Archive for the ‘General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America’ Tag

Feast of Frederick Hermann Knubel (May 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of the United Lutheran Church in America

Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FREDERICK HERMANN KNUBEL (MAY 22, 1870-OCTOBER 16, 1945)

President of The United Lutheran Church in America

This post depends almost entirely upon The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962, begun by E. Theodore Bachmann, who died before he completed the process of writing the volume.  His wife, Mercia Brenne Bachmann, finished the book, which Paul Rorem edited.  The Fortress Press, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, published the volume in 1997.

Lutheran history interests me.  I find that learning about various strands of that tradition enriches my life.  I am glad to know about Frederick Hermann Knubel and to write about him.

One strand of Lutheranism in the United States dates to the colonial era, predating the founding of the Ministerium of North America (later renamed the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States) in 1748.  Subsequent Lutheran history reveals the formation of offshoot synods and other synods, most of them defined by state lines or by regions.  One can also read of the formation of the federation (as opposed to denomination) called The Evangelical Lutheran General Synod of the United States of America in 1820 and of the continuing formation of synods, not all of which affiliated with the General Synod.  Lutheran history also tells of the defection of the synods comprising The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Confederate States of America in 1863, known as The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from 1866 to 1886, when the addition of the Holston and Tennessee Synods created The United Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the South.  Furthermore, one can read of the split of the synods comprising the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America from the General Synod (1820) in 1867.

Frederick Hermann Knubel hailed from the Synod of New York and New Jersey, affiliated with the General Synod (1820).  Our saint, born in Greenwich Village, New York, New York, on May 22, 1870, grew up in a devout German Lutheran family.  He was the fourth child and first son of Frederick Knubel (a successful businessman) and Anna Knubel (Knubel), each of whom came from a different branch of the same family in Bremerhaven, Bremen, Germany.  Frederick the elder, a pillar of the church, was a trustee of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, just two blocks away from the family’s home.  Young Frederick, a second-generation American, grew up in a bilingual home.

Our saint planned originally to follow in his father’s footsteps, but changed his mind at the age of 19 years.  The vocation to ordained ministry led young Knubel away from the City College of New York and Packard’s Business College to Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg College) then to the seminary, both in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He spent six years in Gettysburg, starting in 1889.  The theological position of the seminary was a mild confessionalism that emphasized the catholic, not the exclusive, nature of Lutheranism.  That stance, which defined the General Synod, also marked Knubel’s theology subsequently.

The seminary graduate married in 1895 then spent a year with his wife in Leipzig, Germany.  Knubel married Christine Ritscher, of Jersey City, New Jersey, in June.  Our saint’s parents helped generously with finances as our saint studied theology at Leipzig University.  Decades later Knubel recalled,

When I left Gettysburg, I felt I had the answers.  But after a year at Leipzig I had a far deeper appreciation of the questions.

Back in the United States Knubel built up a new congregation.  He, ordained in New York City on October 17, 1896, became a mission developer for the Synod of New York and New Jersey.  From 1897 to 1918 he was pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement, a mission of St. John’s, Greenwich Village.  (Since 1927 the congregation has been Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church, due to a merger with the Church of Our Saviour.)  Atonement was Knubel’s only pastorate.  In 1907 it had about 1,000 baptized members, ranging from the rich to the poor.  A decade later that number had increased to about 3,500.  At Atonement Knubel demonstrated his support for the deaconess movement.  Deaconess Jennie Christ, who became our saint’s second wife decades later, arrived in the parish in 1903.

The Knubels had two children, both of whom spent their lives in Christian service.  Frederick Knubel Ritscher (1897-1957), a minister, served as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Rochester, New York, from 1921 to 1944 then as the President of the Synod of New York and New England (in The United Lutheran Church in America) from 1945 to 1957.  Helen Knubel (1901-1992), who contracted polio at the age of 16 years and spent the rest of her life confined to a wheelchair, became the greatest Lutheran archivist in North America.

Our saint was an ecumenist.  He belonged to Koinonia, a group of Lutheran clergymen in New York City founded in 1896.  The members hailed from various synods–Missouri, Joint Ohio, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, and affiliates of the General Synod (1820) and the General Council (1867).  At each meeting a member presented a paper, which the group discussed.  Sometimes the ministers took communion, despite the policy of closed communion in some of the synods.  In January 1916 Knubel was a General Synod delegate to an American regional missionary conference related to the Faith and Order movement, a precursor of the World Council of Churches.  Some other U.S. Lutheran bodies, distrustful of unionism, boycotted the gathering, however.

1917 and 1918 were eventful years in U.S. Lutheranism.  1917 was the four hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.  It was also the year the United States entered World War I.  That conflict stirred up intolerance domestically.  German Americans and other groups of foreign origin became suspect to many.  Danish, Swedish, German, and Norwegian Americans, among others, became targets of state laws that banned church services in foreign languages.  Vigilantes attacked churches of Christian Reformed, ethnic Lutheran, and other affiliations.  This period expedited the transition to the English language in more than one denomination.

The member synods of the General Synod were among the oldest of the U.S. Lutheran bodies, and were therefore more culturally assimilated than the two Danish-American synods, for example.  Nevertheless, even the General Synod Lutherans had to defend their American patriotism in 1917 and 1918.  Outside pressure on Lutherans from nativists, combined with the anniversary of the Reformation, spurred on inter-Lutheran ecumenism.  The National Lutheran Commission for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Welfare formed on October 19, 1917; Knubel became its president.  Also, the Lutheran Brotherhood of America formed on November 6, 1917, and the National Lutheran Council came into being in September 1918.  In 1917 three Norwegian-American synods, which had already produced The Lutheran Hymnary (1913), reunited to constitute the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, later renamed the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Meanwhile, the reunion of the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod of the South, which had produced the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917), was proceeding according to schedule.

The United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), a denomination, although not a relatively decentralized one, formed in New York City on November 14, 1918.  Knubel, who had served on the Deaconess Board and the Inner Mission Board of the General Synod (1820), became the first president of the new body.  He served a consecutive series of two-year terms until December 31, 1944.  Knubel presided over the consolidation of ULCA, formed with overlapping magazines, agencies, and synods.  He also shepherded ULCA through good times and bad times, from the Roaring Twenties through the Great Depression, and into World War II.

Knubel was an advocate of ecumenism.  He favored the Federal Council of Churches, a predecessor of the National Council of Churches.  He, a mildly Confessional Lutheran, laid the foundation for greater Lutheran unity as he led his denomination into dialogues with more conservative bodies, including the Missouri Synod and the 1930-1960 iteration of The American Lutheran Church.  They objected to, among other facts, ULCA’s rejection of Biblical inerrancy.  ULCA’s position was that the Bible is authoritative because it communicates the Word of God, defined as the saving message of God.  During World War II U.S. Lutheran denominations cooperated in providing pastoral care to German prisoners of war and increased their collaboration in domestic missions.  Knubel approved of this ecumenical activity.

On the personal front, Christine Ritscher Knubel, our saint’s wife since 1895, died in December 1923.  He married Deaconess Jennie Christ in 1925.  In 1944 Knubel, whose health was failing, did not seek another term as president.  The convention elected Franklin Clark Fry (1900-1968), to succeed him.  Knubel’s retirement was brief; he died on October 16, 1945.  His children and second wife survived him.

From the beginning of Knubel’s tenure to the end thereof, membership in ULCA had increased from 1.1 million to 1.7 million.

At Knubel’s funeral, held at Our Saviour’s Atonement Church, New York City, Fry said of his predecessor,

God gave our father a marvelous degree of wisdom….By his gracious Christian churchmanship, loving and shepherding men of various views, many a breach was prevented and many a wound never occurred.  This was what made our Church strong.  Indeed, it has gone far to make it possible….There need be no turning back for the United Lutheran Church, there can be a steady going forward into the future.  It will be a natural outgrowth of our late president’s judgment and his vision.

