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Feast of John Tietjen (February 9)   Leave a comment

Above:  Logo of Christ Seminary-Seminex

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JOHN TIETJEN (JUNE 18, 1928-FEBRUARY 15, 2004)

U.S. Lutheran Minister, Ecumenist, and Bishop


Jesus makes all the difference in how we see God and God’s relation to us, what we do with our lives, and what we can expect God to do for us.

–John Tietjen; quoted in G. Scott Cady and Christopher L. Webber, A Year with American Saints (2006), 139-140


John Tietjen, a child of German immigrants, served as a minister in three denominations, two of whom he helped to form.  He, an ecumenist, had to commit schism in order to participate in a merger.

Our saint was originally a member of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS).  He, born in New York, New York, on June 18, 1928, graduated from Concordia Collegiate Institute, Bronxville, New York.  After earning a Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Divinity from Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, Tietjen earned a Master of Sacred Theology and a doctorate from Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.  He, ordained in Teaneck, New Jersey, in September 1953, served as the assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, Teaneck, until 1956.  Then, from 1956 to 1966, our saint served as pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church, Leonia, New Jersey.  Tietjen married Ernestine Catherine Damits (1925-2015) in 1953.  The couple had four children.

Tietjen was prominent in the LCMS until he left during the denominational controversy (1969-1976).  He served as the Executive Secretary of the Division of Public Relations, Lutheran Council in the U.S.A., from 1966 to 1969.  Then our saint became the President of Concordia Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, in 1969.  He was allegedly too liberal, to the point of heresy (as in higher Biblical scholarship), hence his suspension in early 1974.  The following year, Tietjen became the President of Christ Seminary-Seminex (Seminary in Exile), which merged into the Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Illinois, in 1987.  Our saint helped to form the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), which broke away from the LCMS in 1976,

The LCMS earned its reputation for not being on the vanguard of ecumenism.  That portion of the left wing of the LCMS that broke away almost immediately engaged with other Lutheran denominations, though.  By the late 1970s, the process of negotiating the merger of the AELC, The American Lutheran Church (TALC), and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) was underway.  Tietjen, as a member of the Commission for a New Lutheran Church, helped to create the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which became operational on January 1, 1988.

Tietjen continued as a leader in the merged denomination.  He served as the first Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod in 1988 and 1989.  Then our saint became the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Fort Worth, Texas, in 1989.  He retired in 2000, but continued in ministry afterward, as long as he was able.

Tietjen wrote three books:

  1. Which Way to Lutheran Unity:  A History of Efforts to Unite the Lutherans of America (1966),
  2. Memories in Exile:  Confessional Hope and Institutional Conflict (1990), and
  3. The Gospel According to Jesus (2006), his final project, published posthumously.

Tietjen, aged 77 years, died at home, in Fort Worth, on February 15, 2004.  He had suffered from cancer and a brain tumor.  His wife, children, and grandchildren survived him.

Tietjen lived in the hope of resurrection.  Preaching on the Confession of St. Peter, our saint said:

I have placed my life in God’s hands.  Therefore I know all will be well, including what happens at death.  No, death is not the end of it all.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God.  God raised Jesus from the dead.  God raised Jesus from the dead.  Because He lives, I too will live.  The Messiah said so.









Heavenly Father, shepherd of your people, we thank you for your servant John Tietjen,

who was faithful in the care and nurture of your flock.

We pray that, following his example and the teaching of his holy life,

we may by your grace attain our full maturity in Christ,

through the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

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

Ezekiel 34:11-16 or Acts 20:17-35

Psalm 84

1 Peter 5:1-4 or Ephesians 3:14-21

John 21:15-17 or Matthew 24:42-47

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


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



U.S. Lutheran Minister and Theologian

colleague of


Swedish-American Lutheran Minister and Theologian




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.




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.






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


Feast of Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe (January 2)   2 comments


Above:  Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe

Image in the Public Domain



Bavarian Lutheran Minister and Coordinator of Domestic and Foreign Missions

The name of Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe comes from the calendars of Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006) and the Lutheran Service Book (2006).  The former lists him as a “renewer of the church,” and the latter simply as a pastor.  Both descriptions are accurate yet inadequate.  The fact that I honor Loehe indicates that I respect him, not that I agree with him all of the time.  I cannot, in fact, think of anyone with whom I never disagree.

