REFORMED (GERMAN) CHURCH IN THE UNITED STATES.
II. Doctrine, Worship, and Government.
I. History: (§ 1). Period of the Coetus. The Reformed Church (German) in the United States traces its origin back to Zwingli (q.v.) in northeastern Switzerland, who began preaching the Evangelical Gospel at Einsiedeln in 1516. These doctrines, as further developed by Bullinger and Calvin, passed over into Germany. Elector Frederick III. of the Palatinate caused the Heidelberg Catechism to be written by Ursinus and Olevianus and published it at Heidelberg Jan. 19, 1563. The founders of the church in this country were colonists from the Palatinate and other parts of western Germany and also from Switzerland. The first minister, Samuel Guldi (q.v.), came from Bern to America in 1710. The first purely German congregation was founded at Germania Ford, on the Rapidan, Va., 1714. But the first complete congregational organization took place 1725, when John Philip Boehm, a schoolmaster, organized the congregations at Falkner Swamp, Skippach, and White Marsh, Pa., according to the principles of Calvin, and adopted as standards the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort. George Michael Weiss came in 1727 and organized the Philadelphia congregation. Boehm was ordained 1729 at New York by the Dutch Reformed minis- ters under the authority of the classis of Amsterdam in Holland. In 1742 Count Zinzendorf tried to unite all the German churches and sects in Pennsylvania into one organization with the Moravians as the leading body. This was opposed by Boehm and Guldi (q.v.). In 1746 Michael Schlatter (q.v.) came from St. Gall, Switzerland, commissioned by the Reformed Church of the Netherlands to organize the Germans of Pennsylvania. After traveling much among the congregations, he completed their organization, begun by Boehm, by forming the coetus at Philadelphia Sept. 29, 1747, at which there were present four ministers and representatives from twelve charges. The second coetus (1748) completed the organization by adopting as its standards the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort. It also adopted a constitution, which was Boehm's constitution of 1725 somewhat enlarged. In 1751 Schlatter returned to Europe, traveling through Holland, Germany, and Switzerland seeking aid for the Pennsylvania churches, and returned with six young ministers appointed by the Reformed Church of the Netherlands. Some effort was made, 1741-51, toward union with the Dutch Reformed and Presbyterians, but the attempt failed. The coetus continued under the control of the Reformed Church of the Netherlands, which sent thirty-eight ministers to America and spent about $20,000 on the American churches. The actions of the coetus were reviewed by the deputies of the Synods of North and South Holland and by the classis of Amsterdam. This relation to Holland continued until 1792, when the coetus virtually declared itself independent (see REFORMED [DUTCH] CHURCH, II., 3-6).
(§ 2). Period of the Synod. The first synod was held at Lancaster Apr. 27, 1793. The church then consisted of 22 ministers, 178 congregations, and about 15,000 members. Its first problems were the education of ministers and the change of language from German to English. After a number of conflicts as at Philadelphia and Baltimore, the latter was solved by the gradual introduction of English into the services. The former was solved by the education of young men privately by different ministers. Of these, three were especially prominent, Christian Lewis Becker of Baltimore, Samuel Helffenstein of Philadelphia, and L. F. Herman of Falkner Swamp. In 1820 the synod divided itself into classes and decided to found a theological seminary, which, however, was not opened until 1825. The Ohio classis broke off in 1824 and organized itself into an independent synod. In 1822 the free synod of Pennsylvania also broke away but returned in 1837. Similarly an independent synod was organized in Ohio in 1846, but returned about 1853. From 1829 to 1844 a revival wave spread over the church. From 1845 to 1878 was the period of controversy. In 1844 Philip Schaff (q.v.) delivered his inaugural address on "The Principle of Protestantism," which led to the formation of the Mercersburg theology. This was formulated (1847) by the publication of The Mystical Presence by John Williamson Nevin (q.v.) and by What is History? by Philip Schaff (q.v.). Soon after the Mercersburg theology appeared, a liturgical movement began at the synod of 1847. In 1857 the provisional liturgy was published. In 1863 the tercentenary of the Heidelberg Catechism was celebrated by a convention at Philadelphia, and in that year the Ohio synod united with the old synod in forming the general synod. In 1867 the order of worship was published. In 1867 the Myerstown convention was held to protest against the tendency toward ritualism in the church. This convention resulted in the founding of Ursinus College. In 1869 the western (or low-church) liturgy was published. Both the order of worship and the western liturgy were permitted by the general synod to be used, but neither was adopted constitutionally by being voted upon by the classes. The liturgical controversy continued until 1878, when the general synod appointed a peace commission, which formulated a basis of union. This commission was appointed by the next general synod (1881) to prepare a new liturgy-The Directory of Worship. This was finally adopted constitutionally by the general synod (1887) after the classes had voted upon it.