Frederick Hermann Knubel served God faithfully during his 75 years.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 22, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT SEAGRAVE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Frederick Hermann Knubel,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of John Christian Frederick Heyer, Bartholomeaus Ziegengbalg, and Ludwig Nommensen (November 7)   2 comments

Jerusalem Cross

Above:  The Jerusalem Cross

Image in the Public Domain

Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them.  When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated.  Jesus came up and spoke to them.  He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.  And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”

–Matthew 25:16-20, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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JOHN CHRISTIAN FREDERICK HEYER (JULY 10, 1793-NOVEMBER 7, 1873)

Lutheran Missionary in the United States and India

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BARTHOLOMAEUS ZIEGENBALG, JR. (JULY 10, 1682-FEBRUARY 23, 1719)

Lutheran Missionary to the Tamils

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LUDWIG INGWER NOMMENSEN (FEBRUARY 6, 1834-MAY 23, 1918)

Lutheran Missionary to Sumatra and Apostle to the Batak

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INTRODUCTION

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These three saints share the same feast day on the calendar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

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JOHN CHRISTIAN FREDERICK HEYER

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“Father” John Christian Frederick Heyer (born Johann Christian Friedrich Heyer on July 10, 1793) was a dedicated missionary.  He, a native of Helmstedt, Lower Saxony, was son of Fredericke Sophie Johane Wagener and Johann Heinrich Gottlieb Heyer, a furrier.  Our saint, confirmed at Helmstedt in 1807, left Europe at a young age.  His parents sent him to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where an uncle was a hatter and a furrier.  Heyer studied theology at Philadelphia then, starting in 1815, the University of Gottingen, having taught at Zion School, Philadelphia, from 1813 to 1815.  In 1816 he returned to the United States and became a licensed lay preacher.  Three years later he married Mary Gash (died in 1839), a widow with two children.  The couple had six children from 1818 to 1827.  Heyer, ordained in 1820, was a missionary in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and other states for two decades.  He founded congregations in states from New York and Pennsylvania to Missouri.  Heyer, as an agent (1829-1831) of the Sunday School Union of the Lutheran Church in the United States, organized Sunday Schools.  He also served as the founding pastor (1837-1840) of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the first English-speaking Lutheran church west of the Allegheny Mountains.  And, in 1829, our saint helped to found what became Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Then a different mission field beckoned.  Heyer learned Sanskrit then left for India, where he served from 1842 to 1845 and from 1847 to 1857 under the auspices of the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States.  He was the first U.S. Lutheran missionary overseas.  In India Heyer founded what became the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (constituted in 1927).  Between stints in India our saint served as the pastor of St. John’s Church, Baltimore, Maryland, and earned his M.D. degree from the School of Medicine of the University of Maryland.  Back in India Heyer worked from two locations, but mainly from Rajahmundry (now in the territory of the Church of South India), site of a mission statement the North German Missionary Society could no longer afford to maintain.  He also built schools and hospitals.

 In 1857 the 60-year-old Heyer returned to the United States.  William Passavant (1821-1894) recruited our saint to undertake German-language missions in Minnesota, under the auspices of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of East Pennysylvania.  In 1860 Heyer founded the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Minnesota and Other States.  He continued to work in the Midwest until 1869.

Heyer’s third missionary stint in India, under the auspices of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, from 1869 to 1871.  He returned to Rajahmundry, where he reorganized the work of the mission station rather than transfer it to the (Anglican) Church Mission Society.

Heyer returned to the United States again in 1871.  The following year he became the chaplain and house father of the new Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  He continued this work until he died on November 17, 1873.  He was 80 years old.

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BARTHOLOMAEUS ZIEGENBALG, JR.

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Bartholomeaus Ziegenbalg, Jr., had a shorter life yet left no less impressive a legacy.  The native of Pulsnitz, Saxony, born on July 10, 1682, was son of Maria Bruckner (1646-1692) and Bartholomeaus Ziegenbalg, Sr. (1640-1694), a grain merchant.  Our saint studied at the University of Halle before becoming, with Heinrich Plutschau, under the patronage of King Frederick IV of Denmark (reigned 1699-1730), half of the first Protestant missionary team in India.  The two arrived at Tranquebar, a Danish colony, on July 9, 1706.  He remained in India for most of the rest of his life, spending about two years (1714-1716) in Europe.

Zieganbalg’s time in India was eventful.  He spent two short terms (a few months each) in jail–once due to a dispute regarding whether the baptism of the child of a Danish soldier and a non-Christian woman should occur in a Roman Catholic or a Protestant church and once because of a dispute with some Hindus who objected to the fact that he was converting other Hindus to Christianity.  Ziegenbalg also argued with Brahmins about the poor treatment of lower-caste Hindus, established a Tamil printing press, and used it.  Our saint, married in 1716, published hymnals, catechisms, and part of the Bible in the Tamil language.  He also translated the New Testament (1708-1711; published in 1715) and the Old Testament through the Book of Ruth prior to dying on February 23, 1719, aged 36 years.

Ziegenbalg, unlike Heyer, cooperated across denominational lines.  He considered missionaries of the (Anglican) Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) his partners, not his rivals.

Ziegenbalg contended with challenges in his work as a missionary.  There were, of course, hostility from Hindus and competition from Roman Catholic priests.   The weather–the heat and the wind–were physical challenges.  Racism, cultural imperialism, and ethnocentrism on the part of colonists, who looked down upon Tamils and did not want to grant them access to colonists’ congregations, were other obstacles.  Ziegenbalg had to found a Tamil congregation, the Church of the New Jerusalem, in fact.  He recognized the fact that the church in India needed to be Indian, not European.  This was not obvious to many Europeans in India at the time as well as later, but it proved to be correct and prescient.

At the time of Ziegenbalg’s death his legacy consisted of two church buildings, a seminary, and about 250 baptized Christians, plus the products of his printing press.  That legacy has grown to include the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (constituted in 1919), with roots in his missionary efforts.

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LUDWIG INGWER NOMMENSEN

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Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen, born on February 6, 1834, became the “Apostle to the Batak” on the island of Sumatra, in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).  His mother was Anna Nommensen and his father was Peter Nommensen.  The native of Nordstrand, North Frisia, Denmark, had overcome, partly by prayer, the inability to walk in 1846-1849, after a horse cart crushed his legs.  From 1857 to 1862 he prepared to become a missionary under the auspices of the Rhenish Missionary Society, which sent him to Sumatra.

Nommensen worked among the Batak people.  He arrived in 1862.  By 1865 he had converted about 2000 people.  Many of these individuals, who had to leave their homes and villages, resided in the Village of Peace, which Nommensen had founded.  Meanwhile, Nommensen translated the New Testament; he completed that task in 1878.  he also married Margarethe Carolina Gutbrod (died in Germany in 1887), his first wife, in 1866.  The couple had six children, two of whom died in the Dutch East Indies–in 1868 and 1872.

Nommensen’s success as a missionary attracted both friendly and hostile attention.  In 1878, during a conflict between certain natives and the Dutch colonial government, he functioned as a translator for and a consultant to the Dutch colonial army.  Our saint’s purpose was to protect Christian villagers, who, like Dutch colonists, were targets of certain Batak potentates.  Many of the Batak people came to perceive Nommensen as their protectors against Dutch influences.  He also survived attempts to kill him.

Nommensen, much like Ziegenbalg before him, was a translator and writer.  He translated the New Testament into Batak, for example.  He also translated Martin Luther’s Small Catechism and wrote a book of Bible stories as well as a series of booklets.  He also wrote about 40 articles for mission journals.

The missionary, who relocated on Sumatra in 1885, remarried seven years later.  He and Anna Magdalena Christina Harder (died in 1909), had at least two children.  Our saint built up an indigenous church that, as of his death on May 23, 1918, had about 180,000 members, 34 indigenous pastors, 788 teachers, and 500 congregations.  The Batak Christian Protestant Church became independent in 1931.

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CONCLUSION

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I like the coincidence of celebrating the lives and living legacies of these three pioneering missionaries on the same date as Sts. Willibrord and Boniface, also apostles to unchurched populations.   The reason for the coincidence is the death of Father Heyer on November 7, the Feast of St. Willibrord on the Roman Catholic calendar of saints.  I also notice that Nommensen was a native of Frisia, an area evangelized by Sts. Willibrord and Boniface.  He owed his faith partially to their missionary endeavors.  And others, of course, owe their faith partially to his work or to that of Heyer or Ziegenbalg.

That faith we give away which we take with us to Heaven.  One might not travel to a remote location and risk martyrdom; that is not God’s call upon the life of everyone.  To share one’s faith, however, is a mandate for all who have faith in God in Christ.  However and wherever God commands you to do this, O reader, may you do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED TENNYSON, ENGLISH POET

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM FOSTER, ENGLISH MORAVIAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWNLIE, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servants

John Christian Frederick Heyer, who made the good news known in the United States and India;

Bartholomeaus Ziegenbalg, Jr., who made the good news known to the Tamils in India; and

Ludwig Nommensen, who made the good news known to the Batak on Sumatra.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of George Henry Trabert (September 16)   1 comment

Trabert

Above:  George Henry Trabert

Image Source = http://www.hymntime.com/tch/bio/t/r/a/trabert_gh.htm

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GEORGE HENRY TRABERT (OCTOBER 16, 1843-SEPTEMBER 15, 1931)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Missionary, and Hymn Translator and Author

How often have you, O reader, read the names of authors and translators of hymns and wondered who those people were?  How often have you wanted to learn their stories?  Such inquisitiveness prompted me to learn and write about George Henry Trabert.

