Kirchliches Informatorium September & October 1867

September 1867: Volume 15, pages 67- 69



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.

All responses were unsatisfactory. No one wanted to help. The Royal Consistory and the government as well as Minister von Altenstein stated the earlier cabinet orders demanded the Lutherans' inclusion within the alliance of the United Church and their participation in its church services. The Upper Regional Court said it could not accede to the congregation's request for protection because it was not competent to make decisions concerning the mandates and decrees of the Consistory and the royal government.

Then the Upper Regional Court of Breslau fined Captain von Rohr 10 Reichs Dollars for permitting his son, Johannes von Rohr, to be baptised by a minister not recognized by the State. It fined Lieutenant von Blumenthal of the 27th Regiment and master shoemaker Schönfeld 5 Reichs Dollars each for acting as godparents. See Supplement C.

The fines increased month by month for holding church services, etc.

The representatives of the Madgeburg congregation sent an immediate appeal to the king on June 21, 1837, which was worded as follows:

To his royal highness and all-powerful King!
To our ever gracious King and Lord!

We most humbly appeal to the paternal heart of his majesty as we report the following.

In Magdeburg a small congregation has formed itself in accordance with § 40, Title II, part 2: "Each citizen of the state, whom the law recognizes as being capable of judging for himself, is free to choose the religious party to which he wishes to belong."

There are people who would now take away our legal rights. We ask for intervention from your majesty because the royal government in Madgeburg and the high pastoral ministry in Berlin refuses us our right under the pretense that one can still be an evangelical Lutheran while in the United Church.

Our consciences will not permit us to consort with the United Regional Church because we recognize that it is false. In order to remain true to our consciences we must claim the liberty given us by law to profess our faith in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church as it was professed by your majesty himself before the establishment of the Union. Our church still stands self-sufficient in its faith to the scriptures and it refuses to join the Union because it considers other faiths sinful.

We humbly request that your majesty uphold this legally established right.

Your majesty's wish to have all his subjects professing evangelical beliefs join the United Church

has prompted the governments and the high pastoral ministry to resort to force in order to keep those of us who must segregate ourselves for the sake of conscience.

Without a law or a command from your majesty, people refused to grant us the right to hold evangelical-Lutheran church services outside the United National Church. They operate under the pretense of the cabinet order, which your majesty signed on March 9, 1834, prohibiting outside assembly.

To satisfy their goals these people call evangelical-lutheran church services, which these days are not held inside stone church, outside assemblies or conventicle groups. The names run contrary to their actual linguistic meaning and they do not agree with the definition given by our cathechisms and symbolic books concerning the concept of the true church. Lately they've started calling us separatists, again the opposite of the true meaning of the word, because we will not be disenfranchised from our profession of faith and would prefer to leave a church, which to us is foreign. Separatists are in fact those who would rather belong to no church congregation.

Dear father of our country, we humbly ask for your protection as we pursue our rights.

Is it your majesty's will and command that the cabinet order of March 9, 1834 be used against true evangelical-lutheran subjects, against their church services and against the evangelical-lutheran church to which your majesty once belonged?

We still know of no specific law or command spoken by your majesty by which you state that you will not tolerate an evangelical-lutheran church which exists outside the United National Church. We beseech you, your majesty, to see the dire situation in which so many of your true subjects live because of the

false interpretation of this cabinet order as applied to evangelical-lutheran church services outside the United National Church. Put an end to it and command that people cease depriving us of our right to exist as an evangelical-lutheran congregation outside the United National Church. Keep them from doing to us what has been done to other congregations. We have been persecuted with fines, property seizures and imprisonment of our pastors because we wished to hold church services as part of our profession of faith.

We rest assured in your majesty's love for justice. Here in Magdeburg besides the persecuted evangelical-lutheran congregation there exists an evangelical-reform congregation which also asserts its right to exist outside the United National Church.

With deepest respect, love and hope for intercession, we remain your majesty's most humble and true subjects, the representatives of the evangelical-lutheran congregation in Magdeburg,

              Gottfried Schönfeld,
              Wilhelm Meisch,
              Heinrich v. Rohr.

The following response, dated August 14, 1837, was received.

His royal majesty the king is not in the least disposed to grant the immediate appeal, dated June 22nd of this year and signed by Captain v. Rohr, master shoemaker Gottfried Schönfeld and merchant Wilhelm Meisch, which would permit the establishment of a so-called evangelical-lutheran congregation. The matter is remitted to the undersigned minister, who informs those making the appeal that their proposal is totally unacceptable and will not be approved.

         Berlin, August 14, 1837

         Ministry for Spiritual Education and Medical Studies.
           Baron v. Altenstein.

         Addressed to former Captain v. Rohr, master shoemaker Gottfried Schönfeld and merchant Wilhelm Meisch of Magdeburg.

         To be continued

October, 1867: volume 15, pages 84 - 86


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 69

The king not only rejected the appeal for permission to hold Lutheran church services but issued a decree, which was delivered by an emissary from Berlin to the deputies of the congregations: He would not tolerate any form of Lutheran church services conducted outside the United National Church; he would

punish anyone who participated in such services. However the authorities generally refrained from disrupting open church services in Magdeburg, Erfurth and other large cities because they wanted to avoid the increasing attention of the public.

