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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente

HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG.

39. Self-sacrificing Halle Emissaries. -- The help which Pastor Schulz and his laymen had requested from Halle in 1734 arrived nine years later. Francke's hesitation with regard to questions of salary, etc., drew the matter out until Muhlenberg declared himself willing to accept the call to America without further conditions. He was the instrument whereby it pleased God to preserve the Lutheran Church in America from complete deterioration and disintegration and from the imminent danger of apostasy through Zinzendorf. Muhlenberg (Muehlenberg) was born at Eimbeck, Hannover, September 6, 1711. In 1738 he graduated from Goettingen. He spent one year teaching in the Orphan Home at Halle, and served a congregation in Upper Lusatia from 1739 to 1741. In 1741 he also published his only work, a defense of Pietism against B. Mentzer. In the same year he accepted the call to the congregations in Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Providence, and New Hanover. September 23, 1742, he landed at Charleston, visited Bolzius and the Salzburgers in Ebenezer, and arrived in Philadelphia, November 25, 1742. From the very beginning Muhlenberg was successful in his opposition to Zinzendorf, who had come to America in 1741 to convert the Indians and to merge the pious of all churches in the Unitas Fratrum. Pretending to be a Lutheran, he had wormed his way into the Lutheran congregation at Philadelphia, assuming the title and functions of Inspector-General of all the Lutheran churches in America. However, unmasked by Muhlenberg, he now, January, 1743, returned to Germany in disgrace. In spite of many other difficulties, Muhlenberg rapidly won recognition from all the congregations. In 1745 he dedicated his first church in Philadelphia. The Hallesche Nachrichten contain vivid pictures, from the pens of Muhlenberg and his assistants, of their untiring, self-sacrificing, blessed, and constantly increasing missionary activity, which at the same time served the purpose of encouraging Halle to send additional laborers. The close of January, 1745, saw the arrival of Peter Brunnholtz (who took charge of Philadelphia and Germantown) and of the two catechists Nicholaus Kurtz and J. H. Schaum, who at first served as assistants and were later on ordained as pastors. Muhlenberg wrote to Halle: |To be brief: the church which must be planted here is at a very critical juncture (Hier ist ecclesia plantanda in einer recht kritischen junctura). Hence we ought to have experienced and strong men, able to stand in the breach and to dare with patience and self-denial. You, highly venerable fathers, know full well that I am not the man. But I regard my dear colleague Brunnholtz as such a man, and wish that he had two or three colaborers like himself; that would help us. God would easily direct me to some smaller corner.| (290.) In 1743 Muhlenberg sent Tobias Wagner to the Palatines in Tulpehocken Creek, where Gerhard Henkel had already preached, and where, in 1745, Wagner solemnized the marriage of Muhlenberg and the daughter of J. C. Weiser. Services were conducted at this time also in Ohly, Cohenzi, Indianfield, Chester, and Reading (where the Lutherans and the Reformed had erected a church together). In 1745 Muhlenberg conducted a visitation at Raritan, induced Wolff to resign, sent them Kurtz and 1747 Schaum as temporary supply-pastors, and finally, in 1748, induced the congregation to call J. A. Weygand. Following the track of the Moravian Nyberg, who created confusion wherever he went, Muhlenberg secured a foothold also at Lancaster in 1746, at York, and Conewago, in 1747, as well as in Monocacy and Frederick, Md. J. F. Handschuh (Handschuch), who arrived from Halle in 1748, was put in charge of Lancaster. L. H. Schrenck and L. Raus arrived in 1749. The former was stationed in Upper Milford and Saccum, the latter was appointed vicar in Rheinbeck and Camp. F. Schultz and Heintzelmann came in 1751. The latter received an appointment in Philadelphia and married Muhlenberg's daughter. Baugher (Bager) arrived in 1752, and Gerock the year following. -- Pastors and congregations were imbued with one and the same spirit, and considered themselves parts of one and the same church, consisting of the |Collegium Pastorum| on the one hand and the |United Congregations| on the other.

