Merger

   
         




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Sola Scriptura
Scripture Alone
Sola Gratia
Grace Alone
Sola Fide
Faith Alone

 

The Center and Scarville Evangelical Lutheran Churches came into existence in 1918 as a result of divisions in the North Prairie and Immanuel Lutheran congregations. The divisions were not occasioned by any local, personal strife, but by the Merger of 1917 in which three church bodies, the United Church, the Norwegian Synod, and the Hauge’s Synod, formed the Norwegian Lutheran Church (ELC), and later, The American Lutheran Church (The ALC), which has since merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

Rev. Emil HansenThe pastor of both congregations, the Rev. Emil Hansen, and minorities of the congregations were opposed, not to merger itself, but to the doctrinal basis on which the merger took place, namely, the “Madison Opgjør” (Madison Settlement). This joint doctrinal statement had been prepared by committees from the three merging church bodies. Pastor Rasmus Malmin, who served North Prairie from 1894-1899, was a member of the Norwegian Synod Committee and played no small part in the negotiations which produced the “Madison Settlement.” The document was a betrayal of the scriptural position for which the Synod had contended so earnestly in the “Naadevalgstrid” (Election of Grace Controversy) in the 1880’s. The “Madison Settlement” contained false doctrine in that it ascribed to natural man, before his conversion, a sense or feeling of responsibility regarding the acceptance of grace, thus making man himself responsible in part for his faith. This contradicted the scriptural truths that natural man is “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and that faith is a gift of God, as stated in Ephesians 2:8-9, as confessed in Luther’s explanation of the Third Article: “I believe that I cannot of my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

The Norwegian Synod adopted the “Madison Settlement” in 1912 on the basis of explanations and assurances from the Synod’s Committee that it upheld the Synod’s doctrinal position. When subsequent statements from the United Church’s Committee showed there was no true agreement between the two church bodies, a Minority arose in the Synod which tried to achieve doctrinal agreement before the union should take place. This Minority included the leadership of Luther College, as well as three of the four professors at the Synod’s seminary. They fought valiantly until 1917, when most of them accepted the “Austin Settlement” and went into the Merger. It was the remnant of the Minority which held fast also against the compromising nature of the “Austin Settlement” and in 1918 reorganized the Norwegian Synod at Lime Creek.

Pastor Emil Hansen and minorities of the members of Immanuel and North Prairie were of this remnant. When the majority of the members in Immanuel and North Prairie voted to become a part of the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America, Pastor Hansen and the rest of the members could not for conscience’ sake go along. These groups then organized the Scarville and Center congregations in order to remain on the old doctrinal foundation. At the same time they retained their pastor, the Rev. Emil Hansen.

(Written mostly by the Rev. Theodore A. Aaberg in 1968 for Center and Scarville's 50th anniversaries.)


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