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The Organization of the Congregation in the Early Lutheran Churches in America

77 pages
The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Organization of the Congregation in the Early Lutheran Churches in America, by
Beale M. Schmucker
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,
give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at
Title: The Organization of the Congregation in the Early Lutheran Churches in America
Author: Beale M. Schmucker
Release Date: October 1, 2006 [eBook #19422]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)
E-text prepared by Kurt A. T. Bodling, former Assistant Director: Reference and Information Services at Concordia
Historical Institute, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
From the Lutheran Church Review, July, 1887.
Philadelphia: 1887.
The Organization of the Congregation in the Early Lutheran Churches in America.
The Lutheran Church in this country has had an opportunity, as never before in its history, to determine for itself the whole
form of its organization, uncontrolled by any external forces. In the old world the intimate and organic union of the church
with the State left little liberty in this respect. When, therefore, the early Lutheran immigrants in this ...
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Organization ofthe Congregation in the Early Lutheran Churches inAmerica, by Beale M. SchmuckerThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere atno cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under theterms of the Project Gutenberg License includedwith this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.orgTitle: The Organization of the Congregation in theEarly Lutheran Churches in AmericaAuthor: Beale M. SchmuckerRelease Date: October 1, 2006 [eBook #19422]Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)*E*B*SOTOAKR TT HOEF  OTRHGE APNRIZOAJTEICOTN  GOUFT TEHNEBERGCCOHUNRGCRHEEGSA ITNI OANM IENR ITCHAE* *E*ARLY LUTHERAN
AE-stseisxtt apnrte pDiarreecdt obr:y  RKeufrte rAe.n cT.e  Baonddl iInngf,o fromramtieornServices at Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis,Missouri, USATCHOEN GORREGGAANITZIOANTI IONN T OHFE  TEHAERLYLUTHERAN CHURCHES IN AMERICA.ybBEALE M. SCHMUCKER, D.D.From the Lutheran Church Review, July, 1887.Philadelphia: 1887.The Organization of the Congregation in the EarlyLutheran Churches in America.The Lutheran Church in this country has had anopportunity, as never before in its history, todetermine for itself the whole form of itsorganization, uncontrolled by any external forces.In the old world the intimate and organic union ofthe church with the State left little liberty in this
respect. When, therefore, the early Lutheranimmigrants in this country were disposed to formthemselves into congregations, to adoptregulations for their own government, to settle theirrelations to other Lutheran congregations, todetermine the order of worship to be observed,they had to feel their way in the dark. No little timepassed before all these matters became settled ona permanent basis. To follow them in their effortsto obtain a satisfactory organization of thecongregation, is what I propose now to do.There is grave reason to doubt whether, prior tothe arrival in Pennsylvania of Henry MelchiorMuehlenberg, any of the German Lutherancongregations in Pennsylvania had a well-developed, clearly defined, written constitution. Ihave carefully examined all the written records ofnearly all the congregations which were inexistence at that time, and have failed to findevidence of any such constitution. The first knownwritten constitution of the church at Philadelphiawas introduced in 1746 by Brunnholtz andMuehlenberg, and it was brief and rudimentary.The congregation at the Swamp, New Hanover,was the earliest German congregation in America,begun in 1703 by Justus Falckner, but whateverthe form of organization which it may havereceived from him, or his immediate successor, norecord of it is known to exist, and the first writtenconstitution now known is in the hand-writingMuehlenberg. The Tulpehocken congregationswere established by Palatinates from the Hudsonand Mohawk, who came to Pennsylvania in 1723
