The First Annual Augustana Institute Lecture

The Augustana Institute at LTSP

The First Annual Augustana Institute Lecture by
Swedish Bishop Jonas Jonson

The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Saturday, March 22, 2014

Recordings and photos of the event will be posted here.

Keynote Lecture:
“Archbishop Nathan Soderblom:
Ambassador for World Peace and Christian Unity”

Archbishop Nathan Soderblom

presented by Bishop Jonas Jonson
retired Bishop of Strangnas, Sweden
Bishop Jonas Jonson

Schedule for Saturday, March 22:

1:00 pmRegistration & refreshments
2:00 pmLecture “Archbishop Nathan Soderblom: Ambassador for World Peace and Christian Unity” by Bishop Jonas Jonson, retired Bishop of Strangnas, Sweden
3:00 pmBreak
3:30 pmPanel with:
  • Rev. Dr. Norm Hjelm
  • Rev. Dr. William Rusch, former Director of ELCA Commission on Ecumenical Relations,
  • Rev. Dr. Maria Erling, Professor of History of Christianity in North America and Global Missions at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg
  • Rev. Dr. Daniell Hamby, Rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Yardley, PA
5:30 pmSupper buffet

Sunday, March 23 at 10:00 am: Eucharist at Episcopal Cathedral,
Bishop Jonson preaching.

Click to read a pre-event article about the lecture in the January edition of PS Portions.

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Background information from the Philadelphia Theological Institute

ARCHBISHOP NATHAN SÖDERBLOM

Ambassador for World Peace and Christian Unity: A Lecture by Bishop Emeritus Jonas Jonson of the Diocese of Strängnäs, Church of Sweden.

Nathan Söderblom was the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden, 1914-1931. As one of the pioneers of the ecumenical movement he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1930.  He was a great friend of the Augustana Lutheran Synod in the U.S. and as an ecumenist his contacts with the Anglican churches were extensive.  This lecture will include perspectives on Söderblom’s “grand tour” of America in 1923.

One of the ecumenical accomplishments during the time of Söderblom’s tenure as Arch-bishop was the establishment of “full communion” between the Church of England and the Church of Sweden in 1920.; He was also the key figure in the 1925 ecumenical Con-frerence on Life and Work held in Stockholm.  Such accomplishments will also be considered in the lecture of Bishop Jonson.

Dr. Jonas Jonson was Bishop of Strängnäs, Church of Sweden, 1989-2005.  Prior to that he was a teacher of missiology at Uppsala University and served as Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations of the Lutheran World Federation.  He has been a member of many World Council of Churches committees, including its Central Committee, and he served as co-moderator of the Joint Working Group of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Catholic Church from 1998-2005.  In 2011 he completed a major biography of the Swedish theologian and bishop Gustaf Aulén and is now in the process of completing a biography of Nathan Söderblom to be published at the one hundredth anniversary of his election as Archbishop of the Church of Sweden.  His book Wounded Visions: Unity, Justice, and Peace in the World Church after 1969 was published in 2013 by Eerdmans Publishers.

The Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 107-110
Volume 5

Söderblom, Nathan Notes by Norman Hjelm prepared for Eerdmans, Encyclopedia of Christianity
1.    Early Life
2.    Theological Publication
3.    Archbishop
4.    Life and Work
5.    Other Ecumenical Initiatives
6.    Conclusion

1.  Early Life
Lars Olof Jonathan Söderblom (called Nathan; 1866-1931), born in Trönö in the central Swedish province of Hälsingland, was the son of Jonas Söderblom, a pietistic pastor of the Church of Sweden.  In 1883, he enrolled in Uppsala University, and in 1886 received his first degree, Fil. Kand., in Latin, Greek, Semitic and Nordic Languages, Philosophy, and Geology.  As he pursued further studies in theology at Uppsala, he was active in student affairs, being elected to “O.D.,” the still-renowned male chorus, Orphei Dränger, and also to the presidency of the Uppsala student body.

In 1890 he traveled to the United States in order to participate in the famous Northfield, Massachusetts student Chistian conference.  The leaders of that conference – John R. Mott (1865-1955), Dwight L. Moody (1837-99), and Ira D. Sankey (1840-1908) – made a deep impression on Söderblom.  At this conference the young Swedish student formulated a prayer, recorded in his diary, that was to guide his life and career:  “Lord, give me humility and wisdom to serve the great cause of the free unity of Thy Church.”
In 1893 Nathan Söderblom was ordained a priest in the Church of Sweden by Gottfried Billing (1841-1925), then Bishop of Västerås.  The next year he was married to Anna Forsell (1870-1955); the couple was to have twelve children.  That same year, 1894, the couple traveled to France where he became pastor to Swedish churches in Calais and Paris.

