preus the next day announced the removal of the four district presidents from office. They are: Harold Hecht of the 136,000-member English district, Robert Riedel of the 38,500-member New England district, Rudolph Ressmeyer of the 74,000-member Atlantic district, and Herman R. Frincke of the 72,000-member Eastern district.

Preus was acting under the mandate of a resolution known as 5-02A passed at last year’s convention. It stated that if, after pastoral care and admonition, the district presidents persisted in disobeying Synod regulations, Preus should then declare their offices vacant at least sixty days before the next district convention. The measure was aimed at stopping the unauthorized ordination and placement of graduates from Seminex (Seminary in Exile), a rebel school organized by dissidents in 1974 after the suspension of John Tietjen as president of Concordia Seminary. (Tietjen later became president of Seminex.)

The deadline passed without disciplinary ...

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