and 1729. They were familiar with thecongregational organizations in New York underKocherthal and Falckner, which were formed underthe counsel of Court Preacher Boehm, probablyafter the similitude of the Savoy Church in London,and under the influence of the long establishedDutch Lutheran constitution in New York, based onthat at Amsterdam. But no written constitution isnow known in Tulpehocken earlier than thatintroduced by Muehlenberg. In all the oldcongregations the case is the same, so far as anyknown evidence proves.In all the German congregations in Pennsylvania,however, an organization was found whenMuehlenberg came, which had arisen out of thenecessities of the case, and in all of them it hadthe same character. There were two orders ofofficers in each congregation, called Elders andVorsteher, elected by the members for a definiteterm. The open letter given by the congregations atPhiladelphia, Trappe and New Hanover, to theirrepresentatives sent to Europe in 1733, is signedby the Vorsteher and Elders of the congregations,and there were like officers in these congregationswhen Muehlenberg arrived, to whom he presentedhis credentials. The form of power of attorney sentby Dr. Francke to be signed by the congregationsin 1734, is addressed to the Elders and Vorsteher,and the letter sent to Dr. Ziegenhagen in 1739, issigned by the Elders and Vorsteher. Theproceedings of the first meeting of the Ministeriumof Pennsylvania show the presence of DeputyElders and Vorsteher from the ten congregations
represented. Indeed, it may be said that in all thecongregations there were these two classes ofofficers. The distinction between the two classesmay not have been very clear, and sometimesboth are spoken of as Vorsteher, but after ageneral examination of their records, we arepersuaded that it was a prevalent, if not universalusage of the congregations, before Muehlenberg'sarrival, to elect these two classes of officers, towhom the direction of their affairs was intrusted. Inthe congregational constitution furnished theSalzburg emigrants to Georgia in 1733 by Drs.Urlsperger, Ziegenhagen and Francke, based onthat of the Savoy Church at London, Elders andDeacons, annually elected by a majority of themembers, were provided for.The question very naturally arises and claimsconsideration, Whence came this usage of thePennsylvania German Lutheran congregations?This arrangement is almost entirely unknown in theLutheran Church in Germany, where the church isunited with the State, and has little right of self-government. That the same mode of organizationshould have been adopted at the outset by them allis not only in itself strange, but shows that thisarrangement must have been brought to theirnotice from some quarter, and having been testedcommended itself to them. We believe that thisprovision of Elders and Vorsteher or Deacons, wasaccepted by them from the Swedish LutheranChurches on the Delaware, the early DutchReformed and German Reformed Churches inPennsylvania, and the Dutch Lutheran Churches in
New York and New Jersey, and ultimately from theGerman Lutheran Church in London, and theDutch Lutheran Church in Amsterdam. And asthese earlier organizations exerted an influence notmerely upon the first shaping of the GermanLutheran congregations, but continuously upon thewhole formation of their congregationalconstitutions, until they assumed their finalcomplete condition, it is the more proper that theyshould receive careful consideration.ION RTIGHIEN GAEL RSMOAUNR CLEUST HOEF ROARNG CAHNUIZRACTHIOENSIN PENNSYLVANIA.1. The Swedish Congregations. Acrelius, in hishistory of New Sweden, does not describe theearliest organization of the congregation. Theinstructions given by the crown to Gov. Printz,1642, simply say: "Above all things, shall thegovernor consider to see to it that a true and dueworship, becoming honor, laud and praise be paidto the Most High God in all things, and to that endall proper care shall be taken that divine service bezealously performed according to the UnalteredAugsburg Confession, the Council of Upsala, andthe ceremonies of the Swedish Church; and allpersons, but especially the young, shall be dulyinstructed in all the articles of their Christian faith,and all good discipline shall in like manner be dulyexercised and received." The earliest mention
Acrelius makes of congregational officers, is in thetime of Fabritius in 1684, when Church Wardensmade an appeal to the members with reference tothe pastor's salary. In Sandel's time, 1702, newChurch Wardens and Church Councilmen wereinstalled, which suggests that these two officeswere found in the time of Fabritius, so short a timeprevious. If this be a correct conclusion, thequestion would arise, whether this arrangementwas introduced by Fabritius, or was in existencefrom the beginning? Fabritius was sent out fromAmsterdam as the first settled pastor of the DutchLutheran congregations in New York. If thosecongregations were not fully organized before hecame, they were certainly organized by him, and ineither case after the type of that at Amsterdam.Fabritius founded the Swedish congregation atPhiladelphia, and it is very possible that he mayhave given it a constitution like that of New Yorkand Amsterdam. I do not know whether thecongregations in Sweden have any sucharrangement as is found in the churches on theDelaware. I find the office of Church Wardensmentioned in the Kirchen-Ordnung of Charles XI. in1686, but am not sure of the extent to which theoffice agrees with that in the Wicaco Church.Acrelius describes the organization of this last-named congregation in Sandel's time, p. 216."Pastor Sandel held a parish meeting, installed newChurch Wardens (Kyrkowaerdar) and ChurchCouncilmen (Kyrkoraeder), and at the same timeexplained to each of these their duties. Thus, 1.)The Councilmen were to have the oversight of thepreservation and improvement of the church and
