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Trail Markers A Newsletter of the Baptist General Conference History Center

September 2009

Volume 9, No. 1


My Church conference history. At that point, more than 100,000 copies had been sold, and it served as the principle book used by conference churches to orient new members and for adults who wanted to explore the background of their faith. The book discusses in simple language eight distinctives of fellowship in Baptist General Conference churches: 1. The New Testament as the sole and sufficient rule of faith and practice. 2. The privilege of each individual to have direct access to God through Christ. 3. Church and state completely separate in their respective fields. 4. Congregational chuch government. Each church independent and autonomous. 5. Baptism by immersion and for believers only. 6. Church membership only for those with a genuine Christian conversion. 7. Christ is the supreme head of the Church. 8. Evangelism, locally and throughout the world, is our task. At age 89, Gordon Johnson marvels that a little book, written on the side of his more involving activities at the time, would have such a long and successful career. My Church, more than any other writing, has shaped the principles and ethos of the Baptist General Conference and has kept it true to God’s Word and our Baptist beliefs.

What do Baptists of the Baptist General Conference (now Converge) actually believe? How do we differ from other Christians? What should children, young people, and new believers of our churches be taught? These are questions that arise in most of our churches today. And they are questions that have persisted for hundreds of years. This is the reason that the book My Church, written by Gordon G. Johnson 52 years ago, is still in demand and is the longest continually published book in conference history. Its first printing of 3,000 copies (a large order for the small denomination) was quickly sold out and additional printings ordered. When Gordon Johnson wrote this small book in 1956, he was serving as pastor of Central Avenue Baptist Church in Chicago. The conference was trying to develop a more effective Christian education program for its churches. This was not to be a theology book such as those used in seminaries and Bible colleges. Rather, it was strictly aimed at lay people and for teaching to children and young people. It was a challenging assignment for Johnson, who had a Th.D. from Northern Baptist Seminary and who was also busy pastoring one of the largest churches in the denomination. By 1982, Gordon Johnson was serving as dean of Bethel Seminary. An endowed scholarship was established in his honor and in recognition of the longest continually published book in

Life and Legacy Celebration Friends of the Baptist General Conference History Center invite you to celebrate Dr. Gordon Johnson’s life and legacy at a brunch on Saturday, October 31, at 9:30 a.m. at Grace Point Church (formerly Salem Baptist), 2351 Rice Creek Road, New Brighton, MN. Make reservations with Stephanie at 651.635.8053. Cost is $6.50 a person. An offering will be taken for the History Center. 1

Great Lakes Bethel Library Goes Digital University is building a digital library that will be used not only to enBaptist Conference hanceBethel the teaching process, but also to create broad access to unique historical books and records related to the history of Bethel and the Baptist General Conference. Celebrates 125th A new digital librarian, Kent Gerber, came on board on August 1. He will work Anniversary closely with Diana Magnuson, our archivist, to make more of these historical records The Great Lakes Baptist Conference (GLBC) will gather at the Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Convention Center on October 23-24 for its annual meeting and to celebrate its 125th anniversary. The first Swedish Baptists came to Trade Lake, Wis., in 1868 and formed the Swedish Baptist Churches of Trade Lake and Wood River in 1869. Fifteen years later in 1884, A. P. Ekman, serving as a missionary for the national conference, encouraged nine Swedish Baptist churches in Wisconsin to come together at Ogema to form the Wisconsin Conference. J. P. Sundstrom, the pastor of the Grantsburg, Wis., church, was chosen as the first Wisconsin Conference missionary. By 1895, the conference had grown to 25 churches and a combined membership of more than 1,000 Swedish Baptists. In the 20th century, the GLBC reached out beyond its Swedish beginnings and today celebrates ministry to people of many diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds. If you wish to attend this 125th celebration, titled “Healthy Churches Cultivate Cross-Cultural Ministry,” contact the GLBC office at 608.244.5000 or

We Are Not Converging Our apologies for the masthead of the last issue, which incorrectly listed our name as “Converge.” We haven’t changed our name. We intend to continue to be a newsletter of the Friends of the BGC History Center! Thanks for your understanding.

available in coming months. Access to pictures of historic conference churches and many of the key books related to our history are already available by visiting:

Walfred Danielson—Missionary, Educator, Conference Leader Walfred Danielson laid the foundations of the Baptist General Conference World Mission outreach. He oversaw the beginning of mission work in most of the countries that form the core of our present mission work. Danielson was born in Lake Nebagamon, Wis., in 1888. In 1906, he left his rural community for the big city of St. Paul and the Swedish boarding school that conference Baptists had established there in 1905. Graduating from high school in 1910, he went to Macalester College. He returned to Bethel Academy teaching history in Swedish while doing graduate work at the University of Minnesota. Feeling God’s call into missionary service, he and his young wife Anna sailed for Assam, India, in 1923. He worked on his seminary degree during his missionary stint, graduating from Bethel Seminary in 1929. A year later, he left missionary service to become the first dean of the newly formed Junior College at Bethel. The Academy was waning as fewer and fewer students sought Swedish language high school studies. The Danielsons, like other conference missionaries in those days, had served with the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS). In 1936, the ABFMS called their former missionary to New York to be the associate secretary of the ABFMS. From that role he was called back to 2

Minnesota in 1944 to be the executive secretary for the Minnesota Baptist Conference. But momentous changes were shaking the Swedish Baptist Conference. Delegates at the annual meeting voted to form their own Conference Foreign Mission Board with Danielson as the leader. The Danielsons were suddenly on their way to Chicago to help create the new Baptist General Conference mission board. The conference had argued that having its own Mission Board would create more candidates from conference churches seeking missionary service and would result in greater contributions to missions. They were right on both counts. Starting with only six missionaries, they set a goal to have 52 missionaries by 1952. A mere seven years later, they had exceeded that goal. New fields were opened in five countries: China, Japan, the Philippines, Ethiopia, and India. And the mission effort fueled many other changes in the conference, including new, younger leaders taking over in several areas of conference life. A conference that had been fairly static in the 1930s and 1940s surged with new life, removed the word Swedish from its name, and moved into the greatest church planting and church growth decade since the 1880s. In 1953, Danielson handed in his resignation due to declining health. He passed away in 1959, 50 years ago this year.

