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Peter Böhler

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Peter Böhler
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Peter Böhler
Born December 31, 1712(1712-12-31)
Frankfurt, Germany
Died April 27, 1775 (aged 62)
London, England
Occupation missionary and bishop

Peter Böhler or Peter Boehler (December 31, 1712 – April 27, 1775) was a German-born Moravian missionary and bishop who was influential in the Moravian Church in the Americas and England during the eighteenth century. Böhler was one of the many missionaries sent out to the Americas in the early 18th century by the leader of the Moravian Church, Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf. As a part of the first large scale Protestant missionary movement, Böhler spread the religion across Georgia and other American colonies.[1] In 1740, he migrated with other Moravians to Pennsylvania, where they founded the towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem.[2] Böhler was superintendent of the Moravian Church in England from 1747 to 1753 and was made a bishop of the church in 1748. Böhler came back to America and directed new Moravian settlements in the colonies from 1753 to 1764.[2]

Early life

Böhler was born in Frankfurt, Germany on December 31, 1712.[3] Peter was the fourth child of Brewers Johann Konrad Peter Böhler and his wife Antonetta Elisabetha. Böhler attended school in Frankfurt, and went to the University of Jena in 1831. His father wanted him to study medicine, but Böhler was drawn into studying theology by the university's well-known faculty members such as Johann Franz Buddeus, Johann Georg Walch and Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf.[4] Walch and Zinzendorf greatly influence on Böhler, and showed him the ways of pietism, a movement within Lutheranism that was instrumental in the upbringing of the Methodist movement later started by John Wesley. The Pietist movement combined the Lutheran emphasis on biblical doctrine with the reformed, and especially Puritan, emphasis on individual piety, and a vigorous Christian life.[5][6] Zinzendorf used his influence on the Moravian Church to gather more supporters of the pietist movement, including Böhler.

As a missionary

On December 15, 1737, in his first official act as bishop, Count von Zinzendorf ordained Böhler to priesthood.[1] On February 7 of the following year, when he was in London preparing for his trip to the Americas, Böhler happened to meet John Wesley, one of the early leaders of the Methodist movement, who had just returned from a three-year stay in Savannah, Georgia.[7] After Wesley met Böhler at the home of a Mr. Weinatz, a Dutch merchant living in London at the time, Wesley offered to obtain lodging for Böhler[4] and introduced him to James Hutton, who would later be an important official in the Moravian Church.[7] Wesley also taught the English language to Böhler in the coming days. Later, on February 17, Wesley accompanied Böhler on his trip to Oxford. The discourse between the two men started then. Wesley had come back to England as a troubled man, depressed over his faith and his work in America. At the time, Wesley wrote in his journal, "I who went to America to convert others was never myself converted to God".[7]

Böhler himself went as a missionary to Savannah and South Carolina, where he directed and led the development of many Moravian settlements. As part of Zinzendorf's plans to revive the Moravian Church, Böhler preached the ways of the religion to black slaves and Native Americans, as well as white settlers in the colonies. In 1740, Böhler led a group of Moravians from Georgia to Pennsylvania. They founded the towns of Nazareth and Bethlehem, both of which are still-thriving populous Moravian communities.[2] Böhler was almost a savior for many of the Moravian people in these communities. During times of crisis, he was accounted as the preacher who could restore back the peace and hope that people were so desperately looking for.[1] Böhler went back to England to organize a new group of people to send to America. This group of emigrants called the "Sea Congregation" traveled with Böhler and settled in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1742.[2]

Universalist tendencies were not unknown among Moravians and Böhler himself believed in the universal reconciliation of all people. George Whitfield, in a letter to John Wesley, wrote that Böhler had expressed a belief that "all the damned souls would hereafter be brought out of hell."[8]

After five years, he was made superintendent of the Moravian Church in England. The following year, Böhler was ordained as a bishop of the Moravian churches in America and England.[9] In 1753, Böhler left his post as superintendent, and returned back to America. He then served as the director of new Moravian settlements there until 1764.[2] Böhler spent the last nine years of his life back in England, still an active member of the church. He died in London on April 27, 1775, at the age of sixty-two.[3]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "December 15, 1737 - Zinzendorf Ordained Peter Bohler". Christian History Institute. December 2006. http://chi.gospelcom.net/DAILYF/2003/12/daily-12-15-2003.shtml. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "Peter Böhler encyclopedia entry". Columbia University Press. 2007. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0808088.html. Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 (German) Karl Heinz Voigt (17 May 2000). "Peter Böhler biography". http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/b/boehler_p.shtml. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Stephen Berg (2004). "Peter Böhler biographical sketch". http://home.earthlink.net/~seberg99/id6.html. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  5. Kevin Knight. "Pietism". Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12080c.htm. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  6. "Pietism Movement". Infoplease. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0839002.html. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Hutton, J.E. (2004). History of the Moravian Church. Whitefish, Montana: Kessinger Publishing. p. p. 200. ISBN 1419124250. 
  8. "Peter Bohler, a brief biography." at TentMaker.org. Accessed Nov. 2, 2007.
  9. "German American Corner: Boehler, Peter". Davitt Publications. http://www.germanheritage.com/biographies/atol/boehler.html. Retrieved 2007-02-17. 

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