Trabert wrote hymns, translated 40 Swedish hymns into English, served as the first English-language missionary for the Augustana Synod in Minnesota, wrote works of church history, and founded then led a social services agency.  He left a great legacy, to the glory of God.

Our saint’s story began with two German immigrants, Christopher A. Trabert and Fredericka Stappf Trabert.  They settled in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  There our saint entered the world on October 16, 1843.  At the time of the U.S. Census of 1850 the Trabert household consisted of the parents, our saint, John William Trabert (aged four years), and Anna S. Trabert (aged two years).  The family remained intact for the next decade; a new brother, Christian E. Trabert, was present at the time of the U.S. Census of 1860.

Our saint grew up and left the nest.  In 1867 he graduated from Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Three years later he completed his studies at and graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  By then he was a married man, having wed Mary Elizabeth “Lizzie” Minnigh (June 5, 1842-January 15, 1930), of Gettysburg, at St. James Evangelical Lutheran Church there on June 23, 1869.  The German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States ordained Trabert in 1870.

The first stage of Trabert’s career occurred in Pennsylvania.  His first pastorate was Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Ephrata, where he served until 1873.  From 1873 to 1877 Trabert was the pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Elizabethtown, and Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Mount Joy.  Then, from 1877 to the end of 1882, he served as pastor of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lebanon.

Meanwhile, on the home front, our saint’s household was growing in number.  Children born were:

  1. Charles Luther Trabert (1871-1945);
  2. Ernest E. Trabert (born circa 1873);
  3. George Christopher Trabert (1874-1886), who died of diptheria;
  4. Elizabeth F. Trabert (born circa 1876);
  5. Paul Melancthon Trabert (1878-1886), who died of diptheria;
  6. Elsie Amelia Trabert (1879-1886), who died of diptheria; and
  7. Ruth E. Trabert (born circa 1881), who became Ruth E. Smith.

Augustana Synod Logo

Above:  Logo of the Augustana Synod

Effective January 1, 1883, Trabert became a missionary for the Augustana Synod, which was of Swedish immigrant origin.  Both the Ministerium of Pennyslvania and the Augustana Synod belonged to the same umbrella organization, the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918).  The Augustana Synod, which retained the use of the Swedish language into the twentieth century, undertook some missionary work in the English language.  Trabert became their first English-language missionary in Minnesota.  His tenure in the Augustana Synod lasted until 1892.  Trabert, supported also by St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, organized four churches in Minneapolis, one in St. Paul, one in Red Wing, and one in Duluth.  The first two congregations were St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis (organized June 8, 1883), and Memorial English Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Paul (organized July 24, 1883).  These churches became the cradle of the General Synod’s English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest (1891).  Other congregations Trabert organized included St. Paul English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Redwing (1884); Elim English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Duluth (1890); and Salem English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis (1890).  There were also, of course, other English-language Lutheran missionaries organizing and leading congregations in Minnesota and neighboring territories and states, as well as southern Canada.

The legacy of Memorial English Evangelical Lutheran Church, St. Paul, has survived via a series of mergers.  In 1910 the congregation consolidated with St. James English Evangelical Lutheran Church to form Reformation Lutheran Church.  In 1977 that congregation consolidated with St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church (founded in 1917) to create St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church.

On the home front joy and sorrow marked the Traberts’ life together.  Three children died of diptheria in November 1886, but five new members joined the family from 1883 to 1892:

  1. William Henry Trabert (1883-1906),
  2. Allen Trabert (born circa 1884),
  3. Maude Trabert (born circa 1886),
  4. Arthur Trabert (born circa 1889), and
  5. Earl Trabert (born circa 1892).

In 1892 Trabert resigned as the pastor of St. John’s, Minneapolis, and returned to Pennsylvania, where he remained for a few years.  He served at St. Paul’s, Warren, from 1892 to 1896 before transferring to St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Wilkes-Barre, which he left in 1897.  Minnesota beckoned again.

Salem Lutheran Church

Source = The Minneapolis Journal, Saturday, June 25, 1904, page 10

Accessed via newspapers.com

From 1897 to 1920 Trabert served as the pastor of Salem English Evangelical Lutheran  Church, Minneapolis.  (He had organized that congregation seven years prior.)  While there our saint served beyond the local church.  He was, for example, the President of the Synod of the Northwest from 1901 to 1905.  Furthermore, Trabert became involved in providing social services.

Trabert founded the Lutheran Inner Mission Society of Minneapolis in 1905 and served as its president until 1915.  This organization merged with The Colony of Mercy (founded in 1919) to become the Inner Mission Society in 1922.  Five years later the Inner Mission Society changed its name to The Lutheran Welfare Society, which, in 1963, merged with the Board of Christian Service (late of the Minnesota Conference of the Augustana Synod) to create Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.  The Inner Mission Society named the Hospice (more of a hotel) for Young Women, capable of housing 78 residents in the original structure and 92 more in the annex), acquired in 1919, Trabert Hall in honor of our saint.

Trabert retired in 1920, having lived for 76 years and served as an active minister for half a century.  He remained in Minneapolis.  At the time of the U.S. Census of 1920 his household included his beloved Lizzie (77); a daughter, Ruth (38); her husband, Rolland A. Smith (40); and their children, Charles P. Smith (6) and Priscilla E. Smith (newborn).  Lizzie died on January 15, 1930, after 60 years of marriage.  Trabert continued to live with Ruth and her family until he died, aged 87 years, on September 15, 1931.

Trabert left a written legacy also.  He translated 40 Swedish hymns into English and wrote at least two original hymns.  (I have located four of these texts and added them to my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.)  He also translated The Life of Luther in Picture and Verse, by J. A. Darmstedter, from German into English in 1879.  Furthermore, Trabert wrote the following published works:

  1. Genuine vs. Spurious Revivals:  A Tract (1876);
  2. The Mode of Baptism as Taught in God’s Word:  A Sermon Preached in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Elizabethtown and Mount Joy, Pa. (1876);
  3. Ebenezer:  An Address Delivered in St. John’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minn. (1890);
  4. Historical Sketch of the Mission of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Among the Telugus of India (1890);
  5. Church History for the People (1897);
  6. Questions and Answers on Luther’s Small Catechism:  For the Use of the Church, School and Family (1911); and
  7. English Lutheranism in the Northwest (1914).

Dorris A. Flesner wrote a biography, George Henry Trabert:  Pioneer English Lutheran Home Missionary in Minnesota (1985).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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God of grace and glory, we praise you for your servant George Henry Trabert,

who made the good news known in Minnesota.

Raise up, we pray, in every country, heralds of the gospel,

so that the world may know the immeasurable riches of your love,

and be drawn to worship you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Isaiah 62:1-7

Psalm 48

Romans 10:11-17

Luke 24:44-53

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 59

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Feast of Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell (September 5)   2 comments

Augustana Synod Logo

Above:  Logo of the Augustana Synod

Image in the Public Domain

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CARL JOHANNES SODERGREN (SEPTEMBER 5, 1870-NOVEMBER 2, 1949)

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Theologian

colleague of

CLAUS AUGUST WENDELL (APRIL 24, 1866-SEPTEMBER 18, 1950)

Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Theologian

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THE CONTEXT

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Both saints I am adding to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days with this post were ministers of the Augustana Synod, formed in 1860 by Swedish Lutheran immigrants to the United States.

When I draft a blog post adding someone to the Ecumenical Calendar I seek to present information in an orderly manner.  This entails avoiding the temptation to chase too many proverbial rabbits.  Know then, O reader, that I understand far more about the Augustana Synod then I will reveal in this post, which is about Sodergren and Wendell, not the synod.  If you want to read more about the Augustana Synod, consult C. Everett Arden, Augustana Heritage:  A History of the Augustana Lutheran Church (1963), published during the year following the Augustana Synod’s merger into the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987).

The Augustana Synod had several names during its lifetime.  It formed as the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America.  In 1894 the denomination dropped “Swedish” from its name.  Then, in 1948, the body became the Augustana Lutheran Church.  The Augustana Synod was originally ethnically Swedish, worshiping in that language.  By the end of the nineteenth century, however, the question of how often to use English was a subject of serious debate.  Our saints argued for the greater use of the English language in worship, for they understood that there the future of the synod lay.  The Augustana Synod made that transition, but not without much sturn und drang.  The fact of nativism in the United States during World War I did much to accelerate that process.

