Feb 19, 2024 Print This Article

President Egger offers reflection on 50th anniversary of the Walkout

Today, on the 50th anniversary of the 1974 Walkout that occurred at the Concordia Seminary, St. Louis campus, Seminary President Dr. Thomas J. Egger offered a brief reflection and statement after the morning service in the Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus:
“Dear Seminary community and friends of Concordia Seminary, dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“Fifty years ago this morning, most of the faculty and students of this Seminary enacted a dramatic march of departure, signaling that they were leaving to continue their seminary teaching and learning elsewhere, establishing Seminary in Exile, or Seminex. The previous summer, in 1973, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod had declared by convention resolution that there was false teaching at Concordia Seminary and that such false teaching was ‘not to be tolerated in the church of God.’ In January of 1974, the Seminary’s Board of Control suspended John Tietjen from his position as Seminary president. Stung by these actions and insisting they were in the right, the faculty majority and the majority of the students planned their departure. There were white crosses on that morning, staked down in the Seminary quad, bearing the names of those departing. The news media were here. It was a national story. There were banners, singing, and as many of you have seen in photographs, there were great sheets of plywood boarding up the arches under Luther Tower, inscribed with the word, ‘Exiled.’ This was the ‘Seminex Crisis’ or the ‘Walkout.’ It was a painful time, and it came to a head with these events of Feb. 19, 1974, —  50 years ago.
“The results of this controversy, the blessings that have come from it and also its lasting wounds, continue to this day. On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, it is appropriate that we pause and reflect. And in this brief reflection, I want to encourage among us four things: repentance, gratitude, love and a steadfast commitment to the Holy Scriptures.
“1. Repentance. For many of us, this controversy was not our controversy. On that morning in 1974, I was only 2 years old. When I began as a student here at Concordia Seminary in the summer of ’93, it had been only 20 years since the Walkout, but I knew almost nothing about it. This controversy was not my controversy. When I read accusations about which ‘side’ was most unfair and unchristian and prideful and power-seeking during those times, I have no firsthand knowledge of these things. I wasn’t there. But when I examine my own heart it does not surprise me to hear that those struggles were sometimes attended by ugliness and sinful actions. We each have so much for which to repent before God, before our holy and gracious God. May the Lord have mercy on them all, for Christ’s sake. May the Lord have mercy on me, for Christ’s sake.
“2. Gratitude. I am so thankful for the Word of God. I am so thankful for clear, Lutheran doctrine, centered in the saving work of Jesus, who has won for me and for all believers forgiveness of sins, rescue from divine wrath, resurrection from the dead and an eternal kingdom. I am so thankful for the clear scriptural, confessional teaching which I received at this Seminary. As I look back on the days of the Walkout, 50 years ago, at the core theological issues that were under dispute, I thank God — in my heart and before all of you today — that He has preserved His Word among us. Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory.
“I am also grateful to those who stood up and stood firm and labored to continue the mission of Concordia Seminary during very hard times. To our Synod leadership at the time, especially President J.A.O. Preus. To our Seminary Board at the time, under its chairman, E.J. Otto.
“I am grateful to the five professors who, though under great pressure, did not walk out but remained: Ralph Bohlmann, Richard Klann, Robert Preus, Martin Scharlemann and Lorenz Wunderlich.

“And to the professors who drove over to help temporarily, because of the immediate need to staff classes just before and just after the Walkout: Robert Kolb, from the Center for Reformation Research at the time, and Walter A. Maier II, David Scaer and Dean Wenthe from the Springfield seminary.
“And I am grateful to those professors who taught in the challenging rebuilding years, just after the Walkout, many of whom were the teachers of today’s faculty:

Larry Bielenberg
Louis Brighton
Jerrald Eickmann
Arthur Graudin
Martin Haendschke
Rudolph Harm
Jakob Heckert
Robert Hoerber

Roland Hopmann
Horace Hummel
Erich Kiehl
John Klotz
Eldon Petersen
George Robbert
Francis Rossow
William Schmelder

