“What is the U.A.C. all about?” Here’s an answer sourced from the book “Lutheranism in America.”
On January 21, in the year of our Lord 1530, the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Charles V, decreed that the heads of state in his realm were to meet in the city of Augsburg, Germany, beginning in April of that year. Among the issues that they were to consider was the division between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics.
Elector John, ruler of Saxony, ordered Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, along with others, to prepare a Lutheran confession to present at the Diet of Augsburg. They immediately prepared a document called the Torgau Articles, which they delivered to the Elector in the city of Torgau. From there they made their way to Augsburg, stopping in the city of Coburg, where Luther had to remain because it was unsafe for him to appear in Augsburg. Melanchthon took with him the Torgau Articles, along with two other documents written chiefly by Martin Luther—the Schwabach Articles and the Marburg Articles.
Upon his arrival in Augsburg, Melanchthon discovered that the Roman Catholic theologian John Eck had prepared 404 Propositions that misrepresented the Lutheran position. (The Emperor Charles demanded immediate concession and obedience from the Lutheran heads of state. These politicians said they would rather have their heads removed than give up the Gospel they had learned from the Scriptures.) Melanchthon realized that the Torgau Articles would not be a sufficient confession for the Lutherans facing Eck. Using Luther’s teachings as drawn from the Schwabach, Marburg, and Torgau Articles, Melanchthon composed the Augsburg Confession. He sent it to Martin Luther for his approval. Luther wrote, “I am well pleased with it, and know nothing to improve or to change in it; neither would this be proper, since I cannot step so gently and softly. Christ, our Lord, grant that it may produce much and great fruit, which, indeed, we hope and pray for. Amen.”
On June 25, 1530, at three o’clock in the afternoon, Chancellor Beyer appeared before Charles V and read the Augsburg Confession in the German language. The reading lasted about two hours. Dr. Beyer read with such a clear and plain voice that the crowds out in the courtyard could hear every word. The Roman Catholic Duke William of Bavaria declared, “Never before has this matter and doctrine been presented to me in this manner.” The Roman Catholic theologian John Eck assured him that he could refute the Lutherans with the writings of the church fathers, but not with the Scriptures. Duke William replied, “Then the Lutherans, I understand, sit in the Scriptures and we of the Pope’s Church beside the Scriptures.”
From that moment on the Augsburg Confession became the creed of every truly Lutheran Church. Martin Luther had said that there was nothing to improve or change in it. Unfortunately, Melanchthon, who always sought to compromise with the opponents, felt it could be adapted. In the following years he took it upon himself to change portions of this confession in order to make it more palatable to various opponents. Because of this, the Lutheran Church had to repudiate Melanchthon’s variations of the Augsburg Confession because they compromised the truth of God’s Word. In 1567 the Lutherans wrote, “We confess the old, true, unaltered Augsburg Confession, which later was changed, mutilated, misinterpreted, and falsified.”
The phrase: Unaltered Augsburg Confession U.A.C. was reborn in America in the late 1800’s to stand against the “New Measures.” The “New Measures” were suggested by S.S. Schmucker the head of Gettysburg Seminary who emphasized “the religion of the spirit.” Schmucker wanted to Americanize Lutheranism. He and his followers were convinced that the Lutheran church in American must make wide concessions to the revivalistic and puritanic spirit of other American churches. The “new measures” were critical of The Augsburg Confession, they denounced all liturgical worship, they adopted revivalistic methods, and they over emphasized personal holiness.
Schmucker wrote a small pamphlet called the “Definite Synodical Platform” in 1855. It corrected a number of “errors” in the Augsburg Confession, specified as: The approval of the mass, private confession and absolution, denial of the divine obligation of the Sabbath, baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. (A Basic History of Lutheranism in America, Wentz, p.142) This platform proved to be too liberal even for the General Synod and was rejected.
However, undercurrents remained. Some Lutheran churches, influenced by Schmucker, down played the importance of Holy Baptism, Holy Communion, and the Lutheran Liturgy, while allowing other inroads of puritanical teachings. The Lutherans who wanted to distance themselves from their faltering brothers and assure others of their solid biblical orthodoxy began including the letters U.A.C. in their official names, on their signs, and cornerstones.
It has been said, “Those who will not study history are doomed to repeat it.” The church today continues to be tempted to compromise the faith. The devil continues to spread the lie that life would be better if everyone does whatever they want. U.A.C. calls us back to the faithful confession of the scriptures, to faithful reception of the sacraments, and to faithful practice of the liturgy all of which helps us continue to make the good confession.
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.(1 Timothy 6:12 ESV)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Rm 10:9-10 ESV)