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CARL J. SODERGREN (I)

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Carl Johannes Sodergren, born on September 5, 1870, at LaPorte, Indiana, was a child of Swedish immigrants.  His mother was Brita Sodergren (1847-1919) and his father was the Reverend Carl Henrik Sodergren (1840-1905).  Young Carl studied at Augustana College and Theological Seminary (one institution until 1948), Rock Island, Illinois, graduating as the valedictorian in June 1891.

Biographical information about Sodergren has proven difficult to find, but I have been able to determine certain facts about him:

  1. He became a minister in the Augustana Synod.
  2. On June 30, 1897, at Chesterville, Texas, Sodergren married Elizabeth Chester (1873-1958).
  3. The couple had five children:  Carl Wendell (1898-1963)Una Elizabeth (1900-1985), Miriam Agatha (1904-1978), Anita Linnea (1907-1991), and Leila Ingeborg (1909-1911).
  4. The Augustana Synod designated the Lutheran Companion as its official English-language magazine in 1911.  Sodergren served as its editor, vacating that post in 1915.
  5. In 1913 Sodergren joined the theological faculty at Augustana College and Theological Seminary.  The installation ceremony occurred on March 11.

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CLAUS A. WENDELL (I)

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Claus August Wendell was a Swedish immigrant.  He, born Claus August Anderson at Sodia Ving, Vastergotland, on April 24, 1866, was a child of Lars Gustav Anderson, a farmer.  The family relocated to the United States when our saint was three years old and settled at Sycamore, Illinois.  Claus attended the country school there then studied at the Academy at Augustana College and Theological Seminary then at the college proper.  (Many colleges in the United States used to have academies and high schools attached to them.)  Our saint, as a young man, persuaded his parents to relocate to Rock Island, Illinois, where he graduated from the college with his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1893.  Claus, who changed his last name legally to Wingquist then to Wendell, remained in Rock Island for a few years, filling in the chair of English literature and philosophy (who was on a leave of absence) in 1894 then working on his Master of Arts degree (awarded in 1897).

Wendell married Anna Charlotte Norlin (1872-1965) in 1897.  The couple had two daughters, Anna Theolinda (born circa 1899) and Margaret (born circa 1909).

Wendell worked as an educator then a journalist for a few years.  He taught history at Rock Island High School from 1897 to 1902.  Then he joined the fifth estate.  Meanwhile Wendell was undertaking theological studies under the guidance of Dr. Conrad Emil Lindberg (1852-1930), who taught systematic theology at Augustana College and Theological Seminary from 1890 to 1930.  Lindberg, the most influential teacher in the Augustana Synod for a time, was, according to G. Everett Arden,

a conservative Lutheran, who saw the theology of the sixteenth century through the spectacles of the seventeenth-century Lutheran orthodox scholastics.

Augustana Heritage, 249

Wendell, ordained in 1905, served as the pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Rockford, Illinois, then of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Evanston, Illinois.  In 1914 he transferred to Grace Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota, from which he retired in 1947.  Wendell doubled as a staff correspondent for the Lutheran Companion, working under the editor, Carl J. Sodergren.

In 1918 and 1919 Wendell helped to found the Lutheran Bible Institute, located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  This proved to be ironic, for The Bible Banner, the Institutes’s official organ, championed fundamentalism, which Wendell opposed.

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SCIENCE AND REVELATION

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Sodergren and Wendell were, by the standards of the Augustana Synod in the early twentieth century, liberals.

I use that term precisely, not loosely (as many do) or as an invective (as many also do), because they were liberals, not revolutionaries.  If one uses the analogy or reinventing the wheel, one finds the following statements to be accurate:

  1. A reactionary thinks that the current wheel is nouveau and prefers the previous design.
  2. A conservative proposes that the wheel is fine as it is.
  3. A liberal agrees that the design of the wheel is generally sound yet requires some modification.
  4. A revolutionary argues that the current design of the wheel is flawed beyond repair and therefore favors reinventing it.

Sodergren and Wendell were Confessional Lutherans who belonged to a Confessional Lutheran denomination.  They affirmed such core Lutheran doctrines as baptismal regeneration and consubstantiation.  They stood within their tradition and argued by arguing for its continued relevance by avoiding the rigidity of fundamentalism on one side and the denial of Christ on the other side.  They stood in the theological lineage of St. Clement of Alexandria (died 210/215), who affirmed the validity of proved knowledge, regardless of its source.  Sodergren and Wendell stood in the best tradition of Christianity with regard to the reconciliation of faith and reason, along with luminaries such as St. Albert the Great, Robert Grosseteste, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Pope Sylvester II (died 1003).

Charles Darwin did not originate the Theory of Evolution, but he did write two seminal books on the subject and became a proverbial lightning rod.  The debate over the relationship of faith and science, especially evolution, spread to the Augustana Synod.  In the December 16, 1914, issue  of the Lutheran Companion Sodergren, as editor, scandalized many in his denomination by waiting the following in the publication:

The time has arrived, it appears, for someone to say that the theory of evolution is not necessarily atheistic, and that is might be quite consistent with the Bible and with a Christian belief in God as the Creator of heaven and earth.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 285

The fact that Sodergren published that editorial in character, for he had already advocated for the acceptance of modern Biblical criticism, such as saying that Moses did not write the Torah, that the Bible contradicts itself in places, and that David did not write all those Psalms attributed to him.  Sodergren had balanced this position by arguing for the “plenary inspiration of the Bible,” meaning that the Bible is the inspired word of God and is normative for faith and practices but without committing to any particular theory of inspiration.

In 1925 Sodergren published a book, Fundamentalists and Modernists.  He affirmed Christ while rejecting fundamentalism, advocating for a form of evangelical confessionalism instead.  His evangelical confessionalism valued both faith and scholarly investigation, including history and science.  Sodergren’s form of Christianity openly rejected the verbal inspiration of the Bible.  That theory, he insisted, was inconsistent with the reality that divine inspiration has a human element to it.  The theory of verbal inspiration of scripture, Sodergren wrote, tended toward the heresy of docetism, which stated that Christ only seemed to be human.  Furthermore, Sodergren wrote, the classic Lutheran confessions of faith do not affirm the verbal inspiration of the Bible.

Wendell, in The Larger Vision:  A Study of the Evolution Theory in Its Relation to the Christian Faith (1923), also affirmed the science, especially evolution.  God is the source of both science and revelation, he wrote.  Wendell also affirmed salvation via Christ in that book and in a chapter in What is Lutheranism? (1930), edited by Vergilius Ferm.  Wendell summarized Lutheranism this way:

Lutheranism then we should say, means three things:  (1) It means adherence to the Confessions, comprising the Book of Concord, not as so many cement walls for man’s incarceration but as a witness to the faith of the fathers and a guide to their followers.  (2)  Faith in the Holy Scriptures, not as a fetish on the one hand nor a mere human document on the other, nor as an arsenal of theological polemics, nor as a textbook of history and natural science, but the inspired Word of God, whose purposes it is to make us wise unto salvation; and (3) Above all else, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not as a mere reformer or teacher or “pattern for young men,” but as the Redeemer of the world and the everlasting Rock upon which the church is built.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 286

That answer did not satisfy ultraconservatives within the Augustana Synod.  Vocal critics were legion.  The Bible Banner heaped scorn on Ferm and Wendell, both of whom Dr. Samuel Miller, head of the Lutheran Bible Institute, attempted to have the Augustana Synod expel from the denomination on charges of heresy.

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THE AMERICAN LUTHERAN CONFERENCE (1930-1954)

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The Augustana Synod, a longtime (1870-1918) member of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918), withdrew from that umbrella organization rather than merge into the mainly ethnically German United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA).  Opposition to ULCA prompted mergers and closer cooperation among certain more conservative Lutheran denominations.  The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960) was the union of several relatively conservative and mostly Midwestern synods.  In 1930 this denomination, the Augustana Synod, the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Free Church, and the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church (the “Sad Danes,” in some referred to them, as opposed to the “Happy Danes” of the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church) constituted constituted a new alliance, the American Lutheran Conference, which disbanded 24 years later.  Three of the four members of the American Lutheran Conference merged to create The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987).  The Lutheran Free Church joined the new denomination in 1963.

