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Messages - Rev. Spaceman

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Your Turn / Re: Former Abortion Worker leaves the ELCA for the RCC
« on: September 07, 2012, 11:23:49 PM »
I am an Evangelical Catholic serving a Lutheran parish. This essay was written and published in a collection of essays through through ALPB while I was serving under the auspices of the ELCA. It was reprinted with permission through a Benedictine University this last year while I've been serving through the auspices of the NALC. Portions of it will soon be made available again through The United Methodist's Pro-life group called Lifewatch. While some denominations have official statements, it's easy to see that individuals within many denominations will differ with the official "position." I'd like to also recommend an excellent book which I have recently read, A LOVE FOR LIFE, by Dennis Di Mauro (Wipf&Stock), which does include over 20 current denominational statements on abortion.

Here's the link to the essay. I hope you find it helpful.

Excellent piece.  I am deeply moved.

Sorry to stay on topic, but I was just wondering about the altar and pulpit fellowship expectations between members of LWF. One of my NALC friends indicated that this was the source of disagreement at the NALC meeting over whether or not the NALC should seek to join the LWF.  From what I gather the debate was civil and well settled but the issue of entering into altar and pulpit fellowship with the more liberal side of the LWF membership raised some trepidation, how was that settled? Also how are the relationships within NALC between the more high church and the low church folks (forgive the simplicity but you know what I mean?

My sense is that various pieties within the NALC are coexisting well, and I truly hope that remains the case.  I have made so many new friends over the last couple of years, most of whom represent a different piety than my own.  As someone who values historical Pietism as a part of the Lutheran heritage (though I'm not overly "low church" in terms of worship style), I value the contributions of those more "high church" minded-folks and evangelical catholics.  I might not agree with some of them at every point, nor they with me, but at the end of the day, we recognize one another as Trinitarian, Lutheran Christians, and there is a lot we can learn from one another.  Our differences are in the realm of practice more so than doctrine.  My sense is that the NALC so far has been an environment where such differences are not viewed as a negative thing, but rather as an expression of acceptible diversity.  I am very happy being a part of the NALC.

Yes, I think the debate on the LWF resolution was respectful.  And even though I support it, I can understand where the other side is coming from.  As I have said elsewhere, if demands are made on the NALC that violate our convictions, I will be the first to advocate for removing ourselves from the Federation.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 19, 2012, 11:56:24 PM »

Anyway, differences between the Synod congregations and Hauge congregations were very noticeable for some decades after the 1917 merger.  Looking through church yearbooks, you can see early "Synod" years where the pastor wore full vestments, often with a ruff.  Some years later, you see the vestments get simpler and simpler until it got to a point where many pastors were simply wearing suits.  The "low church" mentality was part of the Haugean DNA spreading even into formerly non-Haugean congregations.

I would argue that what you see in yearbooks doesn't necessarily reflect the use of vestments in parish practice.  In some cases it might, but as I mentioned in a previous post, if anything, the practices of the Hauge Synod were pretty much lost after 1917.  Of course, it's a complex issue, with a lot of "cross-breeding" between the different pieties. 

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 19, 2012, 11:52:43 PM »
Are the Lutheran Brethren considered more "Haugean" than other Lutheran groups.  My wife's family is real big on the Lutheran Brethren and I know that family (all Norwegian immigrants from the Nordfjord area) was wooed into the Lutheran Brethren by some itinerant pastors in about 1920.

Brian J. Bergs.
Minneapolis, MN

Yes, there's a whole lot more Haugean influence in the LB than in most other Lutheran denominations.  There's some in the Free Lutherans too, but not to quite the same extent.  The most overtly "Haugean" synod remaining in the USA is the Eielsen Synod.  Well, "remaining" -  I think there's one Eielsen congregation left.

If I'm not mistaken, I think the last Eielsen Synod congregation closed in 1997, though I think that there are still a couple of families that identify with it, if that counts as a "congregation."

