Two very useful articles on the subject:

  1. Allan Pfnister, “Augustana College and Theological Seminary: A Brief History,” AHA, Spring 2002, 6-9 http://augustanaheritage.augustana.edu/aha_spring_2001.pdf
    very clear on help Esbjorn got from president of Knox College, Passavant, p. 7-8 

2. Derek R. Nelson, “Unity, Ecumenicity, and Difference in the. Augustana Synod,” Lutheran Quarterly, 24 (2010) http://augustanaheritage.augustana.edu/Nelson_on_Unity.pdf

This same theme, that of affi rming the validity of another church
body while asserting the right to defi ne the Lutheran church in a diff erent way, animated Lars Paul Esbjörn. Esbjörn was the fi rst
Swedish pastor to follow the wave of immigrants to the Midwest in
the middle third of the nineteenth century. When he emigrated
from Sweden his well-meaning friends had pledged to support him,
but this money soon ran out. Needing a source of funding, Esbjörn
turned to the jointly Presbyterian and Congregational American
Home Missionary Society. He did not wish to convert from his
Lutheran background, and so sought assistance from the AHMS
precisely as a Lutheran, though the agency was Reformed. Esbjörn
later described his experience in these terms:

Ready to give to one and all a reason for the hope that is in me, I related my
own spiritual experiences and the chief points of our Lutheran doctrine.
Although the Association did not approve of them all, especially our teaching
about the sacraments, election, and the possibility of the elect falling from
grace, nevertheless, we agreed that I should “preach the gospel and administer
the sacraments, and observe church practice, ceremonies and discipline as an
Evangelical Lutheran servant of Christ.”9

The AHMS off ered Esbjörn a stipend and he set to work
ministering in and around central Illinois. He soon ran into diffi culty,
however, with some of the requirements the AHMS had made. As
a pastor of the Church of Sweden, Esbjörn was accustomed to
communing all those who had been confi rmed in the faith. But the
ECUMENICITY IN THE AUGUSTANA SYNOD 81
AHMS insisted that a person give evidence of having been re-born
before being admitted to membership in the church and receiving
the sacrament. This pained Esbjörn greatly. It was more than simply
respect for a signed contract that made him adhere to the stipulations
of the support the AHMS off ered, however. There was also present
a nascent ecumenical understanding that the Presbyterian and
Congregationalist churches had legitimate reasons for insisting on
full conversion before communing, though he as a Lutheran pastor
did not come to the same conclusion. Shortly after his dispute with
Unonius became public, however, Esbjörn became known to many
Lutheran leaders (such as William Passavant and William Reynolds)
who were able fundraisers, and Esbjörn soon found himself with
enough capital to dissociate from his sponsoring agency. [80-81]

  1. Letter to Swedish Missionary Society, 1850. Quoted in G. Everett Arden,
    Augustana Heritage, 32 [94n9]

***

Let it be enough to say that Augustana stood
nearly alone in the pan-Lutheran fi eld in fi nding a basis for church
fellowship not necessarily in total doctrinal agreement, nor in
suffi ciently blurring lines of distinction between diff erent church
groups, nor in moving away from the confessional traditions of the
Lutheran church. From the point of view of Augustana and its
leaders, a church should express deeply and without reservation its
core identity in relation to its ecumenical or ministerial partners.
Only then can genuine unity be discovered. Ecumenical conversations
and mutual ministry do not forge unity, but rather fi nd it.16 [83]

  1. This is best shown in an excellent study of the ecumenicity of the Augustana
    Synod, Hugo Söderström, Confession and Cooperation: The Policy of the Augustana Synod in
    Confessional Matters and the Synod’s Relations with Other Churches up to the Beginning of the
    Twentieth Century (Lund: CWK Gleerup Bokförlag, 1973).

***

Let it be enough to say that Augustana stood
nearly alone in the pan-Lutheran fi eld in fi nding a basis for church
fellowship not necessarily in total doctrinal agreement, nor in
suffi ciently blurring lines of distinction between diff erent church
groups, nor in moving away from the confessional traditions of the
Lutheran church. From the point of view of Augustana and its
leaders, a church should express deeply and without reservation its
core identity in relation to its ecumenical or ministerial partners.
Only then can genuine unity be discovered. Ecumenical conversations
and mutual ministry do not forge unity, but rather fi nd it. [85]

***

But the recognition of other churches as legitimate sites of the
Christian ministry (following the satis est clause of the Augsburg
Confession, Art. VII) did not mean that Lutheran distinctiveness, nor
confessional subscription, needed to be downplayed. On the contrary,
as Martin Englund well noted,

Our polity in regard to sister synods may at times have been characterized by
an uncouthness peculiar to the Viking blood, but beneath this uncouthness r
the deep and steady irenic undercurrent of “peace, not pieces.” Even in our
relations to other Protestant communions we strive to be irenic, though
uncompromising in doctrinal questions and unionistic movements, and the
bitter controversies that raged at times and the equally bitter words that fell are
mere incidents in the Synod’s history. But our love for peace has rendered us
cautious as to a false peace – a “peace when there is no peace.”24

Two principles are evident here. First, it is clear that every eff ort
would be made to recognize in another church body the essence of
the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. But secondly, such
recognition need not imply that uniformity would prevail, nor that
recognizing the presence in another church of the true essence of
the Christian church would mean that the churches ought to merge
institutionally [86]

  1. Martin J. Englund, “Church Polity of the Augustana Synod,” in The Augustana
    Synod: A Brief Review of Its History, 1860-1910 (Rock Island, IL: Augustana Book Concern,
    1910), 49. [95n24]

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