Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg (1711-1787), born in Einbeck, Lower Saxony, and sent as Lutheran pastor by Gotthilf August Francke, Director of the Hallesche Stiftungen, in 1742 to Pennsylvania, is considered the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the United States. The essays presented in The Transatlantic World of Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg in the Eighteenth Century analyze the world and achievements of the German pastor.
In order to evaluate Mühlenberg’s accomplishments as well as his failings the first five contributors focus on Mühlenberg’s time in Europe and especially on his educational and religious experiences in Einbeck and in Halle as well as his theology studies at Göttingen and his times in Halle as teacher that shaped his later experiences in the US. In Pennsylvania Mühlenberg had to confront a legal framework different from Europe, with fierce political infighting that pitted Lutherans and Anglicans against Peace Churches and pastors with attacks from within their own congregations and the Pennsylvania German press dominated by the hostile Saur family. In these difficult and then revolutionary times Mühlenberg came to conclude that a “great gulf” had opened between the Old World he remembered and what he experienced in the New World. With the adoption of a Kirchenordnung (congregational constitution) of 1762 by several Lutheran congregations, the religious and then the secular worlds of governance shifted dramatically for the transplanted European Lutherans. The Declaration of Independence stripped his connections to Pietistic Germany and the strong-willed pious and Pietistic Lutheran Pastor died in 1787 in a world dedicated to establishing a new secular constitutional order.