Updated May 2013.
The Center is collecting anecdotes about Arthur Carl Piepkorn by persons who witnessed them, or to whom he told one. If you have any, please send them to the Director.
New anecdotes are posted immediately following the ones from Krentz and Klein, with the ones posted most recently posted at the top. I believe that Krentz and Klein’s anecdotes should remain at the very top indefinitely because of their importance.
Here is the one from Dr. Edgar Krentz just referred to:
“Arthur Carl Piepkorn was participating in a Jewish-Lutheran dialogue. The Jewish group was appreciative of his acceptance of them–and asked if his attitude meant that he would not attempt to convert Jews.
“He answered that he regarded his Christian faith as so wonderful that he would witness to all he could, including Jewish people. They were very surprised.”
Posted September 11, 2007: Here is one from Dr. Ralph Klein that I am going to leave in second place indefinitely.
Those who knew Arthur Carl Piepkorn know that as part of his efforts for Eucharistic renewal he often polemicized against the widespread practice in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod at that time whereby only a portion of those attending a Sunday service communed while others walked out early, with apparently “better things to do.” This stance and context are crucial to understanding the following story.
One of my advisees in the 1969-1970 academic year was Richard H., who felt passionately about many things, including the U. S. involvement in the war in Viet Nam. Richard was editor of the student newspaper that year and frequently wrote editorials on this and other topics, which were so “over the top” that he often had to write subsequent retractions.
On May 4, 1970, the Kent State massacre took place, in which four protesting students were killed by the Ohio National Guard. President Nixon, in commenting on this incident, referred to the victims as “bums.”
This took shortly before Ascension Day, when at that time, we always had an evening Eucharist. Just before the service started Richard rushed up the center aisle and plopped a scarecrow in the chancel with a sign around its neck: “50,000 Vietnamese and Four Bums have died for your sins.”
We all were a bit shocked, and I could sense that Arthur Carl, who was in the pew behind me was very upset. Among many other virtues, he held to clear lines of distinction between church and state, and warned against politicizing the Gospel. I don’t remember much of that service—who presided, who preached, etc., but I do remember that shortly after the sermon, Arthur Carl stood up and left the service—before Communion!
The next morning at 8:00 a.m. Richard showed up in my office. “Now what do I do?” he asked. Not sure exactly how to answer that question, I suggested that his first duty was to go to Arthur Carl and apologize. Richard, for all of his foibles, regularly listened to me. When he knocked on Arthur Carl’s door, his voice sounded out, “Yes, come in.” When Richard opened the door, Arthur Carl said, “Oh, it’s you, Richard. Will you forgive me?”
Of all my memories of Arthur Carl, this is surely the best. –Ralph Klein, August 28, 2007
New anecdotes are posted here, with the most recently posted one at the top.
Posted May 3, 2013: On the fairer sex:
Charles L. McClean said he remembers Fr. saying that if any of us needed help coping with the fairer sex he would be happy to share with us his own experience: “After all, I live with five of them!”
April 28, 2013 email from Charles L. McClean. I am not sure I ever heard him say this, but I have come across references in his personal writings to the fact that he lived with five female. Pjs 5/3/13
Posted April 22, 2008: In 2008, John Damm, one of Piepkorn’s colleagues from 1966-73, reported that once when Piepkorn and he were discussing the topic of conversion to Roman Catholicism, Piepkorn said: “I will march to the gate of Rome and stand and plant my banner” in opposition to such conversions.
This quotation is thoroughly consistent with everything the Center Director has found in Piepkorn’s personal and professional writings or heard him say.
Posted March 29, 2008. In October 1956, the Reverend Delmar Baier, a clergyman of the Canadian Lutheran Church, attended a one day retreat at St. John the Evangelist’s Church on 195 Maujer Street in Brooklyn, where Una Sanctawas published in those years. Piepkorn lectured on Holy Communion, and was the preacher and celebrant for the Holy Communion service. During the noon meal he read a mediation on Holy Communion by John Gerhard. Del “stretched his neck” to see what book Piepkorn was reading from. He was able to see that the book was printed in Latin. Piepkorn was not reading, but translating.
