Wolfgang Splitter

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:

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Lutheranism came to North America when a shipload of Dutch Reformed, together with a few scattered German and Scandinavian Lutherans, landed in New Netherlands in 1624. This group was followed by small bands of Lutherans who chiefly settled in New Jersey. With the founding of New Sweden on the lower Delaware River in 1638, Swedish and Finnish Lutherans began to trickle in, growing to a sizeable community by the 1650s. Small numbers of Scandinavian Lutherans continued to arrive in subsequent decades. The first wave of large-scale German immigration in 1710 brought 1,000–2,000 Palatine Lutherans to the banks of the lower Hudson River. When hundreds of them moved to the Schoharie Valley without official permission in 1712–1713, New York’s governor ordered them to vacate. After years of dispute, many Palatines left the colony for New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Between 1725 and 1770, tens of thousands of German Lutherans immigrated, most of whom established themselves in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Others went farther south, forming small minorities in Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. Prior to 1700, Swedish pastors attended to most colonial Lutherans, including some Germans. While ministers from Sweden continued to serve Scandinavians in America throughout the 18th century, most early German Lutherans hired poorly trained divines or self-styled preachers for want of professional clergy. Until the Revolution, newly arriving pastors from Germany—the majority of them sent by the Francke Foundations in Halle, Prussia—could not keep pace with the rapidly growing demand for spiritual care. The first Lutheran synod in 1748, uniting six German and Swedish divines and ten Pennsylvania parishes, inaugurated the Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania as a consistory-like authority. It marks the beginning of churched Lutheranism in America, based on common doctrinal, liturgical, and statutory grounds and under the leadership of educated ministers. Even before Swedish Lutherans set up their own ecclesial institutions in the late 1750s, the Ministerium under Hallesian aegis became a Pietist stronghold that curbed the influence of non-Pietist preachers in the Mid-Atlantic region. Personal rivalries among pastors and conflicts between clergy and laity over participation in congregational affairs led to much local unrest and caused many parishes to split. Apart from sporadic attempts by Swedish ministers to convert Delawares to Christianity, Lutheran preachers never made any concerted effort to proselytize Natives or Africans in colonial British America.

Article.  10687 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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