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                                CHAPTER I
                              Lay-Preaching

Since the first missionary work among Norwegian immi-
grants had been done by lay-preachers, notably Elling Eielsen,
it was not strange that this question should be raised when
regularly called and ordained pastors arrived. These did not
deny that there was a place for lay-preaching in tile circum-
stances that prevailed among the early immigrants, but they
deplored the hostility to the "State-Church" ministry. which too
many of the lay-preachers brought with them from Norway and
had to oppose the errors in doctrine and practice of which they
were guilty. Thus Pres. H. A. Preus said in 1867 (Syv
Foredrag [ Seven Lectures] delivered and published in Norway);

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Unfortunately the first ordained pastors to work among the
shepherdless Norwegians, W. Dietrichson and C. L. Clausen,
were not the best fitted to expose the errors of Eielsen's faction,
being themselves entangled in "the Grundtvigian error," that
the Apostles' Creed is of divine origin and authority equally
with the Bible. Rev. H. A. Preus says in the same Syv Foredrag: The pastors who organized the Norwegian Synod in 1853
took pains to cleanse their organization of all "Grundtvigian
leaven." Thereafter the Eielsen faction had less success, though
it continued its opposition as bitterly as ever to "the State-
Church pastors with their long gowns" and to their congrega-
tions which were dubbed "Babel," "the world's great mass" in
contrast with Eielsen's own "little flock," etc. But the influence
of the "Hauge element" from Norway caused considerable dis-
sension within the congregations of the Norwegian Synod. For
there were those who, without joining Eielsen in his condemna-
tion of everything connected with the State-Church of Norway,
yet thought it in order to permit lay-preaching by such as were
"moved by the Holy Ghost," even though they had not been
called in accordance with the rule laid down in the Augsburg
Confession Art. 14: "No one should publicly teach in the Church
or administer the sacraments, unless he be regularly called."

This question was thoroughly discussed at several confer-
ences ill which also some "Missourians," including Dr. Walther,
took part, and at the Synodical Conventions at Coon Prairie,
Wisconsin, ill October, 1859, and in Holden, Goodhue County,
Minnesota, in 1862. The results of these discussions were sum-
marized in seven theses which were adopted by the Synod in
1862. They read (Festskrift, p. 235-6):

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This marked the end of the controversy on lay-preaching
within the Norwegian Synod. But the controversy continued
with other church groups such as the Augustaria Synod, later on
with the Hauge Synod and the Conference, as well as the Eielsen
Synod. A final settlement so far as the great majority of Nor-
wegian Lutherans was concerned was reached in 1912, when
the three synods which eventually formed the Norwegian Merger
of 1917 adopted a set of theses, prepared in 1906 by the Union
Committees of these synods. These are in the main a correct
statement of the principles at issue and read (Faellesrapport i For-
eningssagen 1906, translated from the Norwegian):  

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Unfortunately for sound Lutheran practice, these theses, like
so many other doctrinal "agreements" between opposing church
bodies in recent years, combine truth with a little error. And
in all such cases it is the error which vitiates the truth, not
the truth which neutralizes the error. For par. 5 opens the
door for the use of un-ordained "evangelists" or traveling "lay-
preachers" who have no other "call" than an invitation from a
congregation or pastor to preach at special services (cf. Lutheran
Herald,  Apr. 21, 1942, p. 430). But it is only juggling with
words to equate such invitations with the divine call into the
holy ministry which a congregation extends to its pastor. In
1862 the Norwegian Synod would sanction lay-preaching only in

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case of real need and even then required that the congregation
should extend a definite call to its "lay-preacher." But in 1912,
although the Synod reaffirmed this principle in paragraph 3, in
paragraph 5 it sanctioned the theory that some Christians may
have "special gifts of grace" which entitle them to "preach the
Word of God to an assembly," regardless of whether there is
any real need of their services or not. Certain safeguards and
restrictions have been placed upon the activities of these lay-
preachers but this only obscures the fact that a false un-Biblical
principle has been adopted without correcting the real errors
involved.

This is an example of how little the controversies of the
Norwegian Synod with other synods were settled by the adop-
tion of the doctrinal "agreements" which formed the basis for
the Union of 1917. They can only be said to have been buried
under the sod of doctrinal indifference and indefiniteness, the
contending parties agreeing to differ and adopting doctrinal
statements which made room for the views of both. This willing-
ness to compromise to make peace with error, is widely hailed
as a virtue today. Thus the editor of Lutheran Herald, Febru-
ary 11, 1941, reviewing Dr. Theo. C. Blegen's book, The Nor-
wegian Migration to America: The American Transition, says:

But there is no virtue in building an external organization
which, like the Roman Catholic Church, or like the State Churches
in Norway and other countries, is able to keep the most diverse

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and mutually conflicting elements under the same roof. Pres.
H. A. Preus expressed the true Lutheran principles in this regard
when he said (Syv Foredrag, p. 57-8): It is in this spirit that our Norwegian Synod today seeks
to carry on the work that H. A. Preus and his spritual brethren
began so auspiciously ninety years ago. Let others call it "high-
churchly orthodoxism" which can exert no influence inthe modern
world; we know that the trugh in Christ Jesus is the only real
power for good in the world, even when it is most despised and
persecuted by the haughty spirits who walk by sight rather than by faith.

142 [end of chapter]