The American Lutheran Conference existed to witness against ULCA.  The Conference affirmed the Galesburg Rule (1875) and the Minneapolis Theses (1925).  The former arose within the General Council over the question of pulpit and altar fellowship.  The Galesburg Rule was, verbatim:

The rule is:  1.  Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only; Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only.  2.  The exceptions to this rule belong to the sphere of privilege and not of right.  3.  The determination of the exceptions is to be made in consonance with these principles by the conscientious judgment of pastors, as the cases arise.

–Quoted in Abdel Ross Wentz, The Lutheran Church in American History, Second Edition (1933), 328

The Minneapolis Theses (1925) came into being as part of the process of the creation of The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960).  They affirmed the inerrancy of the Bible and asserted the doctrinal content of Lutheran confessions.  Whereas ULCA recognized the Christian character of all churches confessing Christian doctrine, the Minneapolis Theses did not go that far.  No, they recognized the reality that true Christians are present in a range of Christian denominations and stated that unanimous agreement

in the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the confession of the same in word and deed

presupposes ecumenical fellowship.  Church fellowship with non-Lutherans was, in other words, out of the question.  The Minneapolis Theses also condemned secret societies and stated that no Lutheran minister should belong to one.  Furthermore, they insisted, Lutheran clergymen should try to persuade lay members who belonged to any secret society to leave it.

Sodergren and Wendell opposed the Galesburg Rule and the Minneapolis Theses.  In The Augustana Quarterly in 1937 Sodergren protested the “exclusive confessionalism” of the Minneapolis Theses.  He wrote:

In spite of appearance to the contrary, the present generation is deeply religious; but its spirit fails to find in the old forms the body in which it can dwell.  But the reply to this prayer for the means of a daring adventure in faith–the reply of the established order–is only an exaggerated emphasis of the latter, of external observances, and of the old status quo…While the priests of yesterday are looking backward to the past and laboring to conserve its values, the prophets of tomorrow are facing the future and trying to give direction to movements of today.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287

At its 1937 convention the Augustana Synod censured and threatened with disciplinary actions some ministers accused of laxity with regard to the Galesburg Rule and the Minneapolis Theses.  This angered Wendell, who published his protest in the September 2, 1937, issue of the Lutheran Companion.  He wrote in part:

Orthodoxy is good.  It means adherence to the truth, and no sane man would willingly surrender that.  But orthodoxy without love is dangerous.  It provides fertile soil for bigotry, hatred, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a score of other evils which hide the Holy One from the eyes of the world.  It turns men into merciless heresy hunters, the most contemptible vermin on earth.  It aligns us with the scribes and pharisees, the priests and high priests of the time of Jesus.  Nobody ever questioned their orthodoxy, but because it was loveless, it blinded them to His divinity and made it easy for them to spike Him to a cross.  We are not worried about the trumpet calls to orthodoxy which for some reason have begun to blare among us lately, but we do fear that the blare may drown out in our hearts the still small voice which prays for unity and love among all Christ’s disciples.

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 287-288

In the longterm Sodergren and Wendell won the argument, for they and people like them influenced the next generation of leaders of the Augustana Synod.  By the late 1940s work on the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the joint service book-hymnal of eight Lutheran denominations, including ULCA and the members of the American Lutheran Conference, was underway.  The second American Lutheran Church came into being via the merger of three bodies in 1960.  The Lutheran Church in America formed in 1962 when four denominations united.  The American Lutheran Church expanded by means of a second merger in 1963.  Eight ecclesiastical bodies had become two denominations that used the same service book-hymnal.

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“THE LANGUAGE PROBLEM”

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Language is about far more than words, for it conveys culture as well as meaning.  This is especially true for those who speak in a language other than the dominant tongue in their nation-state.  A reading of the history of the immigrant churches in the United States reveals examples of ecclesiastical bodies that functioned as both agents of evangelism and of the cultural perpetuation.  Such a reading also informs me of the manners in which many people struggled with assimilation into the dominant American culture.  One might, for example, think of the Dutch immigrants and their descendants in the Christian Reformed Church in North America, the German-American Lutherans of various denominations, the Danish-American Lutherans in their two synods (the “Sad Danes” and the “Happy Danes”), and, of course, the Swedish-Americans of the Augustana Synod.  Furthermore, one might recall reading that rampant domestic xenophobia, often expressed via law and violence during World War I, accelerated the pace of the transition to English in all these cases.

Sodergren and Wendell led the pro-English language camp within the Augustana Synod.  Wendell even served as the chairman of the Association of English Churches.  In 1891 the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, to which the Augustana Synod belonged, founded the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest for congregations from the Great Lakes region to the Pacific coast.  The Synod of the Northwest appealed to many Confessional Lutherans who preferred to worship in English.  Ethnic enclave synods generally did a poor job of reaching out to this audience for a while, and many Midwestern and Western Lutherans who preferred to worship in English had to join non-Lutheran congregations.  Over time the geographical span of the Synod of the Northwest shrank due to territorial division.  Despite the necessity of the Synod of the Northwest its existence upset many in Augustana Synod officialdom, for they thought of it as a competitor on their home turf.

Sodergren and Wendell favored providing opportunities for younger Augustana Synod members who wanted to worship in English to do so, without depriving those who favored Swedish-language worship of those services.  Sodergren editorialized in the Lutheran Companion in the July 15, 1911, issue:

No one wishes to rob the old folks of the Swedish….In all our Swedish congregations the old folks are welcome, and will be for years to come, to half of the services, and that the better half–the Sunday morning service.  And no Christian will starve to death on this and a weekly meeting….But if we are considerate toward the old people and respect their admitted rights, we should also be equally careful not to refuse to give our young people their spiritual support.  We should be as concerned about their spiritual welfare….To have English services only once a month, or even every other Sunday evening, is almost worse than nothing.  It hurts the Swedish, and is of no conserving value to the English element.  It is merely a poor excuse….This plausible (?) selfishness which makes a language an end instead of a means is not a good conservative policy if our Synod is to live….It will not do to sacrifice souls on the altar of nationality.  Our congregations have a far higher calling than to be a mere “National-forening….”

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245

He wrote in the August 30, 1913, issue:

Dear old Swedish language!  We all love it–but some of us don’t like it.  We feel for it a sense of loyalty and respect akin to what good children naturally feel for their parents.  Nevertheless, a new generation, born and reared far from the doughty little kingdom which once was the land of our fathers, is prone to conform to the customs of the country in which it finds itself, and to speak the language which is generally employed as a medium for the expression of thought.  The children, the young people (and ever so many old people), almost invariably use the English language in ordinary conversation….God wants us all to be saved.  Why not tell His message in an as natural and intelligible a manner as possible; in Swedish to those who think in Swedish, in English to those who think in English….What would we suggest!  That our children be taught Christianity by means of the English language, even in our Swedish congregations…None of us are in a hurry to “get rid of the Swedish,” but we are “in a hurry” to preserve these souls with or without Swedish.  And if that can be done by means of the English language we are guilty of murder or at least criminal neglect in failing to anticipate and make due provision.  The Companion stands for neither Swedish nor English.  It stands for the cause of Christ and the welfare of souls.  If shortsighted language-conservatism should prove to stand in the way of Christ and the future of our Church, we have no choice but to do as Luther did:  let the Latin go and insist on using the German in the interest of the common people.  They are or more value than much Latin.  The word of God is not Swedish; the Church of Christ is not Swedish; Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not Swedish.  Nor are any or all of them English.  It is not a matter of language….

–Quoted in Augustana Heritage, 245-246

Both Sodergren and Wendell served on the committee that crafted The Hymnal and Order of Service (1925).  The Augustana Synod, recognizing the necessity of an English-language hymnal in 1895, ordered work on what became the Hymnal and Order of Service for Churches and Sunday-Schools (1901).  That volume, with 355 hymns, was always supposed to be an interim hymn book.  Work on the revised hymnal started in 1910 and lasted for 15 years.  The hymnal of 1925 offered 670 hymns.  Wendell, who joined the hymnal committee in 1920, wrote a paraphrase of Psalm 139:23-24 for the project.

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CARL J. SODERGREN (II)

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Sodergren became involved in another controversy within the Augustana Synod.  The denomination controlled the Augustana College and Theological Seminary, Rock Island, Illinois.  Sodergren, at least as early as 1925, sided with those who wanted to separate the college from the seminary, leaving the latter under denominational control and the former with a separate board and president.  The debate, which became quite bitter, dated to 1886.  Sodergren perceived that the only way to preserve the unity of the Augustana Synod was to divorce the college and the seminary.  As the college expanded faster than the seminary the latter received fewer necessary resources than the former.  Other issues in the debate included mere conservatism and the conflict of vested interests.  The separation of the college and the seminary finally occurred in 1948.

