Kirchliches Informatorium Volume 15, number 2 (June 1867): pages 20 - 27
History, Part 2



of the origin, emigration, settlement and ecclesiastic development of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church or Congregation, which emigrated from Prussia between the years 1839 and 1843, now known as the Buffalo Synod.

Continued [from page 9]

The answer was a refusal. Upon investigation by the criminal court Pastor Grabau was convicted of unauthorized practices in ministerial office. At the same time he was dismissed from his office by the Royal Consistory in the Province of Saxony and taken into custody for gross dereliction of duty because he refused to use the United Agenda of the royal Prussian government.

Pastor Grabau registered an appeal with the Royal upper-regional court in Halberstadt to overturn the verdict and his order of incarceration through his attorney, Counselor Quinque of Naumburg (whose excellent argument in defense is printed in Appendix B.) Pastor Grabau endured 6 months in prison before the decision of the upper-regional court arrived, overturning the order of the criminal directory and freeing Pastor Grabau immediately from custody.

However Minister von Altenstein sent a countermanding order stating that Pastor Grabau was

to be detained in prison for reasons of state security.

To keep the writ ordering his release from being overturned, Pastor Grabau went under guard to Münster in Westfalia to turn himself over for excommunication. He wanted the formal order of dismissal, as decreed by the upper-regional court and as exemplified in the acts of St. Paul, 16, 37. In conjunction with this order of excommunication there was a stipulation that while he remained in this district he would be under arrest and he had to promise to desist from performing any ministerial duties. There was also a threat that if he did not leave the district voluntarily he would be escorted out by police force.

During that time the Erfurt congregation secretly held its church services despite all the fines and seizures of property imposed by the church elders and the administrators as sanctioned by the Agenda and the church order for the prosecution of Lutherans adopted in Breslau at the 1836 Synod.

Some of these persecuted Lutherans included Wilhelm Fils, Heinrich Fils and Friedrich Fils. They found strength through the letters of their pastor, Dr. Scheibel and other Lutheran brethren from Breslau. They were able to receive a visit from their pastor while in prison through the charity of Inspector Pötsch.

Former Captain von Rohr, dismissed from the military for his religious beliefs, also visited them in prison while during the same period visiting their pastor so he could bring them advice.

Around this time 20 Lutheran pastors were either imprisoned, placed under the ban or forced to flee the region. Dr. Scheibel went to Glauchau in the Altenburg region and Wehrhan went to Alsatia.

Everywhere, especially in Saxony, the Uckermark and Pomerania, people needed and wanted baptisms and celebrations of the holy eucharist.

Von Rohr discussed plans to flee with the prisoners in accordance with the advice proposed by Dr. Scheibel. "All the better if you can obtain your freedom. Without shepherds the enemy will scatter the flock."

Using money he received from the sale of his furniture, von Rohr purchased horses and a wagon and obtained a pass for travel to Seehof in Pomerania, supposedly so he could learn farming at the invitation of Mr. von Below. Instead he drove to Heiligenstadt via Wernigerode with Pastor Wedemann and former oboist, now pastor Fr. Müller. Along the way they visited Christians in Harz region, namely the congregations in and around Wernigerode. Pastor Wedemann remained with them. Pastor Müller went to Pastor Grabau in prison and told him that von Rohr waited before the gates facing Nordhausen. Müller then went out by the opposite gate. Pastor Grabau then went out for his customary walk with his police escort.

When he saw his friend's wagon stopped on the main road, he took his leave of his astounded but kindly escort, ran quickly and jumped into the wagon, which then drove away. The escort made a few rather weak shouts of protest then returned to Heiligenstadt to make his necessary report. Many mounted police pursued the fugitives. Their horses were hungry and tired after traveling over the Harz through the night so they had to stop to feed them at the first police station, some four miles from Heiligenstadt. Pastor Grabau was recognized here and in Nordhausen

as he said a prayer at the table. When the Postmaster there asked him, "Aren't you Pastor Grabau?" he responded "Yes." The man told this to the police but the miraculous hand of God lent assistance to his supplicant servant. As soon as Grabau left, his persecutors were unable to find him. At the crossroads leading to Duderstadt in the Hessian region help came as an angel in the form of a woman. When the pursuers asked her about the fugitives, she responded, "They turned left towards Duderstadt." Instead of crossing the border they had gone to Bennungen, where they spent their first nights with a true brother in faith, the miller Rüdiger. From there they went through Wittenberg to Berlin, where Pastor Grabau fortified the brothers in faith with a night church service in which he preached on 1 Corinthians 10, 21 and spoke of Pastor Lasius sitting in prison. In Berlin von Rohr had a waterproof cover made for the wagon. They travelled on through Angermünde, Brüssow, Neuenhagen, Stettin, Hackenwalde, Cammin, Tretow, Trigleff and on to Seehof near Stolpe to the home of Mr. von Below. In total they journeyed 100 German miles in 12 to 14 days. Except for the days of rest they managed to put 10 miles behind them each day. God heard their prayers and gave the horses the power and the spirit to happily sprint along each ten-mile trek. Before reaching Brüssow one of the horses suddenly went lame, thus the happy brethren there benefited from one extra day of day and evening services performed by Pastor Graubau [sic] in the city and the surrounding area. Just as suddenly after the day of rest the horse was well again. Through this occurrence God the Lord kept the fugitives from the danger they would have encountered with the district magistrate in Neuhagen. If they had left a day earlier, they would have come upon the police who had gathered there.

During the entire trip Captain von Rohr went unaccompanied to various inns and noble houses of friends as though he traveled alone. Pastor Grabau would leave his hiding place outside the gates and visit the local brethren to bring their hungry souls the word of God and fortify them with the sacraments. He often went on foot to the surrounding rural areas.

The enemies rediscovered their trail a few weeks later. Local magistrates received the alerts but the searches and inquiries came too late. Pastor Grabau found welcoming hospitality from Mr. von Below and Baron von Puttkammer in Berüln and later from Mr. von Zitzwitz in Klein Grusen. Meanwhile von Rohr traveled out in the open to Berlin after visiting his brother, A. v. Rohr in Lübgust, Baron Senft and Pilsnik in Sramente. Pilsnik's wife belonged to a persecuted Lutheran congregation, which held its church services in the house of Pilsnik's land manager. Von Rohr made known his plans to travel on to Berlin in order to put the pursuers back onto his trail, thus leaving Pastor Grabau safely behind. God the Lord allowed this plan to succeed and while in Berlin at the home of his brother-in-law, war minister Willman, von Rohr was arrested in a great show of false bravado by the infamous police magistrate Eckert. First he was escorted to the city jail in Berlin and then he was taken to criminal prison in Magdeburg. He was threated with physical violence by criminal attorney Fritze to force information from him on whether or not he knew the whereabouts of Pastor Grabau. Von Rohr's response, which would have been the response of any true Lutheran of the time, was from a passage in Isaiah 16, 3: Hide the fugitives and do not betray the refugees. I can and will not give the authorities, who oppress God's church and persecute its servants and members, any information

which will assist them in finding him and taking him to prison.

Criminal Director Fritze later made up for his harshness by taking a deeper look into the beliefs of his prisoners and subsequently showing much greater kindness. Through him and the help of God Captain von Rohr was able to organize the congregations during his 1 ½ years in prison and set the emigration plan in motion. This was done with correspondence while in prison and temporary passes from the prison ostensibly given so he could take care of his antiquarian book business.

Until the summer of 1838 the true God protected Pastor Grabau from the persecutors and blessed his work among the congregations of Pomerania, the Uckermark, Saxony and Thuringia, where tiny new congregations sprang up. The numbers increased and were fortified; they were willing to sacrifice themselves, knowing they would suffer for their beliefs. Many were cleansed of pietistical taint, especially in Pomerania. Lutheran forms were introduced and church services were performed to the extent that the situations permitted.

After Pastor Grabau installed Pastor Kindermann with the Pomeranian congregations in Hackenwald he went past Berlin to Erfurt. Here the merciful God imparted his comfort and Pastor Grabau prepared his mother-in-law for a peaceful death in the repentant profession of the truth. From there he traveled to the waters and spas of Ilmenau for the sake of his health. He received warm welcome and hospitality from the mayor, merchant Morgenroth, and the spa physician, Dr. Fitzler. They had shown similar kindness to Captain von Rohr.

