Short of a Quarter Century

by Phil Johnson

In the Summer 1992 issue, the editors of Pietisten admitted their failure to take Skogsbergh Point on Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota. The point was once owned by Rev. E. A. Skogsbergh and was a gathering place for Swedish Pietists in the early part of the 20th century. We planned to sail to the point in the dead of night and plant a Pietisten flag firmly in the soil. In the article “Editors Face Their Failure,” we sought to analyze the factors that prevented our success. If you read it, you will understand more clearly the present situation. Now more than 18 years have passed since that plan was conceived. The current Board and soon-to-be-replaced Managing Editor have missed the mark again; they have fallen short of a quarter century of publishing what is becoming known as “Pietisten 2.0.”

Phil and Sandy Johnson

It was George Scott, a Scottish Methodist missionary to Sweden, who originally founded Pietisten (“The Pietist”) in 1842. He came to Stockholm to pastor English factory workers in 1837. Later, when Scott was building an English-speaking church and founding Pietisten, he ran into conflict with the State Lutheran Church, as well as the Swedish Parliament and was asked to leave the country. Scott had enlisted the young Carl Olof Rosenius to carry on with Pietisten, of which he was Editor until his death in 1868 (26 years). Paul Peter Waldenström, a biblical scholar, teacher, preacher, theologian and politician, who challenged theological assertions with the question “Where is it written?,” served as Editor from 1868 to 1917 (49 years). As Waldenström’s health slowed after 1915, several editors assisted with the work through 1918, after which the publication merged into another newspaper, called Missionsförbundet (“The Mission Covenant”), thereby entering its “dormant” phase. Thus the original Swedish version of Pietisten (let us now call it “Pietisten 1.0”) circulated for three quarters of a century.

In 1986, Peter Sandstrom and David Hawkinson decided to wake up the sleeping journal with Peter as Managing Editor. They enlisted Tommy Carlson and Phil and Sandy Johnson to help. With David Hawkinson’s “Awakening Pietisten: An Introductory Editorial” (reprinted on page 15) as the lead article, the first issue of “Pietisten 2.0” came off the press in the Fall of 1986.

Soon other friends joined, friends grew in number, and conversation flowed. This is the 69th issue of this phase of Pietisten. We thank each person, both living and dead, who has read one word or more and each one who has written. Elder Lindahl, Glen Wiberg, and Arthur Anderson became vital participants and regular contributors enriching conversation.

It was my good fortune, after a few years to succeed Peter Sandstrom as Managing Editor. Though I have cringed at errors not caught, each issue has been a surprise and brought a source of satisfaction. A supply of extras, has facilitated “pedaling papers.” A paperboy bag with Pietisten stenciled on it has come in handy at a number of Covenant Annual Meetings and at a few gatherings of the Swedish-American Historical Society. I give Pietistens to people I meet out and about. This includes, for example, the staff and customers at our local Starbucks and the River Road Hair Designers. Most everyone resonates with the “Premises” of Pietisten. By means of personal marketing by the editors and subscriptions given to friends by people like you, we have gained “Members,” many of whom pay $10 a year to get Pietisten, as well as “Reverse Members,” who must pay $10 to stop it.

In 1994, Sandy and I flew to Europe. We were forced by weather to get an alternate flight in Chicago. We stood at an O’Hare ticket counter along with other international travelers in the same predicament. Somehow the current issue of Pietisten was in view. “Where did you get that?” asked a man with evident amazement. “…Of course I’ve heard of Pietisten. Rosenius is very important to us in Norway,” said Odvars Jenson, Lutheran teacher and pastor in Bergen, Norway. He invited us to visit his home when we came to Norway and we did. Pietisten belongs to no one. It is a non-profit Minnesota corporation and will continue as such, whose Board of Directors is elected by the members. All subscribers are members. Three members of the original Board, Tommy Carlson, President, David Hawkinson, VP, and Peter Sandstrom, VP, are resigning to make way for a slate of new members. Phil Johnson will remain on the Board.

In gathering a complete set of Pietistens to send off to the new crew, I rediscovered many great articles. I mention a very few; Don Franklin’s outstanding series on Bach and Pietism, Peter Sandstrom’s top-notch series on Spener’s Pia Desideria, David Hawkinson’s “Making of a Reader,” 24-years of Waldenström’s Bible commentary translated by Tommy Carlson, the ravings of Penrod, and much, much more. Pietisten has been indexed, the content since 1998 is online, and the incoming staff has plans to eventually make all issues available on our website, www.pietisten.org. After the death of Bruce Carlson and the passing of the Museum of the American Outboard and Covenant Chris-Craft ads, Tom Tredway, Art Mampel, and Arvid Adell stepped up to give Pietisten a vital boost.

