Old Lutherans

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Old Lutherans were originally German Lutherans in the Kingdom of Prussia, notably in the Province of Silesia, who refused to join the Prussian Union of churches in the 1830s and 1840s. Prussia's king Frederick William III was determined to unify the Protestant churches, to homogenize their liturgy, organization and even their architecture. In a series of proclamations over several years the Church of the Prussian Union was formed, bringing together the majority group of Lutherans, the minority of Reformed. The main effect was that the government of Prussia had full control over church affairs, with the king recognized as the leading bishop. [1] [2]

Lutheranism form of Protestantism commonly associated with the teachings of Martin Luther

Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.

Kingdom of Prussia Former German state (1701–1918)

The Kingdom of Prussia was a German kingdom that constituted the state of Prussia between 1701 and 1918. It was the driving force behind the unification of Germany in 1871 and was the leading state of the German Empire until its dissolution in 1918. Although it took its name from the region called Prussia, it was based in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, where its capital was Berlin.

Province of Silesia province

The Province of Silesia was a province of Prussia from 1815 to 1919. The Silesia region was part of the Prussian realm since 1740 and established as an official province in 1815, then became part of the German Empire in 1871. In 1919, as part of the Free State of Prussia within Weimar Germany, Silesia was divided into the provinces of Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia. Silesia was reunified briefly from 1938 to 1941 as a province of Nazi Germany before being divided back into Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia.

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Attempted suppression of the Old Lutherans led many to emigrate to Australia, Canada, and the United States, resulting in the creation of significant Lutheran denominations in those countries.

Australia Country in Oceania

Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania and numerous smaller islands. It is the largest country in Oceania and the world's sixth-largest country by total area. The neighbouring countries are Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and East Timor to the north; the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to the north-east; and New Zealand to the south-east. The population of 25 million is highly urbanised and heavily concentrated on the eastern seaboard. Australia's capital is Canberra, and its largest city is Sydney. The country's other major metropolitan areas are Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

Christian denomination identifiable Christian body with common name, structure, and doctrine

A Christian denomination is a distinct religious body within Christianity, identified by traits such as a name, organization, leadership and doctrine. Individual bodies, however, may use alternative terms to describe themselves, such as church or sometimes fellowship. Divisions between one group and another are defined by authority and doctrine; issues such as the nature of Jesus, the authority of apostolic succession, eschatology, and papal primacy may separate one denomination from another. Groups of denominations—often sharing broadly similar beliefs, practices, and historical ties—are sometimes known as "branches of Christianity". These branches differ in many ways, especially through differences in practices and belief.

The legacy of Old Lutherans also survives in the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in modern Germany.

The Prussian Union

King Frederick William III of Prussia FWIII.jpg
King Frederick William III of Prussia

In 1799 King Frederick William III of Prussia issued a decree for a new common liturgical Agenda (service book) to be published, for use in both the Lutheran and Reformed congregations. To accomplish this, a commission to prepare a common agenda was formed.

Frederick William III of Prussia King of Prussia

Frederick William III was king of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. He ruled Prussia during the difficult times of the Napoleonic Wars and the end of the Holy Roman Empire. Steering a careful course between France and her enemies, after a major military defeat in 1806, he eventually and reluctantly joined the coalition against Napoleon in the Befreiungskriege. Following Napoleon's defeat he was King of Prussia during the Congress of Vienna, which assembled to settle the political questions arising from the new, post-Napoleonic order in Europe. He was determined to unify the Protestant churches, to homogenize their liturgy, their organization and even their architecture. The long-term goal was to have fully centralized royal control of all the Protestant churches in the Prussian Union of Churches.

Agenda (liturgy)

The name Agenda is given, particularly in the Lutheran Church, to the official books dealing with the forms and ceremonies of divine service.

After more than 20 years of effort, a common liturgical agenda was finally published in 1821. The agenda was not well received by many Lutherans, as it was seen to compromise in the wording of the Words of Institution, to the point where the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist was not proclaimed.