While in France, Söderblom pursued doctoral studies at the Sorbonne, and in 1901, with Auguste Sabatier (1839-1901) having been his principle teacher, he defended his dissertation, La vie future d’après le Mazdéisme, a study in the eschatology of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian deity.  The same year he became Professor of Theological Encyclopedia and Theological Prenotions at Uppsala University, a chair he held until 1914.  During this time at Uppsala, he was also an honorary canon (prebendary) of the historic Holy Trinity Church located in the heart of the University area.  This was a period of considerable academic accomplishment and publication for Söderblom and also a time when he made important trips to such places as Rome, Athens, and Constantinople.  Moreover, in 1912 he was named Professor of the History of Religion at the University of Leipzig in Germany, a position he held simultaneously with his professorship at Uppsala.

2.  Theological Publication
The breadth of Nathan Söderblom’s theological interests was amazing.  He was a student of the history of religions, and his most fruitful theological work perhaps had to do with “the problem of religion” as such, and with the problem of revelation in particular.   One of his two most important works, The Nature of Revelation, was first published in 1903 at the beginning of Söderblom’s career as just one essay, “The Religion of Revelation.”  It was reissued in 1932 with two additional chapters, “Portals of Revelation” and “Continued Revelation.”  An English translation appeared in 1933 and was reprinted in 1966 with a most helpful introduction to the work and its author. The Nature of Revelation should be studied in connection with the internationally important Gifford Lectures which he was invited to deliver in Edinburgh in 1931 and 1932.  The first set of lectures was published in English as The Living God; the second set was never delivered.

But Söderblom had other interests and made other contributions.  He published several works on Luther, beginning as early as 1893 with two untranslated works, The Origin of the Lutheran Reformation and Luther’s Religion.  Perhaps most importantly, he also published a collection of studies, also untranslated, Humor and Melancholy and Other Luther Studies in 1919. Some of his reflections on ecclesial and ecumenical concerns are to be found in a work which appeared in English under the title, Christian Fellowship.  He also made heavy use of the notion of “evangelical catholicity” (he preferred “evangelic catho-licity”).

3.  Archbishop
In 1914 the Archbishopric of Uppsala became vacant and, in the Swedish system, Söderblom’s name was the third of the three candidates presented to the King of Sweden for his government’s decision.  The other two candidates, Bishops Hjalmar Danell (1860-1938) of the Diocese of Skara and J.A. Eklund (1863-1945) of Karlstad, together had more than eighty percent of the votes.  It was, then, a major surprise that the government named Nathan Söderblom Archbishop of Uppsala, Primate of the Church of Sweden.  With this position, he also became, ex officio, Pro-Chancellor of Uppsala University.

As Archbishop, there were obviously a great many matters affecting the life of the Church of Sweden that occupied Söderblom’s attention:  lengthy formal visitations to all parishes in the Archdiocese; negotiations over crucial issues between the State and the Church, not least the role of the rising labor movement in Swedish society; coordination of relief work in Germany and Austria after World War I; participating with all Swedish bishops in a protest in 1923 over the crisis between the French and Germans in the Ruhr Valley; and leadership of a special evangelism effort in the Archdiocese in 1926.

4.  Life and Work
Nathan Söderblom, as Primate of the Church of Sweden, is chiefly remembered, however, for his remarkable international and ecumenical accomplishments.  His early visit to the United States and his period of residency in France indelibly imprinted international concerns on his consciousness.  This resulted in tireless efforts for peace before, during, and after World War I, not least through his involvement in the leadership of the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through the Churches.  This dovetailed with his commitment to the Life and Work Movement, one of the major streams in the early modern ecumenical movement.

