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Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video : Christian Books : TRAINING OF MINISTERS AND TEACHERS NEGLECTED.

American Lutheranism by Friedrich Bente


56. Parish Schools Cultivated. -- One cannot possibly say too much in praise of the missionary zeal on the part of Muhlenberg and his associates and of their unceasing efforts to establish new mission-posts and organize new congregations, and to obtain additional laborers from Europe, notably from Halle. In a large measure this applies also to their labors in the interest of establishing parochial schools. In fact, wherever we read of early Lutherans in America, especially German Lutherans, there we also hear the cry for schools and schoolteachers to instruct the children. Comparatively weak efforts to establish schools for their children were made by the Swedes in Delaware. At Christina a teacher was employed in 1699; in Wicaco Teacher Hernboom began a school in 1713. The minutes of the Pennsylvania Synod of 1762 record: |In the Swedish congregations the Swedish schools have for several generations been regrettably neglected; Dr. Wrangel, however, has started an English school in one of his congregations in which the Lutheran Catechism is read in an English translation.| Acrelius, who had been provost of the Swedes in Delaware, wrote in 1759: |Forty years back our people scarcely knew what a school was. The first Swedish and Holland settlers were a poor, weak, and ignorant people, who brought up their children in the same ignorance.| The result was great ignorance among the Swedes. Jacobs: |There seems to have been an entire dearth of laymen capable of intelligently participating in the administration of the affairs of the congregation until we come to Peter Kock. Eneberg found at Christina that 'of the vestrymen and elders of the parish there was scarcely any one who could write his own name.'| (104.) The Salzburgers had a school in Ebenezer, and later a second school in the country. At the beginning Bolzius and Gronau gave daily instruction in religion, the one four, the other three hours daily. In 1741 Ortmann and an English teacher instructed the youth at Ebenezer. The Palatinates in New York began with the building, not only of a church, but also of a school in 1710, the very year in which they had settled at West Camp. In New York there was a schoolhouse as well as a church, and a |schoolkeeper| (Schulhalter) was employed. When the teacher disappeared, the schoolhouse was rented out, but Berkenmeyer taught the children in his home for five months in a year, three times a week. Also in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, etc., parish schools were established, and the great need of them explained to and urged upon the people by the conferences and ministers. In Pennsylvania there were several German schools even before the arrival of Muhlenberg; as a rule, however, the teachers were incompetent or immoral, or both. (247.) When, in 1734, Daniel Weisiger, one of the representatives of the congregations at Philadelphia, New Hanover, and Providence, made his appearance in Halle, he asked for both an able and pious preacher and a schoolteacher. In the beginning Muhlenberg himself took charge of the school. In January, 1743, he wrote: |Because there is a great ignorance among the youth of this land and good schoolteachers are so very rare, I shall be compelled to take hold of the work myself. Those who possibly could teach the youth to read are lazy and drunken, compile a sermon from all manner of books, run about, preach, and administer the Lord's Supper for hard cash. Miserable and disgusting, indeed! I announced to the people [at Providence] to send first their oldest children for instruction, as I intended to remain with the congregation eight days at a time. On Monday some of the parents brought their children. It certainly looks depressing when children of seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty years come with the Abc-Book. Yet I am delighted that they are possessed of so great a desire to learn something,| etc. |In Providence,| Muhlenberg wrote later on, |I have a splendid young man, who keeps school in winter, and in summer earns his living by doing manual labor.| In 1745 J. N. Kurtz and J. H. Schaum were sent from Halle to take charge of the youth. One of the chief questions to engage the attention of the first convention of the Pennsylvania Synod, in 1748, was: |What is the condition of the parish schools?| Brunnholtz reported: In his home at Philadelphia, Schaum, whom he supported, had been keeping school for three and a half years; since Easter there had been no school, as Schaum was needed at another place; however, before winter would set in, he and his elders would do their best in this matter. Germantown, continued Brunnholtz, had two teachers, Doeling, a former Moravian, being one of them, whose schools were attended by many children, some of them non-Lutherans. Another school near Germantown with twenty children had been closed for lack of a teacher. Muhlenberg stated: In Providence there had been a small school in the past year. New Hanover had a fair school, Jacob Loeser being teacher. Though a teacher could be had for the filials Saccum and Upper Milford, there were no schools there. When the elders hereupon explained that the distances were too great, Synod advised to change off monthly with the teacher, and demanded an answer in this matter in the near future. Kurtz promised to begin a school at Tulpehocken in winter. Handschuh reported: In Lancaster the school was flourishing; Teacher Schmidt and his assistant Vigera had instructed 70 children. At the meeting of Synod in 1753 the pastors complained: |The schools within our congregations are in a very poor state, since able and faithful teachers are rare, salaries utterly insufficient, the members too widely scattered and in most cases poor, roads too bad in winter, and the children too urgently needed on the farms in summer.| (G., 496.) According to the report of the Synod held in 1762 there were parochial schools in New Providence, one main school and several smaller ones; in New Hanover; in Philadelphia, where a public examination during the sessions of Synod exhibited the efficiency of the school; in Vincent Township, a school with a good teacher and 60 children; in Reading, a school with more than 80 children; in Tulpehocken, a school of 40 children; in Heidelberg, a school of 30 children; in Northkeel, 30 children, taught by Pastor Kurtz; in Lancaster, a school of 60 children in summer and 90 in winter, etc. (495.)

57. Dearth of Pastors and Schoolteachers. -- From the very beginning one of the greatest obstacles to the spread and healthy growth of the Lutheran Church in America was the dearth of well-trained, able, and truly Lutheran pastors and schoolteachers. And the greatest of all mistakes of the early builders of the American Zion was the failure to provide for the crying need of laborers by the only proper and effectual means -- the establishment of American seminaries for the training of truly Lutheran pastors and teachers qualified to serve in American surroundings. The growing indifferentism and deterioration of the Lutheran ministry as well as of the Lutheran congregations was a necessary consequence of this neglect, which resulted in an inadequate service, rendered, to a large extent, by incompetent or heterodox ministers. Dr. Mann was right when he maintained in his Plea for the Augsburg Confession of 1856, that the doctrinal aberrations of the Definite Platform theologians were due, in part, to the fact that S. S. Schmucker and other ministers had received their theological education at Princeton and other non-Lutheran schools. The constantly increasing need, coupled with the insufficient preparation of the men willing to serve, led to the pernicious system of licensing, which for many decades became a permanent institution in Pennsylvania and other States. In 1857 the General Synod adopted the following report: |The committee on the Licensure System respectfully report that the action of this body requesting the several District Synods to take into consideration and report their judgment on the proposed alteration or abolition of our Licensure System has been responded to by fifteen synods. Out of this number all the synods, excepting three, have decided against a change. Your committee have to report the judgment of the Church to be decidedly against any change of our long-established regulations on this subject, and therefore deem it unnecessary to enter on the discussion of the merits of the subject, in this report, and propose the adoption of the following resolution: Resolved, That the great majority of our Synods having expressed their judgment against any change in our Licensure System, your committee be released from the further consideration of the subject.| (20.) The great dearth of ministers accounted for this action. Even before 1727 there were in Pennsylvania more than 50,000 Germans. In 1751 Benjamin Franklin expressed his apprehension that |the Palatine boors| would Germanize Pennsylvania. In 1749 more than 12,000 German emigrants arrived. In 1750 the Germans in Pennsylvania numbered about 80,000, almost one-half of the inhabitants of the State. And more than one-half of these were considered Lutherans. In 1811, however, when this number had greatly increased, the Pennsylvania Synod reported only 64 ministers, of whom 34 were ordained, 26 were licensed to preach, and 4 were catechists. The number of ministers sent from Germany had been augmented by such as had been tutored by pastors in America. Chr. Streit and Peter Muhlenberg, for example, were instructed by Provost Wrangel and Muhlenberg, Sr. Another pupil of Muhlenberg was Jacob van Buskirk. H. Moeller, D. Lehman, and others had studied under J. C. Kunze. Jacob Goering, J. Bachman, C. F. L. Endress, J. G. Schmucker, Miller, and Baetis were pupils of J. H. Ch. Helmuth. H. A. Muhlenberg, who subsequently became prominent in politics, and B. Keller were educated in Franklin College. Later on some attended Princeton and other Reformed schools to prepare themselves for the Lutheran ministry! To make matters worse, the ministers who, toward the close of the eighteenth century, came from Germany were no longer adapted for their surroundings, which were rapidly becoming English. Besides, Halle and the other German universities had grown rationalistic. According to the Report of the General Synod in 1823 the Lutheran Church in America numbered 900 churches with only 175 ministers. (9.) The same report states: |The ancient and venerable Synod of Pennsylvania is rapidly increasing both in members and in ministers, and we trust that much good is doing in the name of our blessed Savior Jesus. From the minutes of the session of the present year, which was held at Lebanon, it appears that the body consists of 74 ministers, who have the pastoral charge of upwards of 278 churches; that between the session of 1822 and 1823 they admitted to membership by baptism 6,445, admitted to sacramental communion by confirmation 2,750, that the whole number of communicants is 24,794, and that there are under the superintendence of the different churches 208 congregational schools.| (11.) In 1843, according to the Lutheran Almanac for that year, the General Synod numbered 424 ordained and licensed pastors and 1,374 congregations with 146,303 communicants. This averaged three congregations for every pastor, some serving as many as six, eight, or even twelve, giving the majority of the congregations one service every four weeks, and to many only one service every eight weeks. (Kirchl. Mitt.1843, No.11.) In 1853 about 9,000 Lutheran congregations in the United States were served by only 900 pastors. (Lutheraner, 10, 31.) Thus, as the years rolled on, the question became increasingly pressing: |Where shall we find pastors for our children?| Yet, while the Lutheran ministers, as a rule, were most zealous and self-sacrificing in their labors to serve and gather the scattered Lutherans, organize congregations, and establish parochial schools, the early history of American Lutheranism does not record a single determined effort anywhere to provide in a systematic way for the training of preachers and teachers, such as were required by American conditions and surroundings. We hear of an orphan home founded by the Salzburgers in 1737 with three boys and eight girls, but nowhere of a seminary turning out preachers and teachers for the maintenance and upbuilding of the Church. It was in 1864, more than 120 years after the first appearance of Muhlenberg in Pennsylvania, that the |Mother Synod| of the Lutheran Church in America founded a seminary in Philadelphia.