They offered him a position on the board of directors at the spa health facility partly out of sympathy for his dismissal from office but also because he had spent many months with the famous Prieznitz in upper Silesia learning about this form of health treatment.

Unfortunately any further attempts to supply noble aid were hindered by the carelessness of a woman from Erfurt. The deputy mayor learned of Pastor Grabau's presence, had him arrested and turned him over to the Prussian authorities in Erfurt. They took him back to the criminal prison in Heiligenstadt. Thus the congregation in Ilmenau was robbed of his service and plunged into deep distress. Pastor Grabau became very sick and was bed-ridden for 17 weeks.He did not begin to recover until the beginning of March, 1839.


The Establishment of the Magdeburg Congregation

It was through the workings of the Lord God that in 1835 Pastor Kabel, on his way to London to arrange the emigration of his congregation to Australia, stayed with his childhood friend, Captain von Rohr, of the 27th Infantry Regiment. At the time von Rohr was Lieutenant of the Guard serving his beloved king, Friedrich Wilhelm III. By God's grace Pastor Kavel led von Rohr to seek repentance, after which he married his first wife. God drew the captain ever closer to him because of the sorrow he experienced with the death of his wife and five years later the death of his motherless son. He sought comfort through daily study of God's word and the fraternal companionship of the faithful. Over the years he heard Schleiermacher speak and then Gossner. He was a spiritual child to the minister of Baron von Kostnitz, Dr. Stüler, and to preacher Kunze.

He was bound in Christian fellowship to former ministerial candidates, now pastors Knack in Berlin and Wolff, who later became pastor in Magdeburg. He knew former lieutenant Dollfs, with whom he established the Berlin Health Care Association. When he was dismissed from the service of his king as Captain in Magdeburg in 1834, the true God gave him a second beloved spouse, an 18-year-old maiden who was the daughter of the esteemed physician, Dr. Mangeld. She was a true mother to the 5-year-old son of his first marriage and she gave him a daughter. Von Rohr was bound in the fellowship of love for the Lord Jesus with General Thiele II, his division commander, who was godfather to his daughter. He was also associated with government advisor Rathmann.

He was close friends with pastors Reinhardt and Ahrendt. In his desire to unite with all faithful Christians in fraternal love, he felt compelled to visit the congregations in Silesia and participate in their conventicle fellowship in Magdeburg. Thus united in the faith, he righteously sought the true message of love in the Lord Jesus and His word. He demonstrated his profession of faith in his words and actions even before his fellow officers and subordinates despite their ridicule, their hatred and their persecution. Indeed, he faced numerous false allegations and court trials, which caused him to fall from favor. But God allowed him to discover the truth and rescued him from the softly-creeping spiritual death which leads to indifference towards doctrine and the church. Unaware at first that he was even on this path, he had applied great effort and began to read daily.

For years he listened to the most important United preachers and read the pietistical works of Bogatzkus, Schubert, Gessner, Riger, Hoffacker, Wellendorff, et al.

Pastor Kavel was the first to give him reports on the persecution of the Lutheran Church by the United National Church and its officials. He supplied him with the published words of Scheibel, Guericke, Kellner, etc. and explained the reasons for his dismissal from office and his plan to emigrate.

Lacking clear dogmatic and catechistic understanding and already down the path of indifference due to the United Agenda, at first von Rohr showed reluctance but he promised his friend Kavel that he would read the works of the men named above and examine the catechism. After three months of intense investigation into these works and the symbolic books, von Rohr recognized that the key point was the concept concerning the true, holy, christian church. Everything centered on this point and all decisions were based upon it. Should one stand by it or should one leave? Should one accept dismissal from office and ultimately leave his beloved fatherland, indeed leave his father, his mother, his wife, his brother, his sister? It became clear to him what the symbolic books taught, namely, "that the groups and the people were the true church; from one end of the earth to the other, from sun up to sundown the church was the people who truly believed, the people who had the one gospel, the one Christianity, the one baptism and sacrament, the people who were guided by the Holy Spirit regardless of their various ceremonies."