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 19, 2012, 11:50:05 PM »
After the 1917 merger and beyond, the leadership had to address questions of how to honor the different traditions that converged to form the NLCA (later the ELC).  There were varying degrees of formality in worship, with even some of the United Church pastors rejecting the use of clerical vestments.  The Hauge Synod pretty much frowned on such a thing.  They also rejected the use of the typical order of worship of the Church of Norway in favor of "free prayer" during worship.  Once the agreement was made for Hauge's Synod to join the 1917 merger, there was a provision stating that the principles of "Hauge style" worship would continue to be taught in seminary.  But even so, most congregations eventually abandoned that practice in favor of more formality in worship.  The practice of preachers wearing only frock coats rather than the full clerical outfit died out for the most part as well.

The Church of the Lutheran Brethren, like all other Norwegian Lutheran bodies to varying degrees, does identify with the tradition of the Haugean revival and its interpretations in America.  The big thing about the COLB that separated them from other bodies, even the Lutheran Free Church, was their understanding of "membership."  Inactive members couldn't vote or have Communion.  They were out to make higher demands on "members."

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 09, 2012, 10:37:16 PM »

the Norwegians not of Norske Synod did not affirm BoC. grabau

Interestingly, one of the prececessor bodies (the smallest one) of the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of 1890, the Norwegian Augustana Synod, did formally subscribe to the entire BoC.  However, you are right that the subsequent Norwegian denominations did not see the need for a formal subscription to the entire BoC.  This doesn't mean that they didn't value it, however.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 09, 2012, 01:07:50 PM »
My grandmother, who was a member of a heavily Norwegian congregation in Minneapolis, told me during the 1960s that when a man and woman with a Finnish surname introduced themselves to the pastor after a service one Sunday, the pastor told them, perhaps curtly, that "the Finnish church is down the street." Apparently some members of the congregation reproved the pastor for this. In his defense, he explained that he had made clear that they were quite welcome in his parish, but that he thought that they might like to know that there was a Finnish church nearby since they might feel  more at home there. I suppose that it all depends on how he said it, and I wasn't there. I don't think that the pastor was necessarily unwelcoming, but I've always thought that this was an amusing example of the intense ethnicity of American Lutheranism until relatively recent times.

Finns are a different group altogether. Their language is not related to the Scandinavian languages. I was told by an elderly couple - one was Finnish - that there was a time in Wyoming history that their marriage was considered illegal because Finns were not considered Caucasians, thus it was a forbidden, mixed marriage. He didn't say which nationality the Finns were considered. (My guess is Mongoloid.)

Yes, the Finnish language is quite different, and some linguists even believe it is related to Hungarian.  But there is a considerable minority in Finland that does speak Swedish as a primary language and many more that speak Swedish as a second language.  So, it is a bit of an open question whether Finland can be considered "Scandinavian."  Finnish immigration to the US was a bit later than the other nordic countries as well.  Quite a few Finns in the US came out of the Laestadian revival, which became "Apostolic Lutheranism" in the US.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 08, 2012, 10:20:26 PM »
There was a strong desire among the Swedish American Lutherans to distance themselves from the State Church of Sweden.

Where to start...
As a proud swedish american born here, with ties to the U.P. of Michigan (logging, mining for 2 generations), yet still have 1st cousins/Aunts/Uncles relatives in Sweden (a most convoluted tale), ordained in Vasteras in the Church of Sweden. I can speak to this topic.

I am also married to a 100% norwegian lass from Minnesota with ties to North Dakota and the whole Norwegian issue (and yes her father is even an old ALC Pastor).

