Fredrik Olaus Nilsson (28 July 1809 – 21 or 24 October 1881), also known as F. O. Nilsson, was a pioneer Swedish Baptist pastor and missionary who founded Sweden's first free church, a Baptist congregation. He married Ulrika Sophia Olsson (1812–1903) on 7 June 1845.[1][2]

Fredrik Olaus (F. O.) Nilsson
Born(1809-07-28)28 July 1809
Varö, Sweden
Died21 October 1881(1881-10-21) (aged 72)
Houston, Minnesota, United States
Burial placeSwede Bottom Cemetery, Houston County, Minnesota
Occupation(s)Baptist pastor, missionary
Ulrika Sophia Olsson
(m. 1845)

Life edit

Early life and influences edit

Nilsson was born to Per Nilsson and Katarina Verdelin on Vendelsö in Värö parish (in what is now Varberg municipality) in northern Halland, Sweden, in 1809.[3][2] His father was a skipper and his mother died when he was young, leaving behind several children.[4] His father remarried and the family moved to the village of Onsala, in what is now Kungsbacka municipality. The revivalist preaching of Jacob Otto Hoof and Lars Linderot [sv] left its mark on the village, although Nilsson himself would come to faith later.[2]

He went to sea at the age of 19. In 1834 he came to faith among Swedish-speaking Methodists in the United States.[3] In 1839 Nilsson returned to Sweden, where the following year he came into contact with Methodist evangelist George Scott. Scott succeeded in getting the American Seamen's Friend Society in New York to employ Nilsson as a seamen's missionary in Gothenburg. Later he also worked as a Bible distributor for the British and Foreign Bible Society.[5]

Introduction to Baptist teachings edit

In 1845 Nilsson came into contact with sailor and later sea captain Gustaf Wilhelm Schröder [sv] (also known as Gustavus W. or G.W. Schroeder), who was his introduction to Baptist theology.[5] After studying the New Testament regarding baptism, Nilsson travelled to Hamburg in 1847, where he was baptised in the Elbe on 1 August by Baptist pastor Johann Gerhard Oncken.[5] When Nilsson returned to Sweden, he spoke to others about his conversion, which would lead to the formation of the first Baptist congregation in the country.

The following year, on 21 September 1848, Nilsson's wife, his two brothers Sven Kristian and Berndt Niklas, and two men were baptised by Danish Baptist preacher A. P. Førster at Vallersvik in Landa (in the present municipality of Kungsbacka).[6] The same evening, the country's first free church, called Swedish Baptist congregation [sv] (Swedish: Sveriges baptistförsamling), was founded in Borekulla cottage in Landa parish.[7] Nilsson wrote the Borekulla Confession, a 3,895-word document mainly regarding his religious views but which also stressed the new congregation's democratic nature, in which men and women held equal voting rights and there would be no hierarchy.[8] In 1849, Nilsson was ordained in Hamburg.[9]

Around this time, Nilsson's Baptist teachings influenced Gustaf Palmquist, who would later become a key figure among the Swedish Baptists – in 1852, Palmquist founded the first Swedish Baptist church in the United States in addition to leading to the creation of the Swedish Baptist General Conference.[10][11]

Exile edit

Because Nilsson's church had been performing baptisms and communion outside of the authority of the Church of Sweden, he was given a warning in 1849 and later summoned to the Göta Court of Appeal in 1850. The same year, he was subject to a brutal beating from a mob.[12] On 4 July 1851, Nilsson left Sweden, having been sentenced to exile for his preaching despite his attempts to appeal to King Oscar I.[2] He travelled first to Copenhagen, then to Hamburg; from there he travelled to the Evangelical Alliance meeting in London, from 20 August to 3 September. The Evangelical Alliance later challenged Nilsson's sentence by the Swedish government.[13] Around this time, Nilsson also preached – unsuccessfully – in Norway.[14] He considered staying there, due to the country's Dissenter Act passed in 1845 – liberal for the time – which allowed a greater degree of religious freedom.[15]

Nilsson was soon appointed pastor of the Baptist congregation in Copenhagen. In this capacity, he baptised Swedish Lutheran priest Anders Wiberg in the Baltic Sea on 23 July 1852.[16][17] Wiberg would himself become a key figure in the Baptist world, contributing to the movement's growth in the United States, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.[18][19][20] In the spring of 1853, Nilsson resigned as pastor in Copenhagen. Prior to that, he visited Sweden and performed the first free church wedding in the country. The police showed up and made him give his word to leave Sweden as soon as possible.

Church growth in the United States edit

In 1853 he travelled to the United States with a number of other Swedish Baptists. That year, he visited Rock Island, Illinois, where Palmquist had established a church and the Swedish Baptists were growing in number; several families who travelled with Nilsson joined Palmquist's church. From there he continued to Iowa with the rest of his followers.[21] There, according to author C. Douglas Weaver, "[Nilsson] helped organize the 'Swedish Baptist Church of Village Creek' (now Center Baptist Church), near Lansing, Iowa, the oldest church of Swedish descent in the United States still in existence today."[10] This was the second Swedish Baptist church founded in the country.[22] Nilsson then reached Minnesota, starting churches and preaching in Houston, Wastedo, Chisago Lake, and Scandia, where he founded a church together with Andrew Peterson, an immigrant whose diaries inspired Vilhelm Moberg's series The Emigrants.[23] The church was initially located in Peterson's home. The church building they built soon after was eventually moved to Bethel College and the congregation still exists under the name Oakwood Community Church in Waconia, Minnesota.[24][25]

Nilsson was supported by the American Baptist Home Mission Society while in the United States.[26]

Together with Baptist pioneers Palmquist and Wiberg, Nilsson contributed to the founding of the Swedish Baptist General Conference, later to become the Baptist General Conference and then Converge.[27] They, and others, first met in September 1858 at the church in Scandia. Being a new and informal movement, the pastors lacked formal theological education and there was some theological dissent at this early stage. Nilsson noted disagreement on the doctrine of the Trinity at the meeting, and the three leaders had views varyingly shaped by Reformed theology.[28]

Church growth in Sweden edit

In 1857, the country had 200 church members comprising eight Baptist churches. In 1858, the Conventicle Act, which outlawed religious meetings other than those of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, was overturned. By the following year, the Baptists had grown to a total of 4,311 members in 95 churches.[12]

Pardon and return to Sweden edit

Nilsson returned to Sweden in 1860, at which point he was pardoned.[29] This allowed him to continue preaching; however, not in the state church.[26] The same year, the first Dissenter Act was enacted, allowing nonconformists to leave the Church of Sweden. In 1861, Captain Schröder also returned to Sweden and built Gothenburg's first Baptist church at his own expense. Nilsson became its first pastor. After the church's opening, Schröder was fined after the two were summoned by Bishop Gustaf Daniel Björck to appear at the police court.[9] Nilsson remained the church's pastor until 1868, when he returned to the United States.[1]

Later life in the United States and beliefs edit

In 1869, the Nilsson family settled in Houston, Minnesota and joined the Swedish Baptist church there. Nilsson served on and off as the church's pastor, although with some tension. He once referred to the congregation as "ignorant and narrow-minded".[26] He remained pastor until 1876, when 13 members left the church in protest of his theological development. His writings, inspired by transcendentalist Theodore Parker,[30] had, among other things, questioned the doctrine of the Trinity. Nilsson would then found the Swedish Free Religious Society.

Nilsson died 21 or 24 October 1881 in Sheldon, Minnesota. He is buried in Swede Bottom Cemetery in Houston County, Minnesota.[2]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ a b "Fredrik O Nilsson |" (in Swedish). 26 April 2019. Archived from the original on 12 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Lenhammar, Harry. "Fredrik O Nilsson". Svenskt biografiskt lexikon (in Swedish). National Archives of Sweden. Archived from the original on 18 January 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  3. ^ a b "761-762 (Nordisk familjebok / Uggleupplagan. 37. Supplement. L - Riksdag)". (in Swedish). 1925. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  4. ^ Samuelsson, Carl-Olof (2003). Landa - förr och nu (PDF) (in Swedish). Frillesås-Landa hembygdsgille. OCLC 186145836. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2021.
  5. ^ a b c Jessup, David. "F.O. Nilsson and the Swedish Baptists". Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  6. ^ "De första baptisterna visar på en tro som är värd offer - Dagen" (in Swedish). 24 August 2014. Archived from the original on 24 August 2014. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  7. ^ "Borekullastugan". (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 16 January 2022. Retrieved 16 January 2022.
  8. ^ Dur Flackman, Thomas (February 2011). "The Pious Rebel from Vendelsö". Trail Markers. 10 (2). Bethel University History Center. Archived from the original on 4 July 2021.
  9. ^ a b Vedder, Henry Clay (1907). A short history of the Baptists. Judson Press. ISBN 0-8170-0162-X. OCLC 2483206.
  10. ^ a b Weaver, C. Douglas (2008). In search of the New Testament church : the Baptist story (1st ed.). Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press. ISBN 978-0-88146-106-0. OCLC 180752918. Archived from the original on 29 June 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  11. ^ "Baptist General Conference". Archived from the original on 25 February 2021. Retrieved 19 January 2022.
  12. ^ a b Wyman, Mark (2018). "PART THREE. The Remigrant at Home. Churches, Traditions, and the Remigrant". Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880–1930. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. p. 179. doi:10.7591/9781501732621-004. ISBN 9781501732621. S2CID 243303311.
  13. ^ Gustafson, David M. (2008). D.L. Moody and Swedes : shaping evangelical identity among Swedish mission friends, 1867-1899. Linköping: Linköping University, Department of culture and communication. ISBN 978-91-7393-995-9. OCLC 225548281.
  14. ^ Eidberg, Peder A. (1976). Baptistene: tro og liv (in Norwegian). Norsk Litteraturselskap. p. 27. OCLC 313058058.
  15. ^ Rian, Dagfinn; Bøckman, Peter Wilhelm (1982). Religionsfrihet og toleranse i norsk samfunn og skole (in Norwegian). Trondheim: Tapir. pp. 52–53. ISBN 9788251904902. OCLC 10710402. Archived from the original on 15 May 2022. Retrieved 11 May 2022.
  16. ^ Lundin, Claës (1890). "220 (Nya Stockholm)". (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  17. ^ Whittall, Phil (14 February 2018). "Notable Swedish pioneers: Anders Wiberg". The Simple Pastor. Archived from the original on 2 February 2022. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  18. ^ McBeth, H. Leon (1987). The Baptist heritage. Nashville. ISBN 978-1-4336-7102-9. OCLC 727648673.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  19. ^ Lindvall, Magnus. "ANDERS WIBERG | VÄCKELSEMAN OCH SAMFUNDSLEDARE" (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 19 January 2012.
  20. ^ Sundquist, Alfons (January 1954). "Glimpses of the Baptist Work in Finland" (PDF). The Fraternal. 91. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 January 2022.
  21. ^ Olson, Ernst Wilhelm; Schön, Anders; Engberg, Martin J. (1908). History of the Swedes of Illinois. Engberg-Holmberg. OCLC 1032036835.
  22. ^ M., Hancock, Ellery (1913). Past and present of Allamakee County, Iowa : a record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement. S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. OCLC 181289851.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  23. ^ Mihelich, Josephine (1984). Andrew Peterson and the Scandia story: a historical account about a Minnesota pioneer whose diaries have been "reborn as a piece of world literature" through Vilhelm Moberg and his writings. Copublished by the author and Ford Johnson Graphics. ISBN 0-917907-00-0. OCLC 11623573.
  24. ^ Stanwood, Maggie (19 October 2017). "Ghost towns of the southwest metro". Archived from the original on 11 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  25. ^ Peterson, Andrew (2019). Diaries of Andrew Peterson : Swedish-American horticulturalist, 1850-1898. Heidi May Gould, Sharon Eklund, Mathilda Fromentine, Carolyn Spargo, Vilhelm Inspiration for: Moberg, Vilhelm Inspiration for: Moberg. [Waconia, Minnesota]. ISBN 978-0-9915639-3-7. OCLC 1138473957.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  26. ^ a b c Smith, Geoffrey L (2013). An introduction to the theological legacy and development of F.O. Nilsson and its influence on the Swedish Baptist movement in North America (Thesis). International Baptist Theological Seminary of the European Baptist Federation. ProQuest 1475222663.
  27. ^ Magnuson, Norris. Putman, Bob (ed.). "The Story of Converge" (PDF). Converge. Archived (PDF) from the original on 21 November 2021.
  28. ^ Olson, Virgil (March 2009). "II. Theological struggles of the Swedish Baptists in America, 1852-1927. A Brief History of Theological Struggles within the Baptist General Conference". The Baptist Pietist Clarion. 8 (1). Archived from the original on 2 February 2022.
  29. ^ "Landsförvisad för sin tros skull - Släktband". Sveriges Radio (in Swedish). 2 February 2015. Archived from the original on 11 July 2021. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  30. ^ Lawson, Truett (May 2008). "Pietism Rocks: An Identity Worth Sharing" (PDF). Baptist Pietist Clarion. 7 (1). Baptist General Conference: 16. Archived from the original on 4 July 2021.