Chapter 9 - Out Of Them All The Lord Delivered
Series: Our Fathers Saw His Mighty Works
There is perhaps a danger inherent in this history of the Lutheran Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Committee and Lutheran Evangelistic Movement. The focus is so much on the positive that the reader is liable to mistakenly get the impression either that there were no difficulties in the movement or that the story has been manipulated to appear unrealistically rosy. The reason that this account appears so unswervingly optimistic is that its main emphasis is to retell some of the wonderful works of a perfect and good God. But of course there were also disappointments and difficulties, trials and troubles within the Committee; and an account of at least some of the major ones seems advisable. However, lest the overall focus on what God has done be lost, it also seems best to assemble these hardships here into one place rather than to scatter them throughout the story. They will be stated factually without commentary or opinion as to where any fault may have lain. God works in mysterious ways. Towards His children He works all things, even the bad and the sinful, together for good in the end. In all situations He brings glory to His name. Whether or not there is a satisfactory human explanation for why He allowed certain things to happen within the Committee, let the focus of this chapter be this: that out of them all the Lord delivered His children. The following difficulties and troubles took place mostly before 1945, but they certainly did not hinder God from sending the long-sought-for revival within the LEM during the years following World War II.
It was not many years that the original Lutheran Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Committee remained intact. In October of 1939, less than three years into its existence, Evangelist John Carlsen resigned from its membership, explaining his position to the Committee by letter shortly thereafter.1 Carlsen’s main work had been with the South American Mission Prayer League and in that work he had always lived by faith, never drawing a salary nor asking for funds, not even for traveling expenses. That, in fact, was a guiding principle of the entire Prayer League. At the same time, the custom of the Evangelistic Committee had always been to use available funds to reimburse expenditures incurred and to pay standard preaching fees both to themselves and to other conference speakers.2 When Carlsen had returned from Bolivia in late 1938, he had set out in full-time itinerant evangelism while serving only as an advisor to the Prayer League home committee. In this merely advisory capacity, Carlsen had not felt bound any longer to strictly abide by the faith principles of the Prayer League. But as his itinerant work continued, he began feeling led of God that his evangelism should become more closely connected with the promotion of world evangelization through missions and especially through the Prayer League‘s work in South America. Consequently, Carlsen believed that he should once again “step out in full assurance of God’s will to live and labor according to the [faith] principles of our mission as fully as our workers on the field themselves.” To avoid any “confusion of mind and heart,” Carlsen resigned from the Evangelistic Committee and from any other committees he was part of which were not operating under exactly the same sort of faith principles. His parting words to the Evangelistic Committee which he had been so instrumental in founding were gracious and exhorting: “Thanking you for the many blessings I have had in laboring with you in the past and admonishing you to ‘have this mind in you which was in Christ Jesus.’ I remain yours in Him.”
Carlsen always remained on good terms with the Evangelistic Committee and with the LEM. Six and a half years later, when the LEM Executive Committee was considering the addition of new men into their membership, one of their first choices was John Carlsen.3 No longer constrained by the faith principles of the Prayer League, Carlsen accepted the invitation and served on the LEM Executive Committee from April of 1946 to January of 1947.4 Why was his second tenure on the committee so short? In January of 1947 he laid aside all other responsibilities to be installed as one of the official evangelists of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.5 It seemed that John Carlsen never stayed in one place for very long. His broad and energetic career included founding the World Mission Prayer League, serving as a missionary to Bolivia, itinerating as an evangelist, founding the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement, serving as an official evangelist of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, founding the Global Gospel Fellowship radio ministry, and founding the Navajo Evangelical Lutheran Mission in Rock Point, Arizona.6 The fact that he did all of those things within the last 30 years of his life only gives testimony to the staggeringly enormous zeal and strength that God had given to just one man for doing Kingdom work.
In mid 1939, only a few months before Carlsen‘s resignation, Rev. Jens Halvorson moved away from the Minneapolis area where the Evangelistic Committee was based. The reason for his departure was his resignation as official evangelist of the Lutheran Free Church7 and his re-entry into the regular pastorate, this time in Seattle, Washington.8 Although he never resigned from the Evangelistic Committee, his physical presence surely must have been missed. From time to time he communicated with the Committee by letter, and when he happened to be in Minneapolis he would join the Committee for a meeting. During one such meeting at which Halvorson was present in January 1942, the Committee resolved that “the Lutheran Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Committee should consist of such members as are in Minneapolis at the time meetings are held. The Committee expressed confidence in one another . . . [and] agreed to accept as from the Lord the action of the . . . Committee, whenever it should find it necessary to transact business.”9 So, in a sense, Halvorson remained part of the Evangelistic Committee for many years after his move; but in practicality, he was mostly just a member in spirit.