My sense is that most Swedes (and Norwegians) came for economic reasons.  They were not fleeing from religious persecution (of course exceptions such as Bishop Hill).  They were not trying "to distance themselves" from a state church.  The "church" for most of them was a great solace of religion, language, and culture.  Whether on the prairies or in the logging camps they sought an anchor of faith.  Yes it had strains of "pietism", Selma Lagerlof, Laestadius (or Hauge for the norwegians), et al - but so did the Church of Sweden at that time.  Most of the immigrants came from the south and west of Sweden which to this day would be considered more "low church" than other parts.  My grandparents church in Varmland was a "new" church from the late 1800's that replaced the old medieval church.  It is a pretty non-descript church (still beautiful) that would fit into a New England scene.  The Church(s) where I was ordained in Vastmanland and served had medieval gothic structures with triptychs, multiple altars, ornate fonts, high mass, chasubles/copes etc.  Even to this day the Church of Sweden has some diversity of liturgy, theology, and history within the various Diocese.

As to language, I find that I can understand some Norwegians better than I can understand the southern Swedes (Skane in particular -its almost a Danish dialect "porridge in the throat" they say).  My family is from Varmland on the Norwegian border, which is also a unique dialect - they called my grandmothers Swedish "fattigmans Svensk" or poor mans Swedish.

LTSwede, I want to clarify that in making that comment about "distancing themselves from the Church of Sweden," I was not referring to immigrants.  I think you're right that most Swedes, like most other immigrants, came in search of a better way of life in NA.  My comment referred more broadly to the life of the Augustana Synod throughout its history.  It wasn't always clear-cut; there were some who longed for a connection with the Church of Sweden, but on the whole, the Augustana Synod tended to shy away from anything that would suggest that it was simply the American "arm" of the Church of Sweden.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 08, 2012, 08:31:15 PM »
George's post is generally correct, but with one addendum.  Most of the Swedish immigrant congregations that became Episcopalian did so before the American Revolution, when the Church of England was indeed the official church of the colonies, at least from England's point of view.  Other churches, the Puritans in New England, for example, served as established churches in their territories, and colonies like Pennsylvania and Rhode Island had no formally established church.

Good point.  The Swedes who came to North America before the Revolution are in a very different category from those -- mostly from SmÃ¥land, as I understand it -- who came to the US in the mid- to late-19th century.  The latter group included those who formed the Augustana Synod.  As Pr. Spaceman has pointed out, the relationship between Augustana and the Church of Sweden was not simple.  While individual opinions must of varied, Augustana as a body seemed intent on staking out its independence while at the same time yearning for some kind of special relationship with the "mother church."  Theological and political issues played a role.  But the biggest concern seemed to relate to efforts by the Church of Sweden to "share" the episcopacy with Augustana.  Augustana's resistance, as much as anything, seemed driven by a strong desire not to be seen as being somehow under the Church of Sweden.

I appreciate Pr. Spaceman's contributions here.  I don't know how relevant any of this is to today.  But I find it all quite interesting, all the same.

For what it's worth, the Board of Trustees of Gustavus Adolphus College includes a bishop from the Church of Sweden.  The King and Queen will be visiting the College in the fall.  So somehow or other, the relationships have persisted.

My thinking is that this history is really very relevant today as we think about mergers, different pieties.  The vestiges of these things can be seen today in many places.  For a long time, merger was seen as the destiny of American Lutherans.  In some cases, mergers are certainly practical.  But with every merger, some things are lost.  For example, with the 1917 merger of the Norwegian bodies, although attempts were made to preserve the Haugean worship tradition, the Haugean worship tradition was pretty much lost in the shuffle.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 08, 2012, 04:39:03 PM »
Archbishop Nathan Soderblom (of Uppsala) visited an group of Augustana congregations here in the Bronx in the 1920s. That would indicate a degree of solidarity between the Augustana Synod and the Church of Sweden.

Peace, JOHN

John, I noted this in one of my posts.  And although it is true that Archbishop Soderblom visited the United States in the 1920s, his visit and the content of his preaching were heavily criticized by many within the Augustana Synod.  At least one commentator in the Augustana Synod's periodical accused Soderblom of essentially promoting Unitarianism.  He presented the president of the Augustana Synod with a pectoral cross as a sign of friendship, and it was accepted, but it was accepted with reservations, including a statement that the acceptance of the gift did not imply a recognition that the Augustana Synod was somehow under the jurisdiction of the State Church of Sweden.

