Author Topic: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans  (Read 7262 times)

Charles_Austin

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #15 on: May 07, 2012, 11:50:17 AM »
My mother and both my grandmothers were born in Sweden. My grandmother was living with us when I was born, and family lore says I spoke Swedish to her until I was four and she moved elsewhere. My earliest remembrances of "church" are the Julotta services at dawn on Christmas day, sitting in the balcony at Augustana Lutheran Church in Sioux City. We moved across town, but my grandmother thought I would return to Augustana when I was 12 so I could take confirmation instruction in Swedish. Since I had stopped speaking Swedish at age 4, that didn't happen.
One of my early ULCA pastors came from the Augustana background, so that influence was present in my youth.
I admit to having some biases against Norwegians instilled in me in my early days and I have asked God to remove them from me. He hasn't fully done so yet.  ;D

Wayne Kofink

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #16 on: May 07, 2012, 11:55:59 AM »
Some of the Norwegians who eventually formed the United Norwegian Lutheran Church were originally joined with the Swedes in the Scandinavian Augustana Synod. My understanding is that withdrawal of the Norwegians from the Augustana Synod in 1870 was an amicable separation. Despite Norway being under the Swedish crown, the linguistic and cultural differences were too great for both groups to work together in the same synod.

I have known several people with one Norwegian parent and one Swedish parent and in all cases the persons identified themselves as either Swedish or Norwegian, but never both. And their cultural identity determined their church affiliation. I think Brother Borisís comments are right on the mark. The Norwegian Lutherans I knew in Wisconsin (1970s) tended to regard the Swedish Lutherans as being too liberal. They wanted their children educated at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, and never considered Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, an acceptable alternative.

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #17 on: May 07, 2012, 04:50:55 PM »
The Little Norwegian Synod (known today as the ELS) broke with the LCMS in 1955.  The issue was fellowship.  Up until a few years ago, it was considered to be "old Missouri" and many conservative LCMS pastors and congregations (or portions of congregations) went to the ELS, regarding it as a conservative version of Missouri.  In recent years it has adopted the WELS (Wauwatosa) position on the ministry, breaking with H. A. Preus and the other "Missourians" of the 19th century who held to the position of C. F. W. Walther.

The three leading figures of the old Norwegian Synod were: Herman Amberg Preus, U. V. Koren, and Jacob Aall Ottesen.  Here's a paper on H. A. Preus that I gave at the Reformation Lectures at Bethany College in 2003 at the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Norwegian Synod:

http://www.christforus.org/Papers/Content/LegacyHermanAmbergPreus.html


Jeremy Loesch

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2012, 05:32:59 PM »
Thanks Rolf and everyone for the info!  Working through "Preus of Missouri" requires a scorecard I do not possess, so I appreciate everyone's time. 

Were the United Norwegian Lutheran Church the "Big Norwegians"?

And how does one pronounce "Aall"?  (The likelihood of me meeting someone with this name is quite small considering I live in Caecil Co. MD but should I ever, I would not want to embarrass myself.)

Very interesting stuff.  Thanks everyone.  Jeremy
A Lutheran pastor growing into all sorts of things.

Rev. Spaceman

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #19 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.   
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 12:45:07 AM by Rev. Spaceman »
Rev. Thomas E. Jacobson, Ph.D

Charles_Austin

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #20 on: May 07, 2012, 07:51:32 PM »
Sorry. I did not mean to imply that the Swedish Lutherans brought or sought the "historic episcopate" in the way practiced in Europe. What I meant was that they brought a different attitude towards bishops and church structures than those who came here fleeing a state church.

Rev. Spaceman

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #21 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!
Rev. Thomas E. Jacobson, Ph.D

J. Eriksson

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #22 on: May 08, 2012, 02:08:04 AM »
I am the great grandson of a pioneering Augustana Pastor.  I come from a 'long line of semi-eminent Swedish Lutheran divines' ;D witness my brag about clerical families and challenge to Dave Benke and Marie Meyer if they could beat the number of clergy at their family reunions on a thread a while ago.  Probably my great grandfather was a colleague of Eric Svenson's great grandfather in Kansas a long time ago.
1.  civil service clergy livings were done more carefully in Sweden than in Norway and the Oslo dialect was more foreign to the folks in the sticks than Swedish dialects.  (Country dialects were objects of fun/jokes /derision to the folks in Oslo.)   There was a linguistic barrier between rural folk and university trained folk in Norway.  The result was that Swedish  laypeople were friendlier and identified more with their clergy.
2. The earliest Swedish and Norwegian immigrants came to NA without the blessing of the State church  (see Moberg the Immigrants etc.) ie "it is not God's will that you desert the country of your Birth to go to NA where wild savages and sectarians reign supreme and the true Lutheran faith is not present"  In contrast to LCMS roots which were  a joint emigration of pastors and their people coming out of the Prussian Union of "Lutheran recusants' who shared the stresses and challenges of the New World with their people.  See Weedon's church's Constitution "To establish among us the office of Holy Ministry for the Salvation of Our Souls".   How many list members have parish constitutions that start this way?
 State church pastors had great difficulty adjusting to conditions in NA    see Muhlenberg's Notebook of a Colonial Clergyman, less so for pastors coming from the Bible School tradition. my ggf running into a great number of former classmates in the Seaman's missions and in NA. -
3.  Clergy vestments and collars were worn but might have been 'the cheapest available and in various styles'  Reform or Lutheran what's the diff?
4. The sponsors of early church work in NA and elsewhere were the Mission organizations not the state church.  My great grandfather went to India in 1877 sponsored by the "Evangeliska Fosterlands' Stiftelsen"  as the heat and humidity were too much for him he came to NA in 1884 
5. The Waldenstrom controversy split  went through my ggf 'alma mater' the Johannelund's Mission Institute.  He writes: "that half of the students embraced the Walderstrom position" (Mission Covenant)
6.  He was the first 'lesare' Bible Reader on his landlords farm and subjected to some ridicule.
7. It was legal to pay farm workers partly in kind with Branvin distilled booze,  both in Sweden and Norway (see the economics of the US whiskey rebellion) and in many parishes at that time in Sweden every head of the household had an alcohol problem.   As a teamster he was  invited to have a drink to keep him warm and his reply was that those who do are often found frozen to death in the winter,  or when chucked out of the inn  forced to burrow into the manure pile to keep warm.  He got to sleep on the bar-room floor because he was sober.  As a result Scandinavian pietism reacted strongly against this most common and visible social illness.(source  family lore plus personal experience)
8.  Source Family lore;  'a comment on someone expelled from 'theological faculty in Sweden'  "it must have been theft,  they would not expel him for drunkenness or adultery".

