The Church of the Lutheran Brethren Canada (CLBC) had its beginning following a spiritual revival in Saskatchewan circa 1917-1918. Pioneers with Scandinavian roots that had spent a short time in Minnesota and North Dakota in the United States, moved north to Canada to “claim their homestead,” virtually free land offered by the Canadian government to settlers. Some of these new immigrants had experienced good fellowship within the new, fledgling Lutheran Brethren Synod in the United States. They had been instrumental in establishing Lutheran Brethren Congregations and had constructed church buildings while in the American Midwest.
The first Canadian Lutheran Brethren Church was built in Strongfield, Saskatchewan with local families and others from towns such as Loreburn, Elbow, Hawarden and Broderick. A church was later built in the Broderick area. When the “dirty-thirties” came, life was hard in the southern part of the prairies, with minimal or no crops to harvest. A number of the founding families moved north to the Hagen, Saskatchewan area. These pioneers were survivors, whose practical deep faith including prayer, daily carried them through the struggles of life. They had connections with the Inner Mission Society and the Norwegian bedehus, (prayer house) movement.
A much longer history could be written about the early days of other Saskatchewan congregations in Frontier, Viscount, and Saskatoon as well as the launching of new home mission congregations in Alberta under the direction of then President, Art Berge.
The CLBC is currently made up of twelve congregations, eight in Alberta and four in Saskatchewan. The Alberta congregations are located in Beaumont, Calgary (two), Camrose (two), Edmonton, Morrin and Okotoks. The Saskatchewan congregations are located in Birch Hills, Estevan, Saskatoon and Torquay . In addition to the twelve member congregations, Saron Lutheran Church near Hagen, is served by Clint Knutson, the Lutheran Brethren Pastor from Birch Hills and Wilhelmina Lutheran Church, near Hay Lakes, AB is served by Ron Chetney, a rostered CLB pastor.
As mentioned above, like many other Canadian synods and/or denominational bodies, the CLBC had its beginnings birthed out of events that occurred in the United States and before. In fact, the history of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren Canada (CLBC) can be traced back to the Reformation. As David Rinden wrote: “Although the Lutheran Brethren had is organizing convention in 1900, our body of doctrine goes back further. We are part of the body which the Apostles’ Creed calls the ‘communion of saints’. The aim of our pastors and congregations has been to teach the Apostles’ doctrine as faithfully as possible. We did not set out to preach and teach newly revealed truth. Our goal has been to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture.”
The organization of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren took place when five independent Lutheran congregations met in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in December of 1900 to form a new synod. They were not splitting from another synod or denomination, but were eager to join together for purposes of a shared Christian mission. Mission, both at home and abroad, would be at the heart of this new network of congregations. This central focus on evangelism and personal discipleship, so important in 1900, is just as important to the CLB today.
It might be asked why these congregations did not join synods already in existence. It is the answer to this question that supplies the reason for the establishment of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.
During the last decade of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, there was a widespread spiritual awakening in the upper Midwest of the United States. This awakening was characterized by a deep conviction of sin and a faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, God’s solution to our broken relationship with Him. Scores of people entered the kingdom of God, many of them members of Lutheran churches, the predominant religious faith of the region. Some were new immigrants to America seeking to find meaning for their lives and finding it through salvation in Jesus Christ.
These new converts began to live their lives with great purpose. For them church life took on new meaning. They were not content to limit Christian living to Sunday morning worship gatherings, which in many rural communities were held once or twice a month. And it was evident that the discipling of adults as well as children was needed. Sunday School was rarely planned with adults or new believers in mind but was focused almost entirely on children. For many, this was about to change.
These new believers began to meet for Bible study and prayer, drawn together by a hunger to study God’s Word. As scattered groups of believers began studying the Scriptures, many began to ask questions about how they should live their lives as Christians. Guidance was sought from the Bible. Patterns began to emerge. These new converts began to see that God’s will for the believer was to live a godly life, patterned after the principles of Scripture; they saw the Christian life is a life lived in daily relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Pietistic movement in Germany and especially in Norway influenced the founders of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. Men like Philip Jakob Spener, August Hermann Francke, Hans Nielsen Hauge, Gisle Johnson and Georg Sverdrup who supported the Lutheran Confessions and the priesthood of believers, left their fingerprints on their students and followers, some of whom, many years later, became the founders of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.
Although Pietism has been criticized for it’s subjectivism and tendency to legalism, the Pietistic movement has had lasting effects with it’s emphasis on evangelism, missions, helping the poor, and founding charitable institutions such as schools, hospitals and orphanages.
As the late 19th century and early 20th century mid-west pioneers studied the Scriptures they were led to ask questions about the church: How should it be organize? What about membership in the church, the local congregation? Who should receive communion and baptism? Careful study of God’s word led to a biblical understanding of the local congregation as a key to living in a community as Christians. As such, CLB congregations invite all who seek membership to confess their faith in Christ and desire to live in accordance with God’s Word in daily life. The local congregation is meant to be a body of believers in which the Word of God is rightly taught and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Communion) administered in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Worship forms were also studied and, as you will experience in our congregations today, although worship service styles vary, the uncomplicated services are Scripture-centered with the emphasis on preaching the Word, prayer and singing.
Since the beginning, members and friends of Lutheran Brethren congregations have dedicated themselves to prayer and the study of Scripture. Gospel preaching and personal witness, too, are stressed. We invite all to come hear the Word of God, be convicted of sin, receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ and live in an assurance of faith in Jesus. This emphasis in no way minimizes the effective working of the sacraments. However, the mere ceremonial use of baptism and the Lord’s Supper is not to be a pillow upon which to rest for assurance of salvation. The Word and Sacrament, rightly taught and practiced, bring people everywhere into a living, loving relationship with God.
As the congregations of the CLB strengthened their focus a burden for Christian education and world and home missions developed. Our Seminary, International Missions and synod support staff are primarily located in Fergus Falls, Minnesota.
Today there are six independent Lutheran Brethren Synods, namely those in Canada, Cameroon, Chad, Japan, Taiwan and the United States. The CLB maintains a strong focus on worldwide missions, reaching out to neighbours in our communities and, through a variety of mission commitments overseas, to neighbours in Cameroon, Chad, Japan and Taiwan, plus individuals in other countries.
We invite you to join us in our ongoing call to serve our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in following His call to bring the Good News of salvation to the world.