This was the church to which we professed belief in the 3rd Article of our Christian faith when we used the words, "I believe in one holy, christian church, the communion of saints ..."

What could be clearer or more important in describing the church than the groups and the assemblies which profess the gospel, hold the Christian faith and allow their hearts to be inclined, sanctified and guided by it.

Certain unrefutable truths follow. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church with its pure teachings and profession of faith along with all who hold such faith and profession is and will continue to be the holy, Christian, visibly perceivable and militant church of God on this earth. The Holy Spirit calls the entirety of Christianity on earth to it, He gathers the groups and assemblies, enlightens and sanctifies them through it. In this church true faith exists.

This collected group is not just a physical entity among whom the sermon and the sacrament find realization but a spiritual entity, thus each individual soul, who belongs to it, strengthens it by his profession and faith even though he might not be physically present among the group. Conversely souls, who have received enlightenment to the truth through the Holy Spirit and yet will not join those professing that truth or leave false church communities,indeed souls, who would oppose the Holy Spirit and deny Christianity, will find themselves disowned on Judgment Day.

In this knowledge God the Lord gave the persecuted Lutherans the strength and joy of resolute faith to leave the United Church.

He was decidedly impressed by the Saxon Visitation Article of 1595, which showed how any church professing both the Lutheran and Reform faith completely contradicted the teaching on the person of Christ and the teachings on baptism, the eucharist and predestination.

In rejecting all but the parallel interpretations, it led to gross indifference. He felt compelled to obey the word of God in 2 Corinthians 6, 13-18: Do not assume the foreign yoke of the nonbelievers. Take your leave and separate from them, so says the Lord. Do not touch unclean things. Thus I will accept you, etc." In Revelations 18, 1: "And I heard a distinctive voice from heaven which said, 'Take my people from here so they will not take part in their sins, so they will not suffer from their plagues.'"

Thus at the end of September Captain von Rohr declared his departure from the United Church and explained his reasons to the Division minister, Thenne.

Next master shoemaker Gottfried Schönfeld followed his example. The pair began to hold their Lutheran church services in the home of Captain von Rohr on October 1, 1836. Soon after they were joined by pensioned under-officer G. Guttnor, merchant Wilhelm Meisch, maiden Margaretha Lützel, oboist K. Müller, Wilhelm Bortfeldt, widow Johanne Mittag and Bernhardt Böhme, who all legally separated from the national church on January 14, 1837. They elected G. Schönfeldt their representative and later elected von Rohr and W. Meisch, who officially informed the Consistory and the Magistrate of the establishment of this tiny Evangelical-Lutheran congregation and requested that they be allowed to practice their Lutheran church services without hinderance. However prosecution by the police followed and the representatives found themselves going from one level of government authority to the next and ultimately to the senior minister of the king himself in order to register their appeal.

In the year 183? while Captain von Rohr was still in the United Church, his wife presented him with a daughter, who was given the name Julie at her baptism. On October 10, 1836 she bore him a son, whose baptism caused much persecution.

Through von Rohr the tiny congregation first associated with Dr. Guericke of Halle, from whom they expected spiritual guidance and service. Von Rohr asked him to perform the baptism of his son and stand in as godfather. Dr. Guericke refused the honor and advised von Rohr to deliver his resignation to the United Divisional minister and then take his child to Saxony to receive a Lutheran baptism.

The tiny congregation saw error in this advice. It afforded the opportunity to actually deny faith and implied membership in the United National Church. The committees of this church had usurped authority by declaring that Lutherans, who had left the United Church, still belonged under its parochial regime. They were responsible for submitting official letters of resignation from it and paying fines. No one was willing to baptise the child until the letter of resignation was submitted to the United ministry.

The situation was dire and after six weeks the United Church threatened to baptise the child by force. Von Rohr went to Breslau and Berlin for help. Deacon Kaul, accompanied in Berlin by administrator Gustmann, came without a legal travel pass. Even though a warrant for his arrest was issued and he was by nature a fearful man, he dared to make the 20 mile journey, baptise the child on November 16th and give the holy eucharist to 6 people. Because of this baptismal ceremony two of these people received the strength to leave the United Church.