His identification with Life and Work reached its climax in 1925 at the Stockholm (and Uppsala) event, The Universal Christian Conference on Life and Work.  Regarded as one of the events most formative of the modern ecumenical movement, the Stockholm Conference owed much to the genius and commitment of the Swedish Archbishop whose vision was that this meeting on social issues should support the idea of an ecumenical council of churches.  To be sure, the Roman Catholic Church would not and did not accept Söderblom’s invitation to participate in this meeting, but virtually every other strain in Christendom did – Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant.  In material prepared for the event, it was stated that the words “life and work” were an expression of the determination to set forth “the Christian way of life” as “the world’s greatest need.”  It was the aim of the conference “to formulate programmes and devise means… whereby the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of all peoples will become more completely realized through the church of Christ.”  And famously, the conference deliberately avoided theological issues with the slogan, “Doctrine divides while service unites.”
It can, to be sure, be argued that the Stockholm Conference was the victim of its own idealism.  The complexities of the post-World War I world were perhaps not fully recognized.  Its statements were soon recognized as vague and far too general.  Nevertheless, this was a milestone in the creation both of ecumenical and socio-political awareness.  Christians who previously had had little or no contact encountered each other in worship, discourse, and decision-making, and the results shaped much of the ecumenical development that was to come in the 20th century.

5.  Other Ecumenical Initiatives
The ecumenical insights and commitments of Nathan Söderblom were not limited to the Life and Work Movement.  Indeed, he saw the crucial importance of Faith and Order as well, and gave much to that movement largely in support of the work of another ecumenical pioneer, the American Episcopal Bishop, Charles H. Brent (1862-1929).  At the First Conference on Faith and Order, held in 1927 in Lausanne, Switzerland, a kind of parallel to the earlier Stockholm Conference of Life and Work, he chaired the key section on “The Unity of Christendom and the Relation Thereto of Existing Churches.”

It was also largely as a result of the initiative of Archbishop Söderblom, and after a period of bold steps forward, that the 1920 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops officially acknowledged that the Church of Sweden had maintained the historic episcopate throughout its existence and that there was really nothing to inhibit inter-communion between it and the Anglican Communion.  Since then, for example, it has been the rule that bishops from each church participate in the consecration of new bishops in the partner body.

Söderblom also worked to strengthen relations between the Church of Sweden and other Lutheran churches.  For instance, he had a special love for the Augustana Lutheran Church in America, a body that traced its roots to Swedish immigration in the 19th century and which the Archbishop referred to as “the daughter church” of his own.
The immigrant church had, in point of fact, at times in its history, which began in 1860, felt deserted by the mother church, and there was even some hostility toward Söderblom himself who was perceived by some as far too “liberal” a theologian.  For four months in 1923 the Archbishop and his wife visited the Augustana Church in order to demonstrate not simply friendship but solidarity within the wider Lutheran tradition.

6.  Conclusion
In 1930, Archbishop Nathan Söderblom was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  At the ceremony in Oslo when this prize was presented, Söderblom spoke, using a favorite metaphor – body, soul, in the following way:  “The peoples are members of an organism, but a body must have a soul, else it becomes at best a dead mechanism.  This soul will be the love and righteousness of the Gospel and not the devil of selfishness.  Thus the work of peace must begin in one’s own heart.”

After years of battling heart disease, Söderblom died on July 12, 1931.

Bibliography: 

Selected primary works:
N. SÖDERBLOM, Christian Fellowship or The United Life and Work of Christendom (Chicago, 1923)
IDEM, The Living God: Basic Forms of Personal Religion (London, 1933; Boston, 1962)
IDEM, The Mystery of the Cross (Milwaukee, 1933)
IDEM, The Nature of Revelation (Philadelphia, 1966).

Selected secondary works:
C. J. CURTIS, Söderblom: Theologian of Revelation (Chicago, 1966)
IDEM, Söderblom: Ecumenical Pioneer (Minneapolis, 1967)
C.R. BRÅKENHIELM and G.W. HOLLMAN, eds., The Relevance of Theo-logy: Nathan Söderblom and the Development of an Academic Discipline (Uppsala, 2002)
S. DAHLGREN, ed., Nathan Söderblom as a European (Uppsala, 1992)  ▪
C. F. HALLENCREUTZ and Ö. SJÖHOLM, eds., Nathan Söderblom:  Präst, Professor, Ärkebiskop (Uppsala, 2000)
S. RUNESTAM, Söderblomsstudier (Uppsala, 2004)  ▪
E.J. SHARPE, Nathan Söderblom and the Study of Religion (London, 1990)
B. SUNDKLER, Nathan Söderblom: His Life and Work (Lund, 1968)
IDEM, Nathan Söderblom och hans möten (Stockholm, 1975).
NORMAN A. HJELM