Our saint, who was frequently at odds with his ecclesiastical superiors, proved that life in exile need not prevent one from leaving an impressive legacy.  The native of Furth, near Nuremberg, Middle Franconia, lost his father, a shopkeeper, at the age of eight years.  Loehe studied at Nuremberg before matriculating at the University of Erlangen in 1826.   At first Loehe leaned toward Reformed theology, but encounters with the Lutheran Confessions changed his mind.  Our saint, who graduated in 1830, became an ordained minister the following year.  From 1831 to 1837 he served at a series of churches.  He alienated many people, especially his superiors.  Loehe, a minister of the Bavarian state Lutheran church, argued against state control of the church.  He also opposed rationalist influences in the Lutheran Church on one side and Pietistic minimalization of sacraments on the other side.  Holy Communion, Loehe said, was the proper center of parish life.  Our saint, a confessional Lutheran, circulated a proposed confessional basis for the church.  His superiors were not impressed.  From 1837 to his death in 1872 Loehe served a small church in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, an out-of-the-way village.  This was ecclesiastical exile.

He speaks the Word the bread and wine to bless:

“This is my flesh and blood!”

He bids us eat and drink with thankfulness

This gift of holy food.

All human thought must falter–

Our God stoops low to heal,

Now present on the altar,

For us both host and meal!

–Loehe, translated by Herman G. Stuempfle, Jr.; text copyrighted in 2002 by GIA Publications, Inc.; quoted in the Lutheran Service Book (2006), hymn #639

Loehe was a Neo-Lutheran, a member of a movement similar to the Oxford Movement within Anglicanism.  His exaltation of the Holy Communion prompted many detractors to accuse him of Crypto-Catholicism.  Another theological issue in the minds of some critics of Loehe was his stress on the catholic nature of the Lutheran Church as its Confessions defined it.  For Loehe, to whose theology the cross of Christ was central, the Lutheran Confessions conformed without deviation to the New Testament.   He wrote at least two hymns which exist in English translation.  I quoted one stanza of one of those hymns above.  The second hymn, “O Son of God, in Co-Eternal Might,” has graced my GATHERED PRAYERS weblog.

Loehe operated an ambitious foreign missions program from Neuendettelsau, where he founded a school for missionaries.  In 1841 he became concerned about the needs of Lutheran churches in the United States.  He encouraged many German emigrants to settle in the Saginaw valley of Michigan in 1845. Our saint also prepared and published maps to encourage German emigrants to settle in extant German immigrant communities in North America.  In 1845 Loehe commenced a mission among Native Americans.  The founding of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, took place during the following year.  Loehe sent missionaries not only to North America but to Australia, New Guinea, the Ukraine, and Brazil.

Loehe’s effect on North American Lutheranism was great.  He initially supported the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States (1818-1930), one of the more conservative Lutheran synods.  Pastors Loehe had sent and who had affiliated with the Joint Synod of Ohio became disenchanted, however.  They complained about the following issues:

  1. The lack of an acceptable confessional standard,
  2. The ascendancy of the English language at the seminary, and
  3. The progress of the process of Americanization.

These pastors and Loehe helped to found the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, now The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, in 1847.  The Missouri Synod also acquired the seminary at Fort Wayne and the mission program among Native Americans.

Relations between the Loehe forces and the Missourians broke down, however.  One reason was disagreement regarding the theology of ordained ministry.  The Missourian position held that the congregation held all powers and rights of ordained ministry via its participation in the priesthood of believers.  The congregation, therefore, transferred these powers and rights to the minister when it called him to serve it.  Loehe rejected this transference theology.  It was, he argued, an example of “American mob-rule.”  No, our saint said, ministerial authority was independent of the congregation a pastor served.  Such authority came directly from God via ordination, he argued.

Another issue was contention between Loehe and the Missourians concerned interpretation of the Lutheran Confessions.  The Missourian position held that the Lutheran Confessions were in complete harmony with the scriptures.  There was, therefore, no ambiguity on any issue.  Loehe disagreed.  As I established a few paragraphs ago, our saint thought that the Lutheran Confessions conformed without deviation to the New Testament.  He stated, however, that the only proper context in which to interpret the Confessions was historical.  Loehe concluded, therefore, that both the Lutheran Confessions and the scriptures left room for a variety of opinions about certain controversial questions.  For example, is the Pope the Antichrist?  And how much interest may a banker charge morally?  Loehe’s tone was both confessional and irenic.

The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and Other States, or the Iowa Synod for short, separated from the Missouri Synod in 1854.  Its first confessional statement was one paragraph long:

The synod subscribes to all the symbolical books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church because it recognizes all the symbolical decisions on controverted questions before or during the time of the Reformation as corresponding to the divine Word.  But because within the Lutheran Church there are different tendencies, the synod espouses that one which strives for greater completeness by means of the confessions and on the basis of the Word of God.  In the founding of congregations the synod is not content with mere acceptance of its principles of doctrine and life, but requires probation and therefore re-established the catechumenate of the ancient church.  The goal to be sought in its congregations is the apostolic life; to attain this, official and fraternal discipline is to be practiced.

–Quoted in E. Clifford Nelson, editor, The Lutherans in North America–Revised Edition (1980), page 182

The Missouri Synod, the Joint Synod of Ohio, and the Buffalo Synod agreed that the preceding statement was too vague and that subsequent elaborations were inadequate.  The Buffalo Synod, the Joint Synod of Ohio, and the Iowa Synod resolved their differences in time, however, for they merged to form The American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), a predecessor of The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987), a predecessor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Loehe also established a motherhouse for deaconesses at Neuendettelsau.  These women lived communally, practiced celibacy, provided social services (mostly in Bavaria), and made paraments for church buildings.  Our saint sent six deaconesses to North America.

Loehe, who married in 1837, spent most of his life as a widower.  His wife died at age 24, leaving him to raise four children.  That must have been difficult for him.

Our saint died at Neuendettelsau on January 2, 1872, after suffering a stroke.  He was 64 years old.  He had used his time on the planet well.






Almighty God, we praise your for your servant Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe,

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 10:25-45

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


Feast of Carl Doving (October 2)   2 comments

Decorah, Iowa 1908

Above:  Panoramic View of Decorah, Iowa, Circa 1908

Copyright Claimant = Brunt & Parman

H116196–U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress


CARL DOVING (MARCH 21, 1867-OCTOBER 2, 1937)

Norwegian-American Lutheran Minister and Hymn Translator

I collect hymnals from different denominations for several reasons, including the fact that variety in hymnody interests me.  Variety is the spice of life with regard to hymns, for it guards against a generic, vanilla sensibility in church music and texts thereto.  Hymns which Carl Doving (1867-1937), or, as The Service Hymnal:  A Lutheran Homecoming (2001) misspells his last name, “Dovig,” translated are most likely to appear in hymnals of denominations with a Scandinavian or German heritage, for he rendered texts from Scandinavian and German sources into English.  These English-language texts are products of a finely honed mind, the intellect of a skilled linguist, and a deep trust in God.

Doving, a native of Norddalen, Norway, lived in Norway, South Africa, and the United States of America.  In 1883, ag age 16, he moved to the Natal, South Africa.  There Bishop Nils Astrup, a missionary of the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (SNELCA), educated him.  Our saint taught at Astrup’s Schreuder Mission, Untunjambili, for a few years before emigrating to the United States at age 23 in 1890.  He studied at Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, for three years, graduating in 1893 then commencing studies at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1896.  Along the way to becoming an ordained minister of the SNELCA then its immediate successor, the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1946)/The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1946-1960), wrote three books from his experiences in South Africa:

  1. Billeder fra Syd-Afrika (1892),
  2. Blandt Zuluerne i Syd-Afrika (1894), and
  3. Izihabelelo (1896).

The last book was a volume of Zulu hymns;  the first two were apparently about missionary efforts among the Zulus, according to the scant information I found online.