Moving Again The BGC is moving from its home at 2002 S. Arlington Heights Rd. in Arlington Heights, Ill. The staff who handles finances will stay in the Chicago area, though they will move from Arlington Heights into a lower rent area in Elgin, Ill., sometime in fall 2010. Most administrators and those whose work involves much travel will move to new facilities in Orlando, Fla. The Orlando office (Mail Code 1000, 100 Lake Hart Road, Orlando, FL 32832) will become operational in September 2009. This will be the fifth move for the conference offices.

First Site: Dearborn Street, Chicago, 1909

The first offices were rented facilities at 127 Dearborn St. in Chicago in 1909. The space was used for a book store and for the denominational publishing activities. The American Baptist Convention, which had published a Swedish language paper and Swedish Christian books, sold its book supply and the paper Barnens Tidning (a Sunday School paper) to the Baptist General Conference and then shut down its Swedish operation. E. S. Lindblad became book store manager and editor of Barnens Tidning and corresponding secretary for the conference. In 1910, Arvid Gordh, who was publishing a Swedish newspaper, transferred the ownership to the conference, and The Svenska Standaret (The Swedish Standard) was published from the Dearborn address.

a total cost of $193,000. This building served the conference for the next 18 years.

Fourth Site: Central Street, Evanston, 1970

BGC Headquarters: Ashland Ave., Chicago, 1952

publication work and the growing mission department, the conference offices were moved to 912 Belmont St. in Chicago. This remained the headquarters until the conference began its own mission work in 1945 and chose Walfred Danielson as its first world mission director. The Belmont Street address was the office out of which the expanding new Baptist General Conference work was done.

Third Site: Ashland Ave., Chicago, 1952

In 1948, a decision was made at the Muskegon Conference Annual meeting to erect a new headquarters building for the expanding work of the conference. On March 15, 1952, the new headquarters at 5750 N. Ashland in Chicago were dedicated at BGC Headquarters: Central Street, Evanston, 1970

Second Site: Belmont St., Chicago, 1925

In 1925, when more space was needed for the 3

Toward the end of the 1960s, the need for additional space led the conference to look for larger facilities. The Ashland Ave. site was sold, and a new building was purchased at 1233 Central Street in Evanston, Ill. It was occupied in the fall of 1970. The building was too large for the needs of the organization as well as expensive to operate. Leaders began looking for a more appropriate location.

Fifth Site: Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights, 1980

A committee of the Board of Trustees found a suitable site for a new building in February of 1979. After

BGC Headquarters: Arlington Heights Rd., Arlington Heights, 1980

working with representatives of the various boards on a design that would meet their needs, construction began in September. The conference took possession of its new headquarters building at 2002 Arlington Heights Rd. in Arlington Heights, Ill., in November of 1980, and it has served the conference until the upcoming move to Florida and Elgin, Ill.

Interested in BGC and Bethel History? If you are interested in the history of the Baptist General Conference and Bethel University, here are some ways you can plug in: 1. Be sure your name is on our Trailmarkers mailing list. 2. Show copies of Trailmarkers to your friends and encourage them to receive the publication. 3. It costs about $3,000 a year to publish Trailmarkers, assist in history projects, and conduct our events. A gift to the Friends of the BGC History Center is always welcome! 4. The Dick Turnwall History Center Endowment will assure the financial stability of the History Center into the future if we fund it well. Consider a gift in your estate to this endowment. 5. Have your church appoint a historian. Send copies of valuable historical documents and pictures to the BGC

Archives, 3900 Bethel Dr., St. Paul, MN 55112. Put bound copies of Trailmarkers in your church’s library. 6. If your family has been significantly involved in the BGC, send us your family histories. We are also on the lookout for diaries and pictures of former conference leaders. 7. Send us memorabilia from your time at Bethel. 8. Attend the next Friends of the BGC History Center event. 9. If you aren’t in Minnesota, begin a Friends chapter in your area. Ask Jim Spickelmier for help on how you can get started (651.635.8054).

Steering Committee of the Friends of the Baptist General Conference History Center: James Spickelmier, Chair; Diana Magnuson, Archivist; Alvera Mickelsen, Editor, Trailmarkers; Stan Anderson; Marlys Arenson; Richard Burton; G.William Carlson; Gwen Forsline; Jonathan Larson; Dwaine Lind; Marv Lindstedt; Mary Jo Monson; Virgil Olson; Rich Sherry; Flossie Winquist  The Baptist General Conference History Center is housed and supported by Bethel University. 

“Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that...we might have hope.” Romans 15:4 3900 Bethel Drive St. Paul, MN 55112-6999

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Trailmarkers Fall 2009  

Remembering my church, Bethel library goes digital, BGC moving again, and more.

Trailmarkers Fall 2009  

Remembering my church, Bethel library goes digital, BGC moving again, and more.