Broken Community: Fifty Years After the Walkout

This year in The Lutheran Witness, our themes will revolve around some connection to the idea of community. Though I didn’t explicitly say it last month, that issue focused on the Lutheran community in worship. In the gathering around God’s gifts, He makes us a community in Him. He bestows on us fellowship and unity through His body and blood given at His altar.

The February issue of LW is about broken community. Fifty years ago this month, the majority of students and faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, walked off that campus to protest the Synod’s actions to curb false teaching.

Daniel Harmelink explains the main theological issues — Gospel Reductionism — and highlights major milestone events surrounding the Walkout. Timothy Maschke breaks down the higher critical study of God’s Word that professors were advocating at the time. David P. Scaer delves into the theological precursors and personal reminiscences of the event. Dean Wenthe explains how the theology of Walkout professors led to the subversion of the biblical understanding of natural law. Finally, yours truly explores the effect of Gospel Reductionism on the mission work of the LCMS.

It’s tempting to read the preceding paragraph and put down this issue of LW. It’s all just a bunch of deep theology from 50 years ago. Why are we still discussing this?

But the pesky truth about theology is that it does not live in ivory towers. Theology does not take place only in the studies and classrooms of seminary professors. Instead, our theology has consequences. What is taught in college and seminary classrooms filters down into the preaching and life of the church. What certain professors 50 years ago taught subverted the very proclamation of the Gospel, the truth of God’s redeeming work through Jesus Christ for sinners. And this false teaching was being proclaimed from LCMS pulpits and taught in LCMS churches.

Theology lives in the lives of God’s people. What you receive from the pulpit guides and directs your daily life. Your good works, your life lived as a Christian, is your theology. It is eminently practical.

And nothing is more relevant than that. Enjoy this dive into the theology and events of the Walkout.

We want to offer a huge “thank you” to Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) for their assistance with this issue. CHI recently published a book, Rediscovering the Issues Surrounding the 1974 Concordia Seminary Walkout, that delves more deeply into this topic, available from Concordia Publishing House. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in learning more.

Walking Together with You,

Roy S. Askins

Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness

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