Saturday, November 7, 2015

America as a Religious Refuge - Persecution - Lutherans from Europe

Martin Luther 1483-1546 byLucas Cranach the Elder (German, 1472–1553) 1528

Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German monk & theologian.  Luther's efforts to reform the theology & practice of the Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation in German-speaking territories of the Holy Roman Empire. Beginning with the 95 Theses, first published in 1517, Luther's writings were disseminated internationally, spreading the early ideas of the Reformation beyond the influence & control of the Catholic Curia & the Holy Roman Emperor. 

The split between the Lutherans & the Catholics was made clear with the 1521 Edict of Worms: the edicts of the Diet condemned Luther & officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas, subjecting advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all property, specifying half of any seized property forfeit to the Imperial government & the remaining half forfeit to the party who brought the accusation. The divide centered primarily on (1) the proper source of authority in the church (whether the Church itself or Scripture itself), often called the formal principle of the Reformation, & (2) the doctrine of justification (often called the material principle of the Reformation). The reformers, including Luther, expanding far from his original goal of reforming abuses within the church's sacramental system, engaged traditionalists & papal loyalists in wide-ranging debate over various doctrinal emphases & formulations relating to the sources of authority & dogma in the church (including the papacy & Petrine primacy, the Biblical canon & authority of the Bible, & the authority of ecumenical councils), as well as justification by faith alone through grace alone (called by Luther the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae, "the article [of faith] upon which the church stands or falls").

Lutherans leaving Salzburg, 1731. Engraving by David Böecklin from Die Freundliche Bewillkommung Leipzig: 1732. Rare Books Division. The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

The Expulsion of Lutherans, the Salzburgers

On October 31, 1731, the Catholic ruler of Salzburg, Austria, Archbishop Leopold von Firmian, issued an edict expelling as many as 20,000 Lutherans from his principality. Many propertyless Lutherans, given only 8 days to leave their homes, froze to death as they drifted through the winter seeking sanctuary. The wealthier ones who were allowed 3 months to dispose of their property fared better. Some of these Salzburgers reached London, from whence they sailed to Georgia. Others found new homes in the Netherlands and East Prussia.

A Pair of Salzburgers, Fleeing Their Homes Salzburgische Emigranten Engraving from [Christopher Sancke?], Ausführliche Historie derer Emigranten oder Vertriebenen Lutheraner aus dem Erz-Bistum Salzburg, Leipzig: 1732 Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

These religious refugees flee Salzburg carrying with them religious volumes. The man has under one arm a copy of the Augsburg Confession; under the other is a theological work by Johann Arndt (1555-1621). The woman is carrying the Bible. The legend between them says: "We are driven into exile for the Gospel's sake; we leave our homeland and are now in God's hands." At the top is a scriptural verse, Matthew 24:20. "but pray that your flight does not occur in the winter or on the Sabbath."

Lutheranism came to North America when a shipload of Dutch Reformed, together with a few scattered German and Scandinavian Lutherans, landed in New Netherlands in 1624. This group was followed by small bands of Lutherans who chiefly settled in New Jersey. 

With the founding of New Sweden on the lower Delaware River in 1638, Swedish and Finnish Lutherans began to trickle in, growing to a sizeable community by the 1650s. Small numbers of Scandinavian Lutherans continued to arrive in subsequent decades. 

The first wave of large-scale German immigration in 1710 brought 1,000–2,000 Palatine Lutherans to the banks of the lower Hudson River. When hundreds of them moved to the Schoharie Valley without official permission in 1712–1713, New York’s governor ordered them to vacate. After years of dispute, many Palatines left the colony for New Jersey and Pennsylvania. 

Old St.John Lutheran Church, Wytheville, Virginia

Between 1725 & 1770, tens of thousands of German Lutherans immigrated, most of whom established themselves in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Others went farther south, forming small minorities in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, & Georgia. Prior to 1700, Swedish pastors attended to most colonial Lutherans, including some Germans. While ministers from Sweden continued to serve Scandinavians in America throughout the 18C, most early German Lutherans hired poorly trained divines or self-styled preachers for want of professional clergy. Until the Revolution, newly arriving pastors from Germany—the majority of them sent by the Francke Foundations in Halle, Prussia—could not keep pace with the rapidly growing demand for spiritual care. 

The 1st Lutheran synod in 1748, uniting 6 German & Swedish divines and 10 Pennsylvania parishes, inaugurated the Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania as a consistory-like authority. It marks the beginning of churched Lutheranism in America, based on common doctrinal, liturgical, & statutory grounds under the leadership of educated ministers.

Old St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Catawba County, North Carolina

In the 18C, Lutherans worshiped with neighboring Episcopal churches. In 1710, Lutheran Pastor Sandel reported as follows on the unionism practised by the Swedes and Episcopalians: "As pastors and teachers we have at all times maintained friendly relations and intimate converse with the English preachers, one always availing himself of the help and advice of the other. At their pastoral conferences we always consulted with them. We have repeatedly preached English in their churches when the English preachers lacked the time because of a journey or a death. If anywhere they laid the corner-stone of a church, we were invited, and attended. When their church in Philadelphia was enlarged, and the Presbyterians had invited them to worship in their church, they declined and asked permission to come out to Wicaco and conduct their services in our church, which I granted. This occurred three Sundays in succession, until their church was finished; and, in order to manifest the unity still more, Swedish hymns were sung during the English services. Also Bishop Swedberg [of Sweden], in his letters, encouraged us in such unity and intimacy with the Anglicans; although there exists some difference between them and us touching the Lord's Supper, etc., yet he did not want that small difference to rend asunder the bond of peace. We enter upon no discussion of this point; neither do we touch upon such things when preaching in their churches; nor do they seek to win our people to their view in this matter; on the contrary, we live in intimate and brotherly fashion with one another, they also calling us brethren. They have the government in their hands, we are under them; it is enough that they desire to have such friendly intercourse with us; we can do nothing else than render them every service and fraternal intimacy as long as they are so amiable and confiding, and have not sought in the least to draw our people into their churches. As our church is called by them 'the sister church of the Church of England,' so we also live fraternally together. God grant that this may long continue!"

From their arrival in British colonial North America, the Swedish bishops encouraged & admonished their emissaries to fraternize especially with the Episcopalians. And the satisfaction with this state of affairs on the part of the Episcopalian ministers appears from the following testimonial which they gave to Hesselius and J. A. Lidenius in 1723: "They were ever welcome in our pulpits, as we were also welcome in their pulpits. Such was our mutual agreement in doctrine and divine service, and so regularly did they attend our conferences that, aside from the different languages in which we and they were called to officiate, no difference could be perceived between us."

Apart from sporadic attempts by Swedish ministers to convert Delawares to Christianity, Lutheran preachers & congregations made no concerted effort to proselytize Native Americans or Africans in colonial British America.  

See The Library of Congress,  BibleHub,  & Oxford Bibliographies.