In the September 23, 1947, issue of the Lutheran Witness (pp. 311-12), Piepkorn had published a “free rendering” of Chapter XIX, “Of the Mystery of the Supper of the Lord,” from Gerhard’s Holy Meditations. If that were the meditation that Piepkorn was using, he probably would have brought a copy of his free rendering. So the one he used at the Retreat may well have been a different one.
Posted 10/30/07: These are from the tape recording of the presentation that Dr. Robert L. Wilken, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Virginia, made at the beginning of his speech on the occasion of the 25th Anniversay of the Death of Arthur Carl Piepkorn. They are not in the written version in LF, Summer 1999. The words in square brackets are by the Director of the ACP Center.
“We could probably spend a good part of the evening telling stories about Piepkorn, and I am sure that during the dinner that will be one of the things that will occupy and amuse us and delight us. But just to recall some of the ones that came to mind in my memory [as I thought about this speech]: The Latin quizzes [in courses on the Lutheran Symbols. In fact, some of the questions were usually in German from the Symbols originally written in German.] that always were ten Latin statements, and Piepkorn would of course read them, first in the Church’s Latin pronunciation, and then, when he would get blank stares from the students he would say, ‘Oh, I suppose you need it in Ciceronian Latin and then would repeat them with the harsher, classical pronunciation. But this was one of the legendary sides: He graded them right minus wrong so that if you guessed you could easily wind up with a zero, or a minus 3, not 3 wrong, but 3 below zero. [Elsewhere in the Piepkorn anecdote page, I speculate on why he had these quizzes.]
“If you raised your hand in class and used the term ‘Catholic’ to mean ‘Roman Catholic,’ Piepkorn would proceed then to answer the question as though you meant ‘universal Catholic,’ and then he would stop in mid-sentence and say, ‘Oh! I think you meant ‘Roman Catholic,’ and then I will have to give you a different answer here.’
“The services for military personnel where one never saw any military personnel: it was his way of being able to celebrate the Eucharist every Sunday.
The cigarette lighter that popped out of his jacket pocket as soon as someone took out a cigarette.” [As a chaplain in the Army Reserves, Piepkorn knew that there were many military reservists in the St. Louis area who had weekend training once a month and so could not attend their usual services. So he held these services to provide them with an opportunity, advertising it through military channels. He did not have monthly training assemblies himself, but spent two weeks every summer in the Chief of Chaplain’s Office writing a history of the chaplaincy.]
Posted 10/29/07 by the Director from Robert L. Wilken’s “Arthur Carl Piepkorn: On the 25th Anniversary of His Death.” Wilken is citing what Piepkorn states in “The Moment at Which the Sacramental Union Begins”: “In 1540 in Brandenburg the ‘parish priest … took the consecrated elements to a dying person while ‘vested in surplice and preceded by the sacristan carrying a bell and a lighted lantern’ … It was once told that when Piepkorn was a pastor in Minnesota he walked through the streets with bell and candle carrying the Eucharist to the sick and shut-ins.” LF, Summer 1999, p. 47. (I have not been able to document this in the Piepkorn Papers. –The Director.)
John Pedersen shared these two anecdotes on September 28, 2007:
John and Piepkorn attended a conference at St. Olaf once. John rode with Piepkorn in the latter’s Volkswagen from St. Olaf across town to where a dinner was held for participants in the conference. John says there were “about ten stop signs along the way of which Piepkorn saw only three, and stopped at only two.”
John adds that Piepkorn had a Citizens’ Band Radio in his car, long before they became popular. When asked about it, Piepkorn replied that the “home base” transmitter/receiver was in his house, and that he often got lost and could call his wife to get directions.
