Edwin Erhardt Roenfelt

Photo courtesy of Adventist Heritage Centre, Australia.

Roenfelt, Erwin Erhardt (1899–1987)

By Milton Hook

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Milton Hook, Ed.D. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, the United States). Hook retired in 1997 as a minister in the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia. An Australian by birth Hook has served the Church as a teacher at the elementary, academy and college levels, a missionary in Papua New Guinea, and as a local church pastor. In retirement he is a conjoint senior lecturer at Avondale College of Higher Education. He has authored Flames Over Battle Creek, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist, the Seventh-day Adventist Heritage Series, and many magazine articles. He is married to Noeleen and has two sons and three grandchildren.

First Published: November 18, 2020

Erwin Erhardt Roennfeldt was born on May 4, 1899, of Germanic ancestry in the rural hamlet of Greenock, SA. His parents were Erhardt Franz Wilhelm Roennfeldt and Antonia Florentine (Jaensch) Roennfeldt.1 Erwin’s five siblings were Vera Dorothea, Clarence, Oscar Benjamin, Irene, and Norma.2 Later generations anglicized their surname variously as Roennfelt, Roenfeldt or Roenfelt.

When Erwin was 15 years old, an American evangelist, Daniel Wall, came preaching in the Barossa Valley and converted the Roennfeldt family to Seventh-day Adventism. Erwin had aspired to the Lutheran ministry, the faith in which he was raised. Instead, he enrolled at the Australasian Missionary College (AMC) in Cooranbong, NSW. The family farm was suffering drought, but a passing thunderstorm filled their catchment dam with water that they used to grow vegetables and sell locally to pay for Erwin’s college fees.3 In 1918 he graduated from the missionary and Bible worker’s course.4

Service in Ministry

On completion of his studies Erwin was appointed to the South Australian Conference. He assisted Reuben Hare in a crusade in Adelaide and then conducted a campaign himself in Renmark. His next assignment took him to Tumby Bay, where some families were receiving Signs of the Times. He journeyed by boat and then rode his bicycle 25 miles (forty kilometers) overland to reach one of the contacts. During the days he helped with their harvest and studied the Bible with them in the evenings. Local ministers challenged him to a debate in a sheep-shearing shed, a packed gathering lasting until the early hours of the morning. It resulted in 36 adults deciding to worship on the Saturday Sabbath.5

Erwin was ordained at the South Australian camp meeting in Adelaide, March 1924.6 That same year he led a crusade in Loxton with the assistance of Raimund Reye and Anton Weil. The local Lutheran minister, who had earlier burned copies of Bible Readings for the Home Circle, opposed their efforts, but attendances increased as the series unfolded.7

During his ministry Erwin met Elza (or Eliza) Millicent Trebilcock, who was born in Moonta, SA, on December 9, 1905.8 They were married in Port Adelaide in 1925.9

Late in 1926 Erwin received a transfer to the West Australian Conference. He had nurtured a company of converts in Port Adelaide, and there they gathered together in the home of Eliza’s mother for a farewell evening.10 Eight years were spent in evangelism in Western Australia. Among his major crusades were a series in the Savoy Theatre, Victoria Park (1930/1931),11 and another in Cottesloe (1933), both suburbs of Perth.12

Erwin was appointed late in 1934 to the presidency of the Tasmanian Conference. The conference camp meeting was held at Newtown in Hobart soon after his arrival. When it concluded, he led a public crusade in a large tent on the same campsite.13 Administrative duties did not dampen his zeal for converts. On one occasion, after becoming aware of interested individuals in the most southerly settlement, Catamaran, he and the conference secretary, Herbert Adrian, drove many kilometers over a tortuous track to visit them. They studied Scripture with them and found the interest genuine. The storekeeper closed her business on Saturdays, and a small group accepted the Seventh-day Adventist faith.14

A heavier administrative role was given to Erwin in 1937 when he was voted as the secretary of the Australasian Union Conference (AUC).15 After four years he was elected to be the vice president for the AUC for Home and Mission Fields (1941)16 and then as one of three general vice presidents for the AUC (1942–1943).17 Secretarial duties included the compilation of comprehensive reports for the annual AUC council sessions,18 familiarization visits to Pacific Island fields,19 and speaking assignments at Australasian camp meetings.20

In 1944 he was appointed to teach Bible subjects at his alma mater, AMC, and also serve as vice principal of the institution under principal Benjamin McMahon.21 He did not see eye to eye with McMahon’s style of administration.22 At the end of the year Erwin returned to Western Australia as president of the conference for two years.23

