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The Oscar J. Naumann Papers

Identifier: B010
The collection is made up of materials created by and collected by Rev. Oscar J. Naumann. The collection reflects the life of an active man involved in leading a small, conservative Lutheran synod based in Milwaukee, WI through the storms of doctrinal conflict to a period of unprecedented growth in souls and mission efforts at home and abroad, while at the same time maintaining a solid, confessional stance based solely on the Word of God. Many of the items in the collection reflect the evangelistic and pastoral nature of a strong, yet humble, leader in the establishment and growth of the WELS as a Scripturally-pure, confessional Lutheran church body during a time of ecumenism, compromise and social gospel among other Lutheran church bodies. Many of these items also reflect his strong leadership amidst the doctrinal crises that arose in the 1950s and 1960s between the Wisconsin Synod and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and amidst the time of growth and expansion that took place in the Wisconsin Synod after the split in 1961.The collection consists of the following series: Series 1: Case files of pastors, laypeople and congregations Series 2: Church of the Lutheran Confession documents Series 3: Federation for Authentic Lutheranism documents Series 4: General correspondence Series 5: Correspondence and documents on inter-church relations Series 5: Correspondence and documents on inter-church relations Series 6: Domestic and foreign Lutheran church bodies Series 7: Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) documents Series 8: Documents on Lutheran organizations Series 9: Newspaper clippings Series 10: Documents on non-Lutheran organizations Series 11: Correspondence and documents on parish events Series 12: Preaching invitations Series 13: Specific correspondence Series 14: Correspondence and documents on synodical affairs Series 15: Synodical Conference documents Series 16: Correspondence and documents on topical issues


  • 1945 - 1979


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10 Box : 10 record boxes containing 270 file folders.

Biographical / Historical

Oscar John Naumann was born 24 June 1909 at Wood Lake, Minnesota, the son of Pastor Justus Naumann, a president of the Minnesota Synod from 1912-1917, and his wife Maria, nee Scherf. On 27 June, Oscar entered God’s family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. He spent much of his childhood in Wood Lake, Goodhue and St. Paul, MN. At the age of 7 ½, he lost his father to a fatal paralytic stroke.

In March 1923, Pastor John Plocher confirmed Naumann at St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN. After grade school, Naumann attended the High School Department of Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN and graduated in 1927. He attended Northwestern College in Watertown, WI and received his BA in 1931. From there he attended and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Thiensville, WI in 1934. In 1934, after Seminary graduation, Naumann was assigned as a tutor at Northwestern College. On 13 September 1936, Naumann was ordained and installed as pastor of Arlington Avenue Lutheran Church in Toledo, OH. He served there until 1940. From 1940 to July 1946, he served as a professor at Dr. Martin Luther College. In 1944, while at DMLC, he helped organize Grace Lutheran Church in Le Sueur, MN. In July 1946, Naumann was installed as pastor of St. John’s Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN. He served there from July 1946 to November 1959, when he moved to Milwaukee to serve as the first full-time president of the Wisconsin Synod. On 5 September 1936, Naumann married Miss Dorothy Schwarz of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Dorothy was a 1929 graduate of Dr. Martin Luther College. She served as a teacher at St. John’s in Wauwatosa, WI, St. John’s in St. Paul, MN and at Mt. Lebanon in Milwaukee, WI. The Lord blessed the couple with seven children: one daughter—Myrna and six sons—Philip, Thomas, Martin, Peter, James and Paul. Dorothy was called home to the church triumphant in October 1975. During his ministry, in addition to serving a large congregation, Naumann served as Minnesota District President from 1948 to 1953. He also served the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and other States as second vice-president from 1951 to 1953. When John Brenner declined to stand for reelection in 1953, Naumann was elected as president of the Synod. He served as both president and full-time pastor of St. John’s until 1959, when he became the full-time president of the Wisconsin Synod. He served in that capacity until his death in 1979. He was re-elected to an unprecedented 13 consecutive two-year terms. During his presidency, he served the Wisconsin Synod as an advisor on a number of boards including the Committee on Doctrinal Matters, the Committee on Inter-Church Relations, the Publications Committee and others. During his presidency, the Synod expanded from having congregations in 16 states to 48 states. It also began world mission movements in Malawi, Cameroon, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Mexico, Colombia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and India. Naumann intended to retire after his term ended in 1979 due to health reasons, but the Lord had other plans. On 16 June 1979, he suffered a massive stroke and was rushed to the hospital in a coma. Early on the morning of 19 June 1979, Oscar John Naumann was called from this veil of tears to join his Savior in the eternal rest at the age of 69. His funeral service was held on 21 June 1979 at Mt. Lebanon, Milwaukee. Rev. Marvin Otterstatter, Naumann’s pastor at Mt. Lebanon, preached the funeral sermon on Psalm 73:25-26—Naumann’s Confirmation verse. Rev. George Boldt, the acting first vice president of the WELS, served as presiding minister. Acting President Carl Mischke addressed the gathering on behalf of the Synod. A large chorus of pastors and teachers sang three special numbers. Pastors Norman Berg, Theodore Sauer, James Schaefer, Robert Voss and Professors Carl Lawrenz and Oscar Siegler served as pallbearers. The district presidents of the Synod served as honorary pallbearers. His interment took place at Graceland Cemetary in Milwaukee that day, where Rev. Otterstatter read the committal service. At the time of Naumann’s death, acting President Carl Mischke said, “[Under Naumann’s presidency the Synod had expanded] from a Midwestern church body to a national church body with congregations in most of the 50 states and mission fields in twelve countries….He was unwavering in his determination to keep the Synod faithful to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions, but as unwaveringly dedicated to sharing the Word with the world. Our missions have lost a warm friend and an ardent supporter.” ELS President Wilhelm Petersen wrote, “He was indeed a common man who could effectively communicate with people from all walks of life. He was a Christian gentleman, kind, considerate, thoughtful. He was a balanced theologian, truly motivated by the Gospel and evangelical in his approach to the Lord’s word. He was aware of the twin dangers of liberalism and legalism which pose a constant threat to the church and he resisted both with the Sword of the Spirit. The Wisconsin Synod has lost an able leader; the ELS has lost a good friend. We shall not soon forget his kind words of encouragement and his gentle, brotherly admonitions. He truly endeavored to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Morton Schroeder in a March 1997 Northwestern Lutheran article wrote, “Although turbulence marked the early years of Naumann’s presidency, his messages to the faithful encouraged patience. All points, he held, must be heard, discussed, evaluated. Conveyed in formal reports, sermons, and articles in (the Northwestern Lutheran), they were upbeat and optimistic. Three themes, not unlike litanies, were repeated again and again: faithfulness to the apostles’ doctrine, interest in mission work, and increased consecration in the stewardship of money.”

Repository Details

Part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod Archives Repository