Swedish Baptists can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth century in America. According to Baptist historian C. Douglas Weaver, the first Swedish Baptist church started in the United States was in 1852 at Rock Island, Illinois organized by a Swedish immigrant named Gustaf Palmquist.1 Palmquist came to America presumably a Lutheran but after attending a Baptist revival, became a Baptist. Afterwards, he organized the first Swedish Baptist Church, an organization of which, according to Weaver, marks the founding date of the Swedish Baptist General Convention in America—at least until 1945 when “Swedish” was dropped from the name. Undoubtedly the most popular historic “Swedish” Baptist church is Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota where the legendary Calvinistic icon of the young, restless, and reformed, John Piper, served until recently as its influential Senior Pastor.2
Other Swedes who came to America made measurable impacts on Baptists as well. Andreas Wiberg was born in Sweden and raised a strict Lutheran, eventually becoming Pastor in the established Lutheran Church of Sweden.3 After struggling with the issue of believers baptism by immersion, Wiberg left his home country due to the severe retaliation leveraged against those resisting the established state church. Arriving here in 1852, he gained employment as a translator at the American Baptist Publication Society (vi). After some years here, Wiberg travelled back to his home country to establish and strengthen the Baptist movement there. Before leaving the states, Wiberg penned a highly influential monograph on believers baptism by immersion entitled Christian Baptism: Set Forth in the Words of the Bible.
From this work, note Wiberg’s radical change of understanding pertaining to the spiritual condition of infants and their salvation. Wiberg retained the sinful propensities of infants while affirming infants dying in infancy are covered by Christ’s atonement on one hand and denying infant baptism as a gospel ordinance on the other.
“But now it can in nowise be proved, that infants generally, or those of believers especially, are as to their nature sanctified from their birth. On the contrary, we learn from the Scriptures, that they are “by nature the children of wrath" (Eph. ii. 3), corrupted by original sin (Ps. Ii.7), born "flesh of flesh" (John iii.6), that they are "transgressors from the womb" (Isa.xlviii.8), "estranged from the womb and go astray as soon as they are born" (Ps. lviii.3), &c. And the truth of this is proved by daily experience. For the very first things that are observed, both in baptized and unbaptized children, are manifestations of sinful dispositions, selfishness, impatience, peevishness, &c.
Yet children who die in their infancy are saved by the atonement of Christ. They have fallen in Adam, but in the fall sunk into the outstretched arms of Christ. This truth our Saviour testifies by taking them up in His arms, putting His hands upon them and blessing them--an act in the highest degree touching and instructive an act that speaks more powerfully than all words, in comfort to bereaved parents; but—mark !—at the same time an act, whereby our Saviour tacitly declares that He is willing to bless little children without baptism, and that infant baptism is no part of the Gospel dispensation.
But in what manner God saves those who die in their infancy, the Scriptures have not revealed, as such knowledge is not necessary for us. Nothing in the word of God is addressed to new-born children, nor are the ministers of the Gospel commissioned with a message to them. The preaching of the Gospel is for those who are able to hear, understand and believe it; and not for unconscious children.
Faith in Christ which comes by hearing, secures the salvation of believers, not because there is any saving efficacy in faith itself, but because, by divine appointment, it is the means through which they apprehend the atonement of Christ. Unconscious children are saved by the all-wise counsel of God in some other way, unknown to us. If they cannot repent, or believe, or partake of the ordinances of the church of Christ, God neither requires it from them, nor do they lose any thing from the want of it (pp.152-153, italics original; paragraphs divided for better readability)
1C. Douglas Weaver, In Search of the New Testament Church: The Baptist Story. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2008. p.232
2The original name of the Bethlehem Baptist Church was the First Swedish Baptist Church of Minneapolis, 1871 (see Weaver, p. 233)
3Andreas Wiberg, Christian Baptism: Set Forth in the Words of the Bible. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, no date. v. All information concerning Wiberg comes from this volume published by American Baptists.