The Augustana Synod had a somewhat complex relationship with the Church of Sweden over the years.  There was a sense of shared Swedish heritage expressed among many, yet there was reluctance to affirm that tie too closely, as the Church of Sweden, like Soderblom, were viewed as too liberal.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 08, 2012, 02:49:11 PM »
In my little hometown located in the middle of Minnesota there were 567 residents (in the 1960 census, 599 in 1970) and 3 Lutheran churches - the Swedish, the Norwegian, and the German (Missouri Synod).  At one time there was also a Danish Lutheran Church which had not survived by the time I arrived and no one told me much about it except where it had been located.  There was also a Methodist, Free Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Church of the Open Bible congregation.

In reviewing the history of the Swedish and the Norwegian Lutheran church they had considered forming a single Lutheran parish in 1887 when the town was just forming.  But the record shows they were not able to put it together.  The Norwegian Lutheran church I was a member of there had strong Haugean roots which may explain a whole lot.  Perhaps it was a language thing.  However I am told that depending on dialect, Norwegians and Swedes can reasonably understand each other. 

In the 1950's both congregations were without a called pastor at the same time and they again tried to merge (there had been a bit of "inter-racial" marriage during the intervening years).  Again it failed though no one I talked to could remember why.  By then both congregations were having all services in English so language was not a barrier.  Up until 1946, there was still 1 service per month being performed in Norwegian.

The two parishes finally merged in the 1980's given the very trying economic times (remember the rural bank crisis) and changing demographics.  Even then it took another 10 years of wrangling before they were able to settle the "which building" question when they built a new church (a financially well-off member stepped up and led a capital campaign with a very generous gift, darn those rich people anyway).

My only recollection of the differences fits with other stories above.  In the former ALC (Norwegian Lutheran Church) the pastor was unable to be a congregational officer and when seeking out a new pastor, several candidates would be interviewed.  In 1984 I joined an LCA (Swedish Lutheran Church) in Minneapolis as given the upcoming merger ALC vs LCA made no difference.  To my surprise the senior pastor also served as President of the congregation which was allowed at this LCA congregation.  Serving on a call committee about 5 years later the more seasoned members of the congregation told me they were surprised to get more than one candidate as in the old days of the LCA/Augustana Synod the bishop recommended a candidate and there was no discussion.

Brian J. Bergs
Minneapolis, MN

Brian, Swedes and Norwegians can indeed understand each other for the most part.  The Scandinavian languages are pretty much the same in the grand scheme of things.  But there are slight differences, especially in the written forms of the languages.  There are also somewhat different cultural traditions in the respective countries.  There could have been any number of reasons why the two congregations wouldn't have wanted to merge at that point.  At that time, there were still emigrants from both countries arriving.  This kept alive the hope that the unique linguistic and cultural traditions needed to be maintained.  How would official records be kept in a unified congregation?  In which language?  As you note, there were likely issues of piety/worship involved in the mix.  Some Norwegians, especially those most closely related to the State Church of Norway, might have had an easier time fitting in with the Swedes.  Though some Swedes also could identify with a "low church" style as well.

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 07, 2012, 09:14:26 PM »
Charles, yes, I think you could argue that the Swedish Augustana Synod had a bit of a different "flavor" to it regarding its structure.  What's interesting is that the Swedes only had one Lutheran church body in North America whereas the Norwegians had at one point six, I think.  The Norwegians split in a variety of directions, yet most all of them maintained their tie to Lutheranism, albeit with different pieties.  Among the Swedes, there was an outright rejection of Lutheranism among many (the Swedish Mission Covenant being the largest competitor to the Augustana Synod among Swedish Americans), and those that remained Lutheran were found within one body, expressing their diversity within one church.

I should also point out that there were some Swedish immigrants that came much earlier than the ones being discussed here.  They settled along the Delaware River, and these were eventually absorbed into the Episcopal Church.  The argument was that the Episcopal Church more faithfully represented the Church of Sweden than any Lutheran synod.  The same argument was made later by an Episcopal priest named Gustav Unonius.

