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The Church of Denmark and the Anglican Communion
by the Rev. Rasmus Andersen

A paper read before the Scandinavian Episcopal Church Association and printed on request.

Department of Missions of the Episcopal Church, nd.

What follows is an attempt to give an extract from or a very brief summary of a work in which I have been engaged for more than two years and which deals with the relations existing between the Anglican and the Scandinavian, especially the Danish, Churches, "Den Danske Kirke og Episkopalkirken," printed in the Danish language. This my contribution to a fuller knowledge of the history of the Church of God will, humanly speaking, be the closing work of my ministry, and, deeply grateful to the Head of the Church for time and strength to write on a subject so dear to my heart, I humbly commend it to my readers. The paper was read in Danish. This is a literal translation by The Rev. Eric F. Toll, Emmanuel Church, Manville, Rhode Island.

THE Reformation had to come. In Germany it assumed rather the character of a revolution, in that the Episcopal office was abolished. As the Church Catholic has always contended that the three-fold ministry of Bishop, Priest and Deacon is a special gift from God to the Church and indispensable to her very character of "Catholic", abolition of the office of Bishop cannot be considered in any other light than that of revolution. Luther depended on "the Nobles of the Church" for success and so did not hesitate to proclaim the ruler of the land "Summus Episcopus." In a letter to the Bohemians he says distinctively: "In case of necessity a congregation may ordain men to the ministry." In England the Apostolic Order and Succession was retained. In Sweden, Norway and Denmark the office of Bishop was retained with the distinction, however, in the case of Sweden, that here the Apostolic Succession was scrupulously regarded as indispensable to the "esse" of the Church and thus preserved.

The Reformation was introduced into Denmark and Norway by King Christian III through the very simple method of putting the bishops in jail. Dr. John Bugenhagen (Pomeranus) was called to Denmark to put order into the Ecclesiastical affairs, and, though only in priests' orders, officiated at the Crowning of the King and Queen, August 11, 1637. In the same year he "consecrated" seven Bishops for Denmark and somewhat later one for Norway, eight in all. His intention and that of the King undoubtedly was that these men should be known as "Superintendents", as was the case in Germany. The common people decreed otherwise and persistently refused to give up the good old title of Bishop. To Bishop Hans Svane was even accorded the title of Archbishop, the only one in Denmark after the Reformation. Thus in a sense the Episcopate was retained, although with a break in the succession. It must be said, however, that even if there is no evidence of a real bishop having taken part in the above mentioned consecrations, neither is there proof that such was not the case. It has many times been suggested that a Catholic Bishop might have assisted, for instance Bishop Myles Coverdale of England. Unfortunately the probability is very slight. Of the older Catholic Bishops Knud Gyldenstjerne of Odense favored the Reformation and in fact married. Afterwards, however, he lived the life of a private nobleman. Bishop 0. Bilde (Bille) likewise sided with the Reformation and retired to private life. In Norway Bishop Hems Reff became the Lutheran Bishop of Oslo and remained such till his death 1545. There is no record of his participation in any consecration. This must also be said of the Catholic Bishop Ahlefeld in Sleswig who retained the Episcopate till his death, and of Bishop Myles Coverdale of England. Coverdale was a great favorite with the King of Denmark and made two prolonged visits to that country. As Presbyter he spent the years 1630-1634 there, working quietly on his translation of the Bible into English. His wife was Danish, a sister of the wife of Professor MacAlpin, who came from Scotland to accept a position at the University under the name of Johannes Machabaeus. August 14, 1551, Coverdale became Bishop of Exeter. During the reign of Queen Mary he once more came to Denmark where the King offered him Episcopal jurisdiction which he declined, not deeming himself sufficiently versed in the Danish language. In 1559 he returned to England without leaving any record of having taken part in any Episcopal ordination. We must then--in sorrow let it be said--assent to the judgment of history that in Denmark and Norway the Apostolic Succession was broken, even if the Episcopal office was retained.