The power of God manifest in the Holy Spirit worked mightily through his feeble insturment upon all who were present. It worked through the preaching of the word and the administration of the holy sacraments. Even the wife of Captain von Rohr, until then still imprisoned by the United Church, was deeply moved and permanently affected. The mercilful God safely returned his true servant to Berlin even though the police were on his trail.

Shortly after this time the congregation learned of the public renunciation of the United Church by Pastor Grabau. They chose him to be their spiritual caregiver and formally elected him pastor on January 27, 1837. The congregation informed the Consistory of their appointment but did not identify the pastor by name so he would escape prosecution.

Until now the members of this tiny faithful congregation, including Mr. and Mrs. von Rohr, had held the United pastors Reinhardt and Kämpfe in high regard but once they joined with Ahrend many verbal and written battles ensued.

Pastors Reinhardt and Kämpfe attempted through house visits and sermons to win back those who had left. They tried to prevent others from leaving. Pastor Reinhardt even declared that the United Agenda was still Lutheran and could serve the Lutheran Church. One could still be a Lutheran under the United Church and thus have a proper Lutheran church. This was after he had previously stated that he could accept the Agenda but not the Union; if anyone could prove to him that in accepting the Agenda he was sanctioning the United Church, then he would immediately resign his office and leave it.

Later when it became clear to him that he was a member of the United Church, he called the Union, which he had previously declared false,

and the United Church, which he had previously called a non-entity, works of God.

Previously this man had convinced a Christian young woman to convert from the reform movement in the United Church to Lutheranism by means of his decisive Luthern preaching. Because of his preaching that young woman now considered herself Lutheran. Of late he told her, "Who knows which is right, Lutheran or Reform teaching; since you are not a scholar you could just as easily believe that the Catholic and the Reform confessions are also correct. No one can know this for certain."

The Reform-United preacher Kämpfe held a three-hour session with Captain von Rohr in which he tried to convince him to return to the United Church. In the end the preacher admitted that von Rohr's reasons might very well be justified. He promised the examine the many disputed writings by the church on the subject. However Kämpfe later hardened his heart to such an extent that while at the home of a Lutheran family, namely that of merchant Meisch, he declared that Lutheran teaching on the holy eucharist was superstition. He promised to provide 18 reasons in writing. He even asked, "Do you believe in the Trinity?"

This former Reform preacher was now a minister of the so-called Union Lutheran Church. What a profound fall from grace and what an example of how the United Church fosters such indifference. In the morning they send one preacher with a bit of Lutheran doctrine and then in the afternoon they send another preacher spouting Reform doctrine which contradicts all the main tenets of teaching on baptism, the eucharist, the person of Christ and predestination.

This indifference is also demonstrated

in the following discussion between Captain von Rohr and Bishop Dräseke, whom the Captain was ordered to visit by his divisional commander. The purpose of the visit was to investigate von Rohr's doctrinal views. He transcribed the conversation word for word.

The Bishop asked: You are troubled and you seek comfort?

v. Rohr: No! Since I have left the false United Church and joined the true Evangelical-Luthern Church my conscience is clear and my mind is at peace.

Bishop: For what reasons do you declare the United Church false? Why did you believe you had to leave it?

v. Rohr: Because it contradicts scripture by claiming that more than one interpretation of teaching is possible. It professes an agenda in contradiction to Ephesians 4, 5: One God, one faith, one baptism. It has two systems of faith and sacraments.

Bishop: The United Church also has only one true interpretation of the holy scriptures. The lack of a specific system of beliefs is the same as that promoted by the earlier orthodox systems. It is the reason why the United Church does not presume to set a specific standard of religious belief in the mysteries of the sacraments. In an imperfect world one cannot have a definitive answer. One can only have a partial understanding. It is our hope and our task that with the help of science we may find a unifying profession of faith. Until then we must leave room for free speculation.

v. Rohr: I cannot condone this uncertainty, this lack of clarity and this lack of faith in one true church established upon God's word and made manifest in faith and profession by the Holy Spirit. Every faithful Christian, indeed the true church itself must have a system of belief concerning the mysteries and the sacraments.

I cannot allow myself to be untrue to my Lutheran Church, which already has all these things.

      To be continued

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Microfilm provided by The Archives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

Imaging & translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks