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T.W. Anderson Records

Identifier: 1-2-4


  • 1870-1972


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on the materials and the collection is open to all members of the public. However, the researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright that may be involved in the use of this collection.


60.0 Linear Feet (120 containers)

Biographical / Historical

Theodore Wilbur Anderson, fourth president of the Evangelical Covenant Church, was born on July 4, 1889 in Smolan, Kansas. His parents, Olof and Wilhelmina Anderson, had emigrated from Sweden in the 1860s and established their farm in Kansas in 1869. He was the tenth of twelve children. After completing his elementary education and teaching for a year at a rural Kansas school, he enrolled at North Park Academy and completed its three-year curriculum in two years, graduating in 1909. After graduation he served as a pastor at his home church in Smolan, then enrolled in the fall at the University of Chicago. He interrupted his studies briefly to teach English and mathematics at North Park College in 1910-11, then returned to the University of Chicago and graduated with a B. A. in history in 1913 (Phi Beta Kappa, 1912). That year he accepted a call to become president of Minnehaha Academy, a high school newly founded by the Northwest Mission Association in Minneapolis, then received a year's leave to complete his M. A. degree (in history) at the University of Chicago. He accomplished this in 1914, subsequently assuming his office at Minnehaha Academy.

Anderson served at Minnehaha Academy for twenty years, teaching classes and making fund-raising tours in addition to his administrative duties. During this period, he married Evelynn Johnson (1916), with whom he eventually had three children: Theodore, Jr., Jane Evelynn, and Daniel Olof (all born in Minneapolis). He also established his reputation within the Covenant as a speaker and administrator, twice refusing denominational posts (president of North Park College, 1923; Secretary of Missions, 1930) to remain at Minnehaha Academy, which he believed still needed his presence. In 1932, however, he yielded to the Covenant's request to replace the departing C. V. Bowman as president, and he assumed office the following year.

Anderson's style of administration emphasized sound fiscal management and personal diplomacy. When he assumed office the denomination possessed a $75,000 debt and continued to run yearly budget deficits. With the help of the 50th-anniversary Golden Jubilee fund-raising campaign, he succeeded in eliminating both the debt and deficits by 1935. Over the next several years he helped to restructure the pension fund, which had been unable to meet the needs of the growing number of retiring pastors. This task was completed in 1942, when the new fund began operations.

The denomination Anderson inherited also suffered from a number of internal conflicts, including those between the seminary and fundamentalist members as well as between the Swedish immigrant and American-born generations. To defuse these conflicts and strengthen feelings of unity within the Covenant, he relied heavily on cultivating and maintaining his own personal ties with its members. This he achieved through extensive correspondence and travels throughout his presidency, facilitated greatly by his fluency in both Swedish and English and his popularity among both the immigrant and American-born generations. He also continued the denomination's practice of holding its annual meetings in strategic regions of the country, focusing primarily on the West and East Coasts.

Anderson's administration lasted 26 years, the longest of any Covenant president. During this period (and particularly after World War II) the denomination achieved great institutional growth. The membership grew from 43,000 members in 423 congregations in 1933 to 58,000 in 529 congregations in 1959. New mission fields were opened in Japan, Africa, and South America, all of which he visited during his administration. Other Covenant institutions, including North Park College and Swedish Covenant Hospital, expanded their physical plants, and the denomination itself erected its own headquarters building in 1948. This overall growth was reflected in the increased scale of fund-raising. In 1945 the Covenant's 60th-anniversary campaign raised $500,000, five times the total from the Golden Jubilee campaign. In 1959, the Diamond Jubilee quadrupled this achievement, raising $2,000,000.

Near the end of Anderson's administration, a theological controversy arose, recalling the turmoil of the late 1920s and 1930s. A pastor, William Doughty of Mt. Vernon, Washington, took exception to the teaching at North Park Seminary for reasons similar to those earlier. After a controversy involving Doughty's attempts to publish his protests, the Board of Ministerial Standing censured Doughty at the 1958 Annual Meeting. Shortly afterwards, Doughty resigned from the denomination. Though the immediate crisis was thus resolved, it left unanswered questions regarding ministerial discipline and even the nature of Covenant doctrine.

Anderson retired from the Covenant presidency in 1959. He remained vigorous for many years afterward as a speaker and denominational representative. He also took correspondence courses at the University of Chicago. In 1965 North Park College conferred on him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. He had received a similar honor from Augustana in 1947 and the Royal Order of the North Star from the king of Sweden in 1952. He died on November 26, 1972.

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and North Park University Archives Repository

North Park University
Brandel Library - Lower Level
3225 W Foster Ave Box 38
Chicago IL 60625 USA