Although the geographical proximity of Germany has contributed much to make the influence of that country of considerable importance to Denmark, it must not be forgotten that ever since the days of Canute, England and Denmark have had very close connections. King James I married a daughter of Frederick I and sister of King Christian IV, known in history as "Anne of Denmark." Both Cape Ann, Massachusetts, and Annapolis, Maryland, have their names from her. Her grandson was James, Duke of York, after whom New York was named.

Germany was very anxious that what was known as "Formula Concordiae" should be accepted by Denmark. The German Princes had all affixed their signatures and the Elector of Saxony, August, sent to the King a beautiful copy, bound in velvet and gold, asking for similar action on the part of the King. Queen Elizabeth of England, however, urged upon the King his duty not to sign. The night of July 23, 1580, the King could not sleep. Ordering his servant to make a fire he said he would "burn a devil" and threw in the fire that wonderful copy of the "Formula." Next day he wrote to all the Bishops in Denmark forbidding them the use of the "Book of Concordia," and it has never been accepted.

Several connections between the English and Danish Royal families had a softening influence even on the Ecclesiastical relations between England, Germany and Denmark. Prince Jorgen, son of Frederick III and brother of Christian V, was as "Prince George" (1683) married to Princess Anna of England who in 1702 ascended the throne and became known as Queen Ann. Henry Compton, Bishop of London, officiated at the ceremony. They were both sincere Christians, Prince George with a strong German pietistic leaning. He insisted on having in St. James' a German chaplain. He came to discover, however, that the Germans were narrow in their ideas of religious liberty. When he with the Queen attended the Service of Holy Communion in the Church of England, the German chaplain complained bitterly and wrote to the Bishop of Sjelland, Dr. Bagge, asking if he should admit the Prince to the Sacrament in the German chapel, and also insisted on his removal from his post. Whatever the reply of the Bishop, the chaplain remained in England, and the Prince, refusing to be disciplined, continued to attend the Anglican Services and to receive the Communion at the hands of Anglican priests.

An interesting chapter is the story of the Danish missionary work in India where the Mission Station at Trankebar was taken over by Denmark. Not only was a Danish clergyman by name of Peter Sorensen Aale commissioned chaplain at the Fort Dansborg but in 1705 was undertaken the first Christian mission to the heathen after the Reformation, when Ziegenbalg and, Plutschau were went out. The mission is known as the Danish Mission, Halle being dominant in the leadership and most of the missionaries German. Financial support was given by both Denmark and England. The missionaries were ordained by Danish Bishops and their stipends paid by the Danish State, facts which contributed much in enlisting English sympathy and help. Of the fifty-four men sent out, thirty-eight were ordained by Danish Bishops. The Germans made repeated attempts to ignore this ordination arrangement with the Bishop of Sjelland and did succeed in having some ordained in Germany. The Germans preferred their own nationals as missionaries but had no objection to the use of Danish or English money. They maintained that Halle was better able to choose suitable men than Copenhagen, thus generally succeeding in keeping out men of Danish birth. Only three men from Sleswig, who had studied at Halle, and two Danes, Hagelund and Maderup, together with one Swede, Kiernander from Ostgothsland (ordained in Germany), were sent out. A number of these missionaries accepted English service, and their ordination was recognized as valid.

In 1817 the Bishop of London applied to Bishop Munter of Sjelland for Danish candidates for the English Mission. Haubroe and Rosen, and later on P. M. D. Wissing offered themselves and were ordained by Bishop Munter, their ordination being accepted without question by the Bishops of London and Calcutta-Madras. Among the German missionaries in English Service was Irion, ordained in Germany. Beginning to doubt the validity of his orders he applied to Bishop Wilson of Calcutta for re-ordination. This ordination was held January 31, 1835, in Tanjore. Irion was ordained to the Diaconate and the Danish Pastor K. E. Mohl of Zion Church in Trankebar participated in the laying-on-of-hands. A Danish clergyman assisted a Bishop of the Church of England in the ordination of a German missionary to the Diaconate, and the Bishop wrote, "the Rev. K. E. Mohl of the Danish Episcopal Church." It is evident, then, that in India a Danish ordination was recognized in 1845-1846. Professor Moller wrote in 1832, that the Anglican prelates were beginning to entertain scruples as to the validity of an ordination performed by or with the assistance of a Clergyman belonging to a Church where a break had occurred in the succession. These doubts were brought out more clearly later when the German Rhenius, in English service, attempted to vindicate his German ordination and even undertook, himself, to ordain others.

