Chicago Church History: Zion Lutheran, Washington Heights

In 1896, the Lutheran churches of Chicago published Geschichte der Gründung und Ausbreitung der zur Synode von Missouri, Ohio und Andern Staaten gehörenden Evangelisch-Lutherischen Gemeinden U. A. C. zu Chicago, Illinois, a history of their growth in the city beginning with First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, now located on LaSalle and Goethe streets in Chicago. As far as I know, there is no English translation of this document, so I offer this translation to share this history with you. Follow me to get updates about the rest of this work.

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Zion Lutheran Church in 1891

The seventh congregation is Zion Lutheran Church, now located on S. 99th and Winston Ave. Originally populated by German immigrants and their children, Zion transitioned into a black Lutheran church during the great migration. During an era of increased racial tensions, LCMS churches like Zion welcomed their new neighbors during a time of swift demographic change.

Evangelical Lutheran Zion Congregation (Washington Heights.)

Already in the 1860’s, a united congregation* stood in Washington Heights. Yet their preacher proved himself to be a wolf and a servant of his belly. When they had removed the last union preacher, who had become apparent as a swindler, they turned to Pastor A. Reinke, pastor in Blue Island, Ill., at the time, who now organized this congregation as an Evangelical Lutheran one and he served with word and sacrament until his call to the Bethlehem Congregation in Chicago in September 1871.

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Pastor Augustus Reinke

The pastors Ernst and later Duborg were his successors. During the latter’s administration, the predestination controversy erupted within the Synodical Conference. From the many congregations that were severely damaged as a result, this congregation in Washington Heights is near the top of the list. Unfortunately, Pastor Duborg was attached to the Ohio Synod’s false teaching on predestination, and he agitated for this false doctrine, at first in secret and then openly, in his congregation, with the obvious purpose to lead the same into Ohio’s camp. Der Lutheraner, 1882 pages 178 and 179, reported how it was handled in this congregation by Pastor Duborn and with what dishonest means the leading voices of the Ohio Synod fought. On the 9th of October, 1881, a disputation took place between the two sides. The pastors A. Wagner and Joh. Große had been appointed by President Wunder for this disputation; but the professors Schmidt and Stellhorn stood on Pastor Duborg’s side.

Although the leading voices of Ohio did not succeed in winning the whole congregation to their false doctrine, but they did get a part of it. And the Zion congregation, which used to be so united in doctrine, was now torn apart. The departing group now formed a new congregation belonging to the Ohio Synod.

In in place of Pastor Duborg, who left for the Ohio Synod, the congregation called another pastor in the person of the pastoral candidate, Mr. H. Felten, who afterwards was ordained and installed on the fifth Sunday after Trinity 1882 by Pastor A. Reinke. Under this administration, the congregation built itself up in peace. But then, in the spring of 1890, Pastor Felten followed a call to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, so the congregation called Pastor Paul Budach from Luverne, Iowa, who was installed by Pastor C. Roack on Rogate Sunday 1890.
In the year 1891, the congregation build a beautiful, spacious church building. The dedication of the same took place with the active participation of the sister congregations in Chicago on the 24th Sunday after Trinity; The pastors A. Reinke, W. Kohn, and H. F. G. Bartholomew held the festival sermons, the former in English. The old church now serves as a school in which teacher Paul Schäfer teaches.

The condition of the congregation is presently: 60 voting members and 183 communicant members; The school is attended by 58 children.

*Note: The words “united” and later “union” refer to a congregation or pastor that mixes the Lutheran and Reformed tradition. Such churches have always been a problem in The Lutheran Church––Missouri Synod, because they mix two different systems of thought about God’s word as if the important differences between the two don’t matter. There is a long history of united congregations wherever Germans settled the frontier. Pastor C. A. T. Selle confronted it, both in his Ohio church and at First St. Paul in Chicago.

A pastor, writer, and geek who lives in Chicago.

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