The “Koren Nation” Visit
One day last October, about 35 descendants of Rev. Ulrik Wilhelm Koren paid homage to their distinguished ancestor by visiting the campus of our Bethany Lutheran College and Seminary. These members of the “Koren Nation” from Norway wanted to see where in America their sainted ancestor carried out his mission work. Their trip included visits to places in Iowa and Wisconsin.
A pastor in the state church of Norway organized this trip. They were aware that U.V. Koren had special ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, so it was fitting that they should visit its headquarters in Mankato, Minnesota, where their ancestor continues to be held in high regard.
U.V. Koren came to this country in 1852 and was a pastor at Washington Prairie, Iowa, from 1853 until his death in December 1910. From his home in Washington Prairie, Koren began congregations in a wide area of Iowa. He held many offices in the “Norwegian Synod,” as it was then known, eventually serving as its president. Koren’s biblical leadership was especially appreciated during the predestination controversy when he proclaimed the true Lutheran doctrine on conversion and election.
We surmise that Dr. Koren would have been pleased to know that his descendants traveled across the ocean to visit the lands so blessed by his ministry. We hope that their visit deepened their appreciation for their ancestor and the message he championed: the unconditional Gospel of eternal salvation by grace through faith alone.
What’s in a Name? A Lot!
Yes. A name can be important. The largest Protestant denomination is presently known as the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), founded in 1845 over slavery. Its president defined the issue: “The name ‘Southern’ really no longer reflects who we are as a Convention in reaching all of North America.” He added that the word “Southern” does not play well in places like Boston, New York, Michigan or Wyoming. While most of the SBC’s 40,000 churches and 16 million members still exist below the Mason-Dixon line, it now has churches in all fifty states as well as being represented globally. The SBC’s name has a stigma attached to it, according to a 2006 poll that revealed that over 49 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds would not be inclined to join a church if they knew it was Southern Baptist.
Motions to change SBC’s name have been proposed eight times at past conventions and were rejected. It is difficult to change such an historic name. Along with legal issues, the proposed name change would have to be ratified by two consecutive annual conventions.
Our synod knows what is involved, since in 1957 it changed its name from “Norwegian Synod of American Evangelical Lutheran Church” to “Evangelical Lutheran Synod.” The name change reflected the new cosmopolitan nature of the church body, where they chose to emphasize the Gospel (Evangel) instead of its past heritage.
The Exodus Revisited
In the twelfth chapter of Exodus, Moses records the great exodus of God’s people from Egypt. Now, thousands of years later, another exodus is taking place. This time the fugitives are not Israelites, but Egyptian Christians, Copts, who are fleeing to the United States. Though the Copts have a two-thousand-year history in Egypt, the recent Islamist revolution is making life difficult for them. As one reporter put it, “It’s ugly for Christians in Cairo right now.”
Many areas in this troubled world are making life “ugly” for Christians to live there. American religious freedom is not found in much of the world. This situation begs for our prayers on behalf of those Christians who are suffering for the name of Christ (1 Timothy 2:1).
Paul Madson is a retired pastor living in North Mankato, Minnesota.
The “Koren Nation” Visit