The Beginnings Of Lutheranism In America -- By: Abdel Ross Wentz

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:352 (Oct 1931)
Article: The Beginnings Of Lutheranism In America
Author: Abdel Ross Wentz


The Beginnings Of Lutheranism In America1

Abdel Ross Wentz

Gettysburg Theological Seminary

The New Netherlands And New York

The earliest Lutheran settlers in America came to the Dutch colony of the New Netherlands. This Dutch settlement on the Hudson was one of the two colonies that until 1664 prevented England from having a continuous colonial empire from the Penobscot to the Savannah. It was begun by the Dutch West India Company. This company settled forty families in the neighborhood of Albany (then called Port Orange) in 1623 and two hundred persons on Manhattan Island (then called New Amsterdam) in 1625. The earliest settlers came from commercial purposes and in this respect differed from the earliest settlers of most of the other colonies.

The established Church in Holland was the Reformed. Under the administration of the Dutch West India Company that Church was made the official religious organization in the settlements on the Hudson. But there were large numbers of Lutherans in Holland. Amsterdam alone contained 30,000 Lutherans, among them the wealthiest and most enterprising people in the city. These Lutherans cooperated with their countrymen in the commercial enterprise in America, and some of them came to the New Netherlands with the other settlers in 1623 and 1625. But the policy of the Dutch West India Company, unlike the policy of the Dutch Government itself, excluded all other religions than the Reformed. The result was that the Lutheran settlers on the Hudson found themselves hindered in the exercise of their faith. They not only had to attend the services of their Reformed friends but they were obliged to have their children baptized and instructed by Reformed pastors and in the Reformed faith. Efforts to cultivate their Lutheran faith in private services were met with severe measures of repression by Governor Stuyvesant.

But by the middle of the century the number of Lutherans in the colony had grown to such an extent and their sense of religious oppression had become so deep that they resolved to attempt an independent organization. They proceeded in orderly fashion. They first appealed to the Lutheran consistory of Amsterdam to intercede for them with the directors of the West India Company. Nothing was done. Their request was renewed in 1653, with the petition that a Lutheran pastor be sent them. Four years later the pastor arrived. His name was John Ernst Goetwasser and he had been sent by the Lutheran churches of Amsterdam. But the joy of the Lutherans was bitterness to the Reformed. The Reformed pastors set up a vigorous protest against Goetwasser’s admission. He was prohibited from holding service...

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