Sodergren wrote at least 16 books; I found listings for that many at WorldCat.  Aside from Fundamentalists and Modernists (1925) he wrote a book of Bible stories for use in Sunday schools, two courses in Martin Luther’s Small Catechism, and commentaries on various books of the Bible, as well as other works of theology.

Sodergren’s last residence was in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.  There he died on November 2, 1949.  He was 79 years old.

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CLAUS A. WENDELL (II)

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Wendell, who received a Doctor of Literature degree from Gustavus Adolphus College, also received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Augustana College and Theological Seminary in 1939.  He wrote at least eight books; I found listings for that many at WorldCat.  Some of those were literary works.  There was, of course, The Larger Vision (1923), about science and religion.  Wendell also wrote books of church history.

Wendell, who sat on the board of directors of the Augustana Book Concern, was, despite the attempt of one ultraconservative to have him declared a heretic and removed from the denomination, a widely respected and much-loved man.  He died at Minneapolis, Minnesota, on September 18, 1950.  He was 84 years old.

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CONCLUSION

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The names of these two saints came to my attention a year ago, when I was reading Augustana Heritage.  Sodergren and Wendell impressed me so much that I made a few notes about them and filed them away for future reference.  A few days ago I took many more notes then began to draft this post.

The legacies of Sodergren and Wendell can teach one several valuable lessons.  Among them is that, much of the time, one should stand within tradition and resist both the fetish of ossifying it and the temptation to dispose of it in favor of something new and shiny.  Tradition for its own sake is no virtue; the final words of a dying institution are:

We’ve never done it that way before!

Likewise, change for its own sake is no virtue either.  One risks throwing out the proverbial baby with the equally proverbial bath water.  As much as holding on to a certain tradition can constitute resisting social justice, overturning helpful traditions is destructive also.

Sodergren and Wendell understood that well.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Almighty God, your Holy Spirit gives to one the word of knowledge,

and to another the insight of wisdom, and to another the steadfastness of faith.

We praise you for the gifts of grace imparted to your servants

Carl J. Sodergren and Claus A. Wendell,

and we pray that by their teaching we may be led to a fuller knowledge

of the truth we have seen in your Son Jesus, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Proverbs 3:1-7 or Wisdom 7:7-14

Psalm 119:89-104

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16 or 1 Corinthians 3:5-11

John 17:18-23 or Matthew 13:47-52

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 61

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Feast of Luther D. Reed (April 3)   2 comments

Lutheran Books February 13, 2016

Above:  Some of Luther Reed’s Major Works and Immediate Successors Thereto

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor, February 13, 2016

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LUTHER DOTTERER REED (MARCH 21, 1873-APRIL 3, 1972)

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Liturgist

Luther Dotterer Reed was an influential Lutheran liturgist in the United States.  He was chiefly responsible for the creation of the Common Service Book (1917) and the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), two of the major Lutheran service-books of the twentieth century.

Reed was a son of the Church.  He entered the world at North Wales, Pennsylvania, on March 21, 1873.  His parents were Annie Linley Reed and Ezra L. Reed, a Lutheran minister of the old Ministerium of Pennsylvania and its umbrella organization, the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918).  From his father our saint learned much, including music and the Mercersburg Theology (high church Calvinism) of the Reformed Church in the United States (1793-1934).  Reed came under the direct influence of the Mercersburg Theology at his father’s alma mater, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, from which he graduated in 1892.  Next our saint matriculated at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (hereafter LTS Mt. Airy), from which he graduated in 1895.

Reed was a parish minister for just a few years.  Upon graduating from LTS Mt. Airy he entered the liturgical boondocks of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania.  Western Pennsylvania was an unlikely place for a Lutheran minister with a strong liturgical bent.  In 1895 our saint became the pastor of Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church, Allegheny, across the river from Pittsburgh.  As Reed described the facility, it was a chapel with a central pulpit and a lunch table for an altar.  Traditionally the pastor wore street clothes to church on Sundays.  In 1903, when our saint left for his next posting, there was a choir (which he had directed), he wore a Geneva robe to church on Sundays, and the use of vestments and paraments had begun.  Reed studied at the University of Leipzig in 1902.  He served as pastor in Jeannette, Pennsylvania, briefly before returning to his alma mater, LTS Mt. Airy, in 1906.  There he remained in one capacity or another until 1950.

Luther D. Reed

Above:  An Item in the Lebanon Courier and Semi-Weekly Report, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, May 24, 1905, Page 2

Accessed via newspapers.com

Reed worked beyond the parish and seminary levels, frequently in the cause of liturgical renewal.  He understood worship as occupying the center of Christian life.  The beauty of worship matters, he insisted, for it can inspire one to commit good works–lead one into the world.  From 1898 to 1906 our saint led the Lutheran Liturgical Association, the goal of which was to convince U.S. Lutherans to accept the Common Service (1888) as something simple yet dignified and Lutheran yet catholic.  Reed edited the Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association (1906).  From 1907 to 1936 he served as the President of the Church Music and Liturgical Art Society.  And, from 1930 to 1940, he was the President of the Associated Bureaus of Church Architecture of the United States and Canada, devoted to encouraging architecture suitable for proper liturgy.

Reed married Catharine S. Ashbridge (1878-1942) in 1906.  They remained married until by her death they did part.

Book Dedication

Above:  The Dedication to The Lutheran Liturgy (1947)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

In 1906 Reed went to work at LTS Mt. Airy, where he would have preferred to remain since his graduation 11 years earlier.  Until 1950 he served as the Director of the Krauth Memorial Library.  From 1911 to 1945 our saint was Professor of Liturgics and Church Art.  He was the first such professor at any Protestant theological seminary in North America.  And, from 1938 to 1945 Reed was also the president of the seminary.  If that were not enough, the served as the Archivist of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania from 1909 to 1939, and, starting in 1919, of the new United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), which he had helped to form via merger.

Reed served as the chairman of the joint commissions that created the Common Service Book of the Lutheran Church (1917) and its successor, the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).  He also wrote two editions (1947 and 1959) of The Lutheran Liturgy, both classic works of Christian liturgical history and commentary on the then-current Lutheran services.  [Aside:  The best way to enjoy Reed’s depth of knowledge in liturgy is to read these two books.]  Reed favored restoring the Eucharistic canon, or prayer of thanksgiving, which Martin Luther had excised in the 1500s.  He included a proposed text for one on pages 336 and 337 of the first edition (1947) of The Lutheran Liturgy.  Variations on that canon graced the Service Book and Hymnal (1958), the Worship Supplement (1969), the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), and the Lutheran Service Book (2006).  Reed’s restoration of the Eucharistic canon took hold in North American Lutheranism beyond the lineages of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), The Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS).  In 2008, for example, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) added an original Eucharistic canon in Christian Worship:  Supplement.  Other conservative Lutheran denominations have not restored the canon, however.

Reed, who received honorary degrees (including a Doctor of Divinity degree from Thiel College, Greenville, Pennsylvania, in 1912), was a gentle, kind, unassuming, and gracious gentleman.  Although our saint was not physically imposing he was intellectually masterful.  He wrote and contributed to volumes, mostly related to liturgics:

  1. The Psalter and Canticles; Pointed for Chanting to the Gregorian Psalm Tunes; with a Plain Song Setting for the Order of Matins and Vespers, Accompanying Harmonies, and Tables of Proper Psalms; for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Congregations (1897);
  2. The Choral Service Book; Containing the Authentic Plain Song Intonations and Responses for the Order of Morning Service, the Order of Matins and Vespers, the Litany and the Suffrages of the Common Service for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Congregations; with Accompanying Harmonies for Organ (1901);
  3. The Responsories:  Musical Setting (1914);
  4. Luther and Congregational Song (1947);
  5. The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study of the Common Service of the Lutheran Church in America (1947);
  6. The Lutheran Liturgy:  A Study of the Common Liturgy of the Lutheran Church in America (1959);
  7. Worship:  A Corporate Devotion (1959); and
  8. The Mind of the Church (1962).

Reed wrote a hymn and at least two hymn tunes also.  The hymn was “O God of Wondrous Grace and Glory” and the accompanying original tune was MOUNT AIRY.  He also composed the tune SURSUM CORDA.

Reed pondered what might and should follow the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).  He favored the inclusion of a provision for the procession of the bread and wine to the altar at the end of the offering.  This development became reality in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978).

Our saint died at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on April 3, 1972.  He was 99 years old.  The  process of forging the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) was well underway.

