Creation of First Formal Lutheran Church Body
In North America
On August 26, 1748, members of several Pennsylvania Lutheran communities met and agreed upon a common liturgy – the first in North America.
Swedes and Germans practicing Lutheranism had begun settling in Pennsylvania as early as 1638. They were drawn to the American colonies for the promise of religious freedom. Individual groups formed their own congregations. By the mid 1700s however, the need for well-trained preachers, elders, and deacons became apparent and a conference was planned.
Held in 1742, the conference hosted 24 German clergymen, including Henry Muhlenberg. However, tensions were high between the pious and orthodox sects both in American and abroad. The creators of this conference intentionally excluded orthodox representatives, who in turn disrupted the meeting. No progress was made at this time.
Five years later, Henry Muhlenberg requested that another conference be held in Philadelphia. Members from both sects were invited this time and on August 26, 1748, they met and agreed to work together as the “Ministerium of North America.” They established a common liturgy to be used in all American Lutheran churches. This meeting is often considered the most important event in North American Lutheranism.
The Ministerium operated informally until a constitution was established in 1781. Known as the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of North America, its members spanned much of the colonies – from New York down to the Carolinas. Over time, Lutheran congregations formed similar ministeriums, so the name was changed to The Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States. Throughout the 1900s, the various congregations were unified several times. The most recent of these is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, which was established in 1988.
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