Spangenberg, August Gottlieb (1704-1792)
Moravian bishop, theologian, and administrator
Spangenberg was born in Clettenberg, Germany, and entered the University of Jena in 1722. When he received his M. A. in 1729, he was already acquainted with the Moravians. After an unhappy teaching experience in Halle, in 1733 he moved to Herrnhut as adjunct to the Moravian leader Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. In this role he traveled widely and provided leadership for the establishment of Moravian settlements and missions to Native Americans in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. He was consecrated a bishop in 1744. Following Zinzendorf’s death in 1760, Spangenberg helped develop a conferential system of governance for the Moravian Church. His major literary works provide significant information regarding the formative years of Moravian theology and missions. His three volume biography Leben des Herrn Nikolaus Ludwig Grafen und Herrn von Zinzendorf und Pottendorf was published from 1772 to 1775. An abridged English translation by Samuel Jackson, The Life of Nikolaus Lewis Count Zinzendorf, appeared in 1838. In 1779 Spangenberg issued his systematic theology, Idea Fidei Fratrum (translated into English by Benjamin La Trobe as An Exposition of Christian Doctrine in 1796). In 1782 he produced the first summary of Moravian mission work, Von der Arbeit Evangelischen Brüder unter den Heiden, which appeared in an anonymous English translation in 1788 as An Account of the Manner in Which the Protestant Church of the Unitas Fratrum, or United Brethren, Preach the Gospel, and Carry on Their Missions among the Heathen. In his writing Spangenberg shows himself to be a competent but rather traditional theologian. His apologetic motive is clear as he sought to address what some of his contemporaries regarded as the extremes of Zinzendorf’s thought. His missiological views and practical leadership defined Moravian mission work until the mid-nineteenth century.
David A. Schattschneider, “Spangenberg, August Gotlieb,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 632.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.
Spangenberg’s autobiographical statement “Dankbare Erinnerung an Eineige der Evangelischen Brüder-Ünitat von dem Herrn seit etlichen und fünfzig Jahren erzeigte besondere Gnadenbeweise” (1784-1785) translated by Albert F. Jordan as “Recollections of Fifty Years,” is in the Moravian archives, Betlehem, Pennsylvania.
Atwood, Craig D. Community of the Cross: Moravian Piety in Colonial Bethlehem. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.
Fogleman, Aaron Spencer. Jesus is Female: Moravians and the Challenge of Radical Religion in Early America. Philadephia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.
Hutton, J. E. A History of Moravian Missions. London: Moravian Publication Office, 1923.
Ledderhose, Charles T. The Life of Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg. London: William Mallalieu, 1855.
Merritt, Jane T. At the Crossroads: Indians and Empire on a Mid-Atlantic Frontier, 1700-1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.
Reichel, Gerhard. August Gottlieb Spangenberg, Bischof der Brüderkirche. Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1906.
Sensbach, Jon. “Searching for Moravians in the Atlantic World.” In Self, Community, World: Moravian Education in a Transatlantic World, edited by Heikki Lempa and Paul Peucker, 35-53. Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2010.
Biographical sketch of Spangenberg, with a link to his “An Account of the Manner in Which the Protestant Church of the Unitas Fratrum, or United Brethren, Preach the Gospel, and Carry On Their Missions Among the Heathen”.