Reed’s liturgical legacy thrives, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 14, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF CARRHAE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CYRIL AND METHODIUS, MISSIONARIES TO THE SLAVS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN MICHAEL ALTENBURG, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Holy God, whose majesty surpasses all human definitions and capacity to grasp,

thank you for those (especially Luther Dotterer Reed)

who have nurtured and encouraged the reverent worship of you.

May their work inspire us to worship you in knowledge, truth, and beauty.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

1 Chronicles 25:1-8

Psalm 145

Revelation 15:1-4

John 4:19-26

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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Feast of Franklin Clark Fry (June 6)   1 comment

ULCA Logo0002 (2)

Above:  The Logo of The United Lutheran Church in America

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FRANKLIN CLARK FRY (AUGUST 30, 1900-JUNE 6, 1968)

President of The United Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church in America

Franklin Clark Fry comes to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days via my interest in U.S. Lutheran history.  The main source of information for this post is The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962 (1997), by E. Theodore Bachmann with Mercia Brenne Bachmann and edited by Paul Rorem, with supplementary information coming from The Lutherans in North America (second edition, 1980), edited by E. Clifford Nelson, as well as some websites, for information such as that one finds in an obituary.

Fry Family

Above:  A Partial Fry Family Tree

Chart and Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Franklin Clark Fry (1900-1968) came from a family of Lutherans and a line of Lutheran ministers.  His grandfather, Jacob Fry (1834-1920), was a Lutheran minister who graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1853 and taught homiletics (preaching) at the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (hereafter LTS Mt. Airy) from 1891 to 1920.  He wrote Elementary Homiletics, or, Rules and Principles in the Preparation and Preaching of Sermons (first edition, 1897; second edition, 1901) and The History of Trinity Church, Reading, PA., 1751-1894 (1894), of which he had been pastor since 1865.  (His previous pastorate, from 1854 to 1865, had been the First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.)

Franklin Foster Fry (1864-1933), our saint’s father, was prominent in the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918) then The United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962), hereafter ULCA.  He graduated from Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pennsylvania, then LTS Mt. Airy.  He married Minnie Clark (1868-1961), a widow.  Franklin Foster Fry, ordained in 1888, served briefly in Reading and Easton, Pennsylvania before transferring to Grace Lutheran Church, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he was pastor from 1890 to 1901.  Next he served as pastor of the Church of the Reformation, Rochester, New York, from 1901 to 1927.  Franklin Foster Fry, who had helped to form the ULCA, served on the Executive Board for a time and as the Executive Secretary of the Board of American Missions (hereafter BAM) from 1926 to 1933.  (ULCA had inherited five domestic missions agencies, which it merged in 1925 and 1926.)  He also served on the board for LTS Mt. Airy in the 1920s.  He died of a heart attack on December 13, 1933.

Franklin Clark Fry entered the world at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, on August 30, 1900.  He grew up in a loving family in which he learned duty and self-discipline.  Our saint, educated in Rochester schools, grew up a physically uncoordinated bookworm.  He attended Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, from 1917 to 1921, serving as captain of the debate team and graduating with his bachelor’s degree.  He continued his education at the American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Greece, in 1921 and 122 then at LTS Mt. Airy from 1922 to 1925.  Our saint’s time in seminary seemed to have been relatively unpleasant for him, for he noticed deficiencies in the curriculum and certain professors.  He was, however, an excellent student.

Franklin Clark Fry commenced his ministerial career in 1925.  The first pastorate (1925-1929) was Redeemer Lutheran Church, Yonkers, New York.  Our saint, ordained on June 10, 1925, fell in love with and married Hilda Adriana Drewes (1903-1976), whom he wedded on May 17, 1927.  They had three children:

  1. Franklin Drewes Fry (March 13, 1928-November 5, 2006), a prominent Lutheran minister;
  2. Robert Charles Fry (October 11, 1930-September 15, 2004), an attorney; and
  3. Constance Hilda Fry (February 21, 1935-1987), who died as Constance Preis.

The primary pastorate during the career of our saint was Holy Trinity Church, Akron, Ohio, where he was the senior pastor from 1929 to 1944.  For 15 years his predecessor, Emor W. Simon (died in 1949), who had served there for 26 years, sat in a red plush chair in front of the pulpit.  Fry, being an organized man, brought efficiency to the pastoral visitation program by dividing the parish into districts and assigning people to pay the visits.

Fry also served on the denominational level.  He sat on ULCA’s Standing Committee (as secretary) from 1930 to 1938.  From 1934 to 1942 our saint was a member of BAM, which his father had led from 1926 to 1933.  Our saint also served as the Dean of BAM’s week-long, summer School for Home Mission Partners, starting in 1936.  He also at on ULCA’s Executive Board from 1942 to 1944 and on the board of Wittenberg College and Hamma Divinity School form 1934 to 1940.

At the ULCA convention of 1944 (October 11-17) Fry won election as President.  He resigned as senior pastor of Holy Trinity, Akron, on October 22, 1944, and became the President of ULCA on January 1, 1945.  He was the second of two presidents of the denominations, remaining in office until 1962.  As President Fry became known as “Mr. Protestant” and became an ecumenical leader both nationally and internationally.  He participated in the Lutheran World Convention’s effort to feed hungry Europeans, served as Vice Chairman of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches from 1948 to 1954, as Chairman of the same from 1954 to 1968, and led the ULCA into the World Council of Churches in 1948 and the National Council of Churches two years later.  Our saint also served as the President of the Lutheran World Federation from 1957 to 1963 and worked for greater Lutheran unity in the United States, helping to form the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987), hereafter the LCA.

Franklin Clark Fry 1958

Above:  The Cover of TIME Magazine, April 7, 1958

Image in the Public Domain

Fry was, by the standards of his time, a man of the Left.  His ecumenical activities (with the Eastern Orthodox, even!) offended many people to his right.  Our saint, who spoke out for the downtrodden (also offensive to certain elements on the Right, especially in the context of the Cold War and the Civil Rights Movement), also favored Higher Criticism of the Bible.  He had, at the ULCA convention of 1940, spoken in opposition to proposed Articles of Agreement with The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), hereafter TALC 1930-1960.  The leadership of ULCA sought progress toward organic union with TALC 1930-1960, but the leadership of TALC 1930-1960 had a more modest goal–pulpit fellowship with ULCA.  The controversial elements of the Articles of Agreement were (1) a condemnation of membership in secret societies, and (2) an affirmation that the Bible is without error.  The ULCA convention approved the Articles of Agreement, but TALC 1930-1960 backed away from pulpit fellowship anyway.

ULCA passed into history by merging with three other denominations in 1962.  Membership in ULCA, which stood at 1.7 million in 1945, had increased to 2.5 million, a gain of 47.1%.  Fry became the first of three presidents of the new LCA, service until his death, on June 6, 1968.  Membership in the LCA, which had started at 3.23 million, increased 15.48% to 3.28 million in 1968.  Fry’s successor was Robert James Marshall (1918-2008), who served for ten years.

Franklin Drewes Fry (1928-2006) became a prominent Lutheran minister.  He, baptized on April 15, 1928, one month and two days after his birth, graduated from Hamilton College then LTS Mt. Airy (M.Div., 1949).  He, ordained on June 11, 1953, served as pastor of St. Philip’s Church, Brooklyn, New York (1952-1958); Christ Church, York, Pennsylvania (1958-1971); and St. John’s Church, Summit, New Jersey (1971-1996).  Fry retired in 1996.  He married twice.  His first marriage, to  Mary Evelyn Gotwald (1925-1991), ended with her death. They had five children.  His second wife was Sharon Roth, a minister.  He, like his grandfather and father, served on the denominational level.  He sat on the LCA’s Executive Council and the Board of American Missions.  Fry also participated in the process of forming the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and served on the LCA’s and ELCA’s ecumenical committees, attended meetings of the World Council of Churches as a delegate, sat on seminary boards, and ELCA’s Church Council from 1993 to 1999.  He also sat on the board of the American Bible Society from 1972 to 2006.  Fry died of leukemia on November 5, 2006.  He was 78 years old.  His children have devoted their lives to making positive contributions to society.  For example, Franklin Gotwald Fry is the Executive Director of the Greater Syracuse Division of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  He has also been involved in efforts to find a cure for AIDS.

