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American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


49. Government of and by the Ministers. -- A clear conception of the doctrines of the Church and of the holy ministry was something Muhlenberg did not possess. Hence his congregations also were not educated to true independence and to the proper knowledge and exercise of their priestly rights and duties. Dr. Mann says of Muhlenberg and his coworkers: |These fathers were very far from giving the Lutheran Church, as they organized it on this new field of labor, a form and character in any essential point different from what the Lutheran Church was in the Old World, and especially in Germany.| (Spaeth, C. P. Krauth, 1, 317.) The pastor ruled the elders; the pastor and the elders ruled the congregation; the synod ruled the pastor, the elders, and the congregation; the College of Pastors ruled the synod and the local pastor together with his elders and his congregation; and all of these were subject to, and ruled by, the authorities in Europe. The local congregations were taught to view themselves, not as independent, but as parts of, and subject to, the body of United Congregations and Pastors. The constitution for congregations simply presupposed that a congregation was a member of, and subordinate to, Synod. (499.) This appears also from a document signed by the elders of Tulpehocken and Northkill (Nordkiel), August 24, 1748, two days before the organization of the Pennsylvania Synod. In it the elders, in the name of the congregations, state and promise: |In this it always remains presupposed that we with the United Congregations constitute one whole Ev. Lutheran congregation, which acknowledges and respects as her lawful pastors all the pastors who constitute the College of Pastors (Collegium Pastorum) and remains in the closest connection with them, as being our regular teachers. . . . Accordingly, we have the desire to be embodied and incorporated in the United Congregations in Pennsylvania, and to be recognized and received by them as brethren and members of a special congregation of the Ev. Lutheran Church, and consequently to share in the pastoral care of the College of all the Rev. Pastors of the United Congregations. In accordance herewith we most publicly and solemnly desire, acknowledge and declare all the Rev. Pastors of the United Church-Congregations to be our pastors and ministers (Seelsorger und Hirten); we also give them complete authority to provide for the welfare of our souls, how and through whom, also as long as, they choose. We furthermore promise to regard the Rev. College of Pastors of the Ev. Lutheran Congregations in Pennsylvania as a lawful and regular presbyterium and ministerium and particularly as our pastors- and ministers-in-chief, also to respect and regard, them as such, without whose previously known advice and consent we do, order, resolve, or change nothing; hence to have nothing to do with any [other] pastor, nor even, without their previously known advice and consent, to undertake anything in important church-matters with the pastor whom they have sent to us; on the contrary, to approve of and with all our powers to observe and execute whatever, in church-matters of our own and the congregations, the whole Rev. College of Pastors will resolve, and properly indicate and make known to us. Furthermore we promise to recognize, receive, respect, honor and hear the teacher [minister] as our lawful and divinely called teacher as long as the Rev. College of Pastors will see fit to leave him with us; nor to make any opposition in case they should be pleased for important reasons to call him away and to put another in his place; moreover, to receive and regard his successor with equal love and duty. We furthermore promise, if (which God forfend) a misunderstanding or separation should arise between the whole congregation or part of it and the teacher, or between members of the congregation, to report this immediately to the Rev. College of Pastors, and to await their decision, and to abide by it.| (301 f.) Graebner: |One's indignation is roused when reading how the elders of the Lancaster congregation were treated at the first synod. These men defended the by no means improper demand of their congregation that such as had fallen away to the sects and again returned should subscribe to the constitution of the congregation before they once more were recognized as members. In spite of the opinion of the assembly and the utterly wrong admonition 'to leave it to their pastor,' the elders 'adhered to their opinion.' Immediately their conversion is questioned, and 'all the elders who have not yet been thoroughly converted are admonished to convert themselves with all their heart.' The remark of the minutes, 'They kept silence,' conveys the impression that the rebuke had been merited, and that the cut was felt.| (320.) According to the constitution for congregations, subscribed to October 18, 1762, by Muhlenberg and Handschuh and 270 members of their congregations, the grades of admonition and church discipline were: 1. admonition by the preacher alone; 2. admonition by the preacher in the presence of the elders and wardens; 3. expulsion before or by the whole church council. (402.) The same constitution contains the provision: If any deacon or elder who has been elected to perform this arduous duty refuses to accept the office without sufficient reasons, |he is not to be excused until he has made a considerable contribution to the church treasury.| (490.) At synod the pastors ruled supreme. The lay delegates, consisting of the elders of the congregations, merely reported to Synod, when asked, concerning the work, fidelity, and efficiency of their pastors, the parochial schools, etc., and presented requests to Synod. But they had no voice in her decisions. In the common assembly of the pastors and laymen no vote was taken. The Lutheran Cyclopedia says: |The deliberations were exclusively those of the pastors, while the lay delegates were present only to furnish the needed information concerning local conditions and the fidelity of pastors.| (493.) Furthermore, the ministerium, the college of pastors, conferred the office and made pastors through ordination, a rite considered essential to the ministry, and without which no one was regarded a lawful and full-fledged pastor. Thus, for instance, in the case of J. A. Weygand it was held that he was given the right to perform all the functions pertaining to his office, not by the call of the congregation which he had accepted, but by his subsequent ordination. (432.)