Words of Institution

The Words of Institution are words echoing those of Jesus himself at his Last Supper that, when consecrating bread and wine, Christian Eucharistic liturgies include in a narrative of that event. Eucharistic scholars sometimes refer to them simply as the verba.

Eucharist Christian rite

The Eucharist is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.

The Protestant congregations were directed in 1822 to use only the newly formulated agenda for worship. This met with strong objections and non-compliance from Lutheran pastors around Prussia. [3]

Protestantism division within Christianity, originating from the Reformation in the 16th century against the Roman Catholic Church, that rejects the Roman Catholic doctrines of papal supremacy and sacraments

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

The liturgical agenda was subsequently modified to appease many of the objections of the dissenting Lutherans, and in 1830 Frederick William ordered all Protestant congregations in Prussia to celebrate the Lord's Supper using the new agenda.

Rather than having the unifying effect that Frederick William desired, the decree created a great deal of dissent among Lutheran congregations. [4]

In a compromise with dissenters, who had now earned the name "Old Lutherans", in 1834 Frederick William issued a decree which stated that Union would only be in the areas of governance and liturgy, but the respective congregations could retain their confessional identities. In addition to this, dissenters were forbidden from organizing sectarian groups. [3]

In defiance of this decree, a number of Lutheran pastors and congregations continued to use the old liturgical agenda and sacramental rites of the Lutheran church.

Becoming aware of this defiance, officials sought out those who acted against the decree. Pastors who were caught were suspended from their ministry. If suspended pastors were caught acting in a pastoral role, they were imprisoned. [3]

Among the leaders of the Old Lutherans was Johann Gottfried Scheibel (1783-1843). Scheibel was a professor of theology in Breslau from 1818 until 1830 when he was suspended from his post for his dissenting views.

Scheibel came to prominence as a leader of the Old Lutherans in the dissent against the Prussian Union. He spoke, preached and wrote against the Union, which consequently resulted in suspension from his post as theological professor.

Undaunted, Scheibel continued in his dissent as he moved to new cities. He was at Dresden in 1832 where he was ordered to leave that same year. He moved to Hermsdorf, where likewise he was asked to leave in 1836, then on to Glauchau and Nuremberg. [5]

He died at Nuremberg about the time that he was being restored to his post as professor at Breslau. [5]

Henrik Steffens, scientist and Old Lutheran Heinrich Steffens sshh foto.jpg
Henrik Steffens, scientist and Old Lutheran

After Scheibel, Eduard Huschke became the leader of Old Lutherans. Other famous Old Lutherans included Henrik Steffens, H. E. F. Guericke, Kahnis and Rudolf Rocholl.

Union also caused a confessional Lutheran counter-reaction called Neo-Lutheranism.

Upon Frederick William's death in 1840, persecution of the Old Lutherans eased substantially. However, Old Lutherans continued to find themselves marginalized, especially the clergy who did not have many of the same rights and support accorded to clergy of the Union church.

Old Lutherans formed several synods (e.g. in 1841 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Prussia, seated in Breslau, officially recognised on 23 July 1845), which through various mergers eventually resulted in the present-day Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK). [6]

Immigration to Australia, New Zealand and America

By 1835 many dissenting Old Lutheran groups were looking to emigration as a means to finding religious freedom. Some groups emigrated to Australia and the United States in the years leading up to 1841.

