in filing their grievance. It was our opinion that the jury had been poorly instructed by the local court and could not reach a proper verdict so we filed an appeal with the Circuit Court. In the interim one of our opponents inquired whether we would accept $150 to settle the matter. However we knew that this was an offer from a private individual and it was not binding on the congregation (although the opposition falsely stated that it was in the Lutheran.) The sum was certainly inadequate to fill the amount of our losses, so naturally we declined it. The next term of the Circuit Court was in May. At a special assembly the day before we called upon God for His guidance — and what happened? The court did not hold session. It was postponed until December due to the illness of the Circuit Court judge. I continued to live quietly at the parish home. When the next term began our opponents went to the greatest lengths to press their claim — and their efforts were not in vain. Besides the attorney which they had hired in Perryville, they also deemed it wise to engage a disputatious champion from St. Louis. Pastor Beyer made a special trip to St. Louis just to find a talented lawyer. How sad, that our opponents were willing to surrender a greater sum in this matter than it would have taken to properly repay their brothers for what they had lost in church assets.
During the proceedings of the court it was decided that the investigation of questions regarding religion would be excluded and the entire verdict would rest on whether the dismissal of Pastor Schieferdecker in accordance with Lutheran Church discipline was valid or invalid. Pastor Beyer came forward as the chief witness.
His testimony rested on the following points:
1. The relationship of pastor to congregation is one of servant. The congregation is the mistress of the house (as he put it.)
2.In the congregation majority vote decides except in matters of faith.
3. There are cases where a pastor may be dismissed by majority vote provided it is not based on matters of faith.
4. Majority vote may carry in cases where the dismissal of a pastor is not the same as excommunication; he may continue to remain among the congregation as a lay member but not as a pastor.
5. In the case of Pastor Schieferdecker, his error was not of a fundamental nature and he could have remained as a lay member without excommunication. The majority vote would have permitted him to remain under these circumstances.
Our side presented the plaintiff's documents from a resolution passed by the Western District Synod of 1855 to show that in order for the dismissal of a minister to be valid, there needed to be unanimous vote rather than two-thirds majority. We also clearly demonstrated that cases involving matters of faith as the primary issue (see page 87), their legitimacy or illegitimacy, and the dismissal of a minister from his divinely-ordained post could never be determined by majority vote. These things required a decision based on God's word alone. In a totally inconceivable manner this was sheer antilutheran testimony, first of all because it held more weight in this matter than the testimony of one cleric and because this exposition, as presented by Pastor Beyer, gave a more comprehensive and understandible concept of church law to an American jury than true Lutheran teaching on ministerial office. However our opponents would not have achieved their goal of demonstrating that majority vote applied to this particular dismissal from office had they not cunningly manufactured the required majority. After the ballots were cast the vote stood at 49 to 26. However according to the congregation's regulations a two-thirds majority was needed to make the dismissal valid. In order to achieve the two-thirds majority,
they attempted to verify through witness testimony that there had only been 24 votes cast against dismissal from office. They disputed the validity of 2 votes because the voters had been absent. Absentee ballots were only permitted for choosing committee members. There were traces of a correction made to the protocol to show that 26 had been changed to 24. At first the votes of the 2 absent members had been counted. In actuality one of the voters was not absent but merely late. He recast his own vote later when he arrived at the meeting. The other individual was sick and had his brother cast his ballot.
When the jury decided against us it was the result of our opponents' ignoble manipulation of the witness affidavits. Grant it, it's possible our opponents may have thought they had the right and even the duty to free themselves from a heretic and seducer. God alone can judge and only the future will show us how the prophetic passages in scripture, about which we were in dispute, will come to fulfillment. However they will have a hard time settling their consciences after telling their brothers, who had every right to a portion of the church propterty, that they had lost everything and then used the arm of the law to force that point. We hope and pray they will recognize their sins and ask for forgiveness. And above all else may God in His grace grant forgiveness on the sins committed out of zealousness, hatred and bitterness.
God imparted His grace on our new church building, the plans for which moved quickly forward despite all hindrances and difficulties and before the outbreak of the Civil War. In June 1859 we received a beautiful new bell as a gift from the congregation's Young Men's Society. On the day of the church dedication, the 2nd Sunday of Advent 1860, a new organ accompanied the congregation's singing for the first time.
It was purchased with the help of a gift of $450 from the Young Men's Society. A description of the dedication ceremony can be found in V.4 no. 3 of the Iowa Church Newspaper.
We only want to add our fondest wish to this true historical account that if it pleases God He may, in accordance with His all-knowing and omnipotent plan, guide those who withdrew their hand from their Lutheran brothers due to erroneous information and created a schism as a tragic result. May they be led to a better understanding so we may once again live with them as brothers to the glory and praise of the Lord Jesus.
May God grant this to the glory of His name.
Project completed August 1, 2009.