During the earliest years of the Evangelistic Committee, Rev. A.W. Knock had been not only an active member but also its secretary.10 (He was succeeded as secretary in January of 1939 by Rev. G.W. Busse11 and in July of 1939 by Bernice Wold whom the Committee hired as their first full-time secretary.12) However, as active as Knock had been in the work of the Committee, by early 1940 he had been forced to reevaluate his situation. On June 15, 1940, he wrote to the Committee:
“After months of serious prayer and consideration it becomes clear to me that I must resign from the Evangelistic Committee . . . I shall not go into details . . . But I have been ‘advised’ by those in authority that that would be more helpful for my work in the Lutheran Bible Institute. It has been difficult not to confuse interests and I have felt for a long time that it would be better for me to be given wholly to the work of the Bible Institute.
“This will not decrease my interest in evangelism, nor my well-wishes and prayers that the Lord shall continue to use you . . . I thank you sincerely for the rich and happy fellowship we have enjoyed.”13
By the middle of 1940 the ranks of the Evangelistic Committee had thinned considerably, but the worst was yet to come.
As if it had not been hard enough to watch several of their members leave peacefully, the Evangelistic Committee next had to face the departure of a member on quite unhappy terms. On May 23, 1940, Rev. Joseph Stump wrote to the Committee, “Owing to circumstances which have arisen, I deem it advisable to resign from this committee. Kindly accept my
resignation . . . .”14 He then gave this letter to secretary Bernice Wold to deliver to the Committee; but when Miss Wold saw “the state of mind which [Stump] was in at the time, [she] supposed that he would retract [his] decision” and therefore kept the letter to herself for nearly three weeks before finally delivering it to the Committee.15
What were the “circumstances which [had] arisen” for Stump? Although history has left us with two somewhat conflicting sides to the story, it seems that the overall problem was opposition to Stump from certain Lutheran synods. Joe Stump was no passive character. Wherever he went he spoke out boldly and often created a stir. Of course much of the opposition to him was from Lutheran pastors, both in his own synod and others, who took personal offence at his testimony of having been a pastor for ten years before having seen his sin and received Jesus.16 But the Evangelistic Committee believed that at least some of the opposition to Stump was justified because he had not always acted in a Christian manner, and they therefore considered it necessary to “put him under discipline.”17
It is unclear whether the Committee simply suggested or actually required Stump’s resignation. One of Stump’s closest friends reported years later that the Committee had in fact asked Stump to resign.18 Another friend recalled Stump having simply “agreed to leave.”19 Whatever the case, when the Committee met on June 18, 1940, they accepted Stump’s resignation “with the provision and condition that . . . when he [had] been counseled in a brotherly way that the Committee consider reinstatement.”20 One week later they met again and “agreed that he should not be reinstated . . . until the confidence of the Christians had been regained as it [had] been with the members of the Committee . . . .”21 But apparently that confidence was not regained for quite some time. Although Stump was allowed to remain on the schedule as a speaker for the 1940 Deeper Life Conference,22 he did not again appear as an Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Conference speaker for several years. There was evidence of many hurt feelings. Stories that filtered back through those who knew Stump well were that the Evangelistic Committee had removed him in hopes of attracting his estranged synod (the ULCA) and that Stump had declared, “It is not Joe Stump who is the obstacle for these people, but the Holy Spirit.”23 Yet the Committee held firm to their decision. One year later they had not given up hope that Stump could soon be reinstated,24 and two years later they were continuing to seek to council with him.25 But by July of 1944, four years after Stump’s resignation, the Committee was still “waiting to take him back as soon as he show[ed] a different attitude.”26 Stump himself still desired to be reinstated, and it was around this same time that the Committee felt his attitude had indeed changed for the better. After five months of thought and prayer on the matter,27 they agreed unanimously in December of 1944 that it was the Lord’s will that they invite Stump back onto the Committee.28 And thus a four-and-a-half-year-long troubling situation ended happily.