More generally, a couple of things I forgot to mention regarding the broader issue raised:

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (Little Norwegians) are today headquartered in Mankato, MN, and they have a college and seminary in the same location.  A couple of their pastors were in close proximity to me when I served in northern Minnesota.  They are today in fellowship with the WELS, and as such they will not pray with other Christians, though I did attend a joint reading/study group of the Book of Concord with them (and other Lutherans).  They were nice folks, but also very clear about their confessional standpoint.

When Scandinavian immigrants came to North America during the "second wave" of immigration beginning in the 1840s, only small percentages of these immigrants eventually found their way into Lutheran churches.  Remember that 100 percent of these immigrants were at least nominally Lutheran (and most of them not more than that).  Among the Danes, only about 9 percent of the immigrants became Lutheran in the US.  Among the Swedes, about 16 percent.  Among the Norwegians, about 30 percent.  These numbers seem low, but if it were not for the activity of missionary pastors in North America, they would be even lower.  Imagine how many Lutherans there would be today on our continent if 100 percent of these immigrants became Lutheran!

Your Turn / Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 07, 2012, 07:07:49 PM »
Scandinavian-American Lutheranism is actually my focus in doctoral studies.  Most of what has been said here is accurate, but I would like to add a couple of things and clarify one point in particular.

Yes, the "little Norwegians" are the group from the Norwegian Synod that refused to join the merger of Hauge's Synod, the United Norwegian Lutheran Church, and the Norwegian Synod in 1917.  The reason behind their refusal was their unwillingness to affirm the Madison Agreement of 1912, which allowed for two different interpretations of the doctrine of election to coexist in a unified Norwegian Lutheran church body.  The new denomination began with the title "the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America" (NLCA).  They changed the name of the denomination in 1946, after World War II, in order to reflect the American character of the church body.  The new title was the "Evangelical Lutheran Church."  So, this "big" church body, which reached about one million members in the 1950s, was rightfully called "the big Norwegians."  The "little Norwegians" were connected with the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods, along with a few smaller groups, in a cooperative federation called "the Synodical Conference."  This was an alternative to other cooperative Lutheran federations such as the National Lutheran Council and the American Lutheran Conference.

I wouldn't say that Norwegians and Swedes "didn't get along."  The situation is much more complicated than that.  In 1853, a group of both Norwegians and Swedes joined the Synod of Northern Illinois and together left that synod in 1860 due to a lax attitude toward confessional subscription.  All they could muster was a claim that the Augsburg Confession was "mainly correct."  The Scandinavians together formed a group called the "Scandinavian Augustana Synod" in 1860.  They called a Scandinavian professor, Lars P. Esbjorn, to teach at their seminary.  After ten years, however, linguistic and cultural issues led to the amicable departure from the Swedes.  It was clear that there were not ill feelings.  The Norwegians that left in 1870 split right away into two groups.  The larger was known as "the Conference of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church," or simply "the Conference."  The smaller group was the "Norwegian Augustana Synod."  In 1890, those two groups joined together anyway along with a group from the Norwegian Synod known as the "Anti-Missourian Brotherhood."  That was the merger that formed the United Norwegian Lutheran Church.

I disagree with Pr. Austin's assertion that the Swedes brought with them their historic acceptance of episcopacy.  There were isolated voices throughout the years within the Augustana (Swedish) Synod for the acceptance of historic succession, but the Swedes in that body mostly rejected any claim to be in Swedish historic succession.  Swedish immigrants came to the US for many of the same reasons that Norwegians did: financial, mostly.  Though in both countries there was resentment of the establishment, including religious establishment.  And it should also be noted that the majority of both Swedes and Norwegians, and Danes as well, did not join Lutheran churches in America.