(§ 3). Statistics and Agencies. Home-mission work was carried on by the church almost from the beginning (A. C. Whitmer, One Hundred and Fifty Years of Home Missionary Activity, Lancaster, 1897). Foreign missionary work was begun 1842 by the appointment of Benjamin Schneider as missionary at Broosa, later at Aintab, in Asia Minor, under the American Board of Foreign Missions. This continued till 1866. In 1879 the first missionary was sent to Japan and in 1900 to China (cf. H. K. Miller, History of the Japan Mission, 1904). The church had (in 1908) 1,170 ministers, 1,681 congregations, 288,271 communicants, 1,716 Sunday-schools, 25,333 Sunday-school teachers and officers, 232,746 Sunday-school scholars, and 221 students for the ministry. The contributions for congregational expenses were $1,886,610, and for benevolence $403,779.
The first theological school was founded at Carlisle, 1825. This was removed to York in 1829, and to Mercersburg in 1836. Its classical school, begun 1831, grew into Marshall College, 1836, removed in 1853 to Lancaster and united with Franklin College to form Franklin and Marshall College. The theological seminary was removed to Lancaster in 1871. In Ohio efforts were made to found a theological school at Canton (1838), then at Columbus (1848), but no permanent school was founded till in 1850, when Heidelberg College and Theological Seminary were founded at Tiffin, Ohio. The latter was united with Ursinus School of Theology in 1907 to form Central Theological Seminary, located at Dayton, Ohio, 1908. A German Mission house was founded in 1870 at Franklin, Wis., where there is now a college and theological seminary. Other colleges are Catawba College, Newton, N. C.; Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pa. (with theological department removed to Philadelphia, 1898-1907). Female colleges are Allentown Female College, Allentown, Pa., Woman's College, Frederick, Md., and Claremont Female College, Hickory, N. C. Preparatory schools are Mercersburg College, Mercersburg, Pa.; Massanutten Academy, Woodstock, Va., and Interior Academy, Dakota, Ill. The church has orphans' homes at Womelsdorf, Pa., Greenville, Pa. (formerly Butler, Pa.), Fort Wayne, Ind., and Crescent, N. C.; also deaconess homes at Alliance, Allentown, and Cleveland. It publishes twelve church papers in English, German, and Hungarian, and sixteen Sunday-school publications.
II. Doctrine, Worship, and Government: The Reformed Church was in language allied to the Lutheran Church, being German (although probably about three-fourths now use English at the church services). But otherwise it was allied historically with the Calvinistic family of churches and is a member of the Alliance of Reformed Churches holding the Presbyterian System. Its early ministers (1725-92) adopted the Calvinistic creeds of Holland, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Catechism. When the church became independent of Holland, it adopted as its standard only the German creed, the Heidelberg Catechism. Certain tendencies toward a diminished Calvinism appeared with even some traces of Arminianism, though the church in the main was Calvinistic. But many preferred to be called Zwinglian rather than Calvinistic. In 1840, when J. W. Nevin was called from the Presbyterian Church to be professor of theology at Mercersburg, it was looked upon as cementing the ties with the other Calvinistic churches. But the Mercersburg theology departed from the earlier system in claiming to be neither Calvinistic nor Arminian but Christocentric. It emphasized, however, what it conceived to be Calvin's doctrine of the Lord's Supper, though this was denied by the opponents of Mercersburg theology. It was claimed for the Mercersburg theology that it held to the "spiritual real presence" while the old Reformed held to the real spiritual presence as against an imaginary presence or no presence of Christ at all at the Lord's Supper. Mercersburg theology emphasized the objective efficacy of the sacraments and also the objective in the visible Church. Within the last twenty years there has arisen a reaction against these High-church views in a more liberal school of theology, the leader of which was the late William Rupp of the Lancaster Theological Seminary, which is inclined toward Broad-church positions. On worship the church has been semi-liturgical, that is, its Sabbath worship was free, but its services for sacraments, marriage, and ordinations were prescribed in a liturgy. For over a century the Palatinate liturgy was used by the ministers. No liturgy was officially published by the synod till the Mayer liturgy of 1841, which has services only for sacraments and the like, but none for Sabbath worship. A small liturgy, based on the Palatine, was published by the Ohio synod (1832), but it also had no forms for the Sabbath services. Coincident with the rise of Mercersburg theology there was a development of liturgical worship for the Lord's Day services also. A provisional liturgy was published and later the order of worship was introduced into many of the eastern congregations; but the western and German part of the church retain the free services. Baptism is by sprinkling and the Lord's Supper is generally celebrated by the communicants coming forward to and standing at the chancel. Confirmation is practised as a public act of confession of faith. In worship, the congregations usually sit during the hymns and stand during prayer. In government the church is Presbyterian, having as its courts, rising in their order, congregation, consistory, classis, synod, and general synod. Historically its government has been more democratic than that of the Presbyterian Church in this country, its congregations reserving more rights. The Mercersburg party, with its high idea of worship, also urged higher ideas of government and thus emphasized aristocratic Presbyterianism. They stressed the authority of the higher church courts while the Old Reformed party emphasized the liberty of lower church courts. The church, however, is a synodical organization rather than a general-synod organization, as its synods reserve certain important rights, such as the founding of theological seminaries. But latterly the general synod has been gaining in authority as the general activities of the church in home and foreign missions, Sunday-school work, ministerial relief, and the like are being centered in it. The general synod meets once in three years.
JAMES I. GOOD.