Friedrich Alex Bäcker served the Seventh-day Adventist Church as pastor, administrator and missionary in Germany and in Turkey.
Early Life and Family
Friedrich Alex Bäcker1 was born on July 1, 1893, in Frankfurt am Main2 to Ernst Friedrich and Christine Bäcker. After finishing primary and middle school, he was baptized in Frankfurt am Main in 1910.3 From 1915 to 1919, he worked as an editor,4 secretary, and treasurer of the Tract Society and Sabbath School Secretary for various conferences,5 after he had spent some time in Frankfurt in years before.6 There, he also worked as a tailor. While serving as editor, he also had to go to war from 1917-1918.7
After a call to Dortmund for Bäcker in 1919,10 he worked in various departments in the West German Conference from 192011 until his departure for the mission field in 1928. From 1925 onward, he also assumed responsibility for the education department. From 1926-1928 Bäcker additionally worked for the Dutch Conference as a secretary for home mission as well as for Sabbath School.
During his time in West Germany, Bäcker’s attention was mainly focused on ministry to Adventist youth and the welfare of young people.12 He always combined the concerns of the youth department, as it was common at his time, with missionary efforts at home and abroad.13 The highlight of his service as youth secretary of the West German Federation can be seen in his participation in the first European Congress of Advent Youth, which in 1928 brought about 2,500 Adventist youth from all over Europe to Chemnitz.14 An equally noteworthy contribution to Advent youth in Germany was certainly the reintroduction of the Adventist youth magazine Jugendleitstern.15
The period from 1926-1938, when Bäcker was the only ordained preacher in Turkey,16 is characterized less by successful missionary experiences. Instead it was characterized by reflections on the difficult situations of the then independent Turkish mission.17 Bäcker reflected much on the challenges he encountered because of the predominant religion, Islam, and the then still freshly secular Turkey.18 Looking back, Bäcker described the time at the end of his ministry in Turkey as “eight long years of giving, of challenges.” Bäcker describes the situation of about eighty parishioners in Istanbul, who could not gather in a parish to practice their faith, but met sporadically in their houses due to the political and religious situation. The contrast to their home country is also evident in the first youth camp of the Turkish mission, which Bäcker initiated. In 1931 there were only fifteen young people who belonged to the Turkish Adventist youth.19 Nevertheless, it was Bäcker’s desire to continue his work in the Muslim cultural area until the end, but this was not possible due to Antonie’s health condition.20
Bäcker’s View of Islam
In reflecting upon Islam, Bäcker as an Adventist did not distance himself from other denominations as much as other missionaries of his time did. In order to confront Islam, Bäcker repeatedly spoke of the responsibility of Christianity in general.21 But he saw the oriental Christian peoples22 as failing in their responsibility for the Turkish cultural area and the missionary work with regard to Islam.23 However, he also blamed past Christian history for the failure of Christianity in the face of Islam and its growth. The old church disputes about the nature of God (i.e. the Trinitarian disputes) favored, according to Bäcker, the emergence of Islam,24 which is why he, in the course of his experiences, advocated other approaches than to engage in open conflict about the nature of God.25 His attitude towards Islam was critical and dismissive in view of his situation as the head of an oppressed mission in Turkey. After the troubles of the eight years of missionary service, the one and a half years in Germany were obviously beneficial for Bäcker.26
In 1936, the Bäckers returned to Germany and worked in the Hansa Conference27 and then in Kassel. In 1938,28 before the beginning of the Second World War, Bäcker took over the management of the home missionary, the Sabbath School and the youth department of the newly organized Dutch Union Conference in The Hague.29 In the years between 1944 and 1946 he was called for military service.30 His further path as a pastor led him in 1946/47 to Uelzen, to Verden/Aller in 1947-1949, to Oldenburg in 1949-1954, and, finally, to Braunschweig in 1954. There Friedrich Bäcker died due to an illness after 43 years in the service of the Adventist Church at the age of 65 on March 4, 1958.31 Antonie survived her husband for another nine years and passed away on August 29, 1967, in the Adventist old people’s home at Mettmann.32
As a leader, Friedrich Alex Bäcker shaped the Sabbath School department and especially the youth department in Germany in the years 1920-1926. Under his leadership the Adventist youth in Germany developed into a dynamic element of the Church and came to serve as a support for internal and external missionary efforts and provided preachers and missionaries for the next generation. With the revival and permanent establishment33 of the magazine Jugendleitstern, Bäcker established an important forum for the Adventist youth for the time.34
Although the time in Turkey was marked by fewer numerical successes, Bäcker did a valuable ministry through his commitment as a leader of a mission in an area that was undeveloped as far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned. The mission, with its few missionaries under the responsibility of Bäcker, continued to exist despite its difficult situation in many respects. Bäcker was part of the earliest missionaries whose efforts in the Adventist ministry among Muslims laid a foundation towards understanding Islam and its culture in order to better reach its adherents for Christ.
Bäcker, Friedrich, “Sitzungen des Ausschusses der Westdeutschen Union.” Zions-Wächter, April 17, 1916.
________. “Sitzung des Ausschusses der Westdeutschen Vereinigung.” Zions-Wächter, April 7, 1920.
________. “Der Zweig der Inneren Mission in der Europäischen Abteilung.” Der Adventbote, March 1, 1923.
________. “Das Recht der Jugend auf Vergnügen.” Der Adventbote, June 1, 1923.
_______. “Gemeindediakonie und Erntedankarbeit.” Der Adventbote, September 15, 1923.
________. “Ausblick auf 1925.” Der Adventbote, January 15, 1925.
_________. “Eine erfreuliche Nachricht. Der Adventbote, June 1, 1925.
__________. “Der Sabbatschullehrer-Kursus: 2. Lektion ‘Der Sabbatschullehrer als Seelengewinner’.” Der Adventbote, February 15, 1926.
________. “Ein geheimer "Miterzieher" der Eltern.” Der Adventbote, November 15, 1926.
________. “Der 1. Kongress der europäischen Adventjugend.” Der Adventbote, September 15, 1928.
________. “Die ewige Flamme in Kleinasien.” Gegenwarts-Fragen, 1935.
________. “Ist der Halbmond zu- oder abnehmend?” Der Adventbote, December 15, 1935.
________. “Krisis im Islam.” Der Adventbote, March 15, 1936.
________. “Böser Schein.” Der Adventbote, May 15, 1936.
________. “Jesus Christus, wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott I.” Der Adventbote, October 1, 1936.
________. “Jesus Christus, wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott II.” Der Adventbote, October 15, 1936.
________. “Jesus Christus, wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott IV.” Der Adventbote, December 1, 1936. 360-363.
________. “Wie die Zugvögel von Südosten nach Nordwesten.” Der Adventbote, September 15, 1938.
________. “Es war einmal…” Jugendleitstern, March 2, 1957.
“Die erste Freizeit der Adventjugend in der Türkei,” Jugendleitstern, 1931.
Frohmann, Antonie, Gesuch um Bewilligung einer Unterstützung aus der Dienstalterskasse, nach 1958, Historisches Archiv der Freikirche der STA in Europa.
Gemeinschaft der Siebenten-Tags Adventisten in Niedersachsen [Seventh-day Adventist in Niedersachsen]. Überweisung von DAK Empfänger [Transfer from DAK recipient], August 2, 1967, Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe.
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Accessed, July 1, 2019. http://www.adventiststatistics.org/view_Summary.asp?FieldInstID=131552#SubField.
Hennecke, E., “Beim Gang durch die Gemeinden: Bruder Fritz Bäcker.” Der Adventbote, April 15, 1958.
Ising, W. K. “Arbeit unter den Mohammedanern.” Der Adventbote, December 15, 1935.
Personalbogen, nach 1958 [Personell Form, after 1958], Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe.
Pfeiffer, Baldur Edmund. Editor, Die Adventisten im Nahen Osten: 1878 - 1939. Archives of International Adventist History 7. Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1996.
Philipps-Universität Marburg. “Verhältnis Mark – US-Dollar 1914-1923.” Accessed June 17, https://www.unimarburg.de/fb06/ng/downloads/vl_weimar/VL_Material%20Weimar%208.pdf.
Standesamt Bornheim, Nr. 146, 1849-1930, 9458, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; ausgewählte Heiratsregister [Registry Office Bornheim, No. 146, 1849-1930, 9458, Hessian Main State Archive; selected marriage registers].
Standesamt Frankfurt 1, Nr. 226/1, 1851-1958, 11129, ausgewählte Sterberegister [Registry office Frankfurt 1, No. 226/1, 1851-1958, 11129, selected death registers.].
Standesamt Frankfurt am Main, Stadtmitte, Nr. 4102, 1851-1901, 903_9123, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; ausgewählte Geburtenregister [Registry Office Frankfurt am Main, City Centre, No. 4102, 1851-1901, 903_9123, Hessian Main State Archive; selected birth registers.].
Standesamt Mettmann, Sterbeurkunde [registry office Mettmann, death certificate], 1967, Nr. 238/1967, Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe.
“The Dardanelles and the Entrance to the Golden Horn at Constantinople.” ARH, May 9, 1929.
“Was geht in der Türkei vor?” Der Adventbote, December 15, 1929.
Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Takoma Park. Washington D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1920-1940.
Friedrich Bäcker was often called “Fritz” Bäcker, a short form of Friedrich typical in Germany.↩
Stadtmitte Standesamt Frankfurt a.M, Nr. 4102, 1851-1901, 903_9123, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; ausgewählte Geburtenregister. [City Centre Registry Office Frankfurt a.M., No. 4102, 1851-1901, 903_9123, Hessian Main State Archives; selected birth registers].↩
Personalbogen, nach 1958 [Personnel Form, after 1958], Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe, Friedensau, Germany.↩
See Friedrich Bäcker, "Sitzungen des Ausschusses der Westdeutschen Union," Zions-Wächter, April 17, 1916, 126–127 and Friedrich Bäcker, "Meeting of the Committee of West German Unification," Zions-Wächter, April 7, 1920, 67; Cf. Friedrich Bäcker, "Der Zweig der Inneren Mission in der Europäischen Abteilung," Der Adventbote, March 1, 1923, 69–70.↩
From 1915 to 1919, he was active for the West German Union, the Hessian, Thuringian and Elbe Conferences, and the North German Association. Later on, the Belgian and Dutch Missions, as well as the Westphalian, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Oldenburg and Hanover Conferences were added. See the relevant yearbooks of the years 1915-1919.↩
Friedrich Bäcker, "Es war einmal," Jugendleitstern, March 2, 1957, 9.↩
Personalbogen, nach 1958 [Personnel Form, after 1958], