this statement from the SELK (free or old Lutheran Church vs EKD or state church) reflecting upon a somewhat ignoble anniversary, 27 September! This 200 year anniversary was not one to celebrate but a somber reminder of how vulnerable a state church was to the power and influence of the governmental ruler.
27 September 2017 marks the 200th anniversary of the exact time of the adoption of the "Cabinet Order" by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III, when he imposed upon Evangelical Lutheran churches in the former Prussian provinces the rule that they must accept the Reformed Confession and be joined together in a common church.
SELK-Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt D.D. (Hannover), wrote: It is my concern that this day should not go unnoticed, but call us to awareness. There is no reason to celebrate this day for because of the 27 September 1817 was the beginning of the suppression of the Lutheran Communities and their parish pastors in Prussia. This way also gave birth to the refugee Lutheran families who sought refuge in North America or Australia and founded those Lutheran churches which today are sister churches of the SELK (begun in 1972).
In Marburg in 1529 no less than Dr Martin Luther called an end to any with Huldryich Zwingli because of his symbolic supper understanding of the Lord's Supper and Christ's presence therein, and with great regret had to say: "You have a different spirit!" King Friedrich Wilhelm III was of the same spirit in finding no reason to keep the integrity of the Lutheran Confession and three hundred years later, the King decided that the Lutheran and Reformed Church was distinguished not by doctrinal distinction but "only by external differences". This marks the beginning of the marginalization of Lutheranism in Prussia. In 1830 Friedrich Wilhelm III then required the union of the two confessions insisting that the Reformed and Lutheran churches be unified. Bishop Voigt recalled with thanksgiving the sacrifices and examples of those who faithfully resisted this false union at great cost to themselves, thus providing for the future creation of the SELK in Germany and those churches (including the LCMS) born of the immigration that resulted from this religious persecution.
The idea of the "state church' in Germany led to the mass migration of Lutherans to America, as you note, and so instead of getting unity by force, the result was division. You are correct in pointing out the historical significance of the 1817 event.
Early 20th century LCMS writings speak of the Free Churches in Saxony. Does anyone know whatever happened to these? Maybe they merged with the SELK Old Prussians or the WELS-aligned ELFK based in Leipzig?
Here's a Reformation service from one of the free Lutheran churches in Zwickau. With the exception of the brass band, it seems very mid-20th century American in hymns and style.
"... those churches (including the LCMS) born of the immigration that resulted from this religious persecution."
Sigh... this parenthetical repetition of the fairy tale about C.F.W. Walther and the Missouri Saxons, who later formed the LCMS, continues to be foisted even though it it has been shown to be untrue in documents by those involved and by various historians:
• Die Stephan'sche Auswanderung nach Amerika (Carl Eduard Vehse, Dresden, 1840 p. 3; The Stephanite Emigration to America, trans. Rudolph Fiehler, 1975, p. 2),
• C.F.W. Walther, May 4, 1840, letter to his brother, O.H. Walther (translated by Werner Karl Wadewitz, May 11, 1963, Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis; see also Walter O. Forster, Zion on the Mississippi, p. 515),
• "Public Confession of a Stephanite" (Ernst Gerhard Wilhelm Keyl, August, 1841, trans. Rev. Joel R. Baseley, pp. 13-14),
• Government in the Missouri Synod (Carl S. Mundinger, CPH, 1947, pp. 63-67),
• Zion on the Mississippi (Walter Forster, CPH, 1953, pp. 77, 105-112, 513, 515),
• Moving Frontiers: Reading in the History of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (Carl S. Meyer, editor, CPH, St. Louis, 1964, pp. 84-85),
• Servant of the Word (August Suelflow, CPH, 2000, p. 54).
I'm uneducated on this bit of history, but as a newtheran I can quite easily thank the Lord that He drove so many faithful and orthodox Lutherans to North America. They brought pure doctrine with them and I am a direct beneficiary of the message of Christ crucified for sinners.
Though there may be suffering and I do understand that things would have been difficult through that time, I hope to continue to echo Job in his sufferings. God be praised!
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