Relations with the Church Bodies
From 1825 to 1843 it was the Hauge revival movement which carried on all soul-saving work among us. Since 1884 we have had the Hauge movement carried on by Inner Mission Societies with more or less help from the various church bodies. Between 1843--or more correctly 1846- and 1884 the Hauge movement was carried on solely by church bodies and local congregations. So most of our early Haugean soul winners worked solely as servants of the organized church. Definitely so before 1884, and to a great extent also since.
The attitude of the various church bodies toward a number of the promoters of the Hauge movement will be briefly touched upon now and then. And brief sketches of these men of God will be given.
Some Questions of the Day - Enumeration of the Church Bodies
When Eielsen came back from his extended trip to Norway in 1863, and the excellent leader Gudmund Strand had died in the previous year, the country was in a dreadful condition on account of the Civil War. The Indians had also been committing dreadful depredations in
Minnesota . Sinners seemed to be in the hands of an angry God, and His punishing righteousness was raining down upon them from heaven.
During these years, and for some years after, the Norwegian Lutheran preachers were engaged in discussion of three debated questions, but as the Haugeans did not have so much to do with them, we shall just mention them.
1. The slavery question. The Norwegian Lutheran preachers educated at
St. Louis in the anti-layman Seminary there, held it was no sin to own slaves. Only the abuse made it sin. This was fiercely contradicted by many of their own church members. The church battle and literary battle about this raged for years. The Haugeans had already taken their stand in 1846 on this question, declaring in their constitution that the slave-traffic was a "dreadful Sin."
2. The absolution or justification of the world, or as one of their leading men declared:
"The Gospel gives, bestows and imparts forgiveness of sin to all who hear, whether they believe it or not." Yet they taught that only believers were saved. Under this, then, came their wholesale traffic of declaring to the people the forgiveness of sin in their communion practice. It was about this un-Biblical practice Elling often declared: "They go to the communion table as the swine to the trough."
3. The Sunday question, or whether the third Commandment: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," was really a part of the moral law, or only an ordinance belonging to the Jewish ceremonial law, as many held. The Haugeans followed Pontoppidan in all these questions, which he makes clear.
Later the question about "election" arose in the Synod ranks, which ultimately split their ritualistic church body into two fighting camps, the Missourians and the anti-Missourians. The Haugeans followed Pontoppidan.
The history of the Hauge movement up to 1862, when the excellent and wise leader Gudmund Strand died, had proved two things:
1. That the living Haugean movement needed congregations and a church body, should it become permanent. It established its congregation in 1843 and its church-body in 1846.
2. But history also proved that no one church body could have a monopoly in the Hauge movement. Not even when they started out in 1846 were all the Haugeans along. The so-called
Muskego laymen, Even Hegg, J. Johannesen, and S. Backe and others seemed to have stood aloof. Then after the two splits - in 1848 and 1856 - the Hauge movement ran in three separate channels: The Augustana movement, which was one branch of the Haugeans, led a separate existence; P. A. Rasmussen and his Haugean following was another; and then, what might be called the main body, was the Hauge-Elling Synod. Even the Norwegian Synod itself was not entirely immune, in spite of its contrary attitude toward laymen's work. There were the
Muskego laymen from 1840 who in time came to belong to it. Then some strong lay-preachers from
like John Fjeld and Nils Ylvisaker came over, whom the Norwegian Synod ordained. P. A. Rasmussen himself, after fighting many a battle with them about the right of laymen to testify, finally joined them in 1862.
The history of the Hauge movement after 1864 proves still more emphatically that the Hauge movement cannot be kept within the limits of any one church body. Even within the Hauge Synod itself, which bore the name of our spiritual father, H. N. Hauge, were to be found some of the worst enemies of the revival movement, while some of its best friends were found in other church bodies. So when the Haugeans of the various church bodies began to form Inner Mission Societies in 1884 and the Hauge Federation was launched in 1920, they wisely decided that all members should also, as a rule, be members of some Lutheran church, thereby dismissing all ideas of forming new church bodies or new congregations.
We shall just give a brief enumeration of the almost endless number of church bodies we have had among us these 100 years.
From 1825 to 1843 we had no church bodies or congregations of any kind. But the Hauge movement carried on strongly. We had revivals.
In 1843 we got the two first pastors, C. Clausen, a Dane, and Elling Eielsen. Regular congregations were then organized. Hence the centennial among us in 1943.
1. The Hauge-Elling Synod, organized in 1846.
2. The Northern Illinois Synod, organized in 1851. It was the four young Haugeans who left Elling in 1848, and after being for a short time in the Franckean Synod, were with some Swedes and Germans and organized the Northern Illinois Synod. Paul Anderson was president for a few years.
3. The Norwegian Lutheran Synod, organized in 1851 and re-organized in 1853. It stood on the state church ideal and was anti-layman. Its school was at
Decorah, Iowa .
4. The Scandinavian Augustana Synod organized in 1860. Our young Haugeans from 1848 were along and launched it. The Scandinavians then forsook the Northern Illinois Synod. It was left to the German element.
5. The Norwegian Danish Conference organized in 1870 shortly after the Norwegian Augustanans left the Swedish element, who continued and changed the name to the Swedish Augustana. The Conference was made up of some Norwegian Augustanans, some Danes, an element who could not find themselves at home in the Norwegian Synod. They centered around Augsburg Seminary, which they shortly after 1870 moved from Marshall, Wisconsin, to
Minneapolis, Minn. There developed two tendencies (Retninger) in this church body, the so-called old and new tendency - the latter standing for more spiritual life.
6. The Norwegian Augustana. The leaders of this group had left the Swedes and fought tooth and nail against the high church element which was along in starting the Conference, so they also organized separately in 1870. The young Haugeans of 1848 were still in the lead, Ole Andrewson and 0. J. Hatlestad taking turns at the presidency. It was a low-church body, though with a little more broad-church leanings, and stressing lay-activity a little less and Christian education a little more than the brethren in the Hauge-Elling Synod. But it stressed a living Christian experience with equal strength.
7. The Hauge Synod, organized in 1875-76, has been alluded to before. It amended the old constitution and accepted the writings of the Swedish pietist Rosenius. The conservative Elling element were against both. Leaders immediately got busy about the Christian school question again. They made the first beginning at
Lisbon, Illinois , in 1854. That came to nought. Then they tried at Deerfield
Wisconsin ; that also fell to the ground. Then after a prayer meeting and drawing of lots between Red Wing and Chicago, the lot fell on
Chicago . That was in 1871. But the
Chicago fire and other hindrances came in the way. Finally in 1879 they got established in Red Wing, Minn. H. H. Bergsland held up the Haugean ideals on the true conversion and Christian experience, lay-activity and the Christian testimony. So Red Wing Seminary was sort of a spiritual headquarters for this branch of the Hauge Revival Movement until the school was discontinued in 1931 by the church body formed in 1917.
8. The Anti-Missourian Brotherhood, which had left its moorings in the old Norwegian Synod, of which it had been the liberal wing. These people had fought over a number of questions, from slavery in the sixties and predestination in the eighties to the
St. Olaf College question, which B. J. Muus and others had founded in 1874. At last they either left the Norwegian Synod or were expelled from it. They did not form a church body, but were the deciding factor in the forming of a church union.
9. The United Lutheran Church, organized in 1890, when the three last mentioned church bodies went together-the Conference, the Norwegian Augustana and the large Anti-Missouri Brotherhood. The Norwegian Synod and the Hauge Synod were also invited to join, but stood aloof.
10. The Lutheran Free Church organized about 1897. It was the so-called new tendency from the "Conference", led by Georg Sverdrup and Sven Oftedal, who broke out of the newly formed
Church . It stands strongly for the supremacy of the local congregation, lay-activity and living experience. Its main center is Augsburg Seminary.
11. The Lutheran Brethren, organized in 1900, standing like old Elling in 1846, perhaps a bit stronger, on the principle that all members of the local church should be converted and confessing Christians. Their headquarters is their
Fergus Falls, Minnesota .
12. The Norwegian Lutheran Church of
, organized in 1917. It was a union between the Norwegian Synod, the
Church and the Hauge Synod.
13. The Norwegian Synod of the
Missouri tendency, organized about 1917.
It leans toward the German Missouri group.
At present, in 1941, we have five Norwegian Lutheran synods: The Elling Synod; the Lutheran Free Church; the Lutheran Brethren; the
Church of , and the Norwegian
The Three Tendencies (Retninger) in Our Churches
The Low-church, High-church and Broad-church
I. The pietistic low church tendency came among us first with the Quakers, and Ole Hetletvedt, in 1825, and Elling Eielsen and the Hauge fathers around 1839. It was planted by Hauge in
and transplanted and anchored by Eielsen and the fathers in the years 1839-1864.
Its great strength is its Biblical and apostolic character. It breaks out in revivals - on Pentecost, the Valdense revival, the pietistic revival in
, the Hauge revival.
The low church pietism among us found its climax and embodiment in the constitution of 1846. The following three apostolic life principles are especially stressed:
1. Experienced Christianity through awakening, conversion, life in God and separation from the world.
2. New 'Testament simplicity in worship.
3. New Testament lay activity and Christian testimony to be encouraged-supported and even sent out by the local churches.
Yet the titled "old constitution'' was broad enough and American enough to condemn slavery, provide schooling for children in both languages, encourage Christian schools, etc.
If we don't watch and pray, we may be overtaken by the weaknesses and dangers of low-church pietism. What are they?
When living pietism degenerates in us, we become suspicious, narrow, unreceptive to progress and new ideas, and even intolerant, unbrotherly, somewhat sour and overcritical. These are some of the works of the flesh that will develop, if low-church pietism degenerates. God have mercy upon us! These things we are often accused of and need to examine ourselves whether they be true or not.
II. Then we have the high church ritualistic tendency. Neither is this an American product, it was imported from
. All or nearly all the early ministers who came among us from Dietrichson and on in the early days were given a ritualistic state church training at
Oslo by the able professors Hersleb and S. J. Stenersen. They were anti - Haugean and anti -layman. Professor Stenersen even wrote a book against Hauge and lay activity. The Grundtvig -Wexels movement which then was very strong in
made them still more high church, sacramental and opposed to lay activity. So the high church movement was transplanted and anchored as well. The movement has lived on ever since. It has no use for lay-activity and the Christian testimony.
III. The Lutheran broad church tendency. The two men among us who may be called the fathers of this tendency, now so powerful, were, I believe, C. L. Clausen and Paul Anderson. Clausen was of a Danish Grundtvigian background, to begin with a lay-preacher, then ordained in 1843, standing for awhile independent, but with high-church leanings, now in the Norwegian Synod, then out of it, then independent again, now in the Norwegian Danish Conference and finally in the United Church after 1890. He was a popular, unselfish and very helpful man with great influence, and of course a strong church - union man. I call him the father of the broad-church element among us, but with high-church leanings. His whole life, personality and career point in this direction.
Paul Anderson I call the father of the broad-church element, but with low-church leanings. Like Clausen he was a popular, unselfish and unusually sympathetic and helpful man. His life and career is very much like Clausen's but takes on a different leaning. First he was among the Presbyterians in
College , in
Wisconsin , where he studied about 1844-46. Then in the Hauge-Elling Synod, then among the Franckeans, then a leader in the Illinois Synod, then in the Scandinavian Augustana, then in the Norwegian Augustana, and he lived to see the great church union in 1890. He was a church-union man with low-church leanings.
This broad-church movement grew to mighty proportions and led to the large merger of 1890. Low-churchism was too strong in the Hauge Synod and high-churchism too powerful in the Norwegian Synod to allow them to go along in the merger. But the American spirit is neither low-church nor high-church, it is broad-church. By 1917 the broad-church spirit had got so much the upper hand in Hauge's and the Norwegian Synod that another great church union took place based on broad church principles and the broad church spirit. The leanings continued to go either in a high-church or low-church direction.
The strength of broad-churchism is its tolerant spirit. At its best it is good-natured, brotherly, optimistic, kind and forbearing with those who have another opinion. But with high-church leanings it will develop formalism and ritualism. With low-church leanings it goes along with lay-activity and revivals.
When broad-churchism degenerates it becomes superficial and lacking in deep convictions. It is then apt to become two-faced and even three-faced. Like a druggist who uses different ingredients to make up a prescription, the broad-church man mixes in a little here and a little there; sometimes to suit Christians, then to suit the world, now to suit one element, now another; sometimes strict, sometimes lax, sometimes serious, sometimes light-hearted. As the falling-away increases perhaps God's people will have their worst opponents in a degenerate broad-churchism. It is hard to detect and deceptive. For it has a tremendous strength in the modern American Spirit and in the lost human nature.