50. Obedience to Ministerium and Fathers in Halle. -- In the ordination the pastors were pledged to obey the Ministerium. In Weygand's call the clause was embodied, |that he would submit to the investigation and judgment of the United Pastors and the Venerable Fathers| in Halle. (452.) The manner in which Kurtz was bound appears from the following points of the |Revers| which he had to sign before his ordination in 1748: |2. To consider my congregation nothing but a part of the United Congregations. ...4. To introduce no ceremonies into the public worship or into the administration of the Sacraments other than those which have been introduced by the College of Pastors of the United Congregations, also to use no other book of forms than the one which will be assigned to me by them.5. To undertake nothing of importance alone nor with the assistance of the church-council, except it have been previously communicated to the Reverend College of Pastors, and their opinion have been obtained, as well as to abide by their good counsel and advice.6. To render a verbal or written account of my pastorate at the demand of the Reverend College of Pastors.7. To keep a diary and daybook and to record therein official acts and remarkable occurrences.8. Should they call me hence, to accept the call, and not to resist.| (305.) Before his ordination Pastor J. H. Schaum had to sign a |Revers| and, with a handclasp, seal the promise to the United Pastors that he as their adjunct |would be faithful and obedient to them.| To the congregations the Ministerium did not only prescribe the liturgy, but appointed and removed their pastors as they saw fit. Pastor Schaum's call to New York was signed by the four pastors, Muhlenberg, Brunnholtz, Handschuh, and Kurtz as their own vocation, in their own name, not in the name of the congregation. (327.) The congregation at Lancaster desired Kurtz as their pastor instead of Handschuh, whom the Ministerium was planning to send to them. Muhlenberg, however, reports: |We bade them consider this and demanded a short answer, giving them to understand that, if a single one of them would be restive and dissatisfied with our advice and arrangement, we would consent to give them neither the one nor the other, but would turn to the other congregations still vacant and leave the dust to them. They must consider it a special favor that we had come to them first.| Graebner comments on this as follows: |One can safely say that there could be found to-day in all America not a single Lutheran pastor or congregation who would consent to concede to a synod such powers as Pastor Kurtz and the congregation at Tulpehocken yielded to the 'United Pastors' in 1748.| (321.) The superiors of the United Pastors and their congregations were the |Fathers in Europe.| They had commissioned them, and to them they were responsible. All decisions of Synod in doctrinal, liturgical, and governmental questions were subject to the advice and approval of the authorities in Halle. When the church council of the congregation in Philadelphia sent a humble petition to the Synod in 1750, requesting permission to retain the services of Pastor Brunnholtz for themselves, they received the answer: We have no right to make changes without the previous knowledge and permission of the |Fathers in Europe.| (330.) In order to ordain Weygand, Muhlenberg had to get permission from the |Fathers in Europe.| (432.) Even such pastors as Stoever and Wagner, who did not unite with the Ministerium, were by Muhlenberg designated as |such as had run of themselves,| as |so-called pastors,| who had |neither an inner nor an outward call,| and |who were concerned about nothing but their daily bread.| And why? Because, according to Muhlenberg, they had not |been sent| (by the Ministerium or the Fathers); because they were not subject to a consistory, did not render account of their pastorates, and would not observe the same order with those who had come from Halle. (311.) Concerning Weygand, who arrived in 1748, Muhlenberg reports: |I asked him what he was now going to do in Pennsylvania, whether he intended to be for us or against us; if he desired to be with us, it would be necessary for us first to obtain permission from our Venerable Fathers. If, however, he intended to be against us, he might come on, we entertained no fear, as we had already encountered such as had run of themselves. He answered, 'God forfend!' He would not side with the Ministerium, to which men belonged like Valentine Kraft, Andrew Stoever, Wagner, and the like, though they had requested him to join them; that, on the other hand, he would not be in our way either, but rather go elsewhere and begin a school at some place or another.| (431.322.)

51. Constitution of 1792. -- The new constitution, adopted by the Pennsylvania Synod in 1792, though granting a modified suffrage to lay delegates in all important questions, left the synod what it had been, a body governed by the clergy. Dr. Graebner says: |It has been pointed out how this [hierarchical] trait plainly appeared already when the Pennsylvania Synod was founded; later on we meet it everywhere and in all synods organized prior to the General Synod. According to the conception generally prevailing a synod had its real foundation, its essential part, not in the congregations, but in the preachers. This idea governed their thinking and speaking. The 'preachers of the State of Ohio united with some of the preachers in Pennsylvania living nearest to them, and established a conference or synod of their own.' Some 'preachers west of the Susquehanna' were granted their petition of being permitted to form a synod. In agreement herewith they preferred to speak of a synod according to its chief and fundamental part, as a 'ministerium.' The constitution of the Pennsylvania Synod began: 'We Evangelical Lutheran preachers in Pennsylvania and the neighboring States, by our signatures to this constitution, acknowledging ourselves as a body, name this union of ours The German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium in Pennsylvania and the neighboring States, and our individual meetings A Ministerial Assembly.' Lay delegates of the congregations, though admitted to the synodical conventions in Pennsylvania and at other places, were nowhere recognized as members having equal rights with the ministers. It was as late as 1792 that the lay delegates obtained the right to vote in Pennsylvania, and even then only with restrictions. In the affairs of greatest import (doctrinal matters, admission of new members, etc.) they were privileged neither to speak nor to vote. On this point the ministerial order of the Pennsylvania Synod declared: 'Lay delegates who have a right to vote shall sit together at one place in the assembly; they are privileged to offer motions, and to give their opinion and cast their votes in all questions submitted for decision and determination, except in matters pertaining to the learning of a candidate or a catechist, to questions of orthodoxy and heterodoxy, the admission to, and expulsion from, the ministerium, and other, similar cases, for the ministerial assembly has cognizance of such as these.' The constitution of the New York Ministerium contained the same provision, chap.7, Sec.4: 'Each lay delegate shall have a right to take part in the debates of the House, to offer resolutions, and to vote on all questions, except the examining, licensing, or ordaining of candidates for the ministry, the admission of ministers into the association or their exclusion from it, and the discussion of weighty articles of faith or cases of conscience.' The right of a layman to vote was regarded as grounded in that of the minister, not the right of both in the congregation. When a minister lost his vote, the delegate of the congregation lost his too.| The constitution of the Pennsylvania Synod provided: Such lay delegates only |as have an ordained preacher or licensed candidate, and whose teacher is himself present,| shall have a right to vote. Accordingly, |no more lay delegates can cast their votes than the number of ordained preachers and licensed candidates present.| Furthermore, the resolutions of Synod were regarded as binding on the congregations. The constitution of the Pennsylvania Ministerium provided, chap.6, Sec.14: |Whereas the United Congregations are represented in the synodical assembly by their delegates and have a seat and vote in it, they accordingly are bound willingly to observe the decisions and resolutions of the synodical assembly and of the ministerium.| Chap.7, Sec.5 of the constitution of the New York Ministerium read: |Every congregation which is represented by a delegate in the synods of this body is bound to receive, and submit to, the resolutions and recommendations of the ministerium, and to bear its part of all expenses and services necessary for the welfare of the associated churches generally and the advancement of the common cause. And if any congregation perseveres in refusing such submission, it shall no longer be entitled to a representation in this body.| (693 ff.)

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