As West Australian Conference president Erwin was selected to be a delegate at the 1946 General Conference session at Tacoma Park, Washington, D.C.24 At this gathering he was elected to be one of six associate secretaries of the General Conference. He served in this role until 1962.25 Duties, of course, took him to many different areas around the world. He wrote of one lengthy tour in 1948 to 25 countries, including England, Switzerland, France, Tunisia, Libya, Iraq, and Iran. His itinerary took him to many speaking appointments and the inspection of church educational and medical institutions.26 He was especially intrigued with a group of Russian believers near Iran’s northern border who had adapted numerous passages of Scripture to sing as hymns.27

In addition to his travels and many committee meetings Erwin was called on to write numerous articles for the church periodicals, newsworthy items in addition to devotional pieces. They were suited for worldwide church members. A tiny sample included one 1950 report of the first nursing class to be formed at the denominational hospital in Ethiopia28 and another report of Australian missionary Allan Maberly, evangelizing the Tibetans in 1960.29

At the 1962 General Conference session in San Francisco Erwin was unanimously elected to be the president of the Northern European Division (NED),30 a territory comprising the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Poland, Scandinavian and Nordic countries, West Africa, and Ethiopia. He gave his final report of the NED at the 1966 General Conference session in Detroit, Michigan.31

Retirement

Erwin and Elza retired to Saint Helena, California, where their two sons, Brian and Barry, and their families were living at the time. Erwin enjoyed two decades in the area before dying on September 3, 1987.32 He was buried in a crypt at the picturesque Saint Helena Cemetery. Elza was placed with him when she died on July 31, 1997.33 They had traveled far from their places of birth, but the journey was a long and fruitful one in gospel ministry and church administration.

Sources

Adrian, H[erbert] W. “1935 Tasmanian Conference and Camp Meeting.” Australasian Record, April 1, 1935.

Annual Announcement: Australasian Missionary College. Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Press, 1944.

Annual Announcement: Australasian Missionary College. Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Press, 1946.

Butler, S[idney] C. “The Conference Session.” Australasian Record, May 8, 1933.

“Distribution of Labour.” Australasian Record, vol. 38, no. 38, September 17, 1934.

District of Port Adelaide, Marriage Certificates. South Australian Government Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Adelaide, SA.

“Erwin Erhardt Roenfelt.” Find A Grave: Saint Helena Cemetery, Napa County, California, 2020. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/48253232/erwin-erhardt-roenfelt.

“Erwin Erhardt Roennfeldt.” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020. https://www.familtsearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=SouthAustralia%2CAustralia%7C1898-1900%7C0&self=erwinerhardt%7Croennfeldt%7C0%7C0.

Hook, Milton. Avondale: Experiment on the Dora. Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Academic Press, 1998.

Lemke, L[udwig] D.A. “Western Australia.” Australasian Record, January 19, 1931.

Palmeteer, G[ordon] V. “Erhardt Franz Wilhelm Roennfeldt.” Australasian Record, May 3, 1948.

“Partial Report of the Nominating Committee.” ARH, July 31, 1962.

Pascoe, W[illiam] L. “First Meetings of the General Conference.” Australasian Record, July 22, 1946.

“Pastor E. E. Roenfelt sailed . . . ” Australasian Record, June 20, 1938.

“Pastor Roenfelt, writing from . . .” Australasian Record, January 22, 1940.

Price, [E.] Bruce. “Life Sketch of Pastor Erwin E. Roenfelt.” Record, November 7, 1987.

Price, E. Bruce. “Erwin Erhardt Roenfelt.” Record, November 7, 1987.

Richards, W[illiam] J. “A Farewell Meeting.” Australasian Record, February 7, 1927.

Roenfelt, E[rwin] E. “Visiting Adventist Believers in Twenty-five Countries.” Australasian Record, May 10, 1948.

———. “Visiting Adventist Believers in Twenty-five Countries.” Australasian Record, May 24, 1948.

Roenfelt, Erwin E. “A Visit to the Most Southerly Point in the Commonwealth.” Australasian Record, July 8, 1935.

———. “Australasian Division Secretary’s Report.” Australasian Record, September 6, 1937.

———. “First Nursing School in Ethiopia.” ARH, April 13, 1950.

———. “Himalayan People Hear the Message.” ARH, October 6, 1960.

