Norway’s Defender of Life Børre Knudsen Dead at 76
(August 18) Norwegian Bishop Børre Knudsen died quietly in his home near Tromsø Sunday morning, surrounded by his family. Norway’s most prominent pro-Life leader had suffered worsening Parkinson’s Disease in recent years. His passing sparked a wave of praise from Christian and even secular publications across Norway. An editorial in the Christian daily Dagen entitled “Heartfelt Thanks, Borre Knudsen” described him as “a unique person. His warm heart, his gentle zeal and his steadfastness stand as strong testimony to a life of selfless service for the Life that God created.”
“When the history of our times is written,” Dagen continues, “Borre Knudsen will be one future generations will hear about. Knudsen’s struggle is not driven by opposition to women’s rights or the preservation of traditional gender roles, but by a strong commitment to protect life itself.”
Vårt Land writes, “Borre Knudsen will go down in history as one of the most important churchly personalities of our time, but both he and his family had to pay a high price because he stood out front in the abortion battle.”
Bishop Knudsen was known throughout Norway and beyond for his gentle demeanor but uncompromising struggle against legalized abortion, beginning when the Norwegian law was adopted in 1978. Protesting the law, he refused to carry out government duties assigned to state church pastors, such as keeping official records, and refused his salary, but continued his pastoral service to his congregation.
This protest was modeled after the Church’s resistance against the World War II Nazi occupation of Norway. When the occupation government attempted to transform the Church along their lines and brainwash children as was then being done in Germany, the bishops wrote a Confession known as “The Church’s Foundation” (Kirkens Grunn). This confessed that the Church is bound to God’s Word, that Word and Sacrament cannot be reshaped by the government, and that parents must resist government efforts to pervert their children’s faith. On Easter Day 1942 this Confession was read from the pulpit in Lutheran churches all over Norway. Most pastors then resigned their state appointments, refusing to serve the government or to accept their government salaries, but continuing their pastoral services. The bishops and many pastors were imprisoned, but the Church remained free and faithful.
Following the Kirkens Grunn model, Knudsen continued to serve his parish despite government efforts to remove him, until the Norwegian Supreme Court ruled against him in 1983. He was not, however, defrocked at that time and continued his ministry in a valgmenighet, a Norwegian form of congregation nominally within the state church, but independent of its bishops. On Easter Day 1991, Knudsen and several other pastors formed the Strandebarm Deanery (Prosti), also called the “Norwegian Church in Exile.” The Deanery viewed itself as continuing the historic faith and practice of the Norwegian Church, but outside the control of the government and the government-appointed bishops. It held to confessional Lutheran positions, and thus opposed the state church, on such matters as abortion, homosexuality, and ordination of women.
Knudsen was consecrated bishop for the Deanery in 1997, and this led to his being defrocked in 2001. He continued serving in the Deanery until 2011, when he retired for health reasons. Bishop Thor Henrik With was consecrated in 2012 to replace Knudsen for the congregations in northern Norway. These congregations constituted themselves into what is now called The Evangelical-Lutheran Diocese in Norway. It cooperates closely with the Mission Province in Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Diocese in Finland. Bishop Knudsen was one of the four Lutheran bishops who assisted Bishop Walter Obare of Kenya when he consecrated the first Mission Province bishop, Arne Olsson, in 2005.
Bishop Knudsen led an increasingly controversial series of protest actions in defense of the unborn as long as his health permitted. He was the object of much hatred and abuse by militant abortion supporters. He maintained a gentle but steadfast attitude in the face of much persecution. His family, especially his children, were also targeted for persecution.
Public attitudes toward Bishop Knudsen have mellowed considerably in light of his consistent and gentle witness. He is the subject of a book entitled A Priest and a Plague (En Prest og en Plage) and a full-length documentary film of the same title. The film was released in Norway earlier this year and shown all over that country. Norwegian TV has scheduled a nation-wide prime time broadcast on Tuesday (August 19). The film has been released on DVD in Scandinavia (in Region2 format), and is expected to be released in North America in October.
Coverage (in Norwegian) of Børre Knudsen’s passing:
Link to documentary film website [a DVD is available in Scandinavia, but has not yet been released in North America … it will have English subtitles]:
Christopher C. Barnekov, PhD
Scandinavia House Fort Wayne
1925 Saint Joe Center RD
Fort Wayne, IN 46825
For the past several days, the International Loehe Society (http://www.iloes.net/en/) Fourth Loehe Theological Conference has been holding forth in Neuendettelsau, Germany — Loehe’s base of operation in the 19th century. Scholars primarily from Germany and North America discussed the topic of Christian Formation.
Professor John Pless and Dr. Albert Collver from the LCMS were presenters at the conference. Deaconess Grace Rao and Rev. Tony Booker, Regional Director for Eurasia, also attended on behalf of the LCMS.
Dr. Collver’s presentation was titled, “Loehe: Mission Societies, The Church in Its Motion and Missio Dei.” Collver noted that for Loehe the church engages in mission by being Church. The gospel goes out into the world to all nations, one congregation at a time. Collver used Loehe to critique some contemporary Missiology trends.
Professor Pless presented on “Seed Grains: Loehe’s Manual for Christian Formation Through Prayer.” Loehe teaches Christians how to pray, not by talking about prayer but by providing prayers for Christians to imitate. He provides prayers for the church year and for various events and concerns. The Psalter has a primary function in Seed Grains with each day of the week. Through Seed Grains, Loehe hoped to shape the life of the Christian.