In England the Oxford Movement under Dr. Pusey called renewed attention to the importance of emphasizing the necessity of the Apostolic Succession. In connection with what had taken place in India it is interesting to recall the words of Dr. Kalkar, President of the Danish Missionary Society: "at that time the Bishop of the Anglican Church entertained no doubts as to the validity of an ordination as administered in the Church of Denmark, as it was always done by Bishops;" . . . "later on they looked at the question from another angle."

The connection or intercourse between the Danish and English Churches may have had something to do with the request made by America after the Revolutionary War for ordination of American candidates. The American Minister in London, Mr. Adams, sounded the Danish Government as to the willingness of the Church of Denmark to give the Episcopate to American candidates which had been denied them in England. "They wish," he said, "to be consecrated in Denmark by Danish Bishops." The Government referred the request to Bishop N. E. Balle and Professors C. F. Home-man, H. F. JansenĀ«and J. E. Colbjornsen who answered that a "Danish Bishop can validly and rightly ordain an American of the Anglican Church." Bishop Balle maintained it was a matter of duty for the Danish Church to assist in the giving of a valid ministry to their brethren in America. As America later succeeded in obtaining the Episcopate through the Church of Scotland this incident has no other significance than to show the friendly and brotherly feelings entertained by the Church of Denmark. Fortunately through the Scottish and later on through an English consecration the Apostolic Succession was secured by the Episcopal Church in America.

In the Church of Denmark no man has exercised a greater influence than Bishop N. F. S. Grundtvig (1783-1872) when as a young candidate for the ministry he preached his "Ordination Sermon" he was so conscious of the decadent condition of the Church, tainted as she was with modern rationalism that he had the courage to ask: "Why has the Word of God vanished from His House? In burning words he upheld the ancient Bible Word and Bible Truth. Through many hard battles he became convinced that there must be some universal banner under which all Christians might gather. He buried himself in the writings of Irenaeus, when suddenly as a voice from Heaven it struck him that the common meeting ground must be the Apostolic Creed, the "Faith, once for all delivered to the Saints." On the Feast of Irenaeus August 26,1825, he published "The Church's Reply"* which gave rise to what has been called "Grundtvigianism" or, as his followers prefer to call it, "the Churchly aspect of the Church" (High Churchmen).

Through his study of Irenaeus, also, grew his respect for the Episcopate and his belief in the "Apostolic Succession." After three journeys to England he published in 1831 a pamphlet: "Shall we continue the Reformation of Luther?" in which he extolled the Episcopal Office. He says "to deny that from the very first days of the Christian Church there has existed the three fold ministry, duly ordained, is simply to talk foolishness, as Our Lord Himself ordained twelve apostles and seventy disciples, and only by doing violence to the writings of St. Paul and St. Peter and the Fathers of the Church is it possible to deny that the Episcopate is an Apostolic institution. It is clear the Bishops have the right, on their own responsibility, to interpret and preach the Scriptures, provided they are sure they speak for the common faith of the people. The Episcopate springs from the very life of Christianity, and even if it should become misguided, it is nevertheless true that 'while there is life, there is hope' . . . Imitation is never quite the same as the original, but our present day Episcopate may help us to realize what we in Denmark since the Reformation have lost but always missed, a real Episcopal Consecration. This the good Lord will in his own time restore to us." A number of young, gifted clergy attached themselves to Grundtvig with the express purpose of working for the restoration of the Apostolic Succession to the Church of Denmark. Two of them, Lars N. Boisen, the son of Bishop Boisen, and Emil Clausen whose father was a professor, happened to meet Dr. Pusey in Germany and were much influenced by him. Another young minister, J. F. Fenger, formed a close friendship with the American, J. C. Richmond, later of St. Michael's Church, New York City. These influences had the tendency to bring about a closer approach to the Church of England.

At this time Professor Martensen was appointed to the See of Sjelland, and it was earnestly urged upon him that he ought to seek Ordination at the hands of Bishop Faxe of Lund and thus secure the Succession. Martensen, however, emphatically declined. In his autobiography (My Life,Vol. Ill, p. 6), he tells the story thus: "In connection with my approaching ordination as Bishop I had a visit from some of the most prominent followers of Grundtvig who advised me to seek ordination from the old Bishop Faxe of Lund. Thus would be removed the 'irregularity' which since the time Bugenhagen ordained the Danish Superintendents or Bishops had rested upon the Episcopate, and the 'true' Succession would be secured. It was supposed the Church of Sweden, as well as the Anglican Church, was in possession of the 'Apostolic Succession.' Should I be 'rightly' consecrated, this succession would be restored to the Church of Denmark and I might be the beginning of a 'true' line of Bishops, valuable, not only to the Episcopate but also in securing a duly commissioned and properly ordained ministry. At that time Grundtvig and his followers were strongly partial to the Church of England and deplored bitterly the fact that Denmark had no real Bishops--an attitude, I think, they have later given up ... I answered that I myself had no faith in and attached no importance to the doctrine of the 'Apostolic Succession,' . . . I am afraid I did not convince them." No, fortunately, he did not convince them! Over and over again has the question risen in Denmark: how to secure the Apostolic Succession?

Great opposition has always been manifested on the part of those whom Martensen represented, but on the other hand, many have spoken and written for it. Interest in the matter was advanced when Princess Alexandra became the Princess of Wales and later Queen of England. King Christian IX became interested and approved heartily the suggested presence of an Anglican Bishop at a Danish Episcopal ordination. Bishop Martensen, however, who had refused ordination at the hands of a Swedish Bishop, consistently refused to permit the presence of an English Bishop at another ordination. It will be seen then that on Bishop Martensen rests the responsibility of having twice opposed and made impossible the acquisition of the Apostolic Succession for the Danish Church. However, there is still hope it may come in due time.

Among the men especially interested in and working for intercommunion the Rev. J. Vahl took a prominent place. In 1860 he began the publication of General Church News, where a series of articles under the heading, "The Anglican and the Northern Churches", attracted considerable attention. Prominent men in England and Denmark wrote and wrought much for a closer Church life of whom the Rev. F. S. May, Secretary of the Anglo-Continental Society, deserves special mention. He came to Denmark in furtherance of the cause and was cordially received by the King. A Danish Clergyman, the Rev. J. Victor Block, missionary attached to the Moslem Missionary Society, co-operated with Vahl.

At this time a new interest in the Scandinavian people in the United States seems to have sprung up in the Episcopal Church, having as its object the commencing of church work among them. The first man of Scandinavian birth to graduate from the Seminary at Nashotah was G. Unonius, a Swede, who at once started work among his own countrymen. Later on he built St. Ansgarius' Church in Chicago, materially assisted by the "Swedish nightingale", Jenny Lind, but after a while he returned to Sweden. Nashotah has also graduated one Dane, M. F. Sorensen, and one Norwegian, J. E. Gasmann. That was the logical time for the undertaking and prosecuting of active work among the Scandinavians, an opportunity unfortunately neglected, so far as the Danes and Norwegians are concerned. A Clergyman of the Church of Sweden, the Rev. Jacob Bredberg, ordained by the Bishop of Skara, came to America 1862-1863, was received by Bishop Whitehouse and placed in charge of St. Ansgarius' Church in Chicago. A Danish Clergyman, the Rev. Dr. John Gierlov, likewise entered the Episcopal ministry. The friendship established between the Rev. J. C. Richmond and the young Danish Clergyman, J. F. Fenger, referred to above, might at this time have assisted considerably in the establishing of a Danish Mission in the Episcopal Church. Bishop Whitehouse became much interested in the question of intercommunion and to further the project undertook a journey to Denmark and Sweden in 1866.

