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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

NEW YORK MINISTERIUM.

29. Eliminating Confession. -- In 1786 the New York Ministerium was organized in Albany, N. Y., by Pastors Kunze, of New York City, H. Moeller, of Albany, and J. S. Schwerdfeger, of Fellstown, and two lay delegates, one from New York, the other from Albany. Eight of the eleven pastors in this district took no part in the organization. Six years elapsed before another meeting convened. The minutes of the first convention state: |In view of the fact that only three pastors and two delegates appeared, those present considered it advisable to look upon themselves only as a committee of the Lutheran Church in the State of New York.| The Lutheran Cyclopaedia says: |Though no records prior to the meeting at Albany are extant, Dr. Kunze stated in 1795, and again in 1800, that the New York Ministerium, revived in 1786, had been organized as early as 1773 by F. A. C. Muhlenberg, then pastor in New York.| (490.) Dr. Jacobs: |Concerning the fact that any meeting was actually held, we are in ignorance; but Dr. Kunze, who ought to be most competent authority, declares: 'To the late Dr. Henry Muhlenberg belongs the immortal honor of having formed in Pennsylvania a regular ministry, and, what is somewhat remarkable, to one of his sons, who officiated as Lutheran minister from the year 1773 to 1776 in the city of New York, that of having formed the Evangelical Ministry of New York State.' The thought was carried out in 1786.| (300.) In a letter to his father, then visiting in Georgia, F. A. C. Muhlenberg mentions a meeting of the Lutheran ministers in the Province of New York, planned for April, 1774. (Graebner, 450.) The Ministerium organized at Albany was a duplicate of the Pennsylvania Ministerium. According to the Minutes a resolution was adopted to regard |the constitution of the Ev. Luth. Church of Pennsylvania as their law.| (469.) In 1792 the New York Ministerium adopted the new constitution of the Pennsylvania Synod, which contained no reference to the Lutheran Confessions whatever, merely retaining the name Lutheran. At the convention in Rheinbeck, 1797, Dr. Kunze being the leading spirit and president, the New York Ministerium passed the notorious resolution: |Resolved, That, on account of the intimate relation subsisting between the English Episcopalian and Lutheran Churches, the identity of their doctrine, and the near approach of their church-discipline, this consistory will never acknowledge a newly erected Lutheran church in places where the members may partake of the services of the said English Episcopal Church.| (628.) Seven years later this resolution was rescinded, not, indeed, for confessional reasons, but in the interest of expediency and policy, because in 1804 G. Strebeck, with a part of his English congregation in New York, had been received by the Episcopalians. Spaeth remarks with respect to the Rheinbeck resolution: |A fitting parallel to this resolution is found in the advances made by the Mother Synod of Pennsylvania toward a union with the German Reformed Church, first in 1819 for the joint establishment of a common Theological Seminary, and afterward, in 1822, for a general union with the Evangelical Reformed Church. See Minutes of 1822.| (C.P. Krauth, 1,320.)

30. President Quitman the Rationalist. -- The unionism and indifferentism of the New York Ministerium naturally developed and merged into Socinianism and Rationalism under its liberal, but most able and influential leader, Dr. F. H. Quitman (1760-1832). |Quitman,| says Graebner, |was a stately person, over six feet in height and of correspondingly broad and powerful build. Already at his entrance in Halle, one of the professors greeted the nineteen-year-old giant with the words, 'Quanta ossa! Quantum robur! What bones! What power!'| In his subsequent intercourse with the polite world Quitman acquired a fine tact and measured, dignified ways. At the same time he was a man of excellent parts, a master at repartee, with a keen intellect and a firm will, and in every respect a born leader.| (532.) He was the only Lutheran minister who ever received, and perhaps desired [?] [tr. note: sic!] to receive, the degree of D. D. from Harvard University. Quitman, a disciple of Teller and of Semler in Halle, was a determined protagonist of German Rationalism. In 1807 this outspoken and consistent Socinian was elected president of the New York Ministerium, remaining in this office till 1825. When Quitman accepted the call to the Schoharie congregations, which he served beginning with the year 1795, he vowed that he would preach the truth according to the Word of God and |our Symbolical Books.| Before long, however, he began to reveal the true inwardness of his character. In his revised edition of Kunze's catechism, which appeared in 1804, authorized by Synod, the 94th of the |Fundamental Questions,| which treated of the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord's Supper, was omitted. Ten years later, 1814, in his own catechism, which was likewise published with the approval of Synod, he omitted and denied such fundamental doctrines as those of the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the Vicarious Atonement, Justification for the sake of Christ, etc. In this book Quitman and the New York Ministerium declare: |The Gospel teaches us that Christ suffered and died in order to seal with His blood the doctrine which He had preached.| (533.) Two years later a |Lutheran Hymn-book| appeared, containing an un-Lutheran order of service, the Union formula of distribution, a rationalistic order for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, rationalistic prayers to the |great Father of the Universe,| etc. Also this book appeared |by order of the Ev. Luth. Ministerium of the State of New York,| and with a preface signed by President Quitman and Pastor Wackerhagen. (535.) When the tercentenary of the Reformation was celebrated, Quitman, again by order of the New York Ministerium, published several sermons bearing on this event. Here he says: |Reason and Revelation are the only sources from which religious knowledge can be drawn, and the norms according to which all religious questions ought to be decided. . . . Are not both, Reason and Revelation, from heaven, always in agreement and the one supporting the other?| Again: |The true sense which the Reformers connected with the term 'faith' is still more apparent from the XX. Article of the Augsburg Confession, where they explicitly declare that faith 'which is productive of good works justifies man before God.'| (653.) This rank Socinianism and Rationalism of Quitman and the Ministerium became firmly intrenched and was protected from attack by the constitution of 1816, which contained the paragraph: |And we establish it as a fundamental rule of this association that the person to be ordained shall not be required to make any other engagement than this, that he will faithfully teach, as well as perform all other ministerial duties, and regulate his walk and conversation, according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ as contained in Holy Scriptures, and that he will observe this constitution while he remains a member of this Ministerium.| (655.) Within the New York Ministerium, therefore, ministers could no longer be required by their congregations to pledge themselves on the Lutheran Confessions. According to the constitution doctrinal discussions were permitted on the floor of Synod, but only with the express proviso |that the fundamental principle of Protestantism, the right of free research, be not infringed upon, and that no endeavor be made to elevate the Ministerium to an inquisitorial tribunal.| (679.) Thus the entire heritage of the Reformation, together with its Scriptural principle and cardinal doctrine of justification by faith, had gone by the board, the unionism and indifferentism of the Halle pastors having served as the first entering wedge -- just as in Halle Pietism and subjectivism, an essentially Reformed growth, foreign to sound objective Lutheranism, had given birth to the ugly child, afterwards, when grown up, named Rationalismus Vulgaris.

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