Australian and New Zealand migration

The first Lutherans to come to Australia in any significant number were immigrants from Prussia, who arrived in South Australia in 1838 with Pastor August Kavel. These immigrants created three settlements at Klemzig, Hahndorf, and Glen Osmond. In 1841, a second wave of Prussian immigrants arrived, led by Pastor Gotthard Fritzsche. His group settled in Lobethal and Bethanien. [7]

The Lutherans in Western Australia established the Killalpaninna Mission (Bethesda) Station at Cooper's Creek. Johann Flierl, the pioneer missionary of German New Guinea, served there for seven years (1878-1885). [8] When he left for Kaiser-Wilhelmsland in 1885, his cousin, also named Johann Flierl, replaced him at the mission. [9]

There have been five waves of migration into the Lutheran Church in New Zealand:

In the 1840s people came from Germany. In the 1860s a second wave of migrants from Germany settled in Marton in the Rangitikei. Some had first settled in Australia. In the 1870s significant numbers arrived from Denmark and the rest of Scandinavia. In the years after World War II many came from Europe. In the last 10–15 years there has been an influx of people from Africa, Asia and other parts of the world.

Lutheran missionaries first arrived in New Zealand in 1843, just three years after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The first Lutheran Missionaries arrived in Otago in January 1843. They found that the Wesleyan and Anglican Mission Societies were already well established in New Zealand. They therefore took up the suggestion that they move to the Chatham Islands where they arrived on 20 February of that year. As someone said, they had "...faith in their souls and next to nothing in their pockets."

In June of the same year, 1843, a shipload of German migrants arrived in Nelson. They settled in what is now Upper Moutere and built a church. There is still a thriving Lutheran congregation worshipping on this site.

In the 1860s a number of German people arrived in the Rangitikei. They convinced others from German speaking communities in South Australia to join them. Most initially settled along Pukepapa Road in Marton, which is still the location of the St Martin's Lutheran Church.

In the 1870s other Lutheran migrants arrived in New Zealand including large numbers from Scandinavia who settled in the Wairarapa, Manawatu and Hawkes Bay regions. Norsewood and Dannevirke owe their origins to these settlers.

North American migrations

The Olbers carried some of the Saxon emigrants. Olbers.jpg
The Olbers carried some of the Saxon emigrants.

Numerous waves of Old Lutherans immigrated to the United States as well during this time period. Among them was a group from Prussia of about 1000 Old Lutherans. They were from Erfurt, Magdeburg and the surrounding area, led by J. A. A. Grabau. They emigrated to the United States in summer 1839. Grabau and his friends founded the "Synod of Lutherans immigrated from Prussia", afterward known as the Buffalo Synod. [10]

Thousands of other Old Lutherans settled in the Midwest and Upper Midwest of the United States during this period. In addition to Old Lutherans there were also Neo-Lutheran immigrants from the German Kingdom of Saxony, where there was no evangelical union. Lutheran pastor Martin Stephan and nearly 1100 other Saxon Lutherans left for the United States in November 1838, eventually settling in and around St. Louis, Missouri in the Saxon Lutheran immigration of 1838–39. These were the predecessors to the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. [7]

See also

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References

  1. Christopher Clark, Iron Kingdom: Of the rise and downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 (2006) pp 412-19
  2. Christopher Clark, "Confessional policy and the limits of state action: Frederick William III and the Prussian Church Union 1817–40." Historical Journal 39.04 (1996) pp: 985-1004. in JSTOR
  3. 1 2 3 Wilhelm, J (1909), "Evangelical Church (in Prussia)", The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Robert Appleton
  4. "Lutherans", The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, 1909, p. 81.
  5. 1 2 "Johann Gottfried Scheibel". New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia. 1914. pp. 230–231. Retrieved 14 September 2013. In consequense of a polemical sermon, the same year, he was ordered to leave Dresden, and went to Hermsdorf, near by.
  6. "A little bit of history", SELK website (2007)
  7. 1 2 Martin O. Westerhaus, "The Confessional Lutheran Emigrations From Prussia And Saxony Around 1839", 1989
  8. H. F. W. Proeve, "Auricht, Johann Christian (1832 - 1907)," ‘’Australian Dictionary of Biography, Online Edition, ‘’ 2006, updated continuously, ISSN 1833-7538, published by Australian National University; Garrett, p. 1
  9. Regina Ganter, Johann Flierl. Griffith University.
  10. "Lutherans", The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, 1909, p. 89

Further reading