But a happy ending was not clearly in sight for the Evangelistic Committee in mid 1940. For the last five months of that year, they functioned with a mere half of what they had been one year earlier. Of the original eight members, only four remained: Conrad, Scotvold, Gisselquist, and Busse; and there were several Committee meetings at which only three or even just two of those members were present in addition to the secretary. But the Lord continued to do His work, and more members were added as time went on. In January of 1941, the Committee invited Paul Lindell into their number;29 and in November of that same year they welcomed Rev. Leonard C. Masted as a member.30 Just two months later, in January of 1942, the Committee voted to make their secretary Bernice Wold an actual member of the Committee.31 When Miss Wold announced later that October that she would be leaving at the end of the year, the Committee asked Orloue Gisselquist, son of Rev. J.O. Gisselquist, to be her successor.32 Sensing that God was leading him into this sort of work, Orloue accepted the position33 and soon became an integral part of the Committee and its spiritual leadership.
Just two weeks after the Evangelistic Committee voted to make the secretary a permanent position of membership, they also agreed unanimously to invite Rev. Maynard Force into their number.34 Force serves as a good example that the new members added to the Committee were of the same convictions and caliber as those who had left. As a young man, Force had thought that he “was too good to be lost. I was a faithful attendant at church,” he said. “I was a teacher in the Sunday school; I took communion; I did not drink and carouse like many whom I knew. Surely I must be a Christian.”35 Just out of high school, Force began working for the railroad in their shop department. His coworkers warned him to stay away from a certain employee who was an outspoken Christian, but God had other plans.36 Almost ironically, Force was assigned to work closely with that Christian man. Before long, a sincere and meaningful Christian witness had been given which resulted in Force becoming deeply convicted that he was a lost sinner in spite of his religion and morality. One day after three months of failed attempts at self-improvement, Force took his Bible and went alone into an open field where he pleaded with God to give him peace. And as he read from his Bible, God answered his prayer and led him to Christ. Force later said, “I experienced the verse, ‘And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (John 8:32) . . . Now I praise God that He knocked the false foundation from under me, so that I sank in despair. That is what led me to the cross.”37 A few years after his conversion, Force entered Augustana Seminary to study for the ministry. He was one year ahead of Evald Conrad in the program there, and he served as evangelistic partner to Dr. S.J. Sebelius the year before Conrad did so.38 Force graduated from the seminary in 1931 and was ordained into the pastorate, still praising God for the joy of salvation and praying that he might be used of God to bring others to Jesus.39 In 1940, Trinity Lutheran Church called him to a co-pastorate position with Evald Conrad so that each could alternate with the other on weekend evangelistic forays sponsored by Trinity.40 It was men such as these whom the Evangelistic Committee sought to have among their ranks for the work to which God had called them.
But as encouraging as was the addition of new members like Force, it was not enough to offset the Committee’s greatest hardship of all: a problem which out-spanned all of the events described in the foregoing paragraphs, having begun before the first resignation from the Committee and not concluding until after World War II. Throughout nearly that entire time, the Committee faced this particular trial together; but after six and a half years, its unexpected ending came bitterly. On May 18, 1939, Rev. G.W. Busse wrote a letter tendering his resignation from the Evangelistic Committee at the request of his synod, the American Lutheran Church.41 It was Busse’s understanding that the ALC was displeased by his association with and preaching alongside of Joseph Stump of the ULCA synod with which the ALC had “no altar and pulpit fellowship.”42 After considerable prayer over the matter, Busse had sensed God’s guidance to resign in order to not be an offense to his synod but to rather remain within it as a strong proponent for true Biblical evangelism.43 However, the Evangelistic Committee rejected Busse’s resignation44 and instead wrote to the Minnesota Executive Committee of the ALC in his defense. The reply that they received was perhaps a bit surprising but truly indicative of the type of opposition that the Evangelistic Committee could expect to receive in the years ahead.
