Monday, January 02, 2006

Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe

The message of the cross doesn't make any sense to lost people. But for those of us who are being saved, it is God's power at work (1 Cor 1.18).

Some Lutheran churches commemorate Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe, renewer of the church (1808-1872) on January 2.

Wilhelm Loehe was born at Fuerth, Germany, in 1808. When he was eight years old his father died. Young Loehe studied in Erlangen, there discovering the Lutheran Confessions. In 1837 he became pastor in a small village, Neuendettelsau. His efforts at getting a city parish were unavailing, and he remained there the rest of his life. He was a model parish pastor. He founded the Neuendettelsau Foreign Mission Society.

From the small town of Neuendettelsau, he sent pastors to North America, Australia, New Guinea, Brazil, and the Ukraine. He assisted in the founding of the Missouri Synod. His work for a clear confessional basis within the Bavarian church sometimes led to conflict with the ecclesiastical bureaucracy. Loehe's chief concern was that a parish finds its life in the eucharist, and from that source evangelism and social ministries would flow. He founded the Society for Inner Missions and established a deaconess motherhouse at Neuendettelsau that had widespread influence. Many Lutheran congregations in Michigan, Ohio, and Iowa were either founded or influenced by missionaries sent by Loehe. The chapel at Wartburg Theological Seminary is named in his honour.

Loehe's vision to see the eucharist at the center of parish life can lead us on to think about ways that the incarnate presence of Christ in holy communion sends us out on a life of ministry and mission.

Christ chose some of us to be apostles, prophets, missionaries, pastors, and teachers, so that his people would learn to serve and his body would grow strong. This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God (Eph 4.11-13).

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