My sources–books, secondary websites, and primary sources I accessed via Internet searches–helped me to establish some dates in Doving’s career, but not as many as I would have preferred.  I do know the following, however:

  1. Doving served a churches in Red Wing and Montevideo, Minnesota.  He was serving at the congregation in Montevideo in 1902.
  2. In 1903 the SNELCA asked Doving to undertake missionary work among the Zulus.  I have found no indication of his reply.
  3. By 1905 Doving was serving as pastor of the First Scandinavian Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, New York, New York.  He remained there through at least 1911, perhaps 1912.
  4. Doving served as a visiting pastor in Freeborn County, Minnesota, in October and November 1912, overlapping with the long-term tenure of Olof Hanson Smeby (1851-1929) there.  By then Smeby and Doving had concluded their service on the committee for The Lutheran Hymnary (1913).
  5. Doving’s final assignment was as city missionary in Chicago.  This work was well underway by 1916.  One of our saint’s duties was visiting people in hospitals.  Many of them were immigrants not fluent in English.  Fortunately, Doving was fluent in German, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, and Greek.


Above:  The Conclusion of the Preface to The Lutheran Hymnary (1913)

Scanned from the 1935 edition of The Lutheran Hymnary by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Doving applied his linguistic abilities to translating German and Scandinavian hymns also.  Some sources I consulted indicated that The Lutheran Hymnary contains 32 of his translations.  I counted hymns and wrote down titles, however, and arrived at a different number–37.

Mason City Globe-Citizen, March 6, 1934, page 16 01

Mason City Globe-Citizen, March 6, 1934, page 16 02

Above:  An Article from the Mason City Globe-Citizen, Mason City, Iowa, March 6, 1934, Page 16

Obtained via

The Lutheran Hymnary and users thereof benefited from our saint’s large hymnological library and extensive knowledge of hymnology.  Doving donated that library to Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, in 1934.  Since 1997 the custodian of said library has been Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota.  That library contains thousands of hymnals and books about hymns in more than 300 languages and from six continents.  The oldest book in the collection dates to the middle 1600s; the most recent volume comes from the early 1900s.  It is a collection which a recognized expert in the field of hymnology assembled.

Carl Doving (D.D., Luther College, Decorah, Iowa, 1931), died at Chicago, Illinois, on October 2, 1937.  His hymn translations survive, and not only in out-of-print hymnbooks.  My survey of germane, current hymnals reveals the following count of Doving texts, in descending order:

  1. Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (The Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1996)–16;
  2. Ambassador Hymnal for Lutheran Worship (The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, 1994)–11;
  3. Christian Worship:  A Lutheran Hymnal (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1993)–5;
  4. Lutheran Service Book (The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, 2006)–3;
  5. The Covenant Hymnal:  A Worshipbook (The Evangelical Covenant Church of America, 1996)–2;
  6. The Service Book:  A Lutheran Homecoming (unofficial, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2001)–2;
  7. Celebrating Grace Hymnal (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, 2010)–1;
  8. Chalice Hymnal (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1995)–1;
  9. Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2006)–1;
  10. Moravian Book of Worship (Moravian Church in America, 1995)–1;
  11. The New Century Hymnal (United Church of Christ, 1995)–1;
  12. The Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal (Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1985)–1;
  13. Trinity Hymnal–Baptist Edition (Reformed Baptist, 1995)–1; and
  14. Trinity Hymnal–Revised Edition (Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Presbyterian Church in America, 1990)–1.

I checked many other current hymnals in my collection and found no Carl Doving texts in them.

The top two hymnals on the list come from denominations with a dominant Norwegian heritage.  The Evangelical Lutheran Synod formed in opposition to the merger which created the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (1917-1946)/The Evangelical Lutheran Church (1946-1960), which merged into The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987).  The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations is the remnant of The Lutheran Free Church, which merged into The American Lutheran Church (1960-1987) in 1963.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also has a strong Norwegian heritage.

Denominations with strong German roots include the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Moravian Church in America, and the United Church of Christ.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has strong Swedish and Danish roots, as well as Icelandic and Finnish heritages.  Hymnals of Swedish and Danish immigrant denominations had a stronger Scandinavian hymnody than non-ethnic U.S. Lutheran hymnbooks have had, beginning with the Service Book and Hymnal (1958).  The Evangelical Covenant Church of America has Swedish immigrant roots.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has an ethnic Finnish constituency also.

Our saint left a fine legacy, one which continues to benefit people.







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

thank you for those (especially Carl Doving)

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






Posted April 29, 2015 by neatnik2009 in October 2, Saints of 1870-1879, Saints of 1880-1889, Saints of 1890-1899, Saints of 1900-1909, Saints of 1910-1919, Saints of 1920-1929, Saints of 1930-1939

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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



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.








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