C. F. W. Walther bigraphy, stories - President of the Lutheran Church

C. F. W. Walther : biography

October 25, 1811 - May 7, 1887

Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther (October 25, 1811 – May 7, 1887) was the first President of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and its most influential theologian. He is commemorated by that church on its Calendar of Saints on May 7. He has been described as a man who sacrificed his homeland, his health and nearly his life for the freedom to speak freely, to believe freely, and to live freely. He was dedicated to his Church and the faith for those he loved."C.F.W. (Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm) Walther (1811-1887) Papers, c.1828-1887." Accessed 14 Mar 2013


C.F.W. Walther was born a pastor's son in Langenchursdorf in the Kingdom of Saxony (part of modern-day Germany). Out of a strong religious commitment, he immigrated to the United States in 1838. On September 21, 1841, he married Emilie Buenger. They had six children. He started two important publications, and was author of many books and periodical articles. He was also the head pastor of the four Saxon Lutheran congregations (called Gesammtgemeinde) in St. Louis (Trinity, Holy Cross, Immanuel and Zion). In August 1855, Walther turned down an honorary doctorate from the University of Göttingen, but in 1877 he accepted a Doctor of Theology (Th.D.) degree from Capital University, Columbus, Ohio. He died of a serious illness in St. Louis on May 7, 1887, and was buried at Concordia Cemetery, where a mausoleum was later built in his honor.


Ferdinand, as he was called by his family, was first educated by his father. At the age of eight he attended school in Hohenstein for two years. He then entered "Latein Schule" ("Latin school", college preparatory school comparable to today's junior or community college) in Schneeberg, from which he graduated in September 1829.

One month later he enrolled in the University of Leipzig to begin his study of theology and joined his older brother Otto Hermann, who was enrolled in the same university. During his college years in Leipzig he contracted a near-fatal lung disease and had to interrupt his studies for six months. While ill and recuperating, he assiduously read the works of Martin Luther and became convinced that Luther's theology clearly taught the doctrines of Holy Scripture. He also began believing in the importance of a firm confessional position.

In 1833, Ferdinand took his first exam at the university. This examination authorized him to accept a position as a private tutor for a family in the town of Kahla. The experience of two years' tutoring qualified him to take his second examination in Leipzig and graduate. On January 15, 1837, he was ordained to the Lutheran clergy and became a pastor in the town of Bräunsdorf in Saxony. As part of his pastoral duties, he taught religion classes in the local school. He soon, however, found himself at odds with the rationalistic government of the Kingdom of Saxony because he believed it departed from the faith and practice of historic Lutheranism and promoted false doctrine—to him a lack of orthodoxy. Many other conservative Lutherans also opposed the Saxon government's liberal religious policies.

Exodus from Saxony

Walther and several hundred of the other dissenters came together under the leadership of a pastor holding similar views—Martin Stephan from Dresden. In November 1838, under Stephan's ongoing direction, 800 Saxon immigrants left on five ships for America, hoping for the freedom to practice their religious beliefs. The settlers arrived in New Orleans on January 5, 1839. The group settled either in St. Louis, Missouri or to the south along the Mississippi River in Perry County, Missouri.

Controversy over "Bishop" Stephan

Soon after the immigrants were settled in the new homeland, their leader and self-proclaimed "bishop of the new settlement", Martin Stephan, was accused of financial and sexual misconduct and was expelled from the settlement. His departure left Walther as one of the most well-respected clergymen remaining. He served as the minister at Dresden (later absorbed into the nearby town of Altenburg) in Perry County until 1841, when he was called to be minister of his late brother's congregation in St. Louis.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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