Monday, September 3, 2012

What is a Swedish Baptist?

I was born in 1949 in Chicago, Illinois USA. My mother was born of Irish immigrants my father of Swedish. When asked what religion we were my parents would proudly say that they were "Swedish Baptist".  I never really understood what that was exactly. I'm not sure that they knew themselves how we differed from other "Baptist". I thought it was some sort of national pride like saying that you were Irish Catholic when all Roman Catholics were really the same except for the fact that they were also Irish.

After my parents passing I went online and did a little research. What I found was exciting. Could it be that my great great grandfather was expelled from Sweden for religious reasons? There were thousands of Swedes in Chicago. As far as I knew they were all Swedish Baptists. Could it be that they all left Sweden to be able to practice their religion in America?

My great great grandfather was one of a few that created a religion based summer colony, hidden in the woods, on the east shore of Lake Michigan. Was this done so that they could practice being Swedish Baptist in secret? To this day the Baptism here is practiced as full immersion into Lake Michigan.  - Robert Erickson

History and development

The first local Baptist church in Sweden was founded on the west coast on 21th of September 1848, when five courageous Swedes were baptized by immersion. A Swedish seaman, Fredrik Olaus Nilsson, had been converted in America and returned to Sweden as a preacher. In 1847 he was baptized in Hamburg and became the first Baptist leader in Sweden. As no other religious groups apart from the Lutheran State Church were permitted at this time, Nilsson and others were severely persecuted. Several people were arrested, and Nilsson was banned from the country in 1850. He was very pessimistic about the future of the Baptist movement in Sweden, but by 1860, more than 120 lockal churches had been established.
Despite persecution and legal restrictions, Baptist views spread across the country. In Stockholm, a Lutheran clergyman, Anders Wiberg, wrote a study named "Who is to be baptized and what is baptism?", which was published in 1852. Members of his groups of believers increasingly adopted the ideas of religious freedom and believer's baptism. Some emigrated to America, some went to Hamburg to be baptized, and some were ordained as ministers. Many returned to Sweden when conditions there changed and baptized hundreds of people. By the end of the century, over 500 local churces had been founded.

Baptist General Conference

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Baptist General Conference (BGC) is a (US) national evangelical Baptist body with roots in Pietism in Sweden and inroads among evangelical Scandinavian-Americans, particularly in the American Upper Midwest. From its beginning among Scandinavian immigrants, the BGC has grown to a nationwide association of autonomous churches with at least 17 ethnic groups and missions in 19 nations. The current president of the BGC is Dr. Jerry Sheveland.
In 2008 the Baptist General Conference adopted the new movement name of Converge Worldwide.




The Baptist General Conference grew out of the great revival of the 19th century, but its roots can be traced back to SwedishPietism. In 1852, Gustaf Palmquist emigrated from Sweden to the United States. Forty-seven days after his arrival, he and three others organized a Swedish Baptist church in Rock Island, IllinoisFrederick Nilsson, who was instrumental in leading Palmquist toBaptist views, arrived in America the next year with 21 immigrants. Some of these united with the Rock Island church, while others organized a church at Houston, Minnesota. Nilsson traveled widely, founding and strengthening churches. Anders Wiberg was another pioneer among these churches from 1852 until 1855, when he returned to Sweden as a missionary.
Christian experience was a major emphasis among these Swedish Baptists, and they prospered from the awakenings in the 19th century. Immigration, aggressive evangelism and conversion through revivals brought rapid growth to the denomination. John Alexis Edgren founded the Swedish Baptist Seminary in Chicago, Illinois in 1871.
In 1879, when the Swedish churches had grown to 65 in number, they formed a General Conference. The members of these churches assimilated into American society and gradually lost their separate ethnic identity. By 1940, most churches were English-speaking. In 1945, the Swedish Baptist General Conference dropped "Swedish" from its name and became the Baptist General Conference of America. Swedish Baptists had maintained an alliance with the American Baptist Publication Society, American Baptist home and foreign missions, etc., and later the Northern Baptist Convention. Some Swedish Baptists expected to merge with that body, but the groups moved toward different developments of theological emphasis. The conservative Swedish Baptists pulled back from growing liberalism of the Northern Baptists, and in 1944 formed their own Board of Foreign Missions. This moved them toward independent existence, which they have maintained to the present.