This is from the Director (a St. Olaf grad): The two exits from St. Olaf are onto streets that have stop signs only when they get to the main street downtown. After crossing the river to the wrong side of the tracks (where Carleton College is located), even today Piepkorn would have to get onto the longest side street in town (E 4th) to encounter a total of ten stop signs for the trip. It’s possible. His CB radio likely had a range of a maximum of five miles where there are no obstructions. I doubt that he got lost very often that close to home.
Posted November 22, 2006. Here are six anecdotes from Edward E. Eckart, edited and captioned by the Center Director:
Graduation and Marriage on the same day. In the mid 1950s I had had six years of college draft deferment. During the last four of those years I had met and dated, Mary, the eldest daughter of ACP. He married us at 7:30 pm on the day she graduated from Valparaiso University at 4:30 pm. It seems he had promised to pay for his daughters’ weddings if they first graduated from college. I too was finished with my work at The University of Michigan. ACP was still active in the Army Reserves as Chaplain (COL) and advised me that I could avoid being drafted if I joined a reserve unit. So ACP arranged for me to enlist in an Engineer Unit of the Missouri Army National Guard. [No “advisers” were sent to Vietnam until John Kennedy’s term, so joining the Guard was not a way of avoiding being sent there. –Center Director.] I stayed in the ARNG for 30 years, retiring as the Senior Engineer Officer (COL) on the Staff of the Commanding General of the Michigan ARNG.
The ship of marriage. Being enlisted in the ARNG in the 50s and early 60s was not challenging nor rewarding. On advice of ACP and others I applied for Officer Candidate School and was accepted. The first problem that arose was that my wife was pregnant and due to deliver our first child while I was scheduled to be at Fort Benning, GA. Although we had made arrangements for my wife to move in with the Piepkorns, I fretted over not being present for the birth. ACP belayed my fears by telling me that, “The father is necessary for the laying of the keel but is not necessary for the launching of the ship.” He attended the birth of his first grandson.
A small ACP. The Piepkorns lived on the edge of Concordia Seminary, a short distance from the housing of most of the senior faculty. When my son Peter Charles was born, he was a big attraction to many of Miriam and Arthur Carl’s faculty friends. Apparently, a number of the ladies showed up one morning as Peter was being bathed in the kitchen sink. Not having much blond hair on his head he looked almost bald. One lady commented that it was sacrilegious the way he looked like a small ACP.
Devotions at the Piepkorn house and a Piepkorn saying. During my dating period, it was not unusual to be at the Piepkorn house when it was time for evening prayers. The seating arrangement was ACP and I sitting on a couch and the four girls clustered around their mother. The liturgy varied but almost always ended with ACP playing his recorder for the singing of a closing hymn. And often by that time something tickled the fancy of one of the girls and they broke into giggles or uncontrolled laughter, Miriam included. Unfazed by the commotion, ACP continued playing the recorder and I was the only one singing. And we did all the verses of the hymn. I’ve been told other visitors had similar experiences. [Richard Hoffmann, who married Faith Piepkorn, relates a similar story. –Center Director] ACP enjoyed telling Seminary students that he could advise them of relations with females; “After all I’m living with five of them!”
Not “Grandpa” but “Ancestor.” When it came time for his grandchildren to know how to address The Reverend Doctor Arthur Carl Piepkorn we asked what he preferred. He said, call me “Ancestor”. Miriam was happy with Grandma, but ACP was Ancestor. My three sons refer to him as Ancestor to this day.
Posted November 2006. Source: The Center Director.
Sour saurkraut. Piepkorn’s dad, who was a realtor and owned an appliance store, experienced a major reversal of fortunes during the Great Depression. Consequently, Piepkorn was on a tight budget at the University of Chicago. He told me that he used to keep one of those very large tall cans of cabbage on the window sill between the two panes of his dorm room. The sun came out while he was gone and there was an unexpected rise in temperature. The saurkraut went bad, but he ate it and got very ill. (I don’t know if he knew it was bad when he ate it.)
Posted October 2006. Source: The Center Director.
