New Film Connects Pietism Roots with Current Issues

CHICAGO, IL (June 16, 2017) – At a time when evangelicalism seem to be going through an identity crisis, two Covenant academics say their new documentary can help the church rediscover itself by exploring its roots in Pietism.

“God’s Glory, Neighbor’s Good: The Story of Pietism” was co-written by Mark Safstrom, lecturer in Swedish and Scandinavian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom, North Park Theological Seminary professor of theology and ethics. The feature-length film provides an accessible introduction to Pietism and is designed to be used in seminary classrooms and adult Sunday school classes. G. Timothy Johnson, longtime medical editor of ABC News, narrates the movie.

Pietism began as a movement in the 1600s, calling Christians to focus on the Bible, the need for spiritual rebirth, and personal transformation. The feature-length documentary reveals how Pietism helped shape modern evangelicalism and gives understanding to issues confronting the church today, the filmmakers say.

“We have lost a sense of history, we have lost a sense of purpose, and we’ve sort of lost almost our skeleton in terms of the birth of evangelicalism,” says Clifton-Soderstrom in one of the film’s opening segments, “and I think Pietism can help us do some of the things that evangelicals hope they can do and be today.”

Theology and ethics professor Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom

Safstrom says Covenant scholars have demonstrated renewed interest in Pietism over the past decade as they seek to explain the position of the ECC in relation to American Christianity generally and evangelicalism in particular. “This is a timely topic in that the Covenant is part of the evangelical landscape, yet has a specific story that remains distinct. The Covenant Church’s culture and affirmations were all heavily inspired by Pietism. Since we are a ‘non-confessional’ church, it becomes all the more essential to understand our history in order to navigate disagreements over matters of biblical interpretation and cultural change.”

Amazon Prime members can watch the film for free. It also can be purchased for $14.99 from the distributor Vision Video. A study guide can be downloaded.

The executive producer is Dave Oseland, and the filmmaker is Tim Frakes. Plans are being developed to edit the film length to an hour so that it might appear on public television.

The project is being conducted with the backing of North Park Theological Seminary and the support and advocacy of The Pietisten magazine.


Safstrom presented a lecture at North Park Theological Seminary entitled, “The Church That Reads Together, Stays Together: C.O. Rosenius and the Reading Culture of the Mission Friends.” It can be viewed here.

Companion columnist John E. Phelan Jr. wrote in “Saving Evangelicalism,” that the Pietistic ethos can provide a way of bringing together a fractured movement.






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