Remembering our history

The Significance of the EFCA's Diamond Jubilee

In 1959, the EFCA celebrated how God worked through 75 years of ministry.

As we celebrate the 140th year of the EFCA and what God has done over the decades, it’s meaningful to review some previous celebrations. One of the significant ones was the 75th anniversary in 1959, now 55 years ago.

This was nine years after the merger of the Swedish and the Norwegian/Danish Free Church associations, a merger which had gone exceedingly well. By 1959, the churches were fully integrated into their districts with little mention of the former Scandinavian labels.

Evangelical Beacon magazine cover for the EFCA's Diamond Jubilee
The Evangelical Beacon magazine cover of the Diamond Jubilee issue.

That year, a significant book was published called The Diamond Jubilee Story, written by four leaders at the time – H. Wilbert Norton, Congo missionary and then President of Trinity; Olai Urang, leader of our national ministries; Roy Thompson, first Beacon editor; and Mel Larson, second Beacon editor. Each had a wide knowledge of the EFCA’s history.

In addition, the Evangelical Beacon published an expanded issue, full of historical gems.

These historical pieces brought great praise to God throughout the EFCA as people reflected on what He had done over these years. 

E.A. Halleen had led the Swedish EFC since 1922 and happily turned over leadership to Arnold T. Olson in 1952. Olson’s visionary leadership took the EFCA even further as new Districts were added, a Program for Progress started and new staff helped catalyze the growth.

In 75 years, the EFCA’s overseas mission had grown from 1 in China to 147 missionaries on 7 fields. The members of the EFCA ministerial had grown from 37 to 576. From 288 churches at the time of the merger, we increased to 443 in 1959.

It was little wonder that there was so much joy, optimism and excitement throughout the denomination as they watched God at work building His church. 

Now as we look back from a longer vantage point, it’s truly amazing how God worked to form the EFCA, unite it from different language groups in the vastness of North America and keep the priorities of evangelism, discipleship and church planting ever at the forefront. To God be the Glory!

Tom Cairns

Tom Cairns is the archivist for the EFCA. A physician who worked for 19 years in Congo, Tom later served as director of international ministries for the EFCA mission, now known as ReachGlobal. Since retirement, Tom enjoys sharing stories about the history of the EFCA, answering questions from our churches and helping the churches with their own stories. He also uploads our historical books, photos and documents to our archive website. Tom’s great desire is to bring glory to God as we celebrate the history we have in the EFCA.

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