A Piepkorn error? or not?! The major reason I did my STM and ThD under Fr. Piepkorn was his intimate knowledge of the Lutheran Confessions and his undestadning of pre-Reformation theology essential to understanding the Confessions. But I was also impressed by the fact that I never heard him say something in class or in private that was not true. One day, however, I thought I had caught him in an error. He referred to the Papal Bull Unam Sanctam as having come out in 1302. I remembered “1301” so I went back to my room to check. My source listed its dates as 1301/02. If I had asked Fr Piepkorn why he used the date he did, I am sure he could have given me a five minute answer explaining the arguments for both dates and why he used the date that he did. (I don’t actually remember which date he used; it may have been 1301 rather than 1302.)
Posted October 2006. Source: The Center Director.
Pronunciation. Once when I asked Fr. Piepkorn how to pronounce Dionysius, he repled: “You puts your money and you takes your choice,” and then gave me five or six different pronunications.
Posted May 7, 2006:
Call to the Seminary. Someone who was in a position to know told me that the meeting at which Piepkorn was called to teach at Concordia Seminary was deliberately scheduled when Synodical President John W. Behnken, was in Europe so he could not vote against it. Richard Benken remembers the excitement at Concordia Seminary in Springfield about the call to Piepkorn, whose reputation as a “scholar” was well known.
Prayers for the faithful departed. Center Director: I remember Piepkorn saying that when he was called to the Seminary someone questioned his position on prayers for the dead, which the Lutheran Symbols are unwilling to say are “useless” (Apology 24: 96). Piepkorn said that he went to the library, canvassed the commentaries on 2 Timothy 1:18 and reported that the majority of them asserted that Onesiphorus was dead or probably dead at the time referred to in this verse, and that resolved the matter.
A letter that Piepkorn wrote on March 14, 1952, probably tells the details of this story: On that date Piepkorn wrote an 11 page letter to President Behnken in which he mentions that someone had written to Behnken in the fall of 1951 attacking Piepkorn on several matters, including his position on prayers for the faithful departed. (Piepkorn Papers 91/429) The letter was apparently shared with Piepkorn, who wrote a reply on October 8, 1951. His March letter also mentions a second letter from the same person, sent on October 31, and a letter that Behnken wrote to Piepkorn on November 12 (I have not seen any of these three earlier letters).
Piepkorn spoke to Behnken about the matter over the phone on one or more occasion, but due to his move to St. Louis and his new responsibilities did not reply until March 14. In the letter he states: “Last Friday … I spent three hours in the Pritzlaff Memorial Library going over the commentaries and Bible encyclopedias on the shelves of the reading room and in the stacks ….I am certain that this summary is thoroughly representative. It should be noted that none of the authors were Roman Catholics.” Here is my quick count: 12 say Onesiphorus was alive, 10 leave the question open, 17 say he was probably dead, and 6 say he certainly was dead. (These sources also cite cross references to 2 authors who say he was probably alive and 8 who say he was probably dead.)
Piepkorn says elsewhere that “The thrust of this passage is eschatological. St. Paul prays that the Lord will grant to Onesiphorus to find mercy (eleos) with the Lord on that Day. We have here a parallel to the petition of the Litany of our rite, ‘In the day of judgment, Help us, good Lord.’ Since the prayer contemplates the Last Day as the locus of its fulfilment, it is finally almost immaterial if Onesiphorus is alive or dead. But by the same token, since the locus is the Last Day this kind of prayer for the faithful departed can hardly be criticized.” (11/21/62 Letter to Paul M. Bretscher, p. 2. 100/615) –The Director
Posted 4-28-06: The following appeared in the Religion section of Time Magazine on July 25, 1938:
Piepkorn v. Merriment
One of the ablest Lutheran pastors in the U. S. is Rev. Dr. Arthur Carl Piepkorn, 29, who graduated from Concordia College in Milwaukee, Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, took a Ph.D. at University of Chicago, was ordained to the ministry—all before he was 23. Last autumn Dr. Piepkorn was called to Cleveland’s substantial, suburban Faith Lutheran Church. Last week he and his 600 parishioners promulgated a set of rules based on his belief that “a church wedding is a Christian religious service.”
