Gustavus-adolphus Society

Gustavus-Adolphus Society

(Gustav-Adolf-Verein), a union of members of the Evangelical Protestant Church of Germany for the support of their persecuted or suffering brethren in the faith. It originated as follows. On the occasion of the second secular anniversary of the battle of Lutzen (won by Gustavus Adolphus [q.v.] at the cost of his life, Nov. 6, 1632), held in that city Nov. 6, 1832, Schild, a merchant of Leipzig, proposed that a memorial should be erected to the champion of Protestantism. By the influence of Dr. Grossmann it was afterwards resolved that, instead of a monument of stone or brass, an institution should be formed in honor of the Protestant hero, having for its object the succor of the Protestant communities suffering from persecution in Roman Catholic countries. An association was soon formed at Dresden and another in Leipzig, and the two were united in 1834. The society thus formed was very popular in Saxony and Sweden. Its funds were chiefly the fruit of house and church collections. On the anniversary of the Reformation in 1841, Dr. Zimmermann, of Darmstadt, issued an appeal to Protestants throughout the world to unite in forming an association for the support of such Protestant communities as required and were worthy of help. In order to effect this, and to incorporate in it the Leipzig and Dresden associations, a preparatory meeting was held at Leipzig Sept. 16,1842, and "The Evangelical Society of the Gustarus- Adolphus Institution" was formed. A general assembly was held at Frankfort Sept. 21 and 22, 1843, in which twenty-nine societies were represented.

According to the rules adopted at this meeting, the object of the association is to succor all Protestants, either in or out of Germany, who stand in need of help, be they members of the Lutheran, Reformed, or Union churches, or any other who have given proofs of their adherence to the principles of the evangelical Church. The means are furnished partly by the income of the permanent funds of the association, partly by donations, endowments, yearly collections, etc. The local societies send to the superior association their annual collections. In every state (and for large countries in every province) there is a chief association, with which the others are connected as auxiliaries. The receipts are divided into three parts: one third is under the absolute control of the society which collects it; one third is sent to the central society, with directions as to the application of it, or is even sent direct to its destination; and the remaining third is placed at the disposal of the central society. The central association consists of twenty-four members, elected by the members of the chief associations; nine of them (in-eluding the president, treasurer, and cashier) must be residents at Leipzig, the other fifteen must be non-residents; every three years one third of the members go out of office. This central association represents the whole union, manages the general fund, and, when occasion presents, appoints a committee to inquire into the case of parties applying for assistance, and reports on it to the chief associations. In the general assemblies, which are held in different parts of Germany, the state of the association is discussed, the accounts adjusted, questions of general interest settled, etc. In 1840 there were thirty-nine chief associations, viz. eight in Prussia, two in Saxony, three in Hanover, and in the other states each one, except in Bavaria. The government of Bavaria, on Feb. 10, 1844, forbade the formation of branch associations, as well as the reception of gifts from the society; but this prohibition was annulled Sept. 16, 1849, and representatives of Bavaria appeared at the general assembly of 1851. Austria permitted the establishment of societies by the "Protestantenpatent" of April 8, 1851. At the general assembly held at Nuremberg in 1862, two central societies (Hauptureine) of Austria, Vienna and Medi-asch, were received, the first embracing the German provinces and Gallicia, and the latter the German part of Transylvania. The organs of the association are the Bote der Evangelischen Vereins d. G. A. V., published by Zimmermann and Grossmann, Darmstadt, since 1843, and similar ones for Thuringia and Brandenburg. Numerous occasional sheets, reports, etc., are issued by the association.

The society has not been entirely free from internal troubles. While some of its members have sought to confine its operations within the strict limits of the evangelical confession, others have desired to see it based upon humanitarian principles, and thus to receive even Jews and Roman Catholics into membership. The most important difficulty occurred at the general meeting of 1846, at Berlin, where the delegates refused, by a vote of thirty-nine against thirty-two, to recognise Dr. Rupp as the delegate of Kdnigsberg, on account of his having seceded from the national Church. Great excitement spread throughout Germany, and for a moment endangered even the existence of the association. The question was settled in the Assembly of Darmstadt in 1847, when it was resolved that the assembly should have the right of deciding upon the credentials of all delegates. The strict Lutherans have generally kept aloof from the association on account of its support of Reformed and Union churches. The means of the association have been steadily increasing. Up to 1841 the receipts amounted to 14,727 thalers. In 1858 the society appropriated 107,666 thalers to 379 communities (224 in Germany and 155 in other countries). From 1843 to 1858 the central and branch associations received legacies and donations amounting to 50,000 thalers. Sweden and the Netherlands (where the first Gustavus-Adolphus Society was instituted in 1853) have joined the German association, and helped to swell its funds. According to the report for the financial year 1863-64, the expenditures amounted to $195,000, by which 723 poor congregations were supported (400 in Germany, 6 in North America, 10 in Belgium, 27 in France, 7 in Holland, 3 in Italy, 206 in Austria, 43 in Prussian Poland, 4 in Portugal, 4 in Switzerland, and 17 in Turkey). At the general assembly held at Dresden in 1865 it was announced that the society, since its foundation in 1849, had expended in the support of Protestant churches two million thalers, the first million from 1843 to 1858, the second from 1859 to 1864; that since its beginning the society had defrayed, either wholly or partly, the expense for the building of 229 new churches. The receipts for the year 1865-66 were reported at the Assembly of Worms (1867) to amount to 177,226 thalers, a slight decrease, caused by the war of 1861. During the year 18667, according to the report made at the general assembly at Halber-stadt in 1868, 175,197 thalers were distributed among 783 congregations. The twenty-fourth general assembly of the association was held at Bayreuth in August, 1869. The receipts of the last year were stated to be 194,000 thalers. The number of congregations supported by the society amounted to 904; of these, 12 were in America, 348 in Prussia, 301 in Austria, 39 in France, 8 in Belgium, 60 in Rumania, 16 in Holland, 4 in Italy, 5 in Russia, 6 in Switzerland, and 1 in Spain, The total amount expended by the society from its beginning to the close of the financial year 1867-68 in supporting new and poor Protestant congregations amounts to 2,325,879 thalers. Aside from its external efficiency, the society has also been beneficial to its own members by furnishing a common centre of Christian activity for the national Protestant Church of Germany. Its appropriations are made as much as possible in a form to give permanent rather than temporary relief to weak churches. See Zimmermann, D. Gustavus-Adolphus Verein (Darmstadt, 1857); Allgem. Real-Encykl. 7:67.

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