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Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church.

1. After cong. beginnings 1848, The Scand. Ev.-Luth. Augustana Syn. in [or of] N. Am., or briefly, The Augustana Syn. (den Skandinaviska Evangelisk-Lutherska Augustana Synoden i Nord Amerika, eller korteligen, Augustana Synoden) was founded 1860 (see 2–8); adopted the name Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. or, briefly, the Augustana Luth. Ch. 1948; merged with the AELC, The Finnish Ev. Luth. Ch. of Am., and the ULC June 28, 1962, Detroit, Michigan, to form the LCA.

2. A small body of Swed. immigrants arrived 1845 in the Miss. Valley, settling in Jefferson Co., Iowa, calling their community New Sweden. January 1848 they organized a cong. Because no ordained pastor was available, they called one of their own number, M. F. Haakanson,* to preach and administer the sacraments. He was a shoemaker who once had planned to be a miss. to the Laplanders. Though lacking theol. educ. and somewhat vacillating doctrinally, he was a fluent preacher. From the outset the cong. was beset by proselytizers who tried to shake the convictions of Hokanson and disrupt the flock. Only the timely arrival of stronger spiritual leaders from Swed. saved a remnant; thus New Swed. became the starting point of the future August Luth. Ch.

3. The first ordained Swed. Luth. pastor to arrive in the Midwest was L. P. Esbjörn.*. Strongly pietistic, like many of his fellow clergymen in Swed., he felt deeply distressed over the low state of morals and spiritual life in the Established Ch. Though thoroughly loyal to the Luth. theol. position, free ch. evangelistic movements based in Eng. influenced his thinking. Moved by reports of spiritual destitution among his countrymen who had migrated to Am., he determined to cast his lot with them. Together with 146 emigrants, many of whom were from his own parish of Östervaala, Esbjörn, accompanied by his wife and 6 small children, sailed from Gävle June 29, 1849, for the New World.

4. Before they reached their destination at Andover, Illinois, 3 months later, many had succumbed to cholera and other diseases. Among the victims were 2 of Esbjörn's children. Esbjörn himself was stricken with cholera in Chicago, but recovered. When he reached Andover, he found his party disintegrating. Some had moved to other places; others had deserted to sects. So hostile was the attitude of many Swed. immigrants toward the State Ch. of Swed. that Esbjörn was constrained to lay aside his clerical garb and use of liturgy. But his bitter experiences with the sects caused him to lose all enthusiasm for free church tendencies. In his first published appeal to Scandinavians he warned them against proselytizers and exhorted them to remain loyal to the AC and Luther's SC. It was not until March 18, 1850, that he effected the organization of a Luth. cong., and only 10 persons became charter members. Andover thus became the first congregation of the future August Syn. to be organized and served by an ordained pastor.

5. Esbjörn's field of labor was soon extended to Moline, Rock Island, Galesburg, Princeton, Swedona, and other places. He also visited New Swed., where he gave encouragement to Hokanson. Beset by poverty and hardships, he made an extended trip in 1851 to Luth. centers in E states to gather funds for his work. He obtained $2,200, of which $1,500 was given by Jenny Lind, the “Swedish Nightingale,” then touring Am. This money helped build small church structures at Andover and Moline, Illinois, and New Swed., Iowa.

6. When the Ev. Luth. Syn. of N Illinois* was organized in September 1851, Esbjörn became a mem., but only after taking exception to the doctrinal basis of the new body, which grudgingly acknowledged the AC as “mainly correct.” On Esbjörn's request it was entered into the minutes of the Syn. that his congregations had written into their constitutions “that the Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church contain a correct summary and exposition of the divine Word; wherefore we declare and adopt them as the foundation of our faith and doctrine, next to the Holy Scriptures.” Esbjörn's correspondence from this period reveals his hope that with the arrival of more Scand. Luth. in the Midwest there would be a rising tide of confessional Lutheranism, and that The General* Syn. of the Ev. Luth. Ch. in the USA, of which the Syn. of N Illinois became a part, would eventually be dominated by the conservative element.

7. When immigration began to reach flood tide, Esbjorn sent appeals for help to P. Fjellstedt* and P. J. Wieselgren (See Sweden, Lutheranism in, 5), pietist leaders in Swed. Those who came to Am. in response to the call included E. Carlsson,* T. N. Hasselquist,* E. Norelius,* and J. Swensson.*

