What was the Evangelical Synod of North America?

In my last two posts about Trinity Dime Box I’ve mentioned their previous building, which was originally constructed for St. John’s Evangelical Church of Dime Box about twenty years before Trinity purchased it in 1941.

St. John was originally a part of the Evangelical Synod of North America, and then became a part of the Evangelical and Reformed Church in 1936 when the ESNA merged with the Reformed Church in the United States. The congregation seems to have dissolved around the time their building was purchased by Trinity.

When Pr. Kilian and his congregation of Wends left their homes in Lusatia for Texas in 1854, one of the reasons they left was King Friedrich Wilhelm III’s attempt to dictate belief and practice in Prussian churches. He believed that the government could produce a common worship agenda that was acceptable to both Reformed and Lutheran Christians by minimizing the differences between the two.

For “Old Lutherans” such as Kilian, this was unacceptable, and some of their counterparts in Reformed churches felt the same way. Many others in Prussia had no objection to being a part of the new Union Church, though, and subsequently, other German territories followed suit and created similar churches.

The German Evangelical Synod of North America was founded in 1840 and it sought to be that sort of union church. Though there was no official connection, the fledgling denomination even considered the Prussian Union Church to be their “mother church.” (This caused them a bit of trouble during World War I, and one of the outcomes was that “German” was dropped from the name. See this paper for extensive details: http://maxfieldbooks.com/germanness.html)

Both Reformed and Lutheran confessional documents were accepted by the ESNA, and in cases where the two were in conflict (and there are several), each individual was free to believe as they saw fit.

By the early 1950s, the new Evangelical and Reformed Church began exploring further union with the Congregational Christian Churches. The eventual result was a merger that produced the United Church of Christ.

St. Paul’s United Church of Christ in Falls County (pictured; it’s located north of Marlin just off of SH 6) is an excellent example of a UCC congregation that originated in the ESNA. The original name of the congregation was “Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische St. Paul Gemeinde” (“German Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul Congregation”). The stained glass windows above the doors of the building, which was constructed in 1920, still reflect this (they say “St. Paul Ev. Luth. Church”).

Margie and I knew a retired pastor, Fred Neumann, who had served at St. Paul in Austin prior to our membership there. Pr. Neumann was from Riesel, not too far north of this congregation. The first time I saw the inside of St. Paul UCC, I noticed that one of the windows was dedicated to “Rudolf und Clara Neumann.”

The next time I saw Pr. Neumann, I asked him if they were related to him. “Oh yes,” he said, “he was my uncle. He liked dancing, and the Missouri Synod didn’t allow dancing then, so he joined that church so he could dance.”

You can learn a little more about the history of St. Paul UCC (and also find out how to donate to their restoration fund) here:

You can learn a little more about the history of the ESNA here:

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