The Baptist General Conference operates the Bethel Theological Seminary and Bethel University in Arden Hills, Minnesota near St. Paul, Minnesota, and maintains business offices in Arlington Heights, Illinois. The primary headquarters are now in Orlando, Florida. The official periodical is Converge Point, and Harvest Publications offers a wide range of Christian education material. The Conference labors in national and world missions, with missionaries in Central America, South America, southern Europe, former Eastern Bloc nations, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and the Asian Pacific rim. Greg Boyd, pastor of Woodland Hills Church, and John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church and leader of Desiring God Ministries, are perhaps two of the most well known BGC ministers in the 21st century. Bethlehem Baptist Church was organized as the First Swedish Baptist Church of Minneapolis in 1871.
In 2006, the BGC had 194,000 members in 950 churches in the United States. These churches are also organized into 11 regional bodies: Northwest, Southeast, Great Lakes, Heartland, Minnesota-Iowa, MidAtlantic, Converge MidAmerica, PacWest, Northeast, Rocky Mountain, and Southwest. There are a further 105 churches in Canada organized into 5 district bodies. These congregations cooperate nationally through the Baptist General Conference of Canada.
The BGC cooperates with the National Association of Evangelicals led by President Leith Anderson (who also pastors the BGCWooddale Church), the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and the Baptist World Alliance, and was a charter member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.


  • Glenmary Research Center. Religious Congregations & Membership in the United States, 2000
  • McBeth, H. Leon. The Baptist Heritage: Four Centuries of Baptist Witness
  • Olson, Adolf. A Centenary History as Related to the Baptist General Conference
  • Wardin, Albert W. Jr. Baptists Around the World

[edit]External links


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philipp Jakob Spener (1635–1705) known as the "Father of Pietism".
Pietism (from the word piety) was a movement within Lutheranism, lasting from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century and later. It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptism, inspiring Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement and Alexander Mack to begin the Brethren movement. The Pietist movement combined the Lutheranism of the time with the Reformedemphasis on individual piety and living a vigorous Christian life.[1] Though pietism shares an emphasis on personal behavior with the Puritan movement, and the two are often confused, there are important differences, particularly in the concept of the role of religion in government.[2]




Luther's Rose
 Lutheranism portal
As forerunners of the Pietists in the strict sense, certain voices had been heard bewailing the shortcomings of the Church and advocating a revival of practical and devout Christianity. Amongst them were Christian mystic Jakob Böhme (Behmen); Johann Arndt, whose work, True Christianity, became widely known and appreciated; Heinrich Müller, who described the font, the pulpit, theconfessional and the altar as "the four dumb idols of the Lutheran Church"; theologian Johann Valentin Andrea, court chaplain of the landgrave of Hesse; Schuppius, who sought to restore to the Bible its place in the pulpit; and Theophilus Grossgebauer (d. 1661) of Rostock, who from his pulpit and by his writings raised what he called "the alarm cry of a watchman in Sion."
Part of the series on
17th Century Scholasticism
Title page of the Calov Bible
17th Century Scholastics
Second scholasticism of the Jesuits
Lutheran scholasticism during Lutheran Orthodoxy
Ramism among the Calvinist scholastics
Metaphysical poets in the Church of England
Reactions within Christianity
Labadists against the Jesuits
Pietism against orthodox Lutherans
Nadere Reformatie within Dutch Calvinism
Richard Hooker against the Ramists
Reactions within Philosophy
Modernists against Roman Catholics
Neologists against Lutherans
Spinozists against Dutch Calvinists
Deists against English Christianity
John Locke against Bishop Stillingfleet


The direct originator of the movement was Philipp Jakob Spener. Born at Rappoltsweiler in Alsace, France on 13 January 1635, trained by a devout godmother who used books of devotion like Arndt'sTrue Christianity, Spener was convinced of the necessity of a moral and religious reformation within German Lutheranism. He studied theology atStrasbourg, where the professors at the time (and especially Sebastian Schmidt) were more inclined to "practical" Christianity than to theological disputation. He afterwards spent a year in Geneva, and was powerfully influenced by the strict moral life and rigid ecclesiastical discipline prevalent there, and also by the preaching and the piety of theWaldensian professor Antoine Leger and the converted Jesuit preacher Jean de Labadie.
During a stay in Tübingen, Spener read Grossgebauer's Alarm Cry, and in 1666 he entered upon his first pastoral charge at Frankfurt with a profound opinion that the Christian life within Evangelical Lutheranism was being sacrificed to zeal for rigid Lutheran orthodoxy. Pietism, as a distinct movement in the German Church, was then originated by Spener by religious meetings at his house (collegia pietatis) at which he repeated his sermons, expounded passages of the New Testament, and induced those present to join in conversation on religious questions that arose. In 1675 Spener published his Pia desideria or Earnest Desire for a Reform of the True Evangelical Church, the title giving rise to the term "Pietists". This was originally a pejorative term given to the adherents of the movement by its enemies as a form of ridicule, like that of "Methodists" somewhat later in England.
In Pia desideria, Spener made six proposals as the best means of restoring the life of the Church:
  1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia("little churches within the church").
  2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church
  3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement
  4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them
  5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life
  6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life.
This work produced a great impression throughout Germany, and although large numbers of the orthodox Lutheran theologians and pastors were deeply offended by Spener's book, its complaints and its demands were both too well justified to admit of their being point-blank denied.[citation needed] A large number of pastors immediately adopted Spener's proposals.

[edit]Early leaders

Haugean Pietist Conventicle. Painting byAdolph Tidemand, 1852
In 1686 Spener accepted an appointment to the court-chaplaincy at Dresden, which opened to him a wider though more difficult sphere of labor. In Leipzig a society of young theologians was formed under his influence for the learned study and devout application of the Bible. Three magistrates belonging to that society, one of whom was August Hermann Francke, subsequently the founder of the famous orphanage at Halle (1695), commenced courses of expository lectures on the Scriptures of a practical and devotional character, and in the German language, which were zealously frequented by both students and townsmen. The lectures aroused, however, the ill-will of the other theologians and pastors of Leipzig, and Francke and his friends left the city, and with the aid of Christian Thomasius and Spener founded the new University of Halle. The theological chairs in the new university were filled in complete conformity with Spener's proposals. The main difference between the new Pietistic Lutheran school and the orthodox Lutherans arose from the Pietists' conception of Christianity as chiefly consisting in a change of heart and consequent holiness of life. Orthodox Lutherans rejected this viewpoint as a gross simplification, stressing the need for the church and for sound theological underpinnings.
Spener died in 1705; but, the movement, guided by Francke, fertilized from Halle the whole of Middle and North Germany. Among its greatest achievements, apart from the philanthropic institutions founded at Halle, were the revival of the Moravian Church in 1727 by Count von Zinzendorf, Spener's godson and a pupil in the Halle School for Young Noblemen, and the establishment of Protestant missions.
Lutherans of the United States
 Lutheranism portal
Spener's stress on the necessity of a new birth and on a separation of Christians from the world, (see Asceticism), led to exaggeration and fanaticism among some followers. Many Pietists soon maintained that the new birth must always be preceded by agonies of repentance, and that only a regenerated theologian could teach theology, while the whole school shunned all common worldly amusements, such as dancing, the theatre, and public games. Some would say that there thus arose a new form of justification by works. Itsecclesiolae in ecclesia also weakened the power and meaning of church organization. Through these extravagances a reactionary movement arose at the beginning of the 18th century; one leader was Valentin Ernst Löschersuperintendent at Dresden.