The rules forbade kissing at the church altar between bride and bridegroom; the throwing of confetti or rice (an ancient fertility symbol) at the church door. Banned was secular and operatic music such as the Wagner and Mendelssohn wedding marches, Oh, Promise Me, At Dawning etc. Instead, Dr. Piepkorn recommended Bach and a number of lesser church composers. And he directed that wedding rehearsals be brief, dignified non-conversational. Apparently shocked at newspaper accounts of the casual gaiety of the rehearsal of the John Roosevelt-Anne Clark wedding last month, Dr. Piepkorn said: “They must have had a merry time of it. … A family as prominent as his is bound to be imitated.” Copyright Time. Available on Time Archives. See link on Links page.
Posted 4-22-06: Afraid to chant because you “can’t sing”? Neither could Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Though he was apparently a fair violin player and so must have been able to match pitches, this is what he said about himself in a speech to the First Fine Arts Festival at Valparaiso University on April 29, 1954: “I am sure that I am the only alumnus of my college who was adjured to resign from the glee club because his sagging pitch was dragging down not only the whole first bass section, but all the second tenors and the second basses as well.” His speech was printed in the September 1954 Cresset and will be in Vol. 4 of his Selected Writings.
Posted 12-12-05. Did he always wear his clerical collar?
Source: Richard Noak, LC-MS pastor
One or two of my friends and I were taking a shortcut around faculty housing past Piepkorn’s home, which was just off campus. It was mid to late afternoon; the sun was bright and warm. My vision was partially obscured by some tall “privacy” bushes around the perimeter of the pool. But I recall that Dr. Piepkorn was using a net and pole to clean debris out of the water. He was dressed in black from head to toe.
I can relate. We had a family pool when I served in Florida. There were times when I, with “church” dress, would quickly clean out debris just before I headed off for a meeting, appointment, etc.
Comment by the Center Director: Believe it or not, Piepkorn did not wear his collar all of the time. He had an elegant formal white shirt that he wore on some very formal occasions and many photos exist of him without one in informal situations. In July of 1961, in response to a pastor who worked for Concordia Publishing House who wrote to him about clerical collars on behalf of CPH, he wrote simply: “The clerical collar is simply one of many specialized types of male collars that has been developed during the past century. It indicates that the wearer is a clergyman.” I never asked him about why he usually wore one, but I suspect it was partly because they are very practical and partly because wearing one identified him as a clergyman in the same way that a police uniform identifies a policeman or nurse’s cap used to identify a nurse or a worsted tweed suit coat used to identify professors at many academic institutions. Since the clerical collar is street garb, a Roman Catholic friend of mine is very careful never to allow his to show when he is wearing vestments, a practice Piepkorn did not always follow, but which I do. The Director
Posted December 11, 2005: Here is one by Albie Belanger (editor?) from the December 14, 1973, issue of the St. Louis student newspaper Spectrum, which was dedicted to Blessed Arthur Carl Piepkorn the day after his death:
“It struck me just before I went home for Thanksgiving. I used to always let the little things in life strike me so, and this was no exception. There was this little notice on an office door [Piepkorn’s]:
‘I am on leave of absense from the Seminary during the remainder of the academic year 1973-1974. I can, however, ordinarily be reached at 863-2146.'”
Just like Piepkorn, who was always very generous with his time!
Posted December 11, 2005. Here is one from the Center Director:
“It is good to hear your voice.” When I called Fr. Piepkorn at his quarters (as he regularly called them, following military custom), he typically answered the phone “Volunteer 3-2146.” After I identified myself, if I had not seen him recently, he typically would say [to me and I am sure to others] “It is good to hear your voice. What can I do for you?” Thanks to cassette tapes, we can hear his voice today. He sounds just like he did then.