When the Archbishop of Sweden, Nathan Soderblom, visited the US in the 1920s, he presented a pectoral cross to the president of the Swedish Augustana Synod as a sign of friendship.  Although it was accepted, it was accepted with the caveat that "we do not hereby adopt any understanding of apostolic succession in our church body" (paraphrase).  There was a strong desire among the Swedish American Lutherans to distance themselves from the State Church of Sweden.

Big topic.  Lots more to say, but I'll end it for now.   

Your Turn / Re: Yippee! LCMS-NALC discussions (And LCC too)
« on: January 07, 2012, 09:59:00 PM »
Dr. David Wendel, Ministry Coordinator, Assistant to the Bishop of the NALC is one of my best friends, and he shares the realist expectations of the NALC/LCMS talks. 

In my mind the NALC is the most exciting thing going in Lutheranism today.  While there are an infinite number of things that can go wrong, it is my judgement that the future of Lutheranism is in the NALC.  Sure, I'd like to see more Bishops than the one Presiding Bishop as the Church grows, I'd like to see an Ordained Diaconate, and I'd like to see the Western Mass as the rule, norm, and standard of the NALC.  I'd like to see less "ELCA influence" in terminology and structure, but I see this as an effect of the fact that the vast majority (all?) of the clergy came directly from there.  Perhaps when God calls Pastors from other Synods to the NALC there will be a diluting of the ELCA influenced structures and terminology (as long as LCMS structures and terminology are not the substitute).

I'm most happy to see God realigning His Evangelical Catholics in the World....who knows, it may be the NALC that brings change to our relationship to the Roman Catholic Church......hey, it could happen.......

I certainly respect the many people I know who choose to self-identify as "evangelical catholic."  I value their contributions and have been enriched by their perspectives.  But it seems to me that there is a wide diversity of meaning that gets attatched to the designation.  This is just one thing to keep in mind when thinking about "realignment of evangelical catholics." 

I would like to, as my main point, state for the record that although there is quite a bit of evangelical catholic self-identification within the NALC, the NALC is not an exclusively EC organization.  At least in its worship life at the convocations (and likely in congregations as well) it is certainly more "high church" than one would get in LCMC, but what the NALC will become in the future is still somewhat up in the air.  So far as I can tell, member congregations of the NALC come from a wide variety of places in the "lineage" of American Lutheranism, ranging from the German, eastern Muhlenberg tradition all the way to "low church" Scandinavian Pietism and everything in between.  Some of the leadership of the NALC is certainly more EC, but not all.  For example, Mark Chavez, the general secretary, used to be the director of WordAlone (and Lutheran CORE) and was therefore one of the most outspoken voices in the opposition to a mandated historic episcopate in the ELCA.  Although I don't know him all that well personally, Bishop Bradosky doesn't strike me as much of an EC adherent either.  On the last point, I certainly could be wrong and am open to correction.

As an NALC pastor currently on study leave (and LCMC), one of my hopes and dreams for the NALC is for flexibility in these matters.  I truly hope we don't tread the same difficult ground that we did leading up to 1999.  I certainly favor a strong relationship with the ACNA, dialogue with the Orthodox and RC churches, but I think there are ways of doing this that respect the variety of traditions that comprise the NALC. 

Your Turn / Re: LCMC Annual Gathering 2011 Des Moines Oct. 2-5
« on: September 28, 2011, 08:41:16 PM »
I would love to go, but being a member of both the NALC and LCMC, I have to be selective about which church gatherings I go to.

This is just a thought, but I'm thinking that it might be advantageous for LCMC and the NALC/CORE to hold their annual conventions in the same location at the same time.  This would be beneficial for at least three reasons:
1. It would make it easier for those pastors and congregations who are dually rostered.
2. It would make it easier for organizations to display their information at one location rather than having to attend separate events.
3. It would allow for more relationships to be developed between organizations and would allow for opportunities for joint worship.

Of course, both organizations would conduct their business separately, and some careful planning would have to go into scheduling and planning such a joint event, but I can see this being a lot of fun if tried.

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