Who was the most influential Lutheran theologian in America in the 19th century? C.F.W. Walther? C.P. Krauth? How about U.V. Koren? While lesser known than these contemporaries, U.V. Koren’s legacy looms large in that portion of Lutheranism that traces its roots to the Norwegian Lutheran immigration of 1840s. Now Koren’s collected works, known as Samlede Skrifter in Norwegian, are being translated for the first time in English. Why is this significant and worth our reading?
Koren (1826-1910) was the first Norwegian Lutheran pastor west of the Mississippi, serving congregations in northeastern Iowa and southern Minnesota. (On a personal note, some of my wife’s ancestors were baptized by Koren.) Koren served as President of the Norwegian Synod from 1894-1910. He guided the Synod through difficult controversies over such issues as the doctrine of election, and helped establish relationships between the Norwegian Synod and Wisconsin and Missouri synods. He also helped to found colleges and academies throughout the Midwest. He also wrote the wrote the words of the hymn “Ye Lands, to Lord,” included in the Lutheran Hymnal, Christian Worship, Lutheran Worship, and the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (and sadly missing from the Lutheran Service Book).
The works of Koren also help dispel the notion that those Norwegians who established fellowship with the Missourians and helped form the Synodical Conference adopted a different doctrinal stance as a result of their contact with Missouri. Rather, they brought their beliefs with them from Norway, where they were trained by orthodox Lutheran teachers and then found that in America the Missourians shared a common understanding of Lutheranism rooted in Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.
The first volume of U.V. Koren’s Works, featuring sermons translated by Bethany Lutheran College professor Rev. Mark DeGarmeaux and the ELS Translation Committee, was released last week, in time for the ELS Convention. Based on the historic pericopes of the ancient church, these sermons show Koren to be a solid Law and Gospel, means of grace theologian. The three future volumes will include theological articles and correspondence with other theologians. The first volume of U.V. Koren’s Works is available from the Bethany Lutheran College bookstore (1-800-944-3066) at a cost of $25 and is hardcover with easy to read type.