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Two Augustanas and ELCA Mark Founding of Synod

SIOUX FALLS, SD – More than 100 representatives of Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.,  the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)  and members of Jefferson Prairie Lutheran Church in Poplar Grove, Ill., gathered at the church on Saturday, June 5, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the formation of the Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod.

The observation of the founding included a signing of the Sesquicentennial Compact by President Rob Oliver, Augustana College-South Dakota, and President Steven Bahls, Augustana College-Illinois, and ELCA Director of Colleges and Universities the Rev. Mark Wilhelm. The compact was signed at the same table used to sign the original constitution creating the Augustana Synod in 1860.

“Though the institution endured its share of struggles during the early years, the dreams of Augustana’s original founders were never relinquished,” said Oliver. “This observation was an opportunity for us to honor their devotion and steadfastness, celebrate all those who have stewarded Augustana forward over these 150 years, and acknowledge both our privilege and our duty to do the same.”

The Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod was established in North America in 1860. A group of Swedish Lutheran pastors—Jonas Swensson, Lars Paul Esbjorn, Tve Hasslequist, Eric Norelius and Erland Carlsson—were among those who developed the Augustana Synod during a meeting from June 5-8 at the Jefferson Prairie Settlement near Clinton, Wisconsin.

The synod consisted of Swedish, Norwegian and Danish members. The Norwegian and Danish left 10 years later to form their own church bodies. In 1894 the name was changed to Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in North America and then again in 1948 to Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church. The synod is credited with founding six liberal arts colleges, including Augustana College in Sioux Falls and Augustana College in Rock Island, and today is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Read the full text of President Rob Oliver's address from the June 5th event.

View the video gallery that includes a skit by two Augustana of Rock Island students highlighting the experiences of our first President, Lars Paul Esbjörn.