Posted December 11, 2005. Here is a famous one that has been circulating for years. The story is that one day his daughter Mary went to her mother, Miriam, with a question about a term paper she was writing for a class at Lutheran High School. Miriam said: “Why don’t you speak with your father?” Mary answered: “I don’t want to know that much about it.”
Fr. Piepkorn told me that this story is “thoroughly apocryphal.” In 2003 Mary thought the story had actually happened. But in late 2005 she was less certain. We agree that it might have happened, but at this point I am leaning toward Fr. Piepkorn’s recollection. –Posted by the Director of the Center.
Posted December 11, 2005, by the Center Director (this is long).
Apology 18 (Free Will) quotes St. Augustine on the distinction between civil and spiritual righteousness and then adds that “recently William of Paris has dealt with it very well.” (par. 10) The footnotes of the Kolb/Wengert, Tappert and earlier editions of the Book of Concord identify the William with either William Peraldus, O.P. (c. 1200-1271) or William of Auvergne (ca. 1180-1249). But there are multiple difficulties with those identifications. One is that neither is “recent.” Another is that neither of those Williams, as far as I could determine, assert that distinction. For example, the usual reference to Peraldus, repeated in both Tappert and Kolb/Wengert, is Summa de virtutibus, III, V De iustitia, but it does not make that distinction.
Piepkorn suggested that I try to find a more recent William as a term paper topic. It eventually led to my doctoral dissertation. The first thing I did was to take a quick took for another William of Paris who might fit the bill. But I found none. I then spent many hours reading Peraldus and Auvergne only to conclude that neither teaches the distinction. I then resumed my search for another William of Paris. After many hours I found a brief reference in Lexikon fuer Theologie und Kirche (1965) to a “Wilhelm v[on] Paris,” who had written a Postilla (a running commentary) on the Holy Gospels and Epistles for priests to use in preparing sermons. I eventually learned that the Postilla was the most frequently published book in Europe between 1472 and 1555. It was well known to collectors of incunabula, but I found only a one reference to it in books about theology or homiletics and that a very passing one. There are multiple copies of the book in rare book collections in both Europe and the United States. Since I was able to learn very little about William, I personally inspected as many copies of his book as I could, including an ealier handwritten copy on microfilm, hoping to learn more about him from the long incipits found in incunabula.
I learned that a copy in library of the University of Uppsala had the following written on its inside cover in Latin: “This book belongs to” followed by something that is crossed out, but could be the initials M. L. Above the strikeout these words appear in a different hand: “Martino luthero, haeretico”–“Martin Luther, heretic.” Fr. Piepkorn had the page photographed in both ultraviolet and infrared light but we were not able to say for certain what had been crossed out, nor was I able to draw a conclusion about it when I saw the incunabulum in Uppsala in 1972.
We eventually concluded that the book may well have belonged to Luther, and then passed through one or more owners whose names appear on the cover page (one dated 1526), eventually getting to the library of the Jesuit Collegium in Braunsberg, Germany. According to the University of Uppsala, King Adolphus brought it to Sweden in 1626, after his invasion of northern Germany, and gave it to the Library.
In my dissertation I argued that William of Paris, O.P. fl. 1437 does teach as Apology 18 does. When I finished that section of my dissertation, Fr. Piepkorn said to me about my argument: “You have driven the nails through on all four corners and pounded them over.”
But that is not my anecdote. In all I viewed dozens of different editions of the incumabulum in libraries all over before receiving my doctor’s degree in July of 1973. A few days later, with the pressures of my dissertion and defense behind me, I was in Piepkorn’s living room in the house he owned just off the edge of campus when he said to me, “Have I ever shown you my incunabula?” “No,” I said. He told me he had bought a number of them some years earlier partly as an investment and partly to do research in at some time in the future, and led me to the bookcase on the east wall, about in the middle, above the sofa. He removed an incunabulum and handed it to me and then turned away to remove a second. I opened up the volume he had given me and saw a work by some famous author of the 14th century, I don’t remember who. But knowing that many incunablua were bound together with others, I flipped through the volume and then said to Fr. Piepkorn, who now had a second volume in his hands, “Fr. Piepkorn, Do you know what is in this volume?” He replied, “No, I haven’t taken the time to look at them.” I replied, “The second incunabulum in it is William of Paris’ Postilla.”
The bottom line is that I had spent years trying to identify a William of Paris and find and inspect the many different editions of his Postilla, while all the time a copy of it was in Fr. Piepkorn’s personal library! The up side is that it was an edition I had inspected and there were no handwritten entries in Piepkorn’s copy that gave any additional information about its author.
PS I took a photcopy of William’s Postilla with me to Vietnam. Piepkorn liked to tell people that I was undoubtedly the only Army Chaplain who carried an incunabulum around with him in a combat zone. It was slightly larger than a ream of 8 1/2 X 11 paper. “Mythbusters” have demonstrated that even a 2 inch thick dictionary will not stop a round from a rifle like an AK-47, but I did not carry it with me when I rode with gun jeeps or when my Chaplain’s Assistant and I drove in my open jeep all over Saigon and Cholon and on an island in the Mekong River and along the perimeter of Tan San Nhut Airbase at all hours of the day and night visiting the men of my combat militry police and infantry units at their widely scattered sangbagged guard posts. My unit lost thiry KIA in Tet of ’68 (10 months before I got there), but saved the US Embassy. The MPs and infantry you see in clips of that rescue are from my unit, which received the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions.
Posted 12-12-05: Re: Military chaplaincy
Posted by the Center Director.
Why Piepkorn joined the Reserves. According to John Hannah, Piepkorn joined the Army Reserves in 1936 so he could have easy access to Civilan Conservation Corps Camps near his parish in Chisholm, MN. Director’s comments: Piekorn blew two tires on recently blasted bedrock on his way into one of the CCC camps and had to “trundle” a flat twelve miles in the winter. Piepkorn had also met Miriam but could not afford to get married on his Missionary salary. He arrived in Chisholm in debt and left in debt, even after Arthur Carl Kreinheder gave him money to pay some of it off. He paid his own offices expenses, postage and even advertising for his church. So I am sure he welcomes a little additional income too.
Many seminarians went into the Reserves or on Active Duty as chaplains because of the influence of Arthur Carl Piepkorn who had a distinguished career in the Army (see Piepkorn in WWII for some details) and retired from the Reserves as a full colonel. Why did he encourage seminarians to become military chaplains? The primary reason was that he did not believe it was right for ministers to hide behind the pulpit when members of their congregations could be drafted. That was the only reason I entered the Reserves and I planned to put in my six years there and get out. But, as happened to others too, the Armed Forces Committee of the Missouri Synod asked me to go on active duty and insisted they needed me. Members of my congregation were being drafted and could not say No without paying a price. So I reluctantly said Yes, only to learn after I was doing the low crawl across the frozen fields of Fort Hamilton where I was attending Chaplain School to prepare us for a week of basic training at Fort Dix)that the AFC needed only one more chaplain to fill its quota that year and had half a year to find him! Three days short of twelve months later I landed in Vietnam to participate in a war that I believed was “immoral, illegal and insane.” I received very helpful counsel from Fr. Piepkorn just before I went over, four months later when he was the leader of the Far East Chaplain’s conference in Japan, and when he visited Vietnam right after that conference. But that is a story for another time.
Posted November 2005. From Robert L. Richter, D.Min., CHC, USNR (RET), Pensacola, FL:
Dr. Piepkorn was my professor for two courses. One was a Symbolics course. He assigned some readings in anticipation of our first weekly test of 10 questions. What we didn’t know was that he would say, “#1,” followed by a Latin phrase. “#2” might be followed by a German or Greek phrase, etc. We were dumbfounded, and looked at each other and at the professor questioningly until he gave his explanation, “True or False?” Then he went through #1, 2, 3, once again. Most of us learned to use the Concordia Triglotta (an edition in German, Latin and English) in this way.