Writers have come from anywhere and everywhere. It has not mattered whether articles are religious or theological. Human conversation as it happens has been our interest as it has been yours. Pietisten has provided the occasion for friends to get together hundreds of times for meetings at 3232 47th Avenue South, Minneapolis. We have admitted to you readers for a number of years that we have failed to meet publication goals and that operations languished as the Managing Editor’s performance continued to decline. I am pleased to report this problem is truly being dealt with. New leadership is taking over. I could not be more pleased. We have failed, both to take Skogsbergh Point and to complete a quarter of a century of publication, but we have succeeded in handing the flag to a crew who can really sail this ship.

Karl Nelson

It was my personal great good fortune, and Pietisten’s as well, to meet Karl Nelson at the funeral of Curtiss Johnson, Karl’s grandfather. Curtiss was a warm-hearted, energetic supporter of Pietisten. Karl and I began talking and our conversation led to Karl becoming “Online Editor” at the same salary as everybody else. In no time, he created Pietisten Online and has maintained it as Online Editor since 1998. Karl is a graduate of Western Washington University. He earned a Master’s degree in history at the University of Iowa as well as a Master’s degree in Information Management at the University of Washington. By day, he works for the Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction as the assistant director of the office responsible for online education. Karl and his wife Rebecca have a two-year old son, Axel. They are members of Seattle First Covenant Church. So, now, after having served magnificently as Online Editor for ten years, Karl steps forward to take over as “Publisher” of Pietisten. By Board action, he is also President and Treasurer.

Mark Safstrom

In the Spring of 2006, Sandy and I went to Washington for a “Pietisten West Coast Annual Meeting” hosted by Gord and Chris Johnson in Snoqualmie. At the adult Sunday School class at First Covenant Church in Seattle and at the Annual Meeting we met a number of readers, many were old friends. We also made new friends, including Mark Safstrom who is now “Chief Editor.” Mark currently teaches Swedish at the University of Washington, where he is finishing a doctoral degree in the area of Scandinavian literature and church history. (The Scandinavian Department at UW was started by a Covenanter, David Nyvall in 1909.) Mark has been studying the politics of P.P. Waldenström who served as an elected member of the Swedish Parliament. Mark worked for several summers at Covenant Point Bible Camp on Hagerman Lake in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The camp has a pontoon boat named the “P.P Waldenström,” which boat gave impetus to his calling (see photo on page 7). He has given lectures at conferences such as the Pietism Conference at Bethel University and is involved with the Swedish-American Historical Society.

Future submissions to Pietisten will be reviewed and recruited by a team of three additional editors, Stephanie Johnson Blomgren, Mark E. Swanson, and David Nelson.

Steph Johnson Blomgren and Hans-Erik Blomgren

Before Stephanie Johnson Blomgren had her two-year-old daughter Signe, she helped not-for-profit organizations raise money to support their humanitarian projects. Stephanie, husband Hans-Erik Blomgren, and Signe live on Vashon Island, but frequently ride the ferry into Seattle. The Blomgrens are members of First Covenant Church in Seattle. Hans-Erik will be also assisting with various Pietisten projects.

Mark Swanson and Oskar

Mark E. Swanson lives with his wife, Megan, and baby boy, Oskar, in Yakima, Washington where he serves as pastor of Wiley Heights Covenant Church. He’s a native of Minnesota, and has made stops along the way in Chicago, Minnesota, and South Dakota.

David Nelson

David Nelson is a newspaper editor in Bremerton, Washington. David is a North Park graduate, and has lived and worked in Chicago and Utah before returning to his native state. Along with many of the other new Pietisten team members, David regularly attends First Covenant in Seattle.

Sandy Nelson, Chris Brown, and Elsie

Sandy Nelson will serve as “Layout Editor” of Pietisten 3.0. She is a Senior Graphic Designer for Starbucks Coffee Company and a member of First Covenant Church in Seattle. She grew up in the North Park neighborhood of Chicago and graduated from North Park College in 1985. She is married to Christopher Brown and they have a daughter, Elsie, who is two. Chris, a photographer and videographer for the non-profit organization Water 1st, will be working on Pietisten’s website, along with other projects.

Eric Nelson

Eric Nelson, a teacher living in Bellevue, Washington, will be assisting with a number of Pietisten projects, including helping with membership management. He’ll also be a regular contributor to Pietisten. This staff will be bolstered by two additional board members: Brad Halverson and Kendall Magnuson, both of Seattle.

This is the fine frontline of Pietisten 3.0. The old guard will not disappear. They will continue to contribute pretty much as you see them in this issue and recent issues. We will be behind the new crew supporting them in everyway we can. We hope you will do so, too. On behalf of David, Peter, Tommy, Sandy, and myself, thank you all.

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

See all articles by Phil Johnson