Friday, December 06, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History December 8
Evangelical Lutheran Pastor Admitted to Texas Annual Conference   Dec. 8, 1872

Some readers of this column will remember that in 2008 the General Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to enter into full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).  In 2009 the ELCA also ratified the proposal.  Full communion meant that the two denominations recognized each other’s ministries and, in some cases, allowed the interchangeability of ordained clergy.  The General Conference delegates in Fort Worth voted 864-19 in favor of the proposal which was truly historic since it was the first time Methodists had forged such a relationship with a non-Wesleyan denomination. 

Few, if any, delegates in 2008 could have known that the Texas Methodists had already admitted an Evangelical Lutheran pastor---in 1872!   

The Texas Conference was meeting in Bryan in December, 1872 with Bishop J. C. Keener presiding.  Among the candidates proposed for admission was Johannes Friedrich Wohlschlegel, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church

Wohlschlegel was born in 1836 and eventually entered the St. Chrischona Seminary in Basel, Switzerland, a seminary specializing in training missionaries.  In November, 1866, he entered the port of Galveston with his classmate, Heinrich Merz.  The next year he became a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas.  He entered his Texas missionary service in Medina County as pastor of the two churches at Quihi and New Fountain.  While serving these churches he married Caroline Uhr and then moved to Lutheran  churches in Seguin and later Fayette County

When the MECS General Conference authorized the creation of a German Conference from the German District of the Texas Conference, J. F. Wohlschlegel became one of its charter members and served in New Braunfels.  He thus became the second Texas German Methodist preacher of the mid-19th century for whom a European seminary education can be documented. (The first was the Rev. Peter Moelling who had been a Roman Catholic seminarian.)

The historical record does not provide an explanation of why Wohlschlegel transferred from the Lutheran Synod to the Methodist Conference.  The fact that he began his ministry in Quihi-New Fountain is tantalizing because during his time there, the MECS church in New Fountain was under the vigorous leadership of the Rev. Jacob Bader, one of the most able pastors in Texas. Although we do not have the documents to prove they knew each other, it is likely that Bader and Wohlschlegel would have known each other, and perhaps Bader had some role in the transfer.  The two men were contemporaries, both having been born in 1836, but Bader had come to Texas almost fifteen years earlier than Wohlschlegel. 

Wohlschlegel’s Methodist affiliation was brief.  In 1874 the Journals list him as “located.”   Perhaps the necessity of providing for his growing family was too much for a Methodist preacher. 
  Rev. and Mrs. Wohlschlegel eventually had 9 children. 

He died in 1885 and is buried in Hondo.  Although Caroline Wohlschlagel was 12 years younger than her husband, she outlived him only 7 years.  She is also buried in Hondo.


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