He wasn’t my district president. He served one term – and I was still in High School when it began. I would meet him eventually, 25 years later at a pastor’s conference. He could still speak clearly and forcefully for the sake of the Gospel. And in that room of pastors – many younger than his grandchildren – he spoke humbly and eloquently. A man of God, under orders to speak the Word of God at all times. He has now gone to his eternal rest, his heavenly home. The church triumphant has another loud voice praising the lamb. The church militant is the poorer for it.
When I say he spoke clearly and forcefully, yet humbly and eloquently, I’m not just making stuff up. He warned about the limits of the Koinonia Project when our district was gung-ho to head into battle. He was right in so many ways. The hardened heretics and their successors would not be swayed; their idolatry continues unabated. And Pr. Orberheu’s warning “We tried this 25 years ago. It didn’t do any good then.” was an apt description of the frustrations we faced. The thing we all missed was that the seminex pastors of another era had almost entirely moved on. While many of them were replaced with men of like minds, a few were earnest and honest men, who would be faithful if they were only shown how. A chance to encourage those few was the benefit of the Koinonia Project. Whether that was worth all the effort and cost, only God can tell. But unity through the Koinonia Project was not to be. Of that he was correct.
I have also in my archives a letter he sent to one of my predecessors – a man who was also unfaithful, and who would eventually be removed for false doctrine. There was a cost for the removal – my congregation was split, and the ELCA church in town still stands as testimony to that once-upon-a-time false teacher. But Pr. Oberheu’s letter to him is an example of pastoral care and concern, joined with a firm resolve not to flee in the presence of a wolf. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I would guess you haven’t either. A transfer letter that is a rallying cry to the Word of God, not just a pro-forma bit of paperwork. The love for God’s Word, His Holy Church, and for the sheep entrusted to his care are all clearly evident in this letter. On the occasion of his translation to the church triumphant, I think the church would be edified by it. And so here it is:
Dear Pastor Sackschewsky:
Enclosed with this letter is the transfer of church membership for ____. It is with reluctance that this transfer is sent simply because of your activity and involvement with the divisive and rebellious group called ELIM. I discussed this with the pastor (sic) of the Worland circuit and was advised by them that the transfer should be sent, but with the stated reasons of reluctance. We pray that ____ and his wife will be a blessing to you and your congregation.
Marvin, you stated in your letter, in which you requested the transfer for ____, that you pray that the Holy Spirit will establish unity in His Church and that He leads us to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and make us one in praising the glory of His grace. Our church was of one mind and has always acknowledged Jesus as Lord and did raise one voice in praising and glorifying Him until man – in their puffed-up theological conceit and in their arrogant rebellion against all established order and against our church’s elected officials – have torn the church apart until we are no longer one. As long as ELIM and its followers – and let me remind you that this organization has been repudiated by synod’s board of directors and by our own district as being a divisive movement within synod – as long as they continue to rebel and to operate as a church within a church there can and there will be no unity. The unity must be under the authority and on the basis of the Word of God – all of God’s Word. When man reuse (sic) to submit to that, there can be no unity. Let’s face it Marv, there are two theologies within our church and the two will not be united.
You know, Marv, I’m not angry at you – sorry and saddened because of your stated position regarding the divisive ELIM movement yes – but not angry. I only hope and pray that as you study His Word that you will submit to it and accept ALL of it in faith and as the WORD OF GOD. I plead with you to simply proclaim Jesus and the simplicity of His Word – His love – His grace – and His forgiveness. That’s what the people want and that’s exactly what the people need!
God’s blessing be upon you and your ministry!
In His Service.
Robert C. Oberheu.