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New York Lutheran Abolitionists. Seeking a Solution to a Historical Enigma

  • Paul P. Kuenning (a1)

Extract

Among nineteenth-century North American Lutherans the only corporate body to take an early, serious, and vigorous stand on behalf of the abolition of human slavery was a small group in upper New York State called the Franckean Evangelic Synod.1 On 25 May 1837, at a meeting held in a small country chapel in Minden township, Montgomery County, four Lutheran clergymen and twenty-seven lay delegates broke with the Hartwick Synod and formed the new association. It was named after the German Lutheran Pietist cleric and humanitarian August Hermann Francke (1663–1727). The abolitionist convictions of the Franckean Synod were embedded in the main body of its constitution. No minister who was a slaveholder or engaged in the traffic of human beings or advocated the system of slavery then existing in the United States could be accepted into the synod nor could a layperson practicing any of the above serve as a delegate to synodical meetings.2 By 1848 these restrictions were increased to include laity who “justified the sin of slavery” and clergy “who did not oppose” it.3 Such precise constitutional requirements in opposition to human slavery remain without precedent in the history of the Lutheran church.

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1. Wentz, Abdel Ross, A Basic History of Lutheranism in America (Philadelphia, 1955), pp. 163164.

2. Constitution, Franckean Synod, 1837, art. 8, sec. 6, p. 11;ibid., art. 7, sec. 3, p. 9.

3. Ibid., 1848 Revision, art. 8, sec. 2, p. 13; ibid., art. 7, p. 13.

4. Lutheran Herald 4 (21 02 1842): 21.

5. Stange, Douglas, “The 125th Anniversary of the Fraternal Appeal,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 40 (1967): 43.

6. Fortenbaugh, Robert, “American Lutheran Synods and Slavery 1830–1860,” The Journal of Religion 13 (1933): 72, 76.

7. Wentz, , History of Lutheranism, pp. 163, 149;Ahlstrom, Sydney, “The Lutheran Church and American Culture: A Tercentary Retrospect,” The Lutheran Quarterly (1949): 311332.

8. Stange, Douglas, Radicalism for Humanity (St. Louis, 1970).

9. Sernett, Milton C., “Lutheran Abolitionism in New York State: A Problem in Historical Explication,” in Essays and Reports 1982, The Lutheran Historical Conference (St. Louis, 1984), p. 20; pp. 2829.

10. Knittle, Walter Allen, Early Eighteenth Century Palatine Emigration (Philadelphia, 1937), pp. 13. See also Yoder, Don, ed., Rhineland Emigrants (Baltimore, 1985), p. 8.

11. Qualben, Lars P., The Lutheran Church in Colonial America (New York, 1940), pp. 168169.

12. Clasen, Claus-Peter, The Palatinate in European History (Oxford, 1963), pp. 911, 19.

13. The social and ethical activism endemic to classical Lutheran Pietism and far less evident in the more radical varieties has been adequately documented. See, for example, Hinrichs, Carl, Preussentum und Pietismus (Göttingen, 1971);Stoeffler, F. Ernest, ed., “Pietism, A Much Maligned Movement, Re-examined,” in Christian History, vol. 2, esp. pp. 1922;Deeter, Allen C., “Pietism, Moralism and Social Concern,” The Covenant Quarterly 33 (1975): 1939;Gerdes, Egon W., “Pietism: Classical and Modern,” Concordia Theological Monthly 39 (1968): 257258;Sattler, Gary R., God's Glory, Neighbor's Good (Chicago, 1982), esp. pp. 116, 7075;Aland, Kurt, A History of Christianity, vol. 2 (Philadelphia 1986), pp. 234255;Brown, Dale W., Understanding Pietism (Grand Rapids, Mich, 1978);Stoeffler, F. Ernest, The Rise of Evangelical Pietism (Leiden, 1965);idem, German Pietism During the Eighteenth Century (Leiden, 1973).

14. See Kuenning, Paul P. “American Lutheran Pietism—Activism and Abolitionist” (Ph.D. diss., Marquette University, 1985), pp. 2435.

15. Aland, History of Christianity, 2:245.

16. Stoeffler, , German Pietism, pp. 8687.

17. Knittle, , Palatine Emigration, pp. 192209.

18. Sachse, J. F., German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania (1895; reprint, New York, 1970), pp. 344345.

19. Dern, John P., ed., The Albany Protocol-Wilhelm Christoph Berkenmeyer's Chronicle (Ann Arbor, 1971), p. xxii;Muhlenberg, Henry Melchior, Journals, trans. Tappert, Theodore G. and Doberstein, John W., 3 vols. (Philadelphia, 1942), 1:248.

20. Dern, , The Albany Protocol, p. xlviii.

21. Riforgiato, Leonard R., Missionary of Moderation (Lewisburg, Pa., 1980), p. 130.

22. Nicum, John, The Doctrinal Development of the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of the State of New York (Syracuse, 1887), p. 1.

23. Strobel, P. A., Memorial Volume to Commemorate the Semi-Centennial Anniversary of the Hartwick Synod (Philadelphia, 1881), p. 23.