“ . . . the Executive Committee of the Minnesota District . . . of the ALC . . . regrets deeply that some misunderstanding has apparently crept in which certainly reflects unfavorably on its ecumenical spirit. The fact that the Rev. J. Stump belonged to your committee would hardly bar Bro[ther] Busse from participation in your work . . . Let us be frank with one another in this whole matter. While the [ALC Executive] Committee is in hearty agreement with the great object of your [Evangelistic] Committee, viz., to work for real spiritual life in our congregations, [we] are not in full accord with all of your methods. Many of our brethren are of the opinion that [your methods] are not quite Lutheran in doctrine and practice and have earmarks of pietism. The [ALC] Executive Committee stands squarely for biblical piety, but is opposed to pietism and feels that it must not expose any of its congregations to that spirit.”45
Pietism, as defined by the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, is a “tendency . . . to emphasize more the practicalities of Christian life and less the formal structures of theology or church order.” One of its most notable traits is “its experiential character - pietists are people of the heart for whom Christian living is the fundamental concern.”46 After receiving the letter from the ALC, the Evangelistic Committee reaffirmed its decision to veto Busse’s resignation.47
It was certainly not just G.W. Busse’s membership on the Evangelistic Committee that provoked the ALC. The whole matter was more complex than that. When nearly eight years into his pastoral ministry Busse had first received Christ as his Savior, his immediate concern had been for the souls of his parishioners and he had begun preaching the necessity of experiential salvation.48 Many responded positively, seeing their sin and their need for Christ; but others became upset. In Busse’s opinion, this latter group was more interested in “worshipping the means of grace than the Mediator”; they were “resting in the means instead of the grace in Jesus Christ.”49 Within a few years, these opponents were successful in voting Busse out of the church; but those who had in the meantime experienced salvation followed their leader. Together, Busse and these young converts, along with some other true Christians, began an independent Lutheran church, Liberty Lutheran Church, in north Minneapolis. By 1943, this new congregation had grown numerically and financially to the point that they purchased their own building.50
But the opponents did more than to simply remove Busse from their church. They also reported his new doctrine and preaching to the ALC headquarters, and consequently the ALC put Busse on trial.51 The basic charges they enumerated against him were as follows.52
1. He had belittled infant baptism.
2. He had insisted that everyone should have a conversion experience.
3. He had been un-Christian and critical in his attitude.
At one point, the ALC officials presented Busse with their definition of Lutheran doctrine and asked him if he subscribed to it. Busse said he could not accept it because “he did not think that [it] was the full expression on Lutheran doctrine.”53 The result of the trial was that Busse was put on suspension by the ALC in early 1940.54 Aside from compromising his beliefs in order to have his suspension lifted, he was left with only three options: appeal his case, apply for admission into another synod, or remain an independent Lutheran.55 Busse chose to appeal, but he was unsuccessful. Ultimately he took his case all the way to the National Board of Appeals of the ALC, but they only upheld the Minnesota Committee’s ruling.56 Once the highest court of the ALC had spoken and Busse had made it clear that he would not waver on his position, the ALC officially removed him from their ministerial list.57 They only stopped short of revoking his pastoral license which, if they had done so, could have moved the matter into civil court.58
Throughout these tremendous hardships, the Lutheran Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Committee stood firmly behind Busse. They saw the attack as being not merely against him individually but as being against them corporately because it was an attack against the type of evangelism and deeper Christian life for which their Committee existed. “It is really an attack on Christ,” declared the Committee. “If we withdraw [from] Busse, they will attack us some way else . . . We will have to stand together against the attacks of the Devil.”59 “The issue [is] not Busse - it is evangelism. They make a mountain out of Busse merely because they need a technicality to make an issue of. There are all kinds of strange tendencies of unionism, modernism, and worldliness in the church that are not opposed. They are not afraid of such things as they realize that little will come of it. But behind evangelism there is a growing movement.”60 By “they,” the Evangelistic Committee surely meant more than just the officials of the ALC. Those officials were only representative of similar leaders and doctrines within the Lutheran church at large.
The Evangelistic Committee was one of Busse’s staunchest supporters throughout his ordeal; but at the same time, they began slowly to recognize in him some developing viewpoints which they could not support. The core of the issue was that, as the years passed, Busse began tending more and more towards inter-denominationalism. As early as February of 1941, he suggested that the Committee organize city-wide revival and evangelistic meetings “without a denominational label” in various places across the country.61 Nothing further was mentioned about that specific proposal, but nearly two years later Busse brought up a similar and much more significant issue. He told the Committee that Liberty Lutheran Church was considering dropping “Lutheran” from their name in order to reach more people in north Minneapolis. The Evangelistic Committee was sternly opposed to such an idea and listed their reasons as follows.62