parsonage. 2.) That each in his turn should lookafter the life of the people, and if any one shouldconduct himself improperly, give timely notice of itto the pastor, so that with his concurrence andadvice, and according to the circumstances of thepersons and their deeds, they might be broughtbefore the Church Council (Kyrkoraedet), andeither admonished, placed on trial, or excludedfrom the congregation. The office of the ChurchWardens was: 1.) To collect and pay over thePriests' salary twice a year; 2.) To take up thecollections in the church, and the other churchdues, as for marriages, churching of women,burials, etc.; 3.) To take care of the poor of thecongregation; 4.) To keep the accounts of thechurch in good order and exhibit them annually onthe 1st of May; 5.) To provide the pay for thesexton, etc."This whole arrangement bears a closeresemblance to that of the Dutch LutheranChurches, and is virtually that found in the GermanChurches in Pennsylvania when Muehlenbergcame. The Church Council consisted of theminister, the councilmen and wardens. These layofficers served for a fixed time, and were installedin their offices; but, unfortunately, it cannot belearned from this account in what manner theywere chosen. The above arrangement continued inforce until, in 1765, Provost Wrangel prepared anew constitution and secured a charter. In the newinstrument the officers of the congregation arestyled Rector, Church Wardens and Vestrymen,after the Anglican style. This constitution was
wrought out by Wrangel in conference withMuehlenberg, and the mode of selection of officersis almost precisely the same as in the GermanConstitution of 1762: twice the number arenominated by those in office, and the election is bya majority of votes of the congregation.The Swedish congregation at Philadelphia, as wellas those at Morlatton and Merion to a less extent,undoubtedly exercised a marked influence on theGerman Lutheran congregations. It was wellorganized long before establishment of the firstGerman Lutheran congregation in America. Thepastor of the Wicaco Church from 1677 to 1693,Fabritius, was a German, and cared for suchGerman Lutherans as settled near the city.Rudman, who succeeded him, showed his interestin the Germans by bringing Falckner into theministry, and his successor, Sandel, united withhim in this act. Rudman preached in Dutch, andmay have also understood German. The firstregular ministrant to the German congregation atPhiladelphia was the Swede, John Eneberg, and itis probable that it was organized by him. PastorDylander held service for the Germans regularly inthe Wicaco Church, and Muehlenberg's serviceswere held there mainly until the erection of St.Michael's. The Swedish ministers met with theGermans in the earlier meetings of theministerium. The relations between ProvostWrangel and Muehlenberg were of the mostintimate nature; they labored together as brothersin the superintendence of the congregations undertheir care, and finally when Muehlenberg was
working out the enduring constitution of theGerman Church, Wrangel wrought out that of theSwedish Church. The German Church constitutionwas prepared with the co-operation of Wrangel,and he attended the meeting of the congregationat which it was accepted, and made an address.From the earliest times to the completion of thefinal constitution, the influence of the Swedishorganization was strongly felt.2. The Reformed Churches in Pennsylvania. TheDutch Reformed congregations at Bensalem andNeshaminy in Bucks County and at Whitemarsh,Montgomery County, were the earliest ReformedChurches in Pennsylvania, and antedate all theGerman Lutheran congregations except that atNew Hanover. These Churches were organized in1710 by Domine Paulus Van Vlecq, and in each ofthem a senior and a senior elder and deacon wereelected to serve for two years. The senior went outof office annually, and the junior became senior,while the newly-elected officer became the junior.The mode of election is not entirely clear. Therecord simply says at Bensalem: "The ChurchCouncil, both Elders and Deacons, of Sammenyand Bensalem, were installed (bevestight) by Dom.Van Vlecq May 21, 1710," the day after that givenfor the organization. They may have been electedthe previous day. At White Marsh the record says:"The church at Wytmess was organized June 4,1710, the same day the Church Council there wasinstalled." The record of the Dutch ReformedChurch at Six Mile Run, near New Brunswick, N.J., organized November 15, 1710, says: "The
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