Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 57 - Other Ethnic Lutheran Immigrants (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-057 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE RAST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> NICK: Now, I spent part of my childhood in Minnesota so I know we Germans are not the only Lutherans who immigrated to the United States. America's Lutherans did not only speak German and English. Can you describe for us the other ethnic Lutherans who came to the United States? Where did they settle and what did they believe? >> DR. LAWRENCE RAST: Nick, I grew up in northern Illinois, and one of the things I found out as a very young man is that German wasn't the only language that Lutherans had spoken. Like you, I had a similar experience. In fact, in my own home town, we had a variety of Lutheran churches, most of which had Scandinavian ethnic background. In fact, our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod congregation was still called, even in the 1970's, the German church. In our midst were also Finnish churches, Danish churches, Norwegian churches, Swedish churches, a variety of different Lutheran congregations from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. And what that illustrates is the presence of a variety of Lutheran synods in America. We've already talked about this variety. And as Dr. Schumacher and I have both made the point, part of the reason for the variety of these synods is a simple one: namely, ethnicity. When immigrants came to America, they had a tendency to form congregations of people of like culture and like language. And so in my home town, we found Danish, Finnish, Swedish, and so forth congregations. They were all Lutheran. They all were one form or another identifying themselves with the Lutheran tradition. Now, what does this mean in terms of the life of American Lutherans, and how does this play out? We've already seen that there were Scandinavians present in America early in the 1600's, New Sweden, 1638 to 1655, as we mentioned. But after that experiment, Scandinavian immigration tends to be very small for quite some time. Until beginning about the year 1840, things begin to change. Swedes come to northern Illinois. Norwegians do as well. They're finding their way to similar kinds of areas that the Germans are immigrating to at the same time. Part of the reason for that, as we've already mentioned, transportation routes and, we might add, the cheapness of land and the ability to acquire it. Other parts of the country have been shut off, if you will, from easy acquisition by this point in time. Hence, when these Scandinavians come in, they tend toward places like northern Illinois, Wisconsin, and your home state, Nick, namely, Minnesota. They pushed west as well into places like Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska as well. But generally speaking, you see the movement to the west and to the north, and those will be areas of a special strength. What are they like? Well, they come from a variety of backgrounds. Among the Norwegians, there are some who are radically pietistic in their commitments. A portion of this group called Helge�s Synod will trace its roots to Hans Nielsen Helge and his reforms of the first part of the 19th century. This group will see really know divinely established office of the ministry. They'll simply say it is the church�s responsibility to take care of preaching and administration of the sacraments. Other Norwegians are not convinced of that point and tend toward the more confessional Lutheran position. The Norwegian Synod, formed in 1853, for example, actually melds together very well with the perspective of the Missouri Synod. And there is significant interchange and work that is carried out jointly between the two. As a matter of fact, these Norwegians actually trained their clergy for a time at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. In addition to that work, there is the presence later on of Finns. Finns move into the area, especially in the upper peninsula of Michigan. And these Finns, too, will be of a divided mind, some more confessional, some less so. Among those confessional Finns in the north, they will ultimately arrange for training of their pastors through a Finnish professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Springfield. So you see there is some interaction between the German Missouri Synod and some of these Scandinavians. Perhaps the strongest group among these Scandinavians is the Swedish Augustana Synod formed in 1859. The Swedish Augustana Synod, well, think for a moment about the name and think for a moment about the time, late 1850's a group forming itself as Augustana, that is, basing its life and its work, it's identity if you will, on the Augsburg Confession, even in the wake of Samuel Simon Schmucker's work with the Definite Platform in 1855. This is a strong statement of Lutheran identity on the part of these Swedes. So you see a presence of a variety of Scandinavian churches, many of which are in the upper Midwest. And these traditions remain strong. Among the Norwegians, however, there will be an ongoing controversy about what is it that leads to man's election and conversion, something we've just talked about. And I think what we'll see there is an effort at maintaining the church in its integrity that leaves some points open to question. What I mean is this: Beginning in the first decade of the 20th century, the Norwegians struggle with this question of what draws us together. There are so many Norwegians in America now. Can we find a way in which we can all be in agreement and all worship together and work for the sake of the gospel? The hopeful answer is yes, but the problem they face is this question: predestination and conversion. Finally, this group works out an agreement by allowing both positions to stand. Ultimately, organic union is achieved in 1917 in one Norwegian Synod. However, in the wake of this merger, one group breaks off and moves in a new direction. This, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, saying by allowing for two competing and irreconcilable positions on conversion and election, this group has compromised its witness in the world. This group, now called the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, was formed in 1918 and later became a part of the Synodical Conference as we've already heard. Among the Swedes, the Augustana Synod continues to make a vigorous testimony to the truth of the gospel and the correctness of the Augsburg Confession. In fact, when merger appears imminent between the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South in 1917, the Augustana Synod actually pulls out of that agreement and goes on its own way. It later participates in what was called the American Lutheran Conference. However, finally, in 1962, the Augustana Synod enter into formal merger with other Lutheran synods coming together to form the Lutheran Church in America, the LCA. So like everything in American Lutheranism we see a variety among the Scandinavians. We see a variety of theological positions, a variety of practice, at the same time, a striving for means towards church union. The manner in which that answered varied among the various bodies and led to some of the divisions that we still see in our midst today. It's just one more part of the complex American Lutheran story. Nevertheless, we see in their activities one more reason for us to be aware of the variety of Lutheran expression in America and a call once more to reexamine our historical roots. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****