8. With the arrival of more pastors from Swed. and Norw. the conservative Scand. elements soon dominated the Syn. of N Illinois Within the Syn. were some Norwegian Congregations organized as the Chicago Conf. The Swedes formed the Mississippi Conf. Friction developed between the Scand. and the “New Lutherans.” In 1858 Esbjörn* had become a prof. at Illinois* State U. He soon found himself in conflict with the Neo-Luth. elements, and on March 31, 1860, resigned, advised the Scand. students to go home, and left for Chicago. At a meeting of the two Scandinavian conferences in Chicago, April 23, 1860, Esbjörn's action was endorsed. An indep. syn. was planned. At Jefferson Prairie, Rock County, Wisconsin, June 5–11, 1860, representatives of the Swed. and Norw. churches voted unanimously to found the Scand. Ev. Luth. Augustana Syn. of [or in] N. Am. The const. acknowledged the Holy Scriptures as “the revealed Word of God” and “the only infallible rule and standard of faith and practice,” accepted the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, and declared adherence to “the unaltered Augsburg Confession as a short and correct summary of the principal Christian doctrines, understood as developed and explained in the other Symbolical Books of the Lutheran Church.” See also Augsburg Theological Seminary; General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States of America, The, 4.

9. Hasselquist was elected pres. of the synod. Augustana* Theol. Sem. was est. at Chicago 1860, with Esbjörn as its head. Norwegians (O. J. Hatlestad* et al.) withdrew peaceably from the syn. 1870, leaving the Swedes to work out their own destiny. See also Norwegian-Danish Augustana Synod in America, The.

10. The formation of the August Syn. was regarded by many as presaging the breakup of the Gen. Syn. because of doctrinal laxity. This occurred 1867, when the Gen. Council was formed. Delegates of the August Syn. attended meetings of the Council from the beginning. In 1870, the yr. of the Norw. withdrawal, the August Syn. joined the Council. But when the Council merged with the Gen. Syn. and the United Syn. of the S 1918 to form the ULC(A), the August Syn. voted not to be part of the new body. In 1930 it participated with the ALC, the Norw. Luth. Ch. in Am. (later ELC), the LFC, and the United Dan. Luth. Ch. (later UELC;) in forming the American* Luth. Conf. When a movement was launched 20 yrs. later to form an organic union of the 5 conf. bodies, the Augustana Syn. joined in the preliminary negotiations but later withdrew from the project, which issued 1960 in the formation of The American* Lutheran Church. The August Syn., on the other hand, accepted an overture from the ULC(A) to join that church in inviting all other Luth. bodies to take part in conversations looking toward organic union. The Fin. Ev. Luth. Ch. and the AELC accepted the invitation. In June 1962 they met with the ULC(A) and the August Syn. in a constituting conv. in Detroit to found the Lutheran* Church in America. In keeping with a tradition inherited from the Ch. of Swed., the August Syn. throughout its hist. showed a deep interest in ecumenicity. In 1918 it was one of the founders of the National* Lutheran Council. In 1923 it helped organize the LWC, now The Lutheran* World Federation. In 1948 it was one of the founding churches of the World* Council of Churches, and in 1950 a charter mem. of the National* Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

11. Lutherans of other Eur. origins found themselves split into segments in Am., but the August Syn. never divided but remained the one Luth. gen. body of Swed. background in the US and Canada. Theol. controversies with the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of America over the doctrine of the Atonement marked the early hist. of the Augustana Syn. See also Evangelical Covenant Church of America, The.

12. During its 102–yr. hist. the August Syn. extended its home miss. activities from the Atlantic to the Pacific and into Canada. Congregations were est. in 35 states and the Dist. of Columbia as well as 5 Can. provinces. The church's 13 major divisions, called conferences, were divided into districts. Originally under the jurisdiction of the conferences, home miss. became the responsibility of a syn. bd. 1938, beginning a strong centralization trend that continued till the August Syn. became part of the LCA

13. In for. miss. outreach the August Syn. in its 2d yr. contributed funds to the Swed. Miss. Soc. in Stockholm and the Hermannsburg Miss. in Ger. When the August Syn. became part of the Gen. Council 1870, it shared in the miss. work of that body in India and cooperated in Puerto Rico, where the Luth. Ch. was planted by an August Syn. pastor. An indep. China Miss. Soc., launched in Minnesota 1902, was taken over by the syn. 1908. A large field was developed in China's Honan Province before the Jap. invasion and the following Communist revolution. In 1922 the August Syn. took over the Leipzig Miss. in Tanganyika, Afr. When Ger. missionaries, expelled from Tanganyika in WW I, were allowed to return 1924, the August Syn. opened a new field in Iramba. Under jurisdiction of the LWF the August Syn. assumed principal responsibility for 3 large Ger. missions orphaned at the outbreak of WW II. See also Japan; Lutheran Foreign Mission Endeavors in the United States, Early, 8.

On Augustana Coll. and Theol. Sem. see Augustana Theological Seminary.

14. When it became part of the LCA, the August Syn. was maintaining a theol., sem., 4 liberal arts colleges, and a junior college. Gustavus Adolphus Coll. had its beginnings 1862 in Red Wing, Minnesota, was moved to E Union, Carver County, Minnesota, and in 1876 found a permanent home in St. Peter, Minnesota Bethany Coll., noted for its “Messiah” festivals, was founded 1881 as an academy at Lindsborg, Kansas Upsala Coll., founded 1893, first had its home in Brooklyn churches moved to Kenilworth, New Jersey, 1898, and finally located in E Orange, New Jersey. Luther Coll., Wahoo, Nebraska, an academy and jr. coll. founded 1883, ceased to function with the formation of the LCA; its assets were absorbed by Midland Coll.. The August Syn. also cooperated with other Luth. bodies in maintaining a theol. sem. at Saskatoon, Sask., for training a Canadian ministry and supporting Pacific Luth. Coll., Texas Luth. Coll., and California Luth. Coll..

15. The August Syn. and its conferences showed an early interest in charitable work. Immanuel Deaconess Institute, Omaha, Nebraska, where deaconesses have been trained for many yrs., developed into a colony of mercy. When the August Syn. merged with other churches in 1962, 11 hospitals, 17 homes for the aged, 10 children's homes, 9 hospices and inner miss. homes for young women, and 2 immigrant and seamen's homes were being supported.

16. The first pub. of the August Syn. appeared 1855 in Galesburg, Illinois, when Hasselquist began printing a newspaper called The Homeland: the Old and the New. In 1856 he launched an exclusively religious paper called The True Homeland, the forerunner of Augustana, the church's Swed. pub. Its Eng. weekly, The Lutheran Companion, began 1892 as The Alumnus, merged 1950 with Augustana to form The Augustana Lutheran. But its new name was not popular and 1952 it reappeared as The Lutheran Companion. In 1963 it was absorbed by The Lutheran. August Book Concern, Rock Island, Illinois, founded as a private corporation, was taken over 1889 by the church In 1963 it became an institution of the Bd. of Publication of the LCA.

17. Auxiliary organizations of the August Syn. included the August Luth. Ch. Women, formerly known as the Women's Miss. Soc., which for 70 yrs. gave strong support to the miss. program of the ch.; the August Churchmen, a laymen's group; and the August Luther League, the youth organization of the ch. All 3 groups were incorporated into the corresponding organizations of the LCA at the time of merger.

18. While the August Syn. in polity and practice was theoretically congregational, it carried over from the State Ch. of Swed. a concept of the church as something more than the sum total of its local congregations All candidates for the ministry were ordained at syn. meetings by the pres. of the church A call from a cong. was essential for ordination; through ordination the pastor became a mem. of the August Ministerium and in that sense a minister of the ch. The syn. const. stated that the church “shall consist of all pastors and congregations regularly connected with it.” The August Syn. never adopted the episc. form of govt., which the Ch. of Swed. carried over from the pre-Reformation ch., but it constantly increased the authority of its pres. and its conf. executives, and the wearing of pectoral crosses became a prevailing practice among these officials.

19. Services in Swed., at first general in all pioneer churches, became increasingly rare following WW I and virtually ceased in all congregations by 1962. But much of the rich hymn heritage of the Ch. of Swed. is preserved in tr. in the August hymnals of 1901 and 1925; some of it is retained in the Service Book and Hymnal, in which the liturgy also reflects influences of the Ch. of Swed.

20. Pres. of the August Syn.: T. N. Hasselquist, 1860–70; Jonas Swensson, 1870–73; Eric Norelius, 1874–81; Erland Carlsson, 1881–88; S. P. A. Lindahl, 1888–91; P. J. Svärd, 1891–99; Eric Norelius, 1899–1911; L. A. Johnston, 1911–18; G. A. Brandelle, 1918–35; P. O. Bersell, 1935–51; Oscar A. Benson, 1951–59; Malvin H. Lundeen, 1959–62. Final statistics showed a baptized membership of 629,547. EER

See also Augsburg Theological Seminary; Beloit Seminary (Iowa); Lutheran Council in Canada 2; Temperance Movements and the Lutheran Church.

E. Norelius, De svenska luterska församlingarnas och svenskarnes historia i Amerika (Rock Island, 1890); G. M. Stephenson, The Religious Aspects of Swedish Immigration (Minneapolis, 1932); American Origin of the Augustana Synod, eds. O. F. Ander and O. L. Nordstrom (Rock Island, 1942); Century of Life and Growth: Augustana, 1848–1948, hist. ed. O. N. Olson (Rock Island, 1948); A. R. Wentz, Lutheran Church in American History, 2d rev. ed. (Philadelphia, 1933) and A Basic History of Lutheranism in America (Philadelphia, 1955); O. N. Olson, Augustana Lutheran Church in America, Vol. 1: Pioneer Period, 1846–1860 (Rock Island, 1950); G. E. Arden, Augustana Heritage (Rock Island, 1963).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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