24. The Lutheran Magazine 8 (09 1828): 175.

25. See Kuenning, , “American Lutheran Pietism,” pp. 319324, 491503.

26. Material used in each of these biographical sketches, and not quoted verbatim, is taken from parish histories, personal correspondence, newspaper articles, and synodical minutes in the Archives of the Metropolitan-Upper New York Synod, Wagner College, Staten Island, New York.

27. Dox, H. L., Memoir of Philip Wieting (Philadelphia, 1870), no pagination.

28. Kling, M., “Memories of Our Departed,” in A Reunion of Ministers and Churches Held at Gardnersville, May 14–17, 1881, ed. Dox, H. L. (Philadelphia, 1881), p. 153.

29. Simms, Jeptha E., History of Schoharie County (Albany, 1845), pp. 99102. See also Dern, , The Albany Protocol, pp. 98, 100.

30. Hazelius, Ernest L., History of the American Lutheran Church: From Its Commencement in the year of Our Lord 1685 to the year 1842 (Jamesville, Ohio, 1846) pp. 168169.

31. Franckean Journal (1840): 27, 28.

32. Ibid., Special Session (October 1837): 38.

33. Dox, , Philip Wieting, p. 180.

34. Roscoe, William E., History of Schoharie County (Syracuse, 1882), pp. 274275.

35. Dox, , Reunion, p. 165.

36. Ibid., p. 159. See also Minutes of the Hartwick Synod (1832), p. 20.

37. Franckean Journal (1861): 8;Dox, , Reunion, p. 159.

38. Lutheran Herald 2 (16 06 1840): 47;Stange, Douglas C., Radicalism for Humanity, p. 5.

39. Roscoe, , History of Schoharie County, p. 351.

40. Minutes of the Hartwick Synod (1836), pp. 2122.

41. Dox, , “Historical Fidelity,” in Reunion, p. 1.

42. Lutheran Herald 4 (15 03 1842): 47.

43. Lutheran Herald 1 (30 October 1844): n.p.; ibid. 1 (13 November 1844): n.p.

44. Kreider, Harry J., History of the United Lutheran Synod of New York and New England, vol. 1, 1786–1860 (Philadelphia, 1954), p. 147.

45. Dox, , “Historical Fidelity,” p. 14.

46. Strobel, , Memorial Volume, p. 119.

47. Kreider, , History, p. 147.

48. Robert Van Aistine, “Steadfast—A Biography of Nicholas Van Alstine, D.D. (1814–1900)” unpublished, 1982, Archives of the Metropolitan-Upper New York Synod, Wagner College, Staten Island, New York, p. 1.

49. Ibid. pp. 3–5.

50. Life and Dying Confession of John Van Alstine (Cooperstown, N.Y., 1819).

51. Lutheran Herald 4 (1 01 1842): 4.

52. Dox, H. L., “Christ the Foundation,” 7 06 1849, Pohlman Collection, vol. 161, New York State Library Archives, Albany, N.Y.

53. Roscoe, , History of Schoharie County, p. 292.

54. Parish records of the Lutheran churches of Stone Mills and Orleans Four Corners, New York; Centennial Anniversary Booklet, 1845–1945, Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Sharon, Wisconsin.

55. Stange, , Radicalism for Humanity, pp. 3738.

56. Franckean Journal (1856): 1315; Dox, Reunion.

57. Paul Empie, interview no. 1 with Neil Mellblom, 7 February 1977, Archives of Cooperative Lutheranism, Offices of the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., New York, New York, p. 25.

58. Dox, , Reunion, pp. 162163, 72.

59. Ibid., p. 47.

60. Franckean Journal (1846): 12.

61. Ibid., (1855): 27; ibid., (1865): 45.

62. Paul Empie, Oral History Collection, p. 25.

63. Kuenning, “American Lutheran Pietism,” chap. 1.

64. Ibid., pp. 333–362. The close commitment of the Franckeans to the theology of the Spener-Francke school of German Lutheran Pietism is demonstrated on the basis of specific key doctrines.

65. Silverman, Kenneth, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (New York, 1984), pp. 230, 232;Lovelace, Richard, The American Pietism of Cotton Mather: Origins of American Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids, Mich., 1979), pp. 5, 37;Benz, Ernst, “Ecumenical Relations Between Boston Puritanism and German Pietism: Cotton Mather and August Hermann Francke,” Harvard Theological Review 54 (1961): 159193.

66. Nelson, E. Clifford and Fevold, Eugene F., The Lutheran Church Among Norwegian Americans (Minneapolis, 1960), pp. 130134, 340.

67. McLaughlin, William G., Revivals, Awakenings and Reform (Chicago, 1978), p. 136.

68. Hazelius, , History of the American Lutheran Church, pp. 132133.

69. Bost, Raymond, “The Rev. John Bachman and the Development of Southern Lutheranism” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1963), pp. 45.

70. Wentz, , History of Lutheranism, p. 164.

71. Lutheran Observer 3 (11 03 1836): 115;ibid. 18 (8 Nov. 1850): 383.

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