Court proceedings continued. Cratemaker Probst in Gommern was assessed either a fine or imprisonment for participating in the church service of the Magdeburg congregation. He had joined this group because he no longer wished to send his daughter to the United School for confirmation instruction. The child had been mistreated at the school.

God the Lord showed his displeasure in one particular incident much to the horror of the persecutors.

The former oboist of the 24th Infantry Regiment and now pastor of Freystadt in Wisconsin, Friederich Müller, had come to the conclusion that it was a sin to attend military church services under a United preacher. Through his captain, von Ranzow, he attained a hearing with the regimental commander, Colonel von Malzahn, where he asked to be excused from attending the church because in his conscience he considered himself a Lutheran Christian as based on God's word.

Colonel von Malzahn was usually a very respectable and good-natured man, however he considered all forms of Christian piety and faithfulness hypocrisy. Fearing the escalating wrath of the king should there be a second incident of someone refusing to participate in United church services, he grew quite stringent on the subject. He gave strict instructions that Müller was to be punished. Müller was berated and threatened before the assembled musicians' corps and the regimental company. He was told he could not petition his case to a higher authority

and an officer would place him under military arrest. Since Müller persisted in his declaration that he could not attend United Church services because of his conscience, Colonel von Malzahn ordered that next Sunday he be brought to the church by force.

On the night before that next Sunday Colonel von Malzahn suddenly died of cholera. In 6 hours he went from healthy to dead. It was the first case and precursor to the cholera epidemic, which broke out in Magdeburg three weeks later. A large funeral service was held.

After many urgent petitions to his superiors Müller received his discharge after 9 years of miltary service.

Later he was hired as a private tutor to the house of Upper Regional Court magistrate Rathman. Many people also sympathized with Captain von Rohr, including Professor Solbrig who suggested to him that he might serve as a missionary for the church. The Professor taught him Latin and his son, the attorney who provided von Rohr's defense in the abduction case (see Supplement D) and delivered a magnificent defense argument concerning the rights of the Lutheran Church, read the New Testament to him in Greek.

Over the course of the summer through late fall von Rohr made a trip on foot through Heiligenstadt, Erfurt,and Erlangen to Nuremberg to fully acquaint himself with the knowledge necessary for the antiquarian book trade. However he also did this in order to visit Pastor Grabau in prison, Dr. Schirbek, Dr. Rudelbach, Professor Harless in Erlangen and Pastor Löhe in New Dettelnas.

For a year, until October 1, 1837 church services were held in the residence of Captain von Rohr at 22 Petri Street, the house owned by master mason

Schwarzkopf. From October 1st onward open services were held at the congregation church on Stockhaus Street with no greater disturbance than the taking down of names.

Chapter 2

Preparation and Execution of the
Emigration Plan in 1839

Since the king had made a definite pronouncement, the larger portion of the administrators of the Erfurt and Magdeburg congregations along with their pastor imprisoned in Heiligenstadt were firmly convinced that despite the reduction of external pressure in at least the larger cities it was time to act, as Luther put it in his treasury of sayings dated September 9th through 12th concerning Matthew 10, 23: "When you are persecuted in a particular city, etc." Also Matthew 22, 21: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's."

"It is impossible to think that anyone could hinder the gospel, for it is a teaching given freely under heaven and not bound to any one place. However it is also true that in cities, towns and districts where there are preachers and the gospel, the leaders may wish to hinder them. You can always leave the city or district and take the gospel to another area. It is not necessary to stay there for the sake of the gospel in order to lend assistance. Instead leave the city to its leader. When you follow the gospel you endure the injustices people do to you. You are pursued but at the same time you will not allow people to take the gospel from you. So you see, these two things are reciprocal - suffering and non suffering. If you wish to hold a city with the gospel, then you take the property of the leader of the city even if you do this for the sake of the gospel.

"But instead the gospel teaches you it is wrong to rob or to steal even if the leader acts unjustly in contradiction to the will of God and he mistreats you. The gospel requires no property or city because it must and will reside forever in the hearts of men."

The time had arrived for the Lutherans when petitions to all governmental agencies and even king himself for protection from persecution and securing the rights to their church amounted to nothing. It was the will of the country's leaders that the gospel, as represented by the church services of their evangelical-lutheran church, would not be tolerated. It was time for them to fulfill their duty and leave the king his country in order to follow the gospel to where it would be free, protected and tolerated by the national authorities. This was not done so much because of the oppression and persecution in the larger cities, which really wasn't that significant, but because the situation was becoming increasingly dangerous for the ministers as the government deprived them of office, took away the sacraments and took over the schools in order to give the appearance of peace.

Thus convinced, the Magdeburg administrators sent the following brotherly communiqué to Breslau and to all nearby church administrations in Berlin, Erfurt, Naumberg and Camin.

         To be continued

Go to November & December 1867

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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