Sine Renlev

Photo courtesy of the historical archive of the Swedish Union (HASDA, Denmark).

Renlev, Sine (1840–1899)

By Sven Hagen Jensen

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Sven Hagen Jensen, M.Div. (Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA) has worked for the church for over 50 years as a pastor, editor, departmental director, and church administrator in Denmark, Nigeria and the Middle East. Jensen enjoys reading, writing, nature and gardening. He is married to Ingelis and has two adult children and four grandchildren.

First Published: February 9, 2022

Denmark’s first female Seventh-day Adventist preacher was an extraordinary woman. With her pleasant personality, her guitar, and her beautiful singing voice, she drew large numbers to her Bible lectures in public halls, tents, or the homes of interested people. Having become a Seventh-day Adventist in 1879, she almost immediately set out to preach the present truth, and no one could stop her sharing her newfound faith.1

Early Life

Sine Renlev was born on December 11, 1840, in the Vilslev parish of Ribe county in southern Jutland, Denmark. Her parents were Jens Mortensen Renlef and Mette Sørensdatter Renlef. Her real name was Mette Christine Renlef, but she later took that was more easily accessible--Sine Renlev. In the annals of Ribe County from 1907-1910, we read that “the name ‘Renlef’ may point towards the ‘renlivede’ (those of pure life). The name is undoubtedly old and can allude to the friars in nearby Jested monastery.”2

In a farm close to the church in Vilslev, Sine attended a series of Bible readings in 1878. It was the Danish-American Adventist pioneer, John Gottlieb Matteson3, returning to his homeland, who spoke on the Bible text “God’s commandments and the faith of Jesus.” Sine, at that time 38 years of age, was deeply moved by the message about keeping the Bible Sabbath and the belief in the soon coming of Christ. As a result, Sine and her older sister, Anne (1835-1904), as well as their mother, Mette Renlev (1814-1887), were baptized in 1879 and accepted into the newly established Jested Seventh-day Adventist Church4 during Matteson’s, and his co-preacher Knud Brorson’s,5 preaching tour.6

Working for the Lord

Immediately after her baptism, Sine took a course in Biblical knowledge and soon started to visit with books and give Bible studies. Her sister Anne began to work as a colporteur at the same time. John G. Matteson wrote this about the two sisters: “By Brother Brorson’s faithful work as well as my own efforts, souls have little by little been won around the country here and there. Among these were two good sisters from the Ribe area. They have contributed a lot to maintain the mission, and one of them has worked for several years for the cause with excellent luck.”7

Although she may have felt it difficult to get a hearing from people she had grown up among, she first ran a series of meetings in Vilslev Spange Inn, which lies at Kongeåen (King River) close to the old border between Denmark and Germany. The meetings attracted attention, and as she also was a skilled guitarist and a gifted singer, she managed to gain a foothold with all age groups.8

Sine was very active in various places in Denmark these first years of the Adventist mission, either as an assistant to experienced, ordained ministers, or on her own. Her license as a Bible instructor was issued in 1886 when she assisted John G. Matteson and M. M. Olsen in Frederikshavn and where 20 people began to keep the Sabbath.9 In 1887, Sine held meetings in the provincial town of Svendborg, Funen. Pastor E. G. Olsen wrote about her in Sandhedens Tidende:10 “Sister Renlev writes from Funen that she has been invited to the Svendborg area to have Bible lectures and that the interest is good. Forty to fifty people are attending the meetings, and they have remarked that they are learning more in one such meeting than by listening 20 times in the church… Many have gained an interest in reading their Bibles and understanding God’s truth leading to salvation.”11

From June 1 to 5, 1887, she attended camp meeting in Copenhagen, where Ellen G. White and John G. Matteson were the speakers, and her license as a Bible instructor was renewed. 12 This was again renewed the following year. At the time, there were 10 churches and 244 members in Denmark.13 In 1888, Sine Renlev assisted E. G. Olsen in a series of tent meetings in Holbæk, Zealand, during which 100-200 people were regularly attending, and 15 individuals were reported to be keeping the Sabbath.14 15 In 1889, she held meetings in the villages of Jerslev and Dronninglund in Vendsyssel in the north, and in October, she had moved her activities to Mid-Jutland.16

Church Planting on the Moors

According to her contemporaries, she was an outstanding evangelist. Sine’s meetings on the moors of Jutland in Kølkær and Ikast were attended by many people. The daily press paid attention to the work of this extraordinary woman as shown in Herning Folkeblad17 in the winter of 1890. They reported on the debates, and that people flocked to the meetings in large numbers, both unbelievers and believers. People from Indre Mission (Inner Mission, a conservative movement in the Evangelical Lutheran State Church) and the Baptists were in the audience. It caused quite a stir when a number of Baptists joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church.18

Sine Renlev’s own account of her work in the Ikast area is found in Sandhedens Tidende in an article dated November 25, 1889: “On October 11, I came to Ikast, and I have since worked in the places mentioned above [Kølkær, Ikast, Gretrup]. I have held 40 Bible readings for public congregations, and they have been well attended. Sometimes there were more than 200 in the audience. They have been very attentive, and the Word of God and the Spirit have made deep impressions on them. Many have been led not only to search the Scriptures, but also their own hearts… It has often been hard on me, as the interest have been great and I have been alone, but the Lord has strengthened and sustained me at this time, and all the honor is due to him. I hope that all God’s children will remember me in their prayers. Your humble sister, Sine Renlev.”19

From this letter, we can gather that she, with 40 Bible lessons, was very thorough in her teaching to interested listeners. And there would be results. One of her nicknames was “Gendøberinden” (“the Re-baptizer Woman”).20 People would be baptized, usually in a small stream or lake, and join the Adventist Church. We have, however, no record of her performing these baptisms herself. But we know that she was present during the organization of at least one new church as a result of her work.

On the first pages of an old church record, we find a report signed by Sine Renlev, where people from Ejstrup parish were organized into a new Seventh-day Adventist Church. The record states: “On May 10, 1890, brothers and sisters in Ejstrup parish and neighborhood, who have learned about ‘the present truth’ are gathered in Bro. Karl Petersen’s house in accordance with the Word of the Lord and for this reason to unite into a church.”21 Missionary Lewis Johnson22 was present and led out in the prayer and instruction from the Scriptures, and a covenant was read as follows: “We the undersigned hereby covenant with God and each other and promise by His grace ‘to keep the commandments and the faith of Jesus.’ Rev. 14.12.” After this, 14 persons, five men and nine women were examined and accepted into fellowship. The church took the name “Seventh-day Adventist Church at Ejstrup.” In 10 years, the church grew to about 40 adult members.23 Today, the church is known as the Lille Nørlund Seventh-day Adventist Church with a church building24 still standing as a lighthouse for the present truth on the moors and as a monument over the pioneer work of Sine Renlev.

Working in Norway

In a report from the second annual meeting in the Norwegian Conference in April 1889, we find the following: “10. Agreed, that we invite Sister Sine Renlev to work in Norway for some time.”25 It seems that she spent about half a year working in Christiania, Norway.26 In 1892, she was again in Norway to work in the place of Knud Brorson, who had returned to Denmark.27

Final Years

In 1893, Sine led her own series of meetings in Jerslev. They turned out to be quite dramatic. Stones were thrown through the windows in the house where she stayed. Many wanted to chase her out of town. For two months, she held meetings in a rented hall and continued in a private home. As a result, seven persons were baptized and accepted into Adventist Church membership.28 In December, she held meetings together with another Bible instructor, Sine Tholstrup, and the Skelund church was organized.29 In 1894, she worked as a colporteur together with Christine Hansen from Norway, and the two of them assisted Pastor I. C. Raft in his evangelistic campaign in Nakskov.30 She then moved on to the opposite part of Denmark, where she conducted her own meetings in Thy. The report in Tidernes Tegn mentions the good interest in the countryside with an average of 100 people at her meetings.31

About 1897, she got married and took the name Jen Sine Andersen.32 However, this was to be a short-lived happiness as she contracted tuberculosis, which ruined her ability to speak and ended her life at the age of 59.33

Legacy

Her ministry only lasted less than 20 years, but her influence was legendary. Shoulder to shoulder with more well-known pioneers of the Adventist faith in Denmark, Sine helped build the Adventist Church with unbending faith and hard work. Later, influential families and workers in the cause can trace their Adventist roots back to her dedicated service for the Lord.

Sources

Hansen, Kristian, Lørdagsfolket på heden, en dokumentarisk beretning om et kulturmønster i Midtjylland gennem et århundrede (The Saturday people on the Moor, a documentary about a pattern of culture in Mid-Jutland through a century). Odense, Denmark: Dansk Bogforlag, 1990.

Matteson, John G., Mattesons Liv, En selvbiografi (Life of Matteson, An autobiography). College View, Nebraska, U.S.A.: International Publishing Ass’n, 1908. Photographic Print – Odense, Denmark: Dansk Bogforlag, 1972.

Pedersen, Kaj, Syvende Dags Adventistkirken i Danmark (The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark). Nærum, Denmark: Dansk Bogforlag, 2007.

Raft, Carl, Bondedrengen, der blev Prædikant (The Farm Boy that became a Preacher). Herning, Denmark: Poul Kristensens Forlag, 1997.

Schantz, Hans Jørgen, “Det er hundrede år siden, at Sine Renlev, Danmarks første kvindelige SDA-prædikant, døde” (”It Is Hundred Years Ago That Sine Renlev, The First Female SDA Preacher in Denmark, Died”), Adventnyt, July-August, 1999.

Notes

  1. Credit for this article should primarily be given to Hans Jørgen Schantz (1919-2020), who helped found the Historic Archive of Seventh-day Adventists in Denmark (HASDA) and wrote a commemorative article about Sine Renlev in the church paper Adventnyt 100 years after her death, and to Kristian Hansen (1919-2004), who wrote about her life in his book Lørdagsfolket på heden (The Saturday People on the Moor). The author will refer to the sources that they have quoted.

  2. Kristian Hansen, Lørdagsfolket på heden, 10.

  3. See the article on John Gottlieb Matteson by Yvonne Johansson Øster in the online Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia. (Could we get a link to that article here?)

  4. Jested SDA Church was organized with seven members and accepted into the newly formed Danish Conference in 1880.

  5. Knud Brorson (1946-1893) was one of the forceful pioneers among the Adventists in Denmark in the first years of spreading the present truth.

  6. Kaj Pedersen, Syvende Dags Adventistkirken i Danmark (The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Denmark), Nærum: Dansk Bogforlag 2007, 24. Kristian Hansen, 10 and 13.

  7. John G. Matteson, Mattesons Liv, En selvbiografi (Life of Matteson, An autobiography). College View, Nebraska: International Publishing Association, 1908. Photographic Print - Odense: Dansk Bogforlag, 1972, 203.

  8. Hansen, 14.

  9. Hans Jørgen Schantz, ”Det er hundrede år siden, at Sine Renlev, Danmarks første kvindelige SDA-prædikant, døde” (”It as one hundred years ago that Sine Renlev, the first female SDA preacher in Denmark, died”), Adventnyt, July-August, 1999, 8.

  10. A 24-page journal in Danish for the home and the church published twice a month by the Review & Herald Printing Press, Battle Creek, Michigan, USA. The journal was sold, prepaid, for $1.00 a year, and for readers in Denmark and Norway for $4.50 a year. It was intended for Scandinavian Adventists living in the USA and Canada, but it was to a great extend sent to churches in Denmark and Norway.

  11. Sandhedens Tidende, 1886, 300 and 336.

  12. Ibid., 1887, 93 and 203.

  13. Ibid., 1888, 190.

  14. Ibid., 254.

  15. Ibid., 1889, 365.

  16. Ibid., 1889, 284.

  17. A major daily newspaper in the area.

  18. Kaj Pedersen, 24.

  19. Recorded by Kristian Hansen in his book, 14.

  20. Hansen, 10.

  21. Ibid., 20.

  22. Lewis Johnson (1851-1940). Originally from Denmark, Johnson emigrated to the United States in 1869 where he became an Adventist and later a minister. In 1889, he was sent as a missionary to Norway and served as church administrator in the Scandinavian countries for 10 years before he returned to the United States. Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, Second Revised Edition, 1996, mmmcclxxi.

  23. Hansen, 20.

  24. The first church building for this congregation, which was built in 1961. Previously they had worshipped in homes and a church school building.

  25. Copy of report from a conference held in Christiania (Oslo) 14.-15. April 1889, 15, kept at HASDA, Vejlefjordskolen, Denmark.

  26. Schantz, 9.

  27. Ibid.

  28. From the Jerslev SDA church record 1893, HASDA.

  29. Schantz, 9.

  30. Carl Raft, Bondedrengen der blev prædikant (The Farm Boy who Became a Preacher) (Herning: Poul Kristensens Forlag, 1997), 22.

  31. Tidernes Tegn, 1896, 99.

  32. C. C. Hansen, ”Dødsanmeldelse” (”Death Notice”), Zions Vægter (Christiania: Den Skandinaviske Forlags-og Trykkeriforening, 1899).

  33. Schantz, 10.

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Jensen, Sven Hagen. "Renlev, Sine (1840–1899)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 09, 2022. Accessed May 21, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JCS.

Jensen, Sven Hagen. "Renlev, Sine (1840–1899)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. February 09, 2022. Date of access May 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JCS.

Jensen, Sven Hagen (2022, February 09). Renlev, Sine (1840–1899). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 21, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=9JCS.