Franklin Clark Fry continued the legacy of his grandfather and father.  That legacy continued via his children, especially his firstborn son.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MORSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIGID OF KILDARE, ABBESS

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE MENNONITE CHURCH U.S.A., 2002

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGEBERT III, KING OF AUSTRASIA

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Almighty God, we praise you for your servant Franklin Clark Fry,

through whom you have called the church to its ranks and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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Feast of William Passavant (January 3)   4 comments

Passavant

Above:  William Alfred Passavant, Sr.

Image in the Public Domain

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WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR. (OCTOBER 9, 1821-JANUARY 3, 1894)

U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the service book-hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, lists William Passavant as a saint, sharing the feast day of November 24 with fellow pastors Justus Falckner (died in 1723) and Jehu Jones (died in 1852).  However, my denomination, The Episcopal Church, celebrates Passavant’s life on January 3, without Falckner and Jones.  I choose to follow the lead of my church as it has expressed itself in Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010).

Holy Women, Holy Men (2010) lists Passavant as a “Prophetic Witness.”  That description is succinct and accurate yet too vague.  Our saint, an ardent evangelist, laid and helped to lay the foundations of Lutheran synods in Canada and in the Midwest and the West of the United States.  His influence in this realm was both direct and indirect.  He also founded hospitals and orphanages, homes for epileptics, and homes for elderly people.  He raised funds for the support of these institutions of mercy and encouraged the founding of other such institutions.  Passavant proved instrumental in bringing the order of deaconesses, revived among German Lutherans in the 1800s, to the United States.  (Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe, a Bavarian Lutheran minister, whose feast day is January 2, also worked on that aspect of church work in the 1800s.)  Deaconesses worked in institutions of mercy.  And our saint founded and helped to found educational institutions.

William Alfred Passavant, born at Zelienople, Pennsylvania, on October 9, 1821, was a son of Fredericka Wilhemina Basse Passavant and Philippe Louis Passavant, a merchant.  Our saint grew up in a pious Lutheran family with his parents and siblings.  He attended Jefferson College, Canonsburg, Pennyslvania, before preparing for the ordained ministry at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of Pennyslvania and Adjacent States, or the Ministerium of Pennyslvania for short, licensed Passavant to preach in 1842 and ordained him during the following year.

Our saint spent two years (1842-1844) at Luther Chapel, Baltimore, Maryland.  During that time he edited the Lutheran Almanac, completed Hymns, Selected and Original, for Sunday Schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, and fell in love.  Eliza Walter (1823-1906) married Passavant in 1845, after he had relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to become pastor of the First English Evangelical Lutheran Church.  The couple had five children:

  1. Philip (1846-1847),
  2. Virginia (1849-1858),
  3. Frank H. (1856-1967),
  4. William Alfred, Jr. (1857-1901), and
  5. Dettmer L. (1859-1932).

united-lutheran-church-in-america

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

At Pittsburgh Passavant began to make his greatest contributions to the Lutheran Church.  In 1845 he organized the Pittsburgh Synod, known as the “missionary synod.”  From Pittsburgh missionaries fanned out across Canada and the U.S. Midwest and West.  The Pittsburgh Synod, part of the General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the U.S.A. (1820-1918) from 1853 to 1864,  helped to found the more conservative General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America (1867-1918).  The Pittsburgh Synod divided in 1867, with the older body remaining an affiliate of the General Council and the second Pittsburgh Synod joining the General Synod.  Over time the General Synod became more conservative and the General Council shifted to the left.  The two federations moved toward each other.  Reunion in 1918 meant that the new United Lutheran Church in America (1918-1962) had two Pittsburgh Synods, which merged in 1919.

The missionary legacy of Passavant’s Pittsburgh Synod is impressive.  That legacy includes the Texas Synod (1851), the the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Minnesota and Other States (1860), the Canada Synod (1861), the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest (1891), and the Nova Scotia Synod (1903).  The Minnesota Synod (1860), now part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, grew out of a scouting mission to St. Paul, Minnesota.  Passavant was interested in starting English-language congregations, for many English-speaking Lutherans who moved westward could not find any linguistically compatible Lutheran congregation.  Other denominations were gaining members because of this fact.  Passavant realized the necessity for German-language missions also, so he enlisted the aid of “Father” John Christian Frederick Heyer (1893-1873), who had served as a missionary in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana (1820-1840) and India (1842-1845 and 1847-1857).  Heyer founded the Minnesota Synod (1860).  English-language missions of the General Council also took root, becoming the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Northwest (1891).  The General Council’s Pacific Synod branched off from the Synod of the Northwest in 1901.

Passavant was also helpful to the Swedish and Norwegian immigrants who founded the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod, later simply the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod, in 1860.  (The Norwegians broke away in 1870.)  He, as the editor of The Missionary (1848-1861), encouraged his readers to support Swedish immigrant congregations financially in the 1850s.  Passavant also facilitated a speaking tour for Pastor Lars Paul Erbjorn (1808-1870), leader of those immigrants, to raise funds for the new churches.  Our saint continued to have a relationship with these congregations after they left the General Synod’s Synod of Northern Illinois (founded in 1851) and started the Augustana Synod in 1860.  He encouraged the new Augustana Synod to found orphanages.  They followed his advice, starting in 1865.

Related to missionary work was education.  Passavant helped to found Thiel Collge, Greenville, Pennyslvania, in 1869.  He also helped to found Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois, in 1891.  Our saint understood the importance of having an English-language seminary to supply ministers for English-speaking congregations in the Midwest and the West.  The presence of the English Synod of the Northwest (also founded in 1891) and the new seminary in Chicago alarmed many in the Augustana Synod, also a member of the General Council.  Were the new English-language synod and seminary competing with the Augustana Synod on its turf?  Or were these Swedish Americans unduly sensitive?  Regardless of the answers to these questions, Passavant was prescient.

Passavant was active in the related fields of institutions of mercy and the revived order of deaconesses.  He founded hospitals, orphanages, homes for the aged, and homes for epileptics from 1849 to 1871 and raised more than $1 million for their support.  Those who were less fortunate deserved the best of care, our saint affirmed.  This man, who founded more such institutions than any other Lutheran in the United States, started the first Protestant hospital (at Pittsburgh, in 1849) and the oldest Protestant orphanage in continuous existence (also at Pittsburgh, in 1852) in the United States.  Among the workers in these institutions of mercy were deaconesses, heirs to an ancient Christian order historically stronger in the Eastern Orthodox Church than in Western Christianity.  Pastor Theodor Fliedner (1800-1864) had renewed the order among German Lutherans.  He and four deaconesses came to America in 1849, having accepted Passavant’s invitation.  Fliedner toured the United States then returned home.  The deaconesses worked in the new Lutheran hospital at Pittsburgh.  The following year our saint consecrated the first American deaconess of the new Institution of Protestant Deaconesses.  That institution experienced slow growth through the early 1890s, for there were only twelve American deaconesses through 1891.  Nevertheless, the deaconess movement in U.S. Lutheranism grew elsewhere during that time.  The Ministerium of Pennsylvania established its deaconess motherhouse at Philadelphia in 1887.  Also, the deaconess movement in U.S. Norwegian Lutheranism began in 1883.  The Passavant portion of the deaconess movement gained new life in 1893, with the founding of the motherhouse at Milwaukee.

These “inner missions,” Passavant wrote in 1848, were just as important as formal education, Sunday School, catechesis, and good liturgy.  Church members, he wrote, had temporal needs.  Fulfilling them was a sacred task, one which William Alfred Passavant, Jr. (1857-1901), also a Lutheran minister, fulfilled.  Our saint’s son also founded institutions of mercy and was active in the deaconess movement.  The younger Passavant, who served as the General Superintendent of Home Missions for the General Council, died of apoplexy in 1901.  He was 44 years old.

Our saint, a vocal opponent of slavery before and during the Civil War, and a U.S. Army Chaplain during that conflict, lived according to a strong moral compass.  He encouraged faith-based good works and confessional Lutheran doctrine as editor of The Workman, of which William, Jr., was a publisher, from 1881 to his death in 1894.  In late December 1893 Passavant, Sr., attended the funeral of a fellow minister in Milwaukee.  There he came down with a severe cold.  A week later our saint died in Pittsburgh.  He was 72 years old.

His legacy continues, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KARL OTTO EBERHARDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Compassionate God, we thank you for William Passavant,

who brought the German deaconess movement to America so that

dedicated women might assist him in founding orphanages and hospitals for those in need

and provide for the theological education of future ministers.

Inspire us by his example, that we may be tireless to address

the wants of all who are sick and friendless;

through Jesus the divine Physician, who has prepared for us an eternal home,

and who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 29:17-24

Psalm 147:1-7

Revelation 3:14-22

Luke 13:10-22

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 155

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