Laestadianism: Wikis


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Laestadianism is a conservative Lutheran revival movement started in the middle of the 19th century. It is strongly marked by both pietistic and Moravian influences. It is the biggest revivalist movement in the Nordic countries.[citation needed] It has members mainly in Finland, North America, Norway, Russia and Sweden. There are also smaller congregations in Africa, South America and Central Europe. In addition Laestadians have missionaries in 23 countries. The number of Laestadians worldwide is estimated to be between 144,000 and 219,000.

Because of doctrinal opinion differences the movement has been split into 19 branches, of which about 15 are active today. The three large main branches are: Conservative Laestadianism (corresponds to the Laestadian Lutheran Church), the Firstborn (In North America = "Old Apostolic Lutheran Church") and the Rauhan Sana ("the Word of Peace") group, known in the USA and Canada as the Apostolic Lutheran Church of America. These comprise about 90 percent of Laestadians. Other branches are small and some of them inactive. The Elämän Sana ("the Word of life") group, as the most "mainline" of the different branches of Laestadianism, has been prominent within the hierarchy of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland: two of them have been elected bishops of Oulu and one has served as Field Bishop (head chaplain of the Finnish Defence Forces and the equivalent of a Major General). Laestadians in Finland have wanted to be part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but in America, where there is no established Lutheran church, they had to found their own denomination.

All branches share many essential teachings: a central emphasis on the Lutheran doctrine of justification (forgiveness and grace), an essential difference between believers and unbelievers, and that every believer has the authority to testify that others' sins are forgiven. They usually proclaim the forgiveness of sins "in Jesus´ name and blood". When greeting each other, Laestadians say "God's Peace" in English, or in Finnish, "Jumalan terve" ("God's Greetings"). To take their leave of each other, they say "God's Peace" in English (in Finnish: "Jumalan rauhaan").

Laestadians believe that rhythmic music, alcohol, make-up, TV, birth control, and pre-marital sex is forbidden. The central activities of Laestadians are revival meetings, the biggest of them being the annual Summer Services of Conservative Laestadians. Within Firstborn Laestadianism, the most important yearly events are the Christmas services in Gällivare and the Midsummer services in Lahti, where thousands of Firstborn Laestadians gather each year from different countries. Different branches publish their newspapers and magazines. In Finland, the Bible version used by Laestadians is the Finnish Bible of 1776 which, unlike newer translations, is based on the Textus Receptus. American and Canadian Laestadianism uses the King James Version, based as well on the Textus Receptus.[1]



The name of the movement stems from Lars Levi Laestadius, a Sámi-Swedish botanist and preacher. Laestadius started the movement when working as a pastor in the Church of Sweden in northern Sweden in the 1840s. Laestadius met a Sami woman named Milla Clementsdotter from Föllinge in the municipality of Krokom in Jämtland during an 1844 inspection tour of Åsele in Lapland. She belonged to a revival movement within the Church of Sweden led by pastor Pehr Brandell of the parish of Nora in the municipality of Kramfors in Ångermanland and characterized by pietistic and Moravian influences. She told Laestadius about her spiritual experiences on her journey to a truly living Christianity, and after the meeting Laestadius felt he had come to understand the secret of living faith. He had had a deep experience of having entered a state of grace, of having receiving God's forgiveness for his sins and of at last truly seeing the path that leads to eternal life. His sermons acquired, in his own words, "a new kind of colour" to which people began to respond. The movement began to spread from Sweden to Finland and Norway, particularly among the Sámi and the Kvens. He preferred his followers to be known simply as "Christians", but others started to call them "Laestadians."[1]

Within Laestadianism it is commonly believed that the movement is a contemporary descendant of an unbroken line of living Christianity via the Moravian Church, Luther, the Bohemian Brethren, the Lollards and the Waldensians all the way back to the primitive Church. Martin Luther, Jan Hus, John Wycliffe and Peter Waldo are seen as spiritual ancestors of Laestadianism.

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  1. ^ a b Johanna Kouva 2005

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