Those were the days when the ministry was a learned profession. That great pastor, chaplain, and teacher saw to that!
Thanks to Dr. Richter!
PS Coming from St. Olaf where I never had daily quizzes, I was initially shocked to know that Piepkorn used them in his undergraduate classes. Arthur Repp also had them. I was in Repps’s class one day when some of his students complained, saying they didn’t need this “club” to do their assignments. Repp gave in and cancelled the quiz for Monday’s class. At the start of class on Monday he asked how many students had read the assignment. Only one or two had. I never discussed quizzes with Piepkorn, but I assume he knew that the flesh was weaker than the Spirit and was simply dealing with reality. I will add this: If you did well on the quizzes, you knew you had understood the important parts of the assigned readings. -PJ Secker
Posted November 2005. Here is a famous one that many seminary students personally witnessed, sometimes in a very personal way:
In a social setting someone would take out a cigarette. If Piepkorn was near and saw it, his right hand would immediately go for the side pocket of his black suit coat and out would come a small shiny cigarette lighter with a medallion of some kind on the side. He would quickly flip the lighter open and proceed to to light the cigarette and then, without saying a word except “You’re welcome,” would return the lighter to his pocket.
Those of us who subsequently served in the military learned where the lighter came from. They were often given out in those years by military units as a memento when a member of the unit was reassigned. The metalic unit “crest” was attached to one side of the lighter. Having been on active duty for eleven years and in the Reserves for many more, Piepkorn no doubt had a dozen or more of them.
But why would he light someone else’s cigarette when he did not smoke himself and strongly disapproved of smoking? The reason he gave is that pulling out a cigarette,tapping it, and lighting it up was part of satsifaction smokers got from their habit. He was trying to interrupt part of that habit in order to decrease the pleasure of smoking and help the smoker break his habit. (Imitating him, I carried one of my army lighters for many years for the same purpose.)
But the story does not end there. Erwin Lueker, Piepkorn’s colleague in the Systematic Department and sometime collorator in research and publication, was known not only for being a cigarette smoker, but for his wry sense of humor. One day, the well-documented story goes, Lueker pulled out a cigarette at a faculty social gathering. Piepkorn, some distance away, was not aware of this until Lueker called out, “Arthur, come here. You are part of my habit.” I am sure that Piepkorn enjoyed the joke as much as any one did.
Posted by Philip J. Secker
Posted Spring 2005, revised Fall 2005: One day Piepkorn mentioned in class, I think, that he had interrputed and stopped the torture of a German POW. Piepkorn went to Europe with the XXIII Army Corps in November of 1944 as the Corps Chaplain in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel,with close to 60 chaplains under his supervision. The XXIII Corps, three divisions–probably a mix of armor, mechanized infantry and infantry, and a very large separate support brigade–was tasked with preventing the Wehrmacht from holing up in the Bavarian Mountains. One day Piepkorn learned about a Company that was having unusual success in the interrogation of POWS. Making a surprise visit to the tent of the Company Commander, he found a German POW being forced to kneel on a Lieutenant’s baton. Although only the Commandant of the Chaplain School and the Chief of Chaplains are commanders, all chaplains have general command authority and Piepkorn, who outranked the Company Commander (likely a Captain), exercised that authority and put an immediate stop to the torture. Knowing him I have no doubt that he reported the incident to both his Commander and to his superior in the Chaplain Branch. –Reported by Philip J. Secker.
Watch here for three interesting anecdotes about Piepkorn’s call to teach at Concordia Seminary in the fall of 1951. Needless to say, although he said he was “astonished” by the call, he almost did not make it, though not for lack of ability.
If you witnessed a Piepkorn anecdote or were told one by him, please send it to me. Indicate whether or not I may use your name.
For my email address, remove x’s and spaces from the following:
xxpsecker @xx snet.xx net(The x’s and spaces are to foil spam crawlers)
Do it today. Our lives are not our own.