9. If any list members have roots/family ties/ experience in Ishpeming, Michigan or in Kingsburg, California.  I wouldn't  mind if they contacted me.   


Best to all
James
I'm not a pastor.  Please don't call me one.

wgross

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #23 on: May 08, 2012, 11:44:10 AM »
Rev. Spaceman (reply 21) points out that some Swedes believed that the Episcopal Church was more representative of the Church of Sweden than was any Swedish-American synod. In his classic study of immigration, The Uprooted, Oscar Handlin stated that the Church of Sweden actually advised emigrants to join the Episcopal Church. I believe that I have read this elsewhere, too, but I don't when this policy started or for how long it lasted. I would be interested to know more about this.

William G. Ross

George Erdner

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #24 on: May 08, 2012, 01:07:02 PM »
Rev. Spaceman (reply 21) points out that some Swedes believed that the Episcopal Church was more representative of the Church of Sweden than was any Swedish-American synod. In his classic study of immigration, The Uprooted, Oscar Handlin stated that the Church of Sweden actually advised emigrants to join the Episcopal Church. I believe that I have read this elsewhere, too, but I don't when this policy started or for how long it lasted. I would be interested to know more about this.

William G. Ross

That's not a difficult position to understand, though I don't agree with it. What follows is my best recollection of an explanation as to why some non-Roman Catholic state churches in Europe recommended that when their people immigrated to the US, they join the Episcopal Church.
 
The founding principle behind some European state churches was that there is only one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, but for the sake of good order, God established individual nation-states with kings who ruled by His divine right. Therefore, while the Bishop of Rome was established by God as head of the Church in his area of jurisdiction, the divinely anointed king of other nations was to appoint a local bishop (or Archbishop) as head of the church in his kingdom. Hence, the Church of England was the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church establishment in England, the Church of Sweden was the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church establishment in Sweden, etc. As a representative republic, with no king and a prohibition of any sort of established state church in America, there was no established Church of the USA. However, the Episcopal Church, as the successor to the Church of England when what is now the USA used to be part of England, the Episcopal church would be closer to the mythical "Church of the USA" than any other church body in existence at the time.
 
As I said, this is what I recall being taught during my high school Sunday School classes. I'm not saying it's something formally proclaimed by European bishops as doctrine. It's more along the lines of the advice that some Europeans gave to their friends and associates who were leaving for America. It might even have been coming more from European secular politicians than from European churchmen. I've seen very little reference to this sort of explanation for how the Protestant state churches in Europe saw themselves. The whole argument strikes me as more likely coming from European politicians seeking to maintain control over the local state church than anything else.
 
Addendum:
 
I did a little more research after posting this, which is why I highlighted that last sentence. The explanation I repeated was a secular, political position made by politicians. It's only peripherally a part of church history. It's more properly a part of secular history in regards by attempts made by politicians to dominate and control the religious establishment for their own purposes. Also, it was a position held by some politicians, not necessarily the majority in any Parliament or royal court.
 
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 02:19:37 PM by George Erdner »

Charles_Austin

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #25 on: May 08, 2012, 01:33:42 PM »
People who understand church history will have to speak up here. I just don't have the desire to explain anymore.

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #26 on: May 08, 2012, 02:14:54 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
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James_Gale

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #27 on: May 08, 2012, 02:40:51 PM »
Rev. Spaceman (reply 21) points out that some Swedes believed that the Episcopal Church was more representative of the Church of Sweden than was any Swedish-American synod. In his classic study of immigration, The Uprooted, Oscar Handlin stated that the Church of Sweden actually advised emigrants to join the Episcopal Church. I believe that I have read this elsewhere, too, but I don't when this policy started or for how long it lasted. I would be interested to know more about this.

William G. Ross

Early on, there no doubt was some of this.  And the Church of Sweden expressed its unhappiness that Augustana refused  persistently to accept episcopal ordination from the Swedish church.  Even so, by the turn of the 20th century, the Church of Sweden had designated Augustana as the "Daughter Church in America."  Augustana viewed the willingness to bestow this designation as vindication of the Confessional principle that "the Lutheran Church has no set system of church government or polity."   

Rev. Spaceman

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #28 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.
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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #29 on: May 08, 2012, 02:57:01 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.

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