Monday, August 01, 2005

Diggin Around Semin-Ex

Today, before I left for class I had a sudden urge to look into the materials I have in regards to Seminex. For some reason, I have been ultra interested in this topic since I learned about it. Basically, in simple terms, students at Concordia Seminary in St Louis up and left over disagreements over theology and then, quite literally turned around and went back for lunch... so much for power to the people no delay, huh?

I don't much about it, but it was a big deal for a while. I can remember as a little kid hearing about it, but I didn't understand what it was. I was quite impressed with the amount of stuff I had, mainly I stole it from my dad... but he didn't seem to mind. I have convention proceedings from various conventions leading up to and after the great "schism," if you will. I have official Synod reports and I even have, I suppose, official "memories" from my father, but he was a bit removed from the whole thing. He was safely in New Jersey, he'd been out of seminary for 12 years, or so, but it was big enough that did effect in some ways, I'm sure.

There is a book, though I need to get, but I'm not sure what its called... all I know is that is by a guy whose first name was "Red," I think. I remember looking at it in the seminary's library at one time, but I haven't the foggiest what it was called.

For some reason I have been fascinated by this topic. It was such a big deal. The early part of the 80's was all about repairing the "damage" that was done. There are still some reverberations from the whole thing. My friend and fellow writer of another blog, Rev. Wookie's father was involved somehow.

Some day, I'd like to do a serious study of the whole affair. I'm curious to see what a few decades has done to the memory. Maybe, if I'm so moved I'll write a book about it (no one would read it, but that's okay).


the wild and woolie wookie said...
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the wild and woolie wookie said...

P-Nut - You should know not to be so quick to believe the stuff you read. My memory is not perfect, but let me share what I can at his moment (without having looked at the archive boxes full of first hand, primary source documents that I have from my father, who was on the campus as a STM student at the time [having gotten his MDIV the year before the Exile]).

Seminex had absolutely nothing to do with theology in the beginning. Certain elements in Synod wanted John Tietjen removed form the presidency of Concordia Seminary (read as: Herman Otten and the Christian News Ultra-Conservatives who do not like anyone who disagrees with them on the slightest point). So, they carried out an investigation of the Seminary with a list of foregone conclusions that they were only seeking to find a way to claim that they had proved. Once they did this, they leveled vague charges of heresy at the faculty in general and tried to suspend Tietjen for malfeasance in office (failing to properly supervise and correct the theology and teaching of the faculty).

The suspension was lifted against him initially because the proper by-laws and procedures had not been followed, but the vague charges against the faculty continued to be circulated. Meanwhile, the students at the Sem were told that some fo their professors were teaching some kind of heresy, but they weren't told who were the teachers in question or what the heresy was. The Synod in convention passed a resolution stating that there was heresy being taught at the Sem, based on the results of the Blue Ribbon Fact Find Committee put together by Jacob A.O. Preus (the one with the forgone conclusions). The students asked for formal charges to be brought against specific professors, so that they could know what teaching had been in error and avoid it. When official charges against specific individuals were not brought, the students declared a moratorium on classes stating that they would not go back until they were told what the heresy was, who was teaching it, and until formal charges were filed.

In support of the students and their action, the faculty of the Seminary stopped teaching (an understandable action since approximately 90% of the students had stopped going to class, so why hold them with very, very small number of students in each class session). President Tietjen was then officially suspended and the faculty were ordered to go back to teaching their classes (while accusations of heresy still abounded, but no one had officially been charged). The faculty refused to return and, instead, chose not to go back to the classroom and put their jobs on the line. The students, in response to and in support of their professors, joined them in their exile from the Seminary.

While it is true that students and faculty members who were exiled from the Seminary did return to the facilities for a brief period of time to get their possessions and lives in order, it was not as though they walked out of the Sem just to return. They gave an impromptu public expression to the fact that they were being exiled and then went to their homes (the Seminary with its dining hall in the case of the students) and began to back up and prepare to leave an institution that had been their home.

Now, I admit that my timeline of events may be a little off, and I apologize for that. I haven't worked with the exact details and timeline of that event in some time. I also know that there are some, if not many, who will disagree with they portrayal of the events that I have just furnished. I have my information from first hand sources, who were there in the meetings, there in the classrooms, and there in the procession of students, faculty, and staff who were exiled from the Seminary. It is not based on reports, news articles, or opinion pieces that may be first-hand historically, but were not written by persons involved in the actual events as participants.

The book that you are referring to was written by Fred Danker. He was called "Red" because of his very red hair. If memory serves, the title of the book is "No Room in the Brotherhood: the Preus-Otten Purge of Missouri."

Since that time, the persons and congregations who were exiled from the Synod have become part of the ELCA (having first formed their own little association called the "AELC - Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churchs"). The ELCA is currently very far away from the beliefs and practices of the members of the Synod who were exiled and should not be used as a gauge by which to measure or pass judgment on those pastors, professors, students, and congregations that were forced out of their beloved Missouri Synod.

loofrin said...

See, that's why I love the Rev. Wookie. He keeps me on the straight and narrow. I knew he'd respond to this and I'm glad he did. He doesn't know this, but someday when I write my book about seminex he will be the co-author. I hope someday to go through all of his father's information and first hand accounts.

Like I said I want to start researching it.

Josh said...

During my time in STL, I heard a lot about this subject. My favorite pre-walkout footnote: Otten would go through professors' garbage cans, trying to find something that would prove they were heretics.

It's kind of like being an RA at Con-Ewe, when you knew that no one on your hall was 21 but you find 5000 empty beer cans in the bathroom trash can. They had to come from somewhere...

Anonymous said...
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