[edit]Later history

The Broad and the Narrow Way, a popular German Pietist painting, 1866
As a distinct movement, Pietism had its greatest strength by the middle of the 18th century; its very individualism in fact helped to prepare the way for the Enlightenment (Aufklärung), which would take the church in an altogether different direction. Yet some would claim that Pietism contributed largely to the revival of Biblical studies in Germany and to making religion once more an affair of the heart and of life and not merely of the intellect. It likewise gave a new emphasis on the role of the laity in the church. Rudolf Sohm claimed that "It was the last great surge of the waves of the ecclesiastical movement begun by the Reformation; it was the completion and the final form of the Protestantism created by the Reformation. Then came a time when another intellectual power took possession of the minds of men." Dietrich Bonhoeffer of the German Confessing Church framed the same characterization in less positive terms when he called Pietism the last attempt to save Christianity as a religion: Given that for him religion was a negative term, more or less an opposite to revelation, this constitutes a rather scathing judgment. Bonhoeffer denounced the basic aim of Pietism, to produce a "desired piety" in a person, as unbiblical.
Pietism is considered the major influence that lead to the creation of the "Evangelical Church of the Union" in Prussia in 1817. The King of Prussia ordered the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Prussia to unite; they took the name "Evangelical" as a name both groups had previously identified with. This union movement spread through many German lands in the 1800s. Pietism, with its looser attitude toward confessional theology, had opened the churches to the possibility of uniting. The unification of the two branches of German Protestantism sparked the Schism of the Old Lutherans. Many Lutherans, calledOld Lutherans formed free churches or immigrated to the United States and Australiawhere they formed one of the bodies who formed the Lutheran Church of Australia. (Many immigrants to America that agreed with the union movement formed German Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed congregations, later to be gathered as the Evangelical Synod of North America, which is now a part of the United Church of Christ.)
Pietism was a major influence on John Wesley and others who began the Methodist movement in 18th century Great Britain. John Wesley was influenced significantly by Moravians (e.g., ZinzendorfPeter Boehler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism. The fruit of these Pietist influences can be seen in the modern American Methodists and members of the Holiness movement.
Pietism did not die out in the 18th century, but was alive and active in the Evangelischer Kirchenverein des Westens (later German Evangelical Church and still later the Evangelical and Reformed Church.) The church president from 1901 to 1914 was a pietist named Dr. Jakob Pister. A discussion of some of the earlier pietist influence in the Evangelical and Reformed church can be found in Dunn et al., "A History of the Evangelical and Reformed Church" Christian Education Press, Philadelphia, 1962. Further commentary can be found by Rev. Dr. Carl Viehe under Pietism, Illinois Trails, Washington County. Some vestiges of Pietism were still present in 1957 at the time of the formation of the United Church of Christ.
However, in the 19th century, there was a revival of confessional Lutheran doctrine, known as the neo-Lutheran movement. This movement focused on a reassertion of the identity of Lutherans as a distinct group within the broader community of Christians, with a renewed focus on the Lutheran Confessions as a key source of Lutheran doctrine. Associated with these changes was a renewed focus on traditional doctrine and liturgy, which paralleled the growth of Anglo-Catholicism in England.[3]
Some writers on the history of Pietism – e.g. Heppe and Ritschl – have included under it nearly all religious tendencies amongst Protestants of the last three centuries in the direction of a more serious cultivation of personal piety than that prevalent in the various established churches. Ritschl, too, treats Pietism as a retrograde movement of Christian life towards Catholicism. Some historians also speak of a later or modern Pietism, characterizing thereby a party in the German Church which was probably at first influenced by some remains of Spener's Pietism in Westphalia, on the Rhine, in Württemberg, and at Halle and Berlin.
The party was chiefly distinguished by its opposition to an independent scientific study of theology, its principal theological leader being Hengstenberg, and its chief literary organ the Evangelische Kirchenzeitung.
Pietism also had a strong influence on contemporary artistic culture in Germany; though unread today, the Pietist Johann Georg Hamann held a strong influence in his day. Pietist belief in the power of individual meditation on the divine – a direct, individual approach to the ultimate spiritual reality of God – was probably partly responsible for the uniquely metaphysical, idealistic nature of German Romantic philosophy.
In modern societies where Pietism has had a profound impact its religious foundations are no longer apparent. Atheistic pietism is a term used by Asgeir Helgason to describe a pietistic (moralistic) approach to life without religion. “We have denied the existence of God but kept the pietistic rules”. Atheistic pietism has been suggested by Helgason,[4] to be one of the characteristics (traits) of the modern day Swedish national spirit. The term is first known to have been used by W.H. Mallock in 1879.
Economic historian Murray Rothbard sees modern Progressivism as essentially a deistic form of Pietism. [5]

[edit]Radical Pietism

Some of the primary leaders of Radical Pietism were:
Also relevant is:

[edit]Reformed Pietism

[edit]Württemberg Pietism


[edit]See also