April 20, 1841 was the second day of the Altenburg Debate. The two debaters, Adolph Marbach and Rev. C.F.W. Walther, decided on April 15th that there was the need for another day in order to debate further issues, so they set April 20th for their second day. They once again met at the Log Cabin College which was still located on Christiane Buenger’s property in the Dresden area.
At the end of the day, Adolph Marbach stated that he was convinced from Rev. Walther’s arguments that there was indeed a legitimate church here in America. The pastors ended up feeling that they were still performing important tasks as spiritual leaders with their flocks. And the people felt reassured that they could not only stay here in their new home, but that the laypeople in their congregations may just end up with some voice in how congregations were operated. Indeed, there was a collective sigh of relief in Perry County, and all those involved felt they could confidently go forward with their lives.
I think one big lesson was learned by those involved in the German immigration. They made the mistake of putting too much confidence in an earthly leader. They learned that the message is much more important than the messenger. They had placed too much trust in Rev. Martin Stephan, and he let them down. However, the message that Rev. Stephan was proclaiming from the pulpit was the truth. The Missouri Synod which formed later in the 1840’s went on to become a church body that has never made its leaders the central focus of their organization. It has always centered itself in the Word and Sacraments, as well it should.
God doesn’t have a choice. He has to accomplish His plans while working with sinful people. In the case of the Perry County immigration, we definitely see how God managed to do wonderful things despite how hard humans tried to mess up His plans. The difficulties that the settlers had to face even helped them become better equipped to do God’s Will.