Archive for the ‘Lutheran Church in America’ Tag

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 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 Victor Olof Petersen (February 14)   1 comment

Augustana College

Above:  Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

J195906–U.S. Copyright Office

Copyright Claimant = Haines Photo Company, Conneaut, Ohio

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VICTOR OLOF PETERSEN (SEPTEMBER 24, 1864-FEBRUARY 14, 1929)

Swedish-American Lutheran Hymn Translator

Victor Olof Petersen, whose surname some sources list as “Peterson,” loved hymns and translated certain Danish and Swedish hymns into English.  I have found three of his translations.  “O Bride of Christ, Rejoice” was under copyright in 1996 yet had entered the public domain by the time the Lutheran Service Book (2006) rolled off the presses.  “Wheresoe’er I Roam” was under copyright when The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (1996) debuted.  I do not know if the text is still under copyright.  Likewise, I have no information regarding the copyright status of “My Heart is Yearning Ever,” which I found in The Hymnal and Order of Service (1925, The Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod).  I do know that the translations have become increasingly difficult to find, except in certain old hymnals and a few current ones.

Petersen, born at Skede, Smaland, Sweden, on September 24, 1864, was a scientist and an educator.  He emigrated to the United States of America in 1867.  His early education occurred at Stanton, Iowa.  Then our saint attended Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois–first the academy then the college proper.  (Many colleges used to have high schools attached to them.)  Petersen graduated from college in 1889.  That summer he worked under a former professor, Dr. Joshua Lindahl, at the state museum in Springfield.  Next our saint taught physics and chemistry at Augustana College for sixteen years, becoming a professor after he completed some course work at Harvard University.  In 1906 Petersen became the Secretary of the Rock Island Tropical Plantation Company.  From 1907 to 1913 he managed the Chalohijapa Plantation in southern Mexico.  When the Mexican Revolution forced our saint to return home, he worked in real estate and insurance in Rock Island for seven years.  From 1920 to 1928 Petersen chaired the Department of Chemistry at Huron College, Huron, South Dakota.  He died at Huron on February 14, 1929.

Petersen was active in the American Lutheran Church, Huron, in the 1920s.  He was presumably a member of the Augustana Synod, which had Swedish origins, for a long time.  The Huron congregation, officially The English Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Communion of Huron, Beadle County, South Dakota, or “The English Lutheran Church” for short, until 1923, was of Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish origin.  In 1909 it affilated with the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1853-1917), a predecessor body of, in order, the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1946)/The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1946-1960), the American Lutheran Church (1960-1987), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  Likewise, the Augustana Synod preceded the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987) and the ELCA.

Petersen died and denominational labels have changed, but his translations of Danish and Swedish hymns continue to exist.  You, O reader, might find them (or at least some of them) edifying.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SYNCLETIA OF ALEXANDRIA, DESERT MOTHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABELARD OF CORBIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE PALLOTINES

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Victor Olof Petersen and others, who have translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Feast of Gerhard Gieschen (June 22)   Leave a comment

Lutheran Church in America Logo

Above:  Logo of the Lutheran Church in America (1962-1987)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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GERHARD GIESCHEN (JUNE 28, 1899-JUNE 22, 1987)

U.S. Lutheran Minister and Hymn Translator

Sometimes I am especially grateful for the existence of the Internet.  Research for this post started with Lutheran hymnal companion volumes, but Internet searches and newspapers.com proved quite helpful in following up on leads and finding more information.

Gerhard Gieschen entered the world at Helenville, Wisconsin, on June 28, 1899.  His parents were John Gieschen and Anna Sophia Bieck Gieschen.  Our saint attended Concordia College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (a Missouri Synod school), then Northwestern College, Watertown, Wisconsin, and Lutheran Theological Seminary, Thiensville, Wisconsin (Wisconsin Synod schools).  The Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States (the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod since 1959) ordained him in 1922.  Geischen served as the pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rib Falls, Wisconsin, for a few years.  Then he was assistant minister and school principal at Marshfield, Wisconsin.  That job ended in the early 1930s due to the Great Depression.

Forest Park Review, November 2, 1950, page 3

Forest Park Review, Forest Park, Illinois, November 2, 1950, page 3

Obtained via newspapers.com

Gieschen, however, spent most of his ministerial career in less conservative denominations.  He joined the United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA) in 1933, becoming the pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, Leigh, Nebraska.  He ministered in Wayne, Nebraska, from 1940 to 1942.  A tenure (1942-1947) at Our Redeemer Church, Omaha, Nebraska, followed.  Then, from 1947 to 1950, Gieschen served at St. Peter’s Church, Forest Park, Illinois.

Forest Park Review, January 19, 1950 I

Forest Park Review, January 19, 1950 II

Forest Park Review, Forest Park, Illinois, January 19, 1950, page 2

Obtained via newspapers.com

Next Gieschen moved to seminary work in the ULCA and its immediate successor, the Lutheran Church in America (LCA).  He taught systematic theology at the Central Lutheran Theological Seminary, Fremont, Nebraska (1893-1967), serving finally as the Acting President of that institution from 1964 to 1967, until its consolidation into the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Illinois.  Thereafter our saint held Professor Emeritus status at the merged seminary.

Gieschen remained active, however.  He taught at Midland College, Fremont, Nebraska, from 1967 to 1969.  Then he returned to the pulpit as pastor of Our Lord’s Lutheran Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, from 1970 to 1975.  In this capacity our saint succeeded one of his sons, Roger Gieschen, as the pastor there.

Gerhard and Lucille Anita Graber Gieschen (1902-1988) had four children, two of whom–Roger and David– became Lutheran ministers.  Roger, ordained in the ULCA in 1958, was the founding pastor of Our Lord’s Lutheran Church, Oklahoma City, from 1958 to 1969.  Next he ministered at St. Paul’s Church, Wichita, Kansas, serving until 1973, when he became the Director of Missions in the central states and Iowa for the LCA’s Division for Ministry.  Then, in 1978, Roger became the President of the Central States Synod.  Two years later the LCA made its synodical presidents bishops, so he was Bishop Gieschen until 1988.

David Gieschen became the founding pastor of Peace Lutheran Church, Manhattan, Kansas, in 1963.  Twelve years later he was working in the LCA’s Division of Parish Services of the Department of Program Resources.

Gerhard Gieschen translated a Martin Opitz (1597-1639) text from 1628 as “Arise and Shine in Splendor.”  The original translation, that of 1937, appeared in Faith-Life, the periodical of the Protes’tant Conference, which broke away from the Wisconsin Synod in the 1920s.  He revised the translation for The Lutheran Hymnal (1941).  Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, holds the copyright on the translation and its variations.  Thus I refer you, O reader, to The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), Lutheran Worship (1982), and the Lutheran Service Book (2006), all of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Our saint died at Sun City, Arizona, on June 1987, six days short of his eighty-eighth birthday.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBRIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MILAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAUD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Dear God of beauty,

you have granted literary ability and spiritual sensitivity to

Gerhard Gieschen and others, who have translated hymn texts.

May we, as you guide us,

find worthy hymn texts to be icons,

through which we see you.

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

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 44:1-3a, 5-15

Psalm 147

Revelation 5:11-14

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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