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Carl Ferdinand Walther

1811-1878. American Lutheran theologian. Born in Langenchursdorf, Saxony, he attended the Gymnasium at Schneeberg and the University of Leipzig, was ordained into the Lutheran ministry in 1837, and made pastor in Braeunsdorf. While at Leipzig he had come under Pietistic influences, which combated the Rationalistic influences of his younger years. He was profoundly influenced by Martin Stephan, pastor in Dresden, and came into the Erweckungsbegung, the newly awakened Lutheran confessional movement. He joined the emigrants under Stephan, arriving in Missouri early in 1839. Here he was made pastor at Dresden and Johannisberg, Perry County, Missouri. He played an active role in the deposition of Martin Stephan, who had developed autocratic tendencies and was accused of moral turpitude. In 1841 Ferdinand succeeded his brother Otto Herman as pastor of the Saxon church in St. Louis. In 1849 he became professor of theology at Concordia Seminary, which was moved from Perry County to St. Louis in December of that year. Walther retained the post of chief pastor of the Gesamtgemeinde (the Lutheran congregations in St. Louis as they were newly established became part of the one-parish structure) while serving as professor and president of the seminary.

He was the first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod), founded in 1847, and the first president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, founded in 1872, a federation of German and one Norwegian Lutheran synods which was strictly confessional. Walther participated in various theological controversies in his lifetime: the controversy on church and ministry with the so- called Buffalo Synod, with Wilhelm Loehe* and the Iowa Synod, a controversy with the German Methodists, a controversy within his own synod on Millennialism, and a controversy within the synodical conference on predestination and election. He was regarded as an outstanding preacher and the published output of his sermons is fourteen volumes.

His chief theological writings are on the question of church and ministry (mainly Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt), a manual on pastoral theology (Americanisch-Lutherishe Pastoraltheologie), and his lectures on Law and Gospel (Die rechte Unterscheidung von Gesetz und Evangelium translated as The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel). Walther is generally regarded as the outstanding Lutheran theologian in America in the nineteenth century.

L.W. Spitz, Sr., The Life of Dr. C.F.W. Walther (1961); C.S. Meyer (ed.), Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (1964) and (ed.) Letters of C.F.W. Walther: A Selection (1969).