1. The non-denominational title had often been associated with deceit.
2. The name “Lutheran” did not deter non-Lutherans from a church where their needs were really being met.
3. Most people in the region were Lutherans anyway.
4. Such a move would bar Busse from working with the Evangelistic Committee.
5. Inter-denominational work usually attracted detrimental “floating free-lancers.”
6. An unclear doctrinal stance was an invitation for contention.
7. Busse’s influence within the ALC and the Lutheran church would be lost.
For two years, Liberty Lutheran made no move. Then in February of 1945, Busse announced to the Committee again that the church had decided “to drop the name Lutheran and go on an undenominational basis.”63 The Committee “agreed that [Busse] was doing the wrong thing,”64 but they felt that they had already made their position quite clear to him.65 This was not the first time that Busse had overridden the Committee’s advice. In mid 1943, he had told the Committee that Liberty Lutheran felt led of God to ordain the director of the independent Plymouth Gospel [Rescue] Mission since, without ordination, this indispensable evangelical leader would be subject to the military draft. The Committee believed that such an action would reflect on them as a whole and that their evangelistic movement “was by no means ripe for such a step” of ordaining others, not to mention non-Lutherans.66 But Busse and Liberty Lutheran went ahead and ordained the man anyway.67
In spite of their growing incongruities with Busse, the Evangelistic Committee continued to treat him as an equal and trusted member of their fellowship and work. As late as December of 1944, they even “discussed at some lengths the possibility of having [him] go full time into . . . evangelistic work” on behalf of the Committee.68 But then in the summer of 1945, Busse took one of the last major steps in separating himself from the Committee: he had himself rebaptized by immersion.69 By September, it had become evident to the Committee that Busse would have to choose between his inter-denominational leanings and the Lutheran Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Committee; and by mid October, they believed that he had made that choice in favor of the inter-denominational program of his church.70 Yet they rejoiced that although “Pastor Busse feels that the Lord is leading him into more independent and interdenominational work . . . [and] though we must separate in our ministries, we can do so in the best of fellowship . . . [and] respect the Lord’s leading in Pastor Busse’s work and pray God’s richest blessing on him.”71
But one week later, after having had a three-hour meeting with Busse, Paul Lindell reported to the Committee that they had been wrong in their assumption. Busse was not after all so very committed to the program of his church, and he was ready to leave it if an opportune moment were to arise. The Evangelistic Committee decided that now they would have to make a move before Busse did, and so they passed the following resolution.
“Whereas Rev. Busse has been reluctant to commit himself wholly to the Evangelistic
Movement and has withheld from the Evangelistic Committee his full confidence
and trust, and
“Whereas upon a number of important occasions he has rejected the unanimous judgment
and opinion of the Evangelistic Committee and has acted contrary to the united
feeling of this fellowship and in a way inimical to the best interests of the
“Therefore, believing that it would be to the best interests both of Rev. Busse and of the
Evangelistic Movement, the Evangelistic Committee hereby drops Rev. Busse
from membership . . . .”72
At a later meeting, the Committee agreed that if Busse were ever to be reinstated, he would have to first “demonstrate that he is fully committed to the Lutheran church and to the Evangelistic Movement, and . . . that he is willing to submit himself to the fellowship [of the Committee].” They added, “It was on these points that his discipline was necessary.”73
Thus painfully ended the relationship between G.W. Busse and the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement. Busse never returned to the Committee. The Christian reader will be happy to know, however, that Busse did remain in the Lord’s work for the rest of his life, though not within the Lutheran church. A cursory investigation reveals that his later years of ministry were spent in northeastern Ohio pastoring a Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, leading a C&MA church plant,74 and pastoring a nondenominational church respectively until his retirement at 74 years old.75
What can be concluded from the preceding accounts of hardships and troubles that occurred within the early years of the Lutheran Inter-Synodical Evangelistic Committee? There are two things mainly. First of all, like Jesus reminded His disciples, difficulties and trials will always be part of the Christian life on this earth; yet out of them all the Lord delivers His people. Thus He builds their faith in Him and convinces them that, if there is any delivering to be done, only He can do it by His great power. Secondly, as long as people are on this earth they will always be imperfect; yet God chooses to do His work through weak vessels such as these. Even Paul the great Apostle and Barnabas the Son of Encouragement had such a sharp disagreement between them that they parted ways, and still the work of God moved forward in the early church. Truly it is a miracle that God can accomplish His work in and through imperfect human beings. All glory can only possibly go to Him. “Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.” “Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us.” (II Corinthians 2:14 and 1:10 NKJV)
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