Old Lutherans

Old Lutherans
Luther's Seal
 Lutheranism portal v · d · e

Old Lutherans refers to those German Lutherans who refused to join the Prussian Union (Evangelical Christian Church) in the 1830s and 1840s.

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

The legacy of Old Lutherans also survives in Lutheran denominations in modern Germany.


The Prussian Union

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.

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.

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[1]

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.[1]

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.

He died at Nuremberg about the time that he was being restored to his post as professor at Breslau.[3]

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, which through various mergers eventually resulted in the present-day Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK)[4].

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 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.[5]

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).[6] When he left for Kaiser-Wilhelmsland in 1885, his cousin, also named Johann Flierl, replaced him at the mission.[7]

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 the 20th 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

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 called Buffalo Synod.[8]

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 not 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. These were the predecessors to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Wilhelm, J (1909), "Evangelical Church (in Prussia)", The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Robert Appleton, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05642a.htm 
  2. ^ "Lutherans", The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, 1909, p. 81, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc07/Page_81.html .
  3. ^ "Johann Gottfried Scheibel" in New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, 1914, pp. 230-231
  4. ^ "A little bit of history", SELK website (2007)
  5. ^ a b Martin O. Westerhaus, "The Confessional Lutheran Emigrations From Prussia And Saxony Around 1839", 1989
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ Regina Ganter, Johann Flierl. Griffith University.
  8. ^ "Lutherans", The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, 1909, p. 89

See also

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lutherans —     Lutheranism     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Lutheranism     The religious belief held by the oldest and in Europe the most numerous of the Protestant (Protestantism) sects, founded by the Wit …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Lutherans and Lutheranism —     Lutheranism     † Catholic Encyclopedia ► Lutheranism     The religious belief held by the oldest and in Europe the most numerous of the Protestant (Protestantism) sects, founded by the …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Old Lutheran Church — The Old Lutheran Church an orthodox Lutheran Church holding to the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (UAC). The Old Lutheran Church is both evangelical (proclaiming the free forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ) and… …   Wikipedia

  • Old East Paint Creek Lutheran Church — U.S. National Register of Historic Places …   Wikipedia

  • Old Testament — Note: Judaism uses the term Tanakh to refer to its canon of the Masoretic Text. In academic circles, the more neutral term, Hebrew Bible, is commonly used to refer to these common Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. Part of a series on… …   Wikipedia

  • Old Bavarian Donaumoos — The Old Bavarian Donaumoos (German: Altbayerisches Donaumoos) is a former bog on the southern side of the Danube river, south west of Ingolstadt, Bavaria, in the Neuburg Schrobenhausen district. The bog, drained from 1790 onwards, has now dropped …   Wikipedia

  • Canon of the Old Testament — • Signifies the authoritative list or closed number of the writings composed under Divine inspiration, and destined for the well being of the Church Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Canon of the Old Testament      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Evangelical Lutheran Synod — Lutherans of the United States Mainline Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad …   Wikipedia

  • Lutheranism — Luther s Seal Book of Concord …   Wikipedia

  • Protestantism — /prot euh steuhn tiz euhm/, n. 1. the religion of Protestants. 2. the Protestant churches collectively. 3. adherence to Protestant principles. [1640 50; PROTESTANT + ISM] * * * One of the three major branches of Christianity, originating in the… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”