The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) has been awarded a three-year, $150,000 collaborative research grant by The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). The award will support the preparation of an English edition of the correspondence of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787), the patriarch of American Lutheranism. The translations will be completed by Dr. Wolfgang Splitter of Germany. Others involved in the grant include Dr. Jon Pahl, Professor of the History of Christianity in North America at LTSP; Mary A. Redline, researcher for LTSP’s Krauth Memorial Library and the Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia; and Rev. Martin Lohrmann, a doctoral student at LTSP. Rev. Dr. Timothy Wengert, Ministerium of Pennsylvania Professor of Church History at LTSP (pictured right), will be directing the project.
Professor Wengert notes, “As we approach the three-hundredth anniversary of Muhlenberg’s birth in 2011, it is fitting that we give to his spiritual descendants and to the country he finally called his own a more complete record of his deepest thoughts and severest struggles as a colonial clergyman.”
Muhlenberg played an important role in 18th century America both as a leader in colonial Lutheranism and in cultural and political developments across the colonies. He left behind more than 15,000 pieces of correspondence, with figures such as Benjamin Franklin, George Whitefield, and the Hanoverian Court in London. Wengert explained that the letters, written during the tumultuous years of the Revolutionary War, will be translated from the original German into English for the first time. Translating the entire body of Muhlenberg’s correspondence will allow scholars to discover anew “just how complicated life was at that time for the Christian clergy and laity alike,” Wengert continued, “Muhlenberg served as a religious leader for the single largest group of immigrants, the German-speaking, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. These letters will also depict the countless hurdles that this diverse group of immigrants overcame to establish their religious life and culture in a world dominated by English-speaking people.”
LTSP received one of just 79 awards for We the People projects in U.S. history and culture, a special recognition by the NEH for model projects that advance the study, teaching, and understanding of American history and culture. In announcing the awards, NEH Chairman Bruce Cole noted “With these grants, NEH continues its support of wide-ranging and substantial projects that explore the great ideas and great events of both our own culture and other cultures throughout the world.”
LTSP (www.Ltsp.edu), one of eight schools of its kind in the 5-million-member Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (www.ELCA.org), is committed to preparing ordained and lay ministers of the Word as leaders for the mission of the Church in the world. LTSP awards first professional and advanced-level degrees to present and future church leaders. Located in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia on the site of the historic Battle of Germantown of the Revolutionary War, almost 500 students study at the seminary. The student body is comprised mostly of Lutherans, but more than 35 percent are from over 30 other faith backgrounds, including Episcopalian, Baptist, Presbyterian, United Methodist, United Church of Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Church of God in Christ.