Anglican Proselytizing

In December of 1709 John Frederick Haeger, the son of a German Reformed minister, was ordained by the Anglican Bishop of London and appointed as a missionary to the Palatines by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. What follows is an excerpt from a letter he wrote from New York City to the secretary of the Society, dated July 25, 1710. The “Lutheran minister in this country” to whom Haeger refers is Justus Falckner, the pastor of the Dutch Lutheran Church in New York. Haeger also mentions Joshua (Harrsch) von Kocherthal, the Lutheran minister who accompanied the Palatines on their voyage to America. The letter can be found in Ecclesiastical Records of the State of New York, Vol. III (Albany, New York: J. B. Lyon, 1902), p. 1862.

As I did sincerely intend, so had I hopes of transporting this people [the Palatines] into the Church of Christ as by law established in England and with all imaginable success; but after my landing I found that the Lutheran minister in this country had made already a separation and administered the Holy Sacrament to such of his confession as arrived in the ship before ours; persuading them that they ought to stick to that, in which they were bred and born; which Mr. Kocherdal after his arrival confirmed also, in so much that the separation between the Reformed and the Lutherans is fully made, which I did oppose with all my might and power, as well concerning the Common prayer, as the other parts of divine worship; but without any effect as yet.

This day, God willing I intend to present a petition to his Excellency the Governor wherein I have set forth the evil consequences that will attend such a separation, as indeed it does appear already, that they begin to argue amongst the Reformed.

[“]If the Lutherans are not obliged to conform why should we?[”] and the like. Whereas the Reformed and most part of the Lutherans were otherwise very well satisfied with my way of divine service; which I do now perform here in the City Hall.


It is interesting to note that the Palatine Lutherans’ loyalty to their church, after their arrival in New York, was demonstrated most definitively in their reception of the Lord’s Supper from the hand of a Lutheran pastor. There would have been a lot of external similarity between the liturgical forms of the Church of England and the conservative liturgical forms with which many of the Lutherans were familiar. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer was, in fact, “derived almost entirely from the ancient or mediaeval Liturgies, and, in no inconsiderable degree, through the medium of a Lutheran compilation” (Charles Hardwick, A History of the Articles of Religion [London: 1851], p. 80; quoted in Henry Eyster Jacobs, The Lutheran Movement in England [revised] [Philadelphia: General Council Publication House, 1908], p. 282.). But in the matter of the Lord’s Supper, the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, which was in use at this time, explicitly taught a doctrine that the Lutherans could not accept. In reference to the custom of kneeling for Communion, the so-called “Black Rubric” explains

That thereby no adoration is intended or ought to be done, either to the sacramental Bread and Wine there bodily received, or unto any Corporal Presence of Christ’s natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental Bread and Wine still remain in their very natural substance, and therefore may not be adored (for that were idolatry, to be abhorred by all faithful Christians); and the natural Body and Blood of our Savior Christ are in heaven, and not here; it being against the truth of Christ’s natural body to be at one time in more places than one. (quoted in Hermann Sasse, This Is My Body [Adelaide, S.A.: Lutheran Publishing House, 1958], p. 248.)

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of the Church of England likewise declare that “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” (Article XXVII, in The Creeds of Christendom, edited by Philip Schaff [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983 reprint], Vol. III, p. 506.).

Confessional Lutherans would find little satisfaction in such an explanation. On the basis of Christ’s Words of Institution, they

confess that in the Lord’s Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present and are truly offered with the visible elements, the bread and the wine, to those who receive the sacrament. If the body of Christ were not truly present, but only the Holy Spirit, then when Paul says that the bread which we break is a participation in the body of Christ, etc., it would follow that the bread is a participation not in the body but in the spirit of Christ. (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration VII:11 [quoting the Apology of the Augsburg Confession], in The Book of Concord, translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959], p. 571.)

In the midst of the difficulties and challenges of this life, Lutherans are comforted by their belief that

Christ can be and is present wherever he wills, and in particular that he is present with his church and community on earth as mediator, head, king, and high priest. Not part or only one-half of the person of Christ, but the entire person to which both natures, the divine and the human, belong is present. He is present not only according to his deity, but also according to and with his assumed human nature, according to which he is our brother and we flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone (Eph. 5:30). To make certainty and assurance doubly sure on this point, he instituted his Holy Supper that he might be present with us, dwell in us, work and be mighty in us according to that nature, too, according to which he has flesh and blood. (FC SD VIII:78-79, Tappert pp. 606-07.)

Lutherans believe furthermore that the Real Presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine of the Sacrament

does not rest on man’s faith or unbelief but on the Word and ordinance of God -- unless they first change God’s Word and ordinance and misinterpret them, as the enemies of the sacrament do at the present time. They, indeed, have only bread and wine, for they do not also have the Word and instituted ordinance of God but have perverted and changed it according to their own imagination. (FC SD VII:32 [quoting Martin Luther], pp. 574-75.)

Lutherans who accurately understand and consistently embrace their church’s historic teaching on the Lord’s Supper are not able, as a matter of conscience, to become communicants in a church that does not clearly confess the doctrine of the Real Presence.

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