Pennsylvania Ministerium - General Synod

General Synod

In 1818, the Pennsylvania Ministerium began talks of organizing the various Lutheran church bodies in America, so that they could "stand in some or another in closer connection with one another." At a meeting in Hagerstown, Maryland in October 1820, just such an organization was founded in the General Synod (formally titled the "Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of North America"). At the outset, this group consisted of the Pennsylvania Ministerium, along with the New York Ministerium and the Maryland-Virginia Synod.

The General Synod served largely in an advisory function—each church body within the Synod retained its own constitution and independence. The primary role of the Synod was to facilitate cooperation among the various church bodies. It was under the auspices of the General Synod, with the leadership of Samuel Simon Schmucker, that a Lutheran seminary and college were founded in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Despite its role in establishing the General Synod, the Pennsylvania Ministerium withdrew from the inter-Lutheran organization in 1823. Within the Ministerium, there was a close relationship between Lutheran and Reformed congregations, and many felt that the General Synod might jeopardize that relationship. In addition, many in the Ministerium were wary of a centralized organization, and the control that it might exert over individual congregations.

Thus, in the years following, the Pennsylvania Ministerium remained an independent Lutheran church body. However, the Ministerium sought to maintain a relationship with the Synod, including continuing to send its ministerial students to the General Synod's seminary in Gettysburg, which was headed by Samuel Schmucker.

In the decades that followed, the Ministerium became less concerned with its relationship with the Reformed church and saw a significant increase in Lutheran identity and the importance of the Lutheran Confessions. Thus, in 1853, the Ministerium rejoined other Lutherans in the General Synod. However, this renewed relationship would prove to be short-lived.

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