40. Organizing Pennsylvania Synod. -- To stablish the congregations, Muhlenberg, with five pastors and ten congregations, on August 26, 1748, organized the Pennsylvania Synod, then generally called |The United Congregations| or |The United Pastors.| This event has been designated by Dr. Graebner |the most important in the history of the American Lutheran Church of the eighteenth century.| From the very beginning Muhlenberg's three original congregations were called |The United Congregations.| This name was extended also to the congregations subsequently organized or served by Muhlenberg and his colaborers at Germantown, Lancaster, Tulpehocken, York, etc. And pastors and congregations being imbued, as they were, with one and the same spirit, and considering themselves parts of one and the same church, consisting of |The College of Pastors (Collegium Pastorum)| on the one hand and |The United Congregations| on the other, it was but natural that they should unite in a regular synod with regular meetings. The year 1748 was most opportune and suggestive for such an organization. Pastor Hartwick of Rhinebeck had come to Philadelphia. Nicholas Kurtz had arrived in order to be ordained as pastor for the congregation at Tulpehocken. The dedication of St. Michael's Church in Philadelphia brought other representative Lutherans to the city. The Swedes were represented by Provost Sandin and Peter Kock (Koch), a trustee of Gloria Dei Church, who zealously advocated synodical connection between the Germans and Swedes. Before the public services, Pastors Brunnholtz, Handschuh, and Hartwick met to examine Kurtz. His answers were approved of in Halle as creditable even to candidates in Germany. On the following day, Sunday, St. Michael's was dedicated. Provost Sandin headed the procession from Brunnholtz's parsonage to the new church. |Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord,| was sung. A letter from the Swedish pastor Tranberg, regretting his absence and congratulating the congregation in English, was then read. The address emphasized that |the foundation of this church was laid with the intention that the Evangelical Lutheran doctrine should be taught therein according to the foundation of the prophets and apostles, and according to the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and the other symbolical books.| After singing another hymn, six prayers were offered, two in Swedish by the Swedish pastors, and four in German by Brunnholtz, Hartwick, Handschuh, and Mr. Kock. After another hymn a child was baptized, and a sermon preached by Handschuh. Hereupon the ministers, with a few of the congregation, received the Lord's Supper. In the afternoon Hartwick preached the ordination sermon. Then, the lay delegates standing in a semicircle about the altar, Provost Sandin and the four German pastors ordained Kurtz. Muhlenberg read the liturgical formula. On Monday, August 26 (15 Old Style), 1748, the first session of Synod was held, N. Kurtz, the newly ordained pastor, delivering the opening sermon.

41. First Session of Synod. -- According to the minutes, written by Brunnholtz and signed by the four German pastors residing in Pennsylvania and a number of lay delegates, the synod consisted of six ministers (including Sandin and Hartwick) and twenty-four delegates, exclusive of the church council of the Philadelphia congregation: four lay delegates from Germantown, three from Providence, three from New Hanover, two from Upper Milford, one from Saccum, three from Tulpehocken, one from Nordkiel, six from Lancaster, and one from Earlingtown. Peter Kock represented the Swedish laity. The congregation at York, in a letter, regretted the absence of representatives. The organization proceeded without the adoption of any formulated constitution. Though not formally elected, Muhlenberg, by virtue of his first call and commission by the authorities in Halle, was president of the synod. When, at the second meeting of the synod, in 1749, Brunnholtz, on motion of Muhlenberg, was elected overseer of all the United Congregations, this was ignored by the authorities in Halle, and, Brunnholtz's health failing, the office was soon transferred to Muhlenberg, who exercised it for many years. At the first meeting, after the hymn, |Du suesse Lieb', schenk' uns deine Gunst,| was sung, Muhlenberg addressed the assembly, saying, in part: This union was desired for a long time. The effort made five years ago in the Swedish church was frustrated by Nyberg. Unity among us is necessary. Every member in the congregation has children. In their interest elders are required to assist in making a good church order. For this purpose we are here assembled, and, God willing, shall meet annually. |We preachers, here present,| Muhlenberg emphasized, |have not run of ourselves, but have been called here and urged to go. We are bound to render account to God and to our consciences. We maintain connection with our fathers in Europe. We must not only care for ourselves, but also for our descendants.| In part, Muhlenberg's remarks reflected on Stoever, Streit (Streiter, as he is called in the minutes), Andreae, and Wagner. These ministers had not been invited to participate in the organization of the synod, because, as a declaration put on record by synod explains, |1. they, without reason, decry us [Muhlenberg and his adherents] as Pietists; 2. are not sent and have neither an internal nor an external call; 3. are unwilling to observe a uniform order of service with us, each following the ceremonies of his country; 4. an experience of six years had taught Muhlenberg that their object was nothing but bread; 5. they were subject to no consistory and gave no account of the exercise of their office.| The lay delegates were called upon to give a report concerning the efficiency of their pastors, and their opinion concerning the new liturgy, which they regarded as too long. Also the condition of the parochial schools was inquired into. The conference with the laymen was adjourned Monday afternoon, after which they dined together. The pastors then attended to business generally regarded as belonging to them. Hartwick addressed the elders, wishing their congregations every blessing. The Swedish provost expressed his desire to be a member of the body. But Peter Kock having died, no Swede attended the meeting in the following year. Seven annual meetings were held by the United Congregations, the last at New Hanover in 1754. Revived by Dr. Wrangel and Muhlenberg in 1760, this oldest Lutheran synod in America exists to the present day as |The Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania.| (Graebner, 301 ff.)

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