1832: Ordination of Jehu Jones

While African-Americans had been early participants in Lutheran communities, Jehu Jones was the first black Lutheran pastor in North America. He started a ministry to Philadelphia’s black community in 1833, though lack of funding and support from the synod hurt its effectiveness. Jones continued to minister and serve in Philadelphia and started racially diverse congregations around Pennsylvania.

Essay: “Jehu Jones (1786-1852) The First African American Lutheran Minister” by Karl E. Johnson, Jr. and Joseph A. Romeo, LQ 10 (1996), 425-444.

Image: Jehu Jones historical marker in Philadelphia. Photo by Claire Burkat, 2016, used by permission.


1836: Founding of Deaconess Community in Kaiserswerth 

To address pressing social needs and provide women a more official way to serve church and community, Theodor Fliedner founded a deaconess community in Kaiserswerth, Germany, as a hospital and nursing school; Florence Nightingale was among the women who trained there. The Kaiserwerth model spread across Europe and North America, influencing the work of Wilhelm Loehe in Neuendettelsau, William Passavant in Pittsburgh, and Elizabeth Fedde in New York and Minnesota.

Essay: “The Origins of Lutheran Deanconesses in America” by Frederick S. Weiser, LQ 13 (1999), 423-434.

Portrait of Elizabeth Fedde (1850-1921)

Image: Portrait of Elizabeth Fedde (1850-1921)


1842: Lutheran Missionaries Arrive in Namibia

European missions of the nineteenth century included the Rhenish Missionary Society, a German Protestant group that sent missionaries to South Africa in 1828 and Namibia in 1842. Deep racial prejudice and inhumane colonization projects often accompanied Christian missions from Europe. In this third of a four-part series on Lutheranism in Namibia, Dr. Shekutaamba Nambala (currently presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia) shows that these ventures were no exception. While Namibia’s population now has one of the highest percentages of Lutherans in the world, its journey to political and religious independence has been long and painful. 

Essay: “Namibian Churches under Colonialism” by Shekutaamba Nambala, LQ 2 (1988), 391-418.

Image: Doll, dressed in the traditional clothes of the Herero people of Namibia, from the Namibia Archives of Wartburg Theological Seminary. Photo by Martin Lohrmann, used with permission.



April 26, 1847: Founding of Missouri Synod

Opposed to the increasing influence of the Prussian Union, a group of Saxon Lutherans sought greater religious freedom in the United States. They arrived in Perry County, Missouri in 1839, with Pastor C.F.W. Walther emerging as a leader of the immigrant community. In 1847, twelve pastors representing fourteen congregations founded the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, commonly called the Missouri Synod. Founding principles of close adherence to the Book of Concord and opposition to unionism remain central. Today the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod belongs to the International Lutheran Council, a global network of Lutheran churches.

Essay: “C.F.W. Walther, Interpreter of Luther on the American Frontier” by Robert Kolb, LQ 1 (1987), 469-485.

St. Paul’s in Chicago, where the first meeting of the Missouri Synod was held.

Image: St. Paul’s in Chicago, where the first meeting of the Missouri Synod was held. 


1861-1865: Civil War, Slavery, and Abolition

Lutherans in the United States held a variety of views on slavery, mirroring the wider society. Lutherans in Ebenezer, Georgia, for instance, first opposed slavery on religious grounds but then caved to the pressures of a slave-based economy. In the northern US, most Lutherans of European descent did not join the abolitionist cause even if they opposed slavery, as was true of Samuel S. Schmucker of Gettysburg. One exception was the abolitionist Franckean Synod. Slavery and the American Civil War split many Lutheran churches at the time and continues to raise to many questions of equal rights and political engagement for people of faith today.

Essay: “Schmucker’s Benevolence, from Republican Ideals to Civil War Realities” by Nancy Koester, LQ 9 (1995), 57-78

Essay: “Midwest Missionary Efforts of New York Lutheran Abolitionists” by Paul P. Kuenning, LQ 4 (1990), 341-353. 

Image (through link): Seminary Ridge Museum, Gettysburg, PA


1866: Start of the Malagasy Lutheran Church

Now home to one of the largest Lutheran church bodies in the world, Lutheranism in Madagascar has its origins in the work of the Norwegian Missionary Society. The Malagasy Lutheran Church became an independent church in 1950. It has long been marked by a concern for ministry to the whole person, including physical and spiritual healing.

Book Review: Shepherds and Demons: A Study of Exorcism as Practiced and Understood by Shepherds in the Malagasy Lutheran Church by Hans Austnaberg (Lang, 2008); reviewed by Mark Nyberg, LQ 24 (2010), 478-480.

Image (through link): Malagasy Lutheran Jubilee



Later 1800s: Luther and Liturgy in Victorian England

In the nineteenth-century conflicts between high church Anglicans and English Evangelicals, Martin Luther’s legacy was invoked by both sides. High church Anglicans influenced by the liturgical renewal of the Oxford Movement appreciated Luther’s respect for traditional forms of worship. Evangelicals viewed him as the first Protestant preacher of the gospel and a guiding light. These diverse uses of Luther’s legacy—as documented in this essay by Bethany Kilcrease—show the many ways that the reformer has inspired a wide variety of Christian communities, to the present day.

Essay: “Luther as Mirror, Hammer, and ‘Other’ among Victorian Britons” by Bethany Kilcrease, LQ 24 (2010), 394-423.

Victorian-era image of Martin Luther at Christmas.

Image: Victorian-era image of Martin Luther at Christmas. 


1885: First Ordination of Batak Ministers in Indonesia

Missionaries from the Rhenish Missionary Society first arrived in Sumatra in 1861 and worked among the Batak people there. Schools and a deaconess community were established and ordinations of local people started in 1885. An independent, self-governing church began in 1931 as the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (Batak Christian Protestant Church). It retained its indigenous confessions when it joined the Lutheran World Federation in 1952 and is one of the largest Lutheran churches in the world. Lutheran communities also exist in nearby Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Malay Peninsula.

Review Essay: Abundant Harvest: Stories of Asian Lutherans, edited by Edmond Yee and Paul Rajashekar (Lutheran University Press, 2013); reviewed by James A. Bergquist and Paul V. Martinson, LQ 28 (2014), 307-313.

Image: Luther’s Small Catechism published by the Australian Lutheran Mission for use in Papua New Guinea, from the Papua New Guinea Museum of Wartburg Theology Seminary. Photo by Martin Lohrmann, used with permission.


Early 1900s: German Lutherans in Australia

Lutherans fleeing the Prussian Union arrived in southern Australia beginning in the 1830s. Seeking to practice a pure form of their faith, German Lutherans in Australia were slow to enter the broader Anglo-Australian culture. As also happened in the United States, however, the nationalist concerns and anti-German sentiments raised by the First World War accelerated this cultural and linguistic shift for German immigrant communities in Australia.

Essay: “Luther’s Impact on the United States and Australia at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” by Hartmut Lehmann, LQ 28 (2014), 49-69.

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Image: St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ebenezer, South Australia. Photo by Scott Davis, creative commons.