The Rev. Jacob Preus, Lutheran Leader, Dies Served Missouri Synod as President 12 Years

Article excerpt

The Rev. Dr. Jacob A.O. Preus, the past president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, died Saturday evening, apparently of a heart attack, near his daughter's home in suburban Minneapolis. He was 74.

The Rev. Dr. Preus was on a walk with his son-in-law when he collapsed about a block from the home.

The Rev. Dr. Preus was a resident of Laclede Oaks Manor, a Lutheran retirement community in Webster Groves.

He held the title of president emeritus of the church body at the time of his death.

The Rev. Ralph A. Bohlmann, also a president emeritus, said, "Through his wise and courageous leadership as church body and seminary president, as well as his scholarly work on Martin Chemnitz, Dr. Preus helped both his contemporaries and future generations understand and focus on the evangelical orthodoxy of the word of God that is the center of the Christian message.

"A churchman, scholar and friend, he will be missed and long remembered within Lutheranism," Bohlmann said.

In the early 1970s, the Rev. Dr. Preus led the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod through the most difficult religious crisis of its history.

The contention arose over the historical authenticity of Bible stories. He was a conservative, and saw Bible stories, such as the story of Jonah and the whale, as historical. Many in his church, including most of the faculty of Concordia Seminary in Clayton, disagreed with him and said the stories were parables.

The Rev. Dr. Preus said that those who dismissed the story of Jonah as not being historical might eventually move to dismiss fundamental Christian tenets, such as the resurrection of Jesus.

He appointed a fact-finding committee to investigate what he saw as liberal professors at the school. In 1973, as a result of the committee's report, the majority of the Concordia Seminary faculty was accused of false teaching - in effect, heresy.

The Rev. Dr. John Tiejen, then the seminary's president, who championed the moderate faculty members' position, was removed on several charges.

Most of the faculty boycotted classes in protest of Tiejen's firing. All but five faculty members formed Concordia "Seminary in Exile," called Seminex.

Ultimately 100,000 lay members dropped their membership in the Missouri Synod, a figure smaller than many had predicted, said the Rev. David L. Mahsman, a spokesman for the synod.

The dissident group formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, which in 1988 merged with two other Lutheran groups - the Lutheran Church in America and The American Lutheran Church - to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. …