to defend myself of the charges. However in demanding an explanation of my prophetic opinions they now appeared justified in declaring me a heretic, who could no longer remain the shepherd and spiritual caregiver of the congregation. Once they had the desired explanation many more people were convinced by those leading the voters that they could no longer place their trust in their current pastor to be their acting minister. Indeed with choice words some took their leave of me.
Now was that proper Christian behavior towards their minister? At every avenue he avoided speaking about the disputed question of doctrine. They goaded his conscience to the point where he had to state his opinions and convictions, things which he had intended to keep to himself and once he did this they immediately used it as a reason to separate themselves from him. Their minister was assailed and blamed in many more letters of complaint but things were done in a sly manner so he could not defend himself. They put these letters into a folio so they could register their charges with the synod president. These same people, who separated from me because of my public declaration, circulated suggestions throughout the congregation that they should write to President Wyneken and invite him to come to Altenburg so he could advise those who had reservations about my remaining their minister. What's remarkable is that these were the same people who had the gaul to separate from me yet now they wanted the advice of the president.
Mr. Wyneken responded to the letter of invitation by stating that he did did not know any better way to advise the faithful than they had already been advised by Prof. Biewen and Pastor Schaller during their last visit. The congregation's letter had been so hastily written that he could not decide which side was responsible for the breaking of the peace. The simplest solution to him seemed to be for the congregation to ask Pastor Schieferdecker directly for a thorough explanation
as to whether or not he would keep his promise to the synod. If his answer is yes, the congregation should take a reasonable course and allow the pastor time for reflection and prayer so he can work his way past his errors. It should truly support him with its prayers and displays of respectful love and attention. If the answer is no, then the president wanted to have further reports.
My opponents were not happy with this response. Instead they urged the president to come here. I suggested the appointment of a committee with members from both factions, who would write a joint letter to President Wyneken. The committee was formed however it soon became apparent that the factions were so much at odds with one another they could not come to a decision on how the congregation should proceed and they could not come up with a single report. They responded as follows:
"Your Eminence's valued letter was read aloud this past Sunday. After discussing it the congregation was united in its decision to write to you and report the current conditions within our congregation along with the urgent request that you appear within our midsts as soon as possible to support us with your advice. Many members of the congregation feel a weight in their hearts because they can no longer consider Pastor Schieferdecker their spiritual caregiver for the following reasons:
"1. Because the Pastor has not recognized his rejection of the Synod's position concerning chiliasm as heresy. The entire congregation can attest to this.
"2. Although the Pastor has renewed his promise and specifically made reference to it while not preaching about chiliasm, he still defends his position to this day and is not able to set members of the congregation straight, who are caught by the same error. The Pastor maintains that to date no one has been able to convince him that chiliasm, as he understands it, is erroneous.
"3. Whenever asked about his erroneous statement he referred to God's word; and if it is God's word, he was bound to preach about it. Among other things he stated, we weren't yet ready for it, and then he referred to Ephesians 4, 14: 'Until we can be united, etc.' Once we all wanted it, he would preach to us about it. For now his congregation was not yet prepared for the 'higher light.'
"4. In regard to chiliasm the Pastor said among other things, 'I will not preach about it yet because I see that it would only create schism in the congregation; however I hope the time will come when I can preach about it to the congregation.'
"5. In his sermon regarding Judgment Day he attempted to put the Second Coming way off in the future. He maintained that the great signs had not yet been observed. We preceive his chiliastic leanings here and can not reconcile them with the promise he gave. — Since Pentacost he has fostered separatist sentiment just as Mr. Weinhold states in his letter, you can see deterioration within the congregation and experience teaches what will come of it.
"In the last meeting of the previous month on the 28th the Pastor stated concerning the coming of Judgment Day: 'I refer to the apostle Paul, who teaches that Judgment Day will not come until the fall of men when his sins and the child of corruption are revealed. As St. John taught the Christians of his day, a 1000 years must pass before the coming of Judgment Day; so people would have been correct in saying that the 1000 years remained off in the future. No one could refute this statement so he felt justified in saying that the 1000 years remained off in the future. St. John felt confident about this and no one was able to convince him with God's word that he was wrong.'
"From this it became clear how the Pastor stood with regard to the evangelical Lutheran congregation here. It is of the greatest importance that Your Eminence come to us as soon as possible. Concerning the charge of breaking the peace,
"of which people have accused us, we report only the truth as it can be proven through the recorded declaration made on the 22nd of September. In stating that the Pastor might publically refer to this teaching, we only wish to show the synod that we stand with it as a congregation. We acknowledge that the synod's doctrine is based on God's word and there can only be true peace if there is unity in teaching, as God's word admonishes in Romans 12, 16 - 15, 5; Philippians 3, 16; 1 Corinthians 1, 10. It is thoroughly distressing to us that even though his brothers have tried to convince him with clear passages from holy scripture, the pastor could not counter with any fundamental teaching. The congregation has shown great patience but he still persists in his error. May the gracious and merciful God grant that the Pastor will recant his assertions and recognize true teaching. We remain in hope that Your Eminence will agree to our request.
"In the name of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Altenburg, the committee,
One member of the committee did not sign the letter. It was still supposed to be sent off in the name of the congregation. I stated that this could not happen because only one party in the congregation wanted to send it. The reason for this was the way it was written. It twisted my words to show me in a bad light and it did not mention that I kept my word not to spread disputed doctrine from the pulpit or in private except when I was forced to do so by my opponents. The report showed me to be a fanatic who talked about a "higher light." It would be immediately apparent that this representation of me was deceptive once all my words were put in their proper context. I vehemently warned the congregation not to separate from me yet because they thought my convictions were heretical. It wasn't likely that God
had sent me insight into prophetic passages from scripture and then intended me to enlighten nobody about it. There may be some in the congregation who had as great a measure of faith and other gifts of grace as I. I offered to submit the concepts behind all my sermons and allow those who were impartial to decide whether I had intentionally indicated that the coming of Judgment Day lay off in the distant future. I had always held fast to the words in scripture: he comes like a thief in the night, etc. Nevertheless the opposition party sent off their prejudicial report and this incited the other portion of the congregation to write a counter-report in protest. It stated the following:
"We hereby declare that we do not approve of the letter which will be sent to Your Eminence in the name of the congregation containing charges against our Pastor Schieferdecker. Since the name of a certain committee member is missing, we wish to add our protest so that the report may properly reflect the true and complete situation within the congregation.
"1. We do not consider our spiritual caregiver guilty and in need of reprimand for a different interpretation of the prophecy in holy scripture regarding the conversion of the Jews and the 1000-year reign as set forth by the revered Synod. We see nothing fanatical in his opinions as they are set down in the record by request of the congregation and we do not find them contrary to the accepted articles of faith.
"2. We can not allow anyone from the other side to maintain that our Pastor should no longer be acknowledged as a pure Lutheran teacher because of his opinions on prophetic doctrine when a very large number of our most honored teachers of the church affirm their belief in the future universal conversion of the Jews as well as the 1000-year reign. Among these men are Spener, Rambach, Matth. Rieger, Crusius, etc. We also can not agree that the opinions of our pastor are contrary to the 17th Article of the Augsburg Confession
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