58. Hopeless Situation. -- Several years after his arrival in America, Muhlenberg realized the need and conceived the thought of founding an orphan asylum with a preachers' seminary in connection; and in 1748 he had acquired the ground for this purpose. In his letters to Halle he repeatedly declared that it would be impossible to supply |the almost innumerable multitude of German Lutherans| with pastors for any length of time without a seminary in America. In one of these letters he says: |An institution of this kind does not appear to be impossible. And it seems to be necessary, because, as the past experience has taught us, the calling of well-tried and able preachers from Germany, though indeed of especial advantage, and needed also in the future, at least for a considerable time, is connected with so many difficulties and such great expense that it will be impossible to send over as many from Germany as will be required in order to provide sufficiently for all congregations.| (504.) In 1769 Muhlenberg broached the matter to the convention of the Ministerium, and Synod repeatedly considered the question. But nothing materialized. Indeed, J. C. Kunze, who later became Muhlenberg's son-in-law, finally did succeed in opening a preparatory school; lack of funds, however, compelled him to close it during the Revolutionary War. Kunze, Helmuth, and J. F. Schmidt now pinned their hopes to the |German Institute| of the Pennsylvania University, whose professors were Lutherans from 1779 to 1822. Helmuth instructed every day from eight to twelve and from two to five o'clock. But the |German Institute| did not turn out any Lutheran pastors, as the curriculum contained no course in theology. Kunze writes: |It is true, I was professor of Oriental languages in Philadelphia. However, I had but six scholars, and I doubt if one of them will study theology. And who would instruct them, in case they should desire to study theology? We did not have time to devote a single hour to this subject in Philadelphia.| In 1785 Helmuth and Schmidt wrote: |There is nothing we pastors desire more than a German educational institution, where young men could be prepared directly for the service of the Church. To be sure, we have part in the university located here, and also make use of it. But languages and philosophy only are taught here, from which our churches and schools derive no benefit.| The hopelessness of the situation is further revealed by the following letter which Helmuth addressed to the synod assembled in Lancaster, Pa., 1784: |Brethren, we are living in a sad time. My heart weeps over the awful decay of Christendom. I readily acknowledge my share of the guilt that God seems to hide His countenance from us, permitting the doors to stand wide open, for the spirit of lies [rationalism] to enter and destroy the vineyard of the Lord. You will learn from the report from Halle how the swine are uprooting the garden of Christ in Germany. . . . Another thing, dearest brethren, how shall we in the future supply our congregations with pastors? Where shall we find ministers to meet our need, which will increase from time to time! From Germany? Possibly a secret Arian, Socinian, or Deist? For over there everything is full of this vermin. God forbid! Under present circumstances, no one from Germany! We ourselves must put our hands to the plow. God will call us to account for it, and will let our children suffer for it, if we do not wake up, and hazard something for the weal of immortal souls.| -- And how did they now seek to provide help? Franklin College was founded in conjunction with the German Reformed and other sects! Helmuth and other Lutheran pastors were among the trustees of the institution. In an appeal to the Lutheran congregations they say: |Where will you at last find pastors and teachers if you do not send your children to college? . . . Think you that your churches and schools can exist without them? Either your children will have to content themselves with the poorest kind of men, or else surrender language and religion, for which you have laid the foundation, thus loading a great guilt upon yourselves. Dear friends, German church-life can impossibly continue to exist as it has hitherto existed in many places. In a few years the churches you already have will be deserted. And what will then become of the increased number of Germans dwelling in your midst? Are there not already a great number of localities where the inhabitants hear no sermon for six to eight weeks, and where the young grow up like the savages?| (515.530.) The Synod of 1818 also staked its hopes on Franklin College, which, however, was eking out a pitiable existence, and finally became the exclusive property of the Reformed. The dire need was apparent to all; the true way out of the difficulty, however, no one saw nor wanted to see. And the reason? Avarice on the part of the congregations, and a lack of initiative and Lutheran earnestness and determination on the part of the pastors. Nor did the seminaries founded in the first part of the nineteenth century (Hartwick Seminary, established in 1815; Gettysburg Seminary, in 1825; and the seminary of the South Carolina Synod, in 1829, at Lexington) meet the needs of the Church, either as to the quantity or the quality of the candidates required for the Lutheran ministry. In a letter addressed to the General Synod, assembled 1827 at Gettysburg, Dr. Hazelius wrote: |Our [Hartwick] Seminary has been established since the year 1815; during which time 11 young men have received their theological education here, 10 of whom are now actively engaged as laborers in the vineyard of our Lord; but one is prevented by disease from participating in the labors of his brethren.| (20.) All told, 10 preachers produced by Lutheran seminaries in the United States till 1827! Besides, in reality these seminaries were not Lutheran, but unionistic and, in a degree, Reformed schools.

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