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bjsConferenceButton2013Readers might have noticed the Steadfast Lutherans site in my blogroll.

The Brothers of John the Steadfast (BJS) — a group of Lutheran laymen and pastors ‘defending and promoting confessional Lutheranism and its media’ — have scheduled their fifth annual conference for February 15 and 16, 2013. It will take place in Naperville, Illinois (west suburban Chicago).

The weekend promises three lectures on the Lutheran faith, including a perspective on African missions.

What makes the BJS members — including pastors — different from many others is their enjoyment in moderation of tobacco and alcohol. The BJS conference this year asks that pietists refrain from attending. The pastors make it clear that, as in past years, Friday night features parties after Vespers. These include (emphases in the original):

Scotch Tasting – The Gavin family has once again graciously opened their home for a wonderful party. Come join us as we sample a handful of Scotches from pedestrian to premium. There will also be beer, wine and soda for those not touched by the “highland fascination.” The newly refurbished basement with a walk-in wine cellar and wet bar can accommodate up to 70 guests comfortably …

Beer Tasting – Bethany BJS chapter member Tye Fox is entertaining guests for a few hours of beer tasting, including a home brew or two. Come and taste some beers you may not have had before and share your own tastes and preferences with the brothers. After their annual stop at the cigar bar Fisk and Wolfmueller will help the Foxes entertain their guests.

Cigar Lounge – Each year we talk one of the two Naperville cigar lounges into staying open late enough to accommodate a dozen or so BJS hackers to light up a stogey or two after the Divine Service.

Irish Pub – Bethany Associate Pastor Stephen Schumacher always takes a crew over to Quigley’s Bar. You will think you are on the Dingle Peninsula when you step into this bar whose booths and and other appointments were all imported from the Emerald Isle. Fortunately in five years we have yet to have any Catholic/Protestant fisticuffs break out with this annual infusion of zealous Lutheran Brothers of John.

Saturday morning begins with the Manly Man’s Breakfast, to which wives are invited.

The BJS promotes confessional Lutheranism and looks forward to opening new chapters for this purpose:

The Brothers of John the Steadfast, brings together Lutheran laymen to defend and promote the orthodox Christian faith which is taught in the Lutheran Confessions, provide financial support for Christian new media (e.g. Issues, Etc.), and to support other endeavors selected by its membership that defend and promote the cause of confessional Lutheranism.

Specific challenges in the church today, identified by BJS so that it can accomplish its mission include:

    1. Raise funds for confessional Lutheran new-media like Issues, Etc.
    2. Help men support their local pastor in the cause of defending confessional Lutheranism.
    3. Support the historic liturgy as a means of conserving the truth of God’s word.
    4. Encourage and equip husbands to be the spiritual head of their household and a strong voice of leadership in their local congregation.

The means by which this mission and objectives are carried out is through individual members and chapters. Individual members will meet via internet communications and at annual gatherings. Chapter members will likewise be a part of the on-line community but will also meet regularly and locally (e.g. weekly Bible breakfasts, Lutheran Confessions reading groups, monthly topical meetings, etc.).

You might wonder who John the Steadfast was — if so, the BJS include a biography of Luther’s first lay supporter (emphases mine):

Although John the Steadfast is not well-known outside of Lutheran circles, he should be. Without his steadfast conviction that Luther’s teaching was true, and his steadfast actions in defense of the Reformation, there would no Protestant church today. Without John’s protection, Luther would have experienced the same fate as Jan Huss, who was burned at the stake at the Council of Constance. Without John’s wisdom in political affairs, the Lutherans in Germany would have been murdered like the 20,000 French Calvinists on Saint Bartholomew’s Day in 1572.

German Lutherans still remember the role that John the Steadfast played in defending their religion. The Wittenberg Castle Church has two prominent tombs today. These are not the graves of Luther and Melanchthon, who are buried in front of the pulpit, but the graves of John and Elector Frederick “the Wise” (his older brother). The electors are buried in front of the altar under huge bronze memorial slabs. They are flanked by alabaster statues, depicting them kneeling in prayer, and by magnificent bronze sculptures of the two electors in ceremonial garb and sword.

John the Steadfast was born in 1468 at Meissen, known today for its famous porcelain. He received a scholarly education, was trained in the arts of the knight, and gained prestige in battles against the Ottoman Turks. John became an enthusiastic reader of Martin Luther’s writings. When the papal bull was published against Luther in 1520, John was responsible for making sure it was not enacted in Electoral Saxony. Through correspondence, he convinced his brother Frederick at Worms to be more bold in his defense of Luther, resulting in Luther’s protection at the Wartburg. In October 1522, John heard Luther preach sermons at the court of Weimar on the powers and limits of secular authority (German: Von weltlicher Obrigkeit). These sermons became John’s personal political philosophy.

Upon the death of Frederick in May 1525, John the Steadfast became the Elector of Saxony. In those days, the Saxon Elector was second only to the emperor in power and influence in the Holy Roman Empire. Upon his accession, John announced to the clergy of Saxony that, in the future, the pure Word of God should be preached without human addition and that all useless ceremonies were to be abolished. In February 1526, John ratified a treaty with the Landgrave Philip of Hesse, which was soon joined by other Lutheran states. This was the beginning of political organization in defense of the Lutheran church …

From this history, we learn that the first “confessors” and defenders of the Lutheran church were laymen. Their spiritual heirs should remember that the Lutheran church cannot survive without laymen who also confess and defend this faith. John the Steadfast met his Savior on August 10, 1532.

Whilst he was not a martyr, John the Steadfast fought political battles against a powerful Catholic Church via the nobility and institutions in Saxony.

If you haven’t read the BJS blog, it offers a mixture of religious and socio-politcal posts, most of which are followed by online discussion.  I highly recommend it.

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