Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and the Adjacent States

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The Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States (MOP) was founded in 1748, as the Ministerium of North America. Established under the guidance of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, it was the first centralized governing body of the Lutheran church formed in North America. Through MOP, a common liturgy was established as well as a means of educating American clergy. It also helped in forming numerous institutions and services in the Pennsylvania area, including The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 1864. MOP remained an important governing body until the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in 1918, when it was absorbed by the newly formed United Lutheran Church in America, consisting of the Lutheran Church bodies in Eastern America, the General Synod, the United Synod of the South and the General Council (of which the Ministerium of Pennsylvania was a member church). Then, in 1962, the United Lutheran Church in America joined with the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Augustana Lutheran Church, and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to form the Lutheran Church in America (LCA).

Out of MOP and the Lutheran Church in America grew the Eastern Pennsylvania Synod, which consisted of both the southeastern and northeastern districts of Pennsylvania until 1968. That year the Eastern Pennsylvania Synod was divided into two distinct synods, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, including Philadelphia and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, which includes the area from the Delaware River to Sullivan County and from the Lehigh Valley and the Reading area to the border of New York state.

Dubbed “the ‘church father’ of Lutheranism in the United States” (Gritsch, p. 175), Henry Melchior Muhlenberg was sent by the German Halle Foundation in 1742 to organize the Lutheran church in America (Schmank, p. 28). Upon arrival, he noticed “...Lutherans in English America had been so long without ecclesiastical supervisors and pastors that their faith had weakened, education lagged and heterodox opinions flourished... they turned for leadership to unscrupulous vagabonds, Tailors and schoolmasters who assumed ministerial powers, causing confusion and division among their charges through their theological ignorance and scandalous lives” (Riforgiato, p. 77). In short, Muhlenberg found the Lutheran church in America in a state of disunity and in need of organizational and liturgical guidance. To this end, he and several other Lutheran leaders created the MOP in 1748, to provide an overarching governing structure and leadership, and means of educating Lutheran ministers.

Muhlenberg was also an influential cultural leader with contact to colonial dignitaries such as Benjamin Franklin, other religious leaders such as George Whitfield, and the Hanoverian court in London. Married in 1745 to Anna Maria Weiser, daughter of Conrad Weiser, Pennsylvania’s principal go-between with the Lenape, Muhlenberg was not only a formidable figure in his own right, but was the progenitor of what became in effect a German-American dynasty of high-level public officials. His three sons, all trained to be pastors, won fame in politics science, and academia. Peter rose to major general of the Continental Army (receiving the commendation of George Washington), was elected Vice President of Pennsylvania and for four terms, served in Congress; Friedrich, also a member of Congress, was elected first Speaker of the House; and Gotthilf excelled in botany and, as president of Franklin College (now Franklin and Marshall College), vigorously promoted American higher education.

From the guide to the Ministerium of Pennsylvania records, Bulk, 1748-1962, 1657-1980, (Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia)

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Active 1818

Active 1930

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