An interesting incident throwing considerable light on the attitude of prominent Churchmen towards the question of Apostolic Succession is the following. The Bishop of Iceland, Dr. Thordersen, being old and feeble, about this time applied for an assistant Bishop. His desire, as well as the desire of the man he wished appointed was that the Archbishop of Canterbury should be the consecrating Bishop. When this came to the ears of Bishop Martensen he immediately protested to the Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs against the introduction of "new ideas and new customs." In the meantime Dr. Pjettur Pjetturson had been appointed. It so happened that Bishop Whitehouse was in Copenhagen at the time set for his ordination, as was also the Rev. F. S. May of London, both there in the interest of intercommunion. Dr. Pjetturson desired greatly that Bishop Whitehouse should be present and take part in the laying-on-of-hands. Bishop Whitehouse was more than willing, the King gave his assent but Bishop Martensen carried the day by absolutely ignoring the presence of Bishop Whitehouse in the city. Thus for the third time had Bishop Martensen prevented the "healing of the break" in the Apostolic Succession in the Church of Denmark.

Bishop Thorderson went to Edinburgh in search of medical assistance, and when there, received from the English Bishops a letter expressing their appreciation of the interest he had manifested in the cause of Unity, to which he replied in part as follows: "All, who believe, as we do, in the fulfillment of Christ's promise of 'one flock and one Shepherd,' can never give up the hope that in the end organic Unity shall become an actual fact. I cannot, then, do less than give my blessing to all labors with that end in view, having a sure faith in the reality of 'the Holy Catholic Church' and her ultimate ability to gather into her fold all who have wandered away and separated from her. We know that your Church and our Church are built on the one foundation which is Jesus Christ. We know that your Church and our Church in our symbola and formulae confess essentially the same truths, and nothing unessential ought to separate our two Episcopal Churches. The one possible reason for aloofness on the part of the Church of England, the irregularity of our ordinations to the Episcopate and inferiority of the ministry resulting therefrom, will, we hope and trust, in time be removed, and it will not be long in coming, if this great work for Unity be faithfully kept up. These will in the nature of things be my last words in this great cause, and I leave them to the world and to posterity as a witness to the fact that there is in my heart nothing that would prevent me from dying in full communion with your Church, even if, through bodily weakness, I am not able to participate in a public act that would give to the world a visible proof of where I stand."

Bishop Whitehouse, much disappointed, left Denmark for Sweden when he received ample assurance of the desire on the part of the Swedish Church to work for closer co-operation. After his return to Chicago he continued his interest in and for the Danish immigrants in America and was always hopeful for an eventual work among them on the part of the Episcopal Church.

In Denmark the question of the Apostolic Succession entered upon a somewhat quiescent state although many men still spoke and wrote in its behalf. The Danish Bishops were on the whole friendly towards England, especially Bishops Fog, Lind, Nielsen and Skat Rordam. Among the clergy names like these call for special mention: R. Thomsen, Dr. Floystrup, Bang, Dean Elmquist (author of "Unity of the Church") and Storm, Secretary of the Seaman's Mission, who had been Chaplain in London. Bishop Skat Rordam felt himself close to the Church of England, albeit being a conservative man he deemed it a matter of prudence to say little. To the Lambeth Conference of 1908 he sent the following letter. "As Bishop in the Church of Denmark, which with the Church of England confesses 'One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism,' I take the liberty to send to the Right Reverend Bishops, assembled in conference at Lambeth, my brotherly greetings, coupled with an expression of my hope and prayer that the Church's Master may lead His servants to the blessed goal for which He Himself prayed, 'that they all may be one.' " This letter was received with much pleasure by the Bishops who decided to send a committee to Sweden and Denmark. Bishop Rordam looked forward with much joy to the coming visit. However, when Bishop Wordsworth arrived in Copenhagen, Rordam was on his sick-bed and died soon afterwards.

Whether the true Apostolic Succession is necessary or even desirable is still an open question in Denmark with writers both for and against. The latest events, however, seem to point more and more to the growing influence of those who insist upon a true Episcopate. Lately two English Bishops assisted in the consecration of two Swedish Bishops. Thus it would seem the day must surely come when the Church of Denmark, too, shall be in possession of the Apostolic Episcopate.

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