Martin Schmidt
Wayne Schmidt
Richard Schultz
August Suelflow
Roy Suelflow
Richard Warneck
David Wollenburg

“And there were so many other staff, students and volunteers who worked to rebuild Concordia Seminary after that traumatic time. And we cannot forget to give thanks for the men and women of our LCMS congregations — our faithful, well-catechized laity — who likewise stood up and stood firm and insisted that their future pastors be taught to rely, with total trust, on the sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments, the written Word of God. To all of them we owe a debt of gratitude, and I want to acknowledge that debt this morning.
“3. Love. Brothers and sisters, as we recall the events of the Walkout, let us love one another. It is Christ’s own commandment to us and Christ’s own disposition toward us and toward the world. The world hated Jesus, but Jesus loved the world and willingly bore the sins of us all. ‘Father, forgive them,’ He prayed for those crucifying Him. I have met a number of people over the last years whose reflections on the Walkout are full of vitriol. ‘Old hatreds’ would not be too strong a term. I don’t know what 50 years of an actively-nursed hatred does to a soul, but may the Lord grant you grace not to give place to ‘old hatreds’ in your hearts as the years go on. You belong to Christ. You are called to love. To love even your enemies and to pray for them (Matt. 4:4). Not to let the sun go down on your anger, so as to give the devil a foothold, but to be reconciled to your brother (Eph. 4:26–27; Matt. 5:24). We are the children of God; we are called to live with all godly virtues but, above all, St. Paul says, ‘put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony’ (Col. 3:14 ESV).
“4. Steadfast commitment to the Holy Scriptures. Of course, the call to love does not entail indifference in the face of false teaching. Jesus’ call to love our brother requires that we care, deeply, that God’s life-giving Word and life-giving truth is preserved for our brother and for all. Yes, we are called to speak in love, but we must always speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).
“Where would our Lord Christ point us to know truth, to know Him truly and to truly be His disciples? Where would He point us to find sanctification and eternal life? Where would our Lord Christ, who is Himself the Truth, point us to resist the devil and His deceptions?
“Jesus points us to the Scriptures, to the written Word of God. These Scriptures testify of Me, Jesus says (John 5:39). When tempted by the devil, Jesus replies, ‘It is written, ‘‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’’ (Matt. 4:4 ESV). ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth’ Jesus says (John 8:31 ESV). ‘Scripture cannot be broken,’ Jesus says (John 10:35 ESV). ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead,’ Jesus teaches (Luke 16:31 ESV).
“’Blessed is the man who delights in the Word of the Lord and who meditates on it day and night’ (Ps. 1:1–2). ‘I trust in your word,’ the Psalmist declares (Ps. 119:42 ESV). And Isaiah writes: ‘The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever’ (Is. 40:8 ESV).
“Our Lutheran Confessions rejoice to ‘receive and embrace with our whole heart’ the Old and New Testament Scriptures, the ‘clear fountain of Israel’ as the rule and norm for judging all teaching. To be Lutheran does not mean to substitute the Gospel in place of the Scriptures, or to substitute Christ in place of the Scriptures, but rather to recognize Christ as the heart and giver of the Scriptures who directs us to the Scriptures with all diligence and confidence.
“Let me close my reflections on the 50th anniversary of the Walkout, then, on this note and with this prayer. May we never become indifferent or skeptical toward the written Word of God, but rather may we meditate on it day and night. As we approach the sacred Scriptures, may we always pray, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant listens.’ And to what God has spoken by His prophets and apostles, may we ever say, ‘Amen. It is certain.’
“‘Stay with us, Lord, and keep us true;
Preserve our faith our whole life through—
Your Word alone our heart’s defense,
The Church’s glorious confidence
(LSB 585, v.6).

About Concordia Seminary

Concordia Seminary, St. Louis provides Gospel-centered graduate-level theological education for pastors, missionaries, deaconesses, scholars and other leaders in the name of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). To learn more, visit csl.edu.