Big-Hearted Friedrich Konrad Dietrich Wyneken

Published Apr 28, 2010
Big-Hearted Friedrich Konrad Dietrich Wyneken

Friedrich C. D. Wyneken's heart was grieved. As this Lutheran pastor traveled through the North American Midwest in the mid-nineteenth century, he encountered deep spiritual needs again and again. A letter that he wrote to a fellow minister in Baltimore, Maryland, gives a sample of what he faced:

"Although I wasn't supposed to begin my missionary activity in Ohio, I was forced by luck, as the world speaks of it, to minister in Allen and Putnam Counties, because I found a few German settlers who hadn't heard a sermon in years. They tearfully begged me to stay with them awhile. I stayed in two settlements for eight days. I preached every day, one of the days I preached twice. I confirmed a young husband, who had been instructed, but hadn't as yet received Holy Communion. I baptized 13 children, (ten of them at the same time, most of them almost fully grown up) a mother of two children, and a grown up, 18 year old girl..."

Reared in Germany, Friedrich migrated to the United States in 1838. He worked in Baltimore for a time and then the Lutheran church's Pennsylvania Synod sent him west. Traveling through Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, he saw the hardships of the German settlers and their lack of spiritual guidance. He took this knowledge home with him when ill health forced him back to Germany in 1841, writing an appeal for Lutheran pastors to go minister to German immigrants living on the American frontier. In English it is titled, The Distress of the German Lutherans in North America.

His letter got results. One of the men who read the appeal was an active preacher named Wilhelm Loehe. He threw his strength behind the task of providing pastors for America. Dozens of ministers, twenty-two of them trained by Wilhelm Loehe himself, answered the challenge and crossed the Atlantic.

Friedrich himself returned to pastor in Fort Wayne, Indiana. There he helped form the Missouri Synod, becoming its second president. His preaching had enormous impact. Giving a sermon on Christ's circumcision, for example, he solemnly warned his listeners to follow Christ on whom all our sin was laid, beginning with his circumcision in which it might be said that he engaged to obey all the law for us since we could not. "Therefore Christ's circumcision means for us that he submitted to the right of the Law; meaning: he has taken on the obligation to keep the entire Law for us, to fulfill it in the most perfect loving obedience, and to receive for us the wages of sin--that is death and condemnation--in short, all the suffering and pain which the Law had appointed for all time and eternity on the sinner and the violator of the Law.

Such teaching led a biographer to comment, "The evangelical character of our Synod, distinguishing it so favorably from many other church-bodies, is owing, to a high degree, to his influence."

When Friedrich's health declined in later years, he became an assistant to his son, a pastor in Cleveland. Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wynekan died on this day, May 4, 1876. He was one of the great pioneers of the Lutheran Synod.


  1. "[Chinews] TIH: May 4." (
  2. "Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken, Second President of the Missouri Synod: 1850-1864." (
  3. "Lutheran Church, The -- Missouri Synod at One Hundred & Fifty Years 1847 to 1997."
  4. Smith, Robert E. "Wyneken as Missionary," in Let Christ Be Christ; theology, ethics & world religions in the two kingdoms: essays in honor of the sixty-fifth birthday of Charles L. Manske. Edited by Daniel N. Harmelink. Huntington Beach, California: Tentatio Press, 1999.
  5. Wyneken, F. C. D. "A Letter From F. C. D. Wyneken to Johann Haesbaert." Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith with the Assistance of Erika Bulmann Flores. Project Wittenberg.

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