Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 34 - Lutheran Immigration to America (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-034 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE RAST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> DAVID: I'm a little familiar with the history of the Germans who came and eventually established the LCMS, but I'm sure they were not the first or only Lutherans to arrive. When, where, and how did Lutherans come on the scene in America? Were the first German or perhaps Scandinavian? Did they come in large numbers? Did they have much influence on the Christian community here? >> SPEAKER: David, you're right. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was not the first Lutheran Church to be founded on American soil. In fact, one has to go almost 250 years previous to the formation of Missouri to find the first Lutherans. And those first Lutherans, interestingly enough, were Danish. Now, they didn't come to what later became the United States; they actually settled in the Hudson's Bay area of Canada. Nevertheless, they have the distinction of being the first at attempting a Lutheran colony of sorts. They arrived in 1619, approximately 65 men, again of Danish origin, established their little community in the summer of that year and, actually; they were looking for a passage to China. There were looking for a route through the Northwest when they found themselves stifled in their endeavor and having to stay in Hudson's Bay. They quickly began to establish their little community. They did that understanding they would have to face the onslaught of the upcoming winter. And initially, things went quite well. However, over the course of that year, they had a devastating experience. Simply put, there weren't well-prepared enough in terms of foodstuffs and other elements as well worked in so that by the Easter, the time of Easter the following year, 1620, only three men remained out of that entire group. So the first attempt at establishing a Lutheran community here in North America was a failure. Later attempts also struggled. The next group that we could talk about are the Swedes. The Swedes established New Sweden, formally speaking, in 1638. It existed as a coherent colony until 1655 when it was overtaken by the Dutch. The Swedish Lutherans here in North America largely settled in the area that we now today think of as Wilmington, Delaware. They established a number of firsts here on the American scene, including the first functioning Lutheran church building. They had the first consistent Lutheran pastoral support. Reorus Torkillus was the man's name. And they also were responsible for the first efforts at doing mission work among the Lenape Indian tribe in the area that we today know as Delaware. In fact, Johann Companius, a Swedish Lutheran pastor, went so far as to publish an edition of Luther's Small Catechism in order to evangelize the Native Americans. However, the Swedish community didn't sustain itself as well. Though some of these older congregations still exist, most, if not all of them, are actually participants in the Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion. The reason for this movement out of Lutheranism into the Anglican Communion was due to several factors. In the first place, there is the simple reality of the lack of immigration that characterized the Swedish colony once it fell in 1655. Without a fresh stream of people to inhabit the colony, the Swedish inhabitants of what had been New Sweden began to look elsewhere for pastoral support and opportunities for worship. Part of the reason they gravitated toward the Anglican Communion was simple. Anglicanism, that is English work, was starting to dominate in the American colonies by this time in the latter 1600's. But in addition to that, there are two specific reasons why the Anglican Communion provided a very easy transition for Swedish Lutherans. In the first place, the Anglican Church had a similar polity to that of the Swedish church. Among Lutherans, the Swedish church is unique for having an episcopacy and having sustained and maintained that episcopacy throughout its history. So the idea of having a bishop who was largely responsible for the matters of church affairs was one element that made an easy move for Swedish Lutheran as they moved to the Anglican Communion because the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church also has bishops. The second was the simple matter of worship life. The Swedish Lutherans were a largely liturgical church. And when they began to look elsewhere for worship in the language that they could make usable for themselves, and especially in terms of the children who oftentimes didn't understand Swedish, only knew English, it was a natural fit, if you will, for them to move toward the Anglican Churches. The result, little by little, the Swedish presence in Delaware transferred its allegiances from the Lutheran Church to the Anglican Church. This is most obvious in their main church building, main congregation, Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, Delaware, one of the oldest functioning congregations in America which is now no longer Lutheran, but a member of the Anglican Communion. So the Swedish presence was a significant presence initially on the American scene but began to fade in terms of its overall Lutheran influence. A different kind of picture emerges when you look at the Dutch Lutherans of New Netherlands. Today, we know New Netherlands as New York. But in the 1600's, New Amsterdam, its capital, and Fort Orange, which we today know as Albany, New York, were the real centers. What we today call York City and Albany were then called New Amsterdam and Fort Orange. In these Dutch colonies in the first half of the 1600's, Lutherans begin to attend, to emerge, and to be participant in the life of that particular colony. While there is some discussion among historians exactly when these Dutch Lutherans appeared, we do know for a fact that by the late 1640�s, they were certainly present in New Netherlands. We know it because they appealed to the Dutch government for the freedom to worship and the freedom to call their own pastor. That freedom was denied them repeatedly over a series of events, despite the fact that for a brief period of time in the late 1650�s, that actually did have a pastor present on site. However, the Dutch authorities on site in New Netherlands were determined not to allow these Lutherans to express their religious freedom. As a result, when there pastor arrived, Johannes Gutwasser, when he arrived in 1657, he found himself pursued almost from the beginning by the Dutch authorities, pursued for engaging in illegal activities like preaching, baptizing, celebrating the Lord's Supper. When they finally caught up with Gutwasser after an 18-month pursuit, they immediately deported him, sent him back to Holland. However, it would be a short time before the Dutch Lutherans were able to acquire their next pastor. For in 1664, the Dutch colony fell to the English and New Netherlands became New York. One of the first things that the Dutch Lutherans did was to appeal to the British government for freedom to worship. That freedom was granted on the condition that they be good citizens and promise obedience to the king which they did so willingly. The result: they had a congregation with integrity that was free to call its own pastor. They were served by pastors in 1669; a man by the name of Jacob Fabritius arrived. His brief pastorate was one of discontent, both for himself and for the congregation. He moved on and was replaced by a man named Bernard Arnzius. Arnzius served faithfully this congregation in New York and Albany from 1671 to 1691. It's really a remarkable story about these three early groups of Lutheran settling here in the New World. They struggled, in some cases didn't succeed. In other cases, like with the Dutch, they did succeed and sustain themselves. The Dutch congregations in New York City still have their successors active today. And throughout the Hudson River Valley, one can still see the impact of early Dutch Lutheranism. Nevertheless, it continued to be a struggle for America's Lutherans, even at this point. In fact, one historian actually claims that between 1691 in 1697, there were no regularly called, functioning Lutheran pastors on the American scene. That would begin to change in the late 1690�s when the Germans finally began to show up in significant numbers and with them would come pastors who would serve the church. In terms of their overall impact on American culture during this time, the Lutherans are a very small minority within the larger American culture. The dominant groups without exception are the Congregationalist churches in New England and the Anglican churches in New York and especially as well in the southern colonies, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia. But Lutherans are always there. And especially in the middle colonies, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the like, there is a Lutheran presence that has to be respected and which is engaged in the broader task of defining the Christian experience in what would become the United States. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****