———. “Northern European Division.” ARH, June 20, 1966.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbooks. Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1937–1966.

Snow, C[harles] M. “The South Australian Camp Meeting.” Australasian Record, May 12, 1924.

Weil, A[nton] H. “Loxton.” Australasian Record, December 1, 1924.

Notes

  1. “Erwin Erhardt Roennfeldt,” FamilySearch, Intellectual Reserve, 2020, accessed February 18, 2020, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/find/name?search=1&gender=male&birth=SouthAustralia%2CAustralia%7C1898-1900%7C0&self=erwinerhardt%7Croennfeldt%7C0%7C0.

  2. G[ordon] V. Palmeteer, “Erhardt Franz Wilhelm Roennfeldt,” Australasian Record, May 3, 1948, 7.

  3. [E.] Bruce Price, “Life Sketch of Pastor Erwin E. Roenfelt,” Record, November 7, 1987, 13.

  4. Annual Announcement: Australasian Missionary College (Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Press, 1946), 44.

  5. [E.] Bruce Price.

  6. C[harles] M. Snow, “The South Australian Camp Meeting,” Australasian Record, May 12, 1924, 5.

  7. A[nton] H. Weil, “Loxton,” Australasian Record, December 1, 1924, 4.

  8. “Erwin Erhardt Roennfeldt.”

  9. District of Port Adelaide, Certificate of Marriage 305/822 (1925), South Australian Government Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Adelaide, SA.

  10. W[illiam] J. Richards, “A Farewell Meeting,” Australasian Record, February 7, 1927, 7.

  11. L[udwig] D.A. Lemke, “Western Australia,” Australasian Record, January 19, 1931, 5, 6.

  12. S[idney] C. Butler, “The Conference Session,” Australasian Record, May 8, 1933, 4.

  13. “Distribution of Labour,” Australasian Record, September 17, 1934, 3–5.

  14. Erwin E. Roenfelt, “A Visit to the Most Southerly Point in the Commonwealth,” Australasian Record, July 8, 1935, 6.

  15. “Australasian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1937), 69.

  16. “Australasian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1941), 74.

  17. E.g., “Australasian Union Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1942), 57.

  18. Erwin E. Roenfelt, “Australasian Division Secretary’s Report,” Australasian Record, September 6, 1937, 1–3.

  19. “Pastor E. E. Roenfelt sailed . . .” Australasian Record, June 20, 1938, 8.

  20. “Pastor Roenfelt, writing from . . .” Australasian Record, January 22, 1940, 8.

  21. Annual Announcement: Australasian Missionary College (Cooranbong, NSW: Avondale Press, 1944), [3].

  22. Milton Hook, Avondale: Experiment on the Dora (Coorabong, NSW: Avondale Academic Press, 1998), 164–166.

  23. E.g., “West Australian Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1946), 75, 76.

  24. W[illiam] L. Pascoe, “First Meetings of the General Conference,” Australasian Record, July 22, 1946, 6.

  25. E.g., “General Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1947), 7.

  26. E[rwin] E. Roenfelt, “Visiting Adventist Believers in Twenty-five Countries,” Australasian Record, May 10, 1948, 3, 7.

  27. E[rwin] E. Roenfelt, “Visiting Adventist Believers in Twenty-five Countries,” Australasian Record, May 24, 1948, 2, 7.

  28. Erwin E. Roenfelt, “First Nursing School in Ethiopia,” ARH, April 13, 1950, 24.

  29. Erwin E. Roenfelt, “Himalayan People Hear the Message,” ARH, October 6, 1960, 32.

  30. “Partial Report of the Nominating Committee,” ARH, July 31, 1962, 24.

  31. Erwin E. Roenfelt, “Northern European Division,” ARH, June 20, 1966, 12-14.

  32. E. Bruce Price, “Erwin Erhardt Roenfelt,” Record, November 7, 1987, 15.

  33. “Erwin Erhardt Roenfelt,” Find A Grave: Saint Helena Cemetery, Napa County, California, 2020, accessed February 26, 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/48253232/erwin-erhardt-roenfelt.

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Hook, Milton. "Roenfelt, Erwin Erhardt (1899–1987)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 18, 2020. Accessed May 20, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6AWI.

Hook, Milton. "Roenfelt, Erwin Erhardt (1899–1987)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. November 18, 2020. Date of access May 20, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6AWI.

Hook, Milton (2020, November 18). Roenfelt, Erwin Erhardt (1899–1987). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 20, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=6AWI.