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) is holding its Council meeting. The EECMY holds a general assembly every four years. This is similar to a convention for the LCMS. The EECMY also holds a council meeting between the general assemblies. The council meeting consists of all the synod presidents (District Presidents in LCMS terminology) and other representatives. Reports are made by each Synod (District in LCMS lingo) to the council. Currently, the various synods are reporting on how they are implementing the strategic plan. The EECMY has a church wide strategic plan. Each Synod (District) operates according to the same plan with the same goals. One Synod reported to the Council that they had gained 87,000 new members since this time last year. The Council is able to make decisions on behalf of the entire church between general assemblies. The third level of governance in the EECMY is the executive committee. President Harrison met with the executive committee in January 2014.
Dr. Collver had opportunity to bring greetings to the Council on behalf of President Harrison and the LCMS. The EECMY expressed appreciation for President Harrison’s visit in January, as well as for the LCMS’ efforts to increase the EECMY’s Lutheran identity and the work on theological education.
The EECMY has recently begun to send missionaries around the world. They do work in West Africa and Pakistan. One of the missionaries told the Council that it was not enough to leave your home but one had to be willing to lose his life for the Gospel. Over 15,000 people attended, the sending service for one of the missionary.
The EECMY had an art display at the council. Recently, some in the EECMY began to use art as a method for outreach. The triptych above shows a person fixing his eyes on the crucified Christ and turning from the riches, beauty, and power of the world.
The EECMY holds as its confessional basis that the Old and New Testaments are the Holy Word of God and the only source and only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice. The church holds to the Creeds, the Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Catechisms. One of the challenges is that very few copies of either the Augsburg Confession or Luther’s Catechisms can be found in Ethiopia. The lack of these confessional documents presents challenges in teaching and maintaining Lutheran identity.
Posted on 21 July 2014 by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver
A group from the LCMS met with leaders at the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss how the EECMY and the LCMS can work together on theological education to train future pastors. The EECMY curre you has about 3,000 pastors, and has a goal of having one pastor per congregation or 10,000 pastors over the next five years. The LCMS has committed to providing assistance in curriculum development and to provide theological educators to teach courses. For the part year the LCMS have had theological educators at MYS to assist in their programs.
These books from CPH are some of the materials used by students in the graduate study lounge at MYS. Obtaining theological study materials is one of the greatest challenges in providing theological education in not only Ethiopia but through out Africa and Latin America. The challenge lay not only in the cost of the materials but also in shipping, transport, and storage. Although the rise of electronic books and Internet resources is common place in North America and Europe, electronic resources are generally impractical or entirely unusable in Africa and other parts of the world. (The hotel where we are staying only had Internet access for a few hours yesterday.) It is not uncommon for electricity to be shut off for parts of the day. Printed books are a necessity despite the rise of electronic resources. The question in many cases is which resources to provide and how to get the materials where they are needed — a challenge that the Chemnitz Library Initiative is trying to address.
A letter of greeting from Concordia Seminary, St Louis is presented to Dr. Belay at MYS. With now 7 regional seminaries and 40 Bible colleges in the EECMY, there is tremendous opportunity for theological education. The EECMY requested that representatives from both Concordia Seminary St Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary come to Ethiopia to discuss face to face how further collaboration could be made.
Deaconess Sandra Rhein, Beza Tefera, and Church Musician Emily German tour the MYS campus. Deaconess Sandra and Emily are visiting to explore the possibility of assisting in the development of worship materials particularly for the youth and for mission outreach. Part of the project will include the gathering of indigenous Ethiopian hymns and songs, as well as working with traditional Lutheran hymns that have been translated. Dr. Berhanu, EECMY General Secretary, stated that this project is one of the most needful items now for the EECMY.
Today we meet with other leaders of the EECMY. The next several days will be packed with activities.
– Posted on 19 July 2014 by Dr. Albert Collver
Most of us live in subconscious denial of the shortness of life on this earth for much of our lives. Often the bathroom mirror is powerless, even when it is obvious life is passing by. Barring some unforeseen illness or accident, hardly expected, life for a long time seems to extend far into the future. Its shortness has a hard time registering on our minds.
But over time it begins to dawn on us that life on earth, in every case, always has its dusk, toward which our momentum seems only to increase as time passes by. What changes, of course, is perspective. And some events in life are important teachers that remind us not only of the brevity of our sojourn on this earth but also of the relative insignificance of much that we deem important during our earlier years. There are few better occasions to gain perspective than a church anniversary. I attended one a week ago Sunday as a former pastor.
It had been more than 25 years since I had visited the congregation and had seen some of the people (except in memories of long-past events) and they had seen me (except in the congregation’s collection of confirmation pictures). I expect we all gained some perspective that week-ago Sunday. Children whom I had been privileged to baptize introduced me to their children. Couples for whose weddings I officiated introduced me to their grandchildren. Patriarchs and matriarchs who were the pillars of the congregation now used walkers to stay erect. All provided a lesson in perspective.
It wasn’t necessarily a lesson that I hadn’t learned already before. It was just the latest lesson along the way. It is a lesson that we all can use and probably need to have repeated. Hopefully the young people present received it as one of their first lessons in perspective as well. There is a place for youthful optimism and exhuberance that moves this world along, but it has a comparatively unimportant place when the dusk of life approaches, when finally the only optimism that will really matter is voiced by trembling lips as they mouth “The Lord is my Shepherd…” and the only exhuberance that will be important will be anticipation of joining celestial choirs in thanking God for His grace.