Above: Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, August 1863
Image Source = Library of Congress
Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-35100
WILLIAM MORTON REYNOLDS (MARCH 4, 1812-SEPTEMBER 5, 1876)
U.S. Lutheran Minister, Episcopal Priest, Educator, and Hymn Translator
The name of William Morton Reynolds came to my attention via W. G. Polack, The Handbook to the Lutheran Hymnal, Second Edition (1942). I am glad that it did.
Reynolds, son of a veteran of the U.S. War for Independence, was a native of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. He attended Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg (1828-1830), and Jefferson College, Canonsburg (1830-1832). Reynolds taught in New Jersey for a year (1832-1833) before becoming the principal of the preparatory department of and Professor of Latin at Pennsylvania College, Gettysburg (1833-1835). He resigned due to concerns that his abolitionist stance on slavery would alienate Southern donors. Thus our saint, licensed to preach in 1835 and ordained in the Ministerium of Pennsylvania the following year, served as the pastor of a Lutheran church in Deerfield, New Jersey, for about a year.
Our saint spent most of his career as an educator. Pennsylvania College called him back to his old job in 1836; there he remained until 1850, when he became the President of Capital University, Columbus, Ohio, the seminary of the Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States. In 1853 Reynolds left Capital University to become the principal of a female seminary in Easton, Pennyslvania. After that he served as the principal of a classical school (a forerunner of Muhlenberg College) in Allentown, Pennsylvania. From 1857 to 1860 our saint served as the President of Illinois State University. His next post was principal of a female seminary in Chicago.
Reynolds–abolitionist, educator, and liturgist–supported progressive causes in the context of doctrinal orthodoxy. (There were always prominent Lutherans to his right, however. He was, therefore, slightly to the right of the Lutheran center at the time.)
- Abolitionism, although widely accepted today, was controversial in the 1800s. It was, sadly, never a majority opinion (even in the North) during the antebellum period. Other antislavery positions, such as colonization, free soil, and free labor, competed in the marketplace of antislavery arguments. Many Northerners, however, did not object to slavery.
- As for internal Lutheran politics, the relationship between the Ministerium of Pennsylvania (founded in 1748), the oldest Lutheran jurisdiction in the United States, and the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S.A. (1820-1918) was tense. The Ministerium, a charter member of the General Synod, departed in 1823, citing doctrinal concerns. It returned thirty years later, only to leave again in 1864, citing doctrinal concerns. The Ministerium helped to form the more conservative General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918). The General Synod and the General Council were two of the three bodies which reunited to form the United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962). Our saint’s ordination came via the Ministerium in 1836, as I have written already. Six years later he was chiefly responsible for the formation of the East Pennsylvania Synod, which affiliated with the General Synod and covered the same territory as the Ministerium.
- Reynolds and Charles Philip Krauth founded and edited the Evangelical Review, the first issue of which rolled off the presses in July 1849. The Review was a publication devoted to doctrinal orthodoxy, as Reynolds and Krauth understood it. Many of our saint’s English-language translations of German hymns appeared in the Review.
Reynolds was a liturgist. He served on the committee which produced Hymns, Original and Selected, for Public and Private Use, in the Evangelical Lutheran Church (1850), a hymnal of the General Synod. And, as I indicated above, he translated German hymns. Locating unaltered versions of his translations in my large collection of hymnals (many of them old) has proven challenging. Even The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) contains an altered translation. I did find an unaltered text in The Lutheran Hymnary (1935), however. The last three stanzas of a Christmas hymn, “Come, Thou Savior of Our Race,” a text originally in Latin, were, according to Reynolds:
From the Father forth He came,
And returneth to the same,
Captive leading death and hell:
High the song of triumph tell.
Equal to the Father now,
Though to dust Thou once didst bow;
Boundless shall Thy kingdom be:
When shall we its glories see?
Brightly doth Thy manger shine,
Glorious is its light divine:
Let not sin o’ercloud this light,
Ever be our faith thus bright.
Reynolds became an Episcopal priest in 1864 and spent the rest of his life in parish ministry. He served as the Rector of St. Paul’s Church, Warsaw, Illinois (1865-1871), and Christ Church, Oak Park (then called Harlem), Illinois (1872-1876). Our saint’s academic pursuits continued, as his annotated translation (1874) of A History of New Sweden; or, the Settlements on the River Delaware, by Israel Acrelius, attests.
The legacy of William Morton Reynolds is a fine one.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 12, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B
THE FEAST OF ALFRED LEE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME
THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST
Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,
thank you for those (especially William Morton Reynolds)
who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.
May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 Chronicles 25:1-8
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR
THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN