Some fourteen years ago Dr John Stephenson published an English translation of Wilhelm Löhe’s foundational writing on the church and the office of the ministry: Aphorisms on the New Testament Ministry and their Relationship to the Congregation (Repristination Press, 2008). Originally written in 1849, Löhe’s Aphorisms were a contribution to debate on a hot topic that had both political and churchly effects in Germany and North America.
Two years later Löhe published a second volume on the topic that responded to questions raised by readers of his Aphorisms and in which he developed further his research into biblical, dogmatic, and liturgical texts: Church and Office: New Aphorisms (1851). Dr Stephenson has been nurturing his translation of this second volume over the past decade until it is now ready for publication. In a new release, published by Concordia, St. Catharines, both books are brought together under one cover: Aphorisms on Church and Office: Old and New.
The nineteenth century was ripe with controversy over church and office. Wilhelm Löhe found himself in the midst of the debate, but not as an academic theologian. Löhe was a pastor and the Aphorisms bear the marks of a shepherd writing to clarify the nature of the office and its relationship to the church. Thanks to the diligence of Dr John Stephenson, English-speaking readers have access to Löhe’s developing thought on the pastoral office in his Aphorisms of 1849 and 1851. While not everything in the Aphorisms is applicable for the Lutheran Church in our day, readers are given access to an important voice that needs to be heard as we are challenged to think theologically about the nature of the church, her life, and mission, in relation to the office instituted by Christ. This volume should find a place not only in seminary classrooms but as a book for study, discussion, and debate in pastoral conferences.
Rev. Dr John T. Pless
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
John Stephenson has done the English-speaking world a great service in preparing these translations of Wilhelm Löhe’s Aphorisms on church and office from 1849 and 1851. Although many have acknowledged Löhe’s role in giving shape to North American Lutheranism through his Sendlinge, access to the writings of this influential pastor-theologian and renewer of the church has been far too limited.
The Aphorisms took shape in the context of debates about structures of the church and its ministry within the European landscape of Lohe’s own Bavarian Landeskirche. They also offer the fullest account of Löhe’s thinking about matters that emerged among the churches of German Lutheran immigrants on the North American continent. In a larger historical perspective, these writings from Löhe contribute to the ongoing reflection about the church in the circumstances of the modern world. Löhe’s Aphorisms reveal the scriptural, spiritual, confessional, and fundamentally catholic foundations of his tireless efforts to renew the church as a distinctive and responsive community of disciples. That project remains ever relevant.
Rev. Dr Thomas H. Schattauer
Professor Emeritus of Liturgics
Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa
Co-President, International Loehe Society