*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 19th of September 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
O Norway, how we have sometimes looked past you. I’ve had a few people of Norwegian ask if I might highlight a few of their famous forebears that weren’t Vikings.
Norway has given us play-write Henrik Ibsen, Edward Grieg, Edward Munch, the band A-Ha (“take on me”), and the guy who sang “what does the fox say”.
In the history of the Christian church, we have looked at Hans Nielsen Hauge, the fonder of the Haugean movement which helped spread Lutheran pietism across the country, particularly in rural parts untouched by the Lutheran state church.
And there had been a Lutheran state church since 1529 (in 1529 Norway and Denmark were a united Kingdom, Sweden had been part of it but left in 1520). The same period saw a new wave of mass migration from the Empire into the Nordic countries and with it came a kind of Lutheran pietism. We see this in the Haugean movement with its emphasis on personal piety, on the working class the doctrine of vocation, and home churches led by lay ministers and lay preachers.
Many of these Lutherans were persecuted and scattered. Hauge was arrested in 1804. And it was in this same year, 1804 on this, the 19th of September that Elling Eielsen was born. Eielsen would immigrate to America with other Haugeans and Eielsen would be the first ordained Norwegian minister in America.
Eielsen came to Norway, Illinois in 1839 and began setting up small churches of like-minded Haugean Lutherans. Despite the lay emphasis in this movement, Eielsen was ordained by a German Lutheran. Eielsen would remain anti-clerical, however, and a critic of many growing Lutheran synods in America. Eielsen would create his own synod in 1846 called the “Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” or “Eielsen Synod”. It would remain noticeably independent amidst the consolidation of Norwegian Lutheran churches.
Eielsen would remain fiercely independent himself but his legacy is one of uniting Norwegian Lutherans in America. His affinity for Hauge but also early Luther and Spener would inform the United Norwegian Lutheran Church, the Norwegian “Free” church movement, and especially the Lutheran Brethren. The Church of the Lutheran Brethren is still around while many of the other Norwegian churches would form the ALC (American Lutheran Church) which would then fold into the ELCA last century.
There are many peculiarities of Upper midwest Norwegian Lutheranism and they still proudly look to their Haugean roots as mediated through Eielsen: an anti-authoritarian streak, a penchant for warm personal piety, and an emphasis on vocation, that is: your best good works don’t serve God but through the work of your hands you are serving your neighbor as Gods own hands.
Eielsen’s peripatetic ways made him a kind of “at large” pastor for scores of Norwegian Lutherans from Wisconsin to Texas. It is said in order to get copies of Luther’s Small Catechism printed he walked from Illinois to New York and back again.
One of the chief architects (although perhaps unwillingly) of the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America Elling Eielsen died in 1883, born on this day in 1804 he was 79 years old.
The last word for today is from John 6:
They asked, "What miraculous sign will you do, that we can see and believe you? What will you do? 31Our ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, just as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat." 32 Jesus told them, "I assure you, it wasn't Moses who gave the bread from heaven to you, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 The bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 They said, "Sir, give us this bread all the time!" 35 Jesus replied, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of September 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who serves God and his neighbor by roasting coffee- get your beans at gillespie.coffee. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by someone who was punched in the nose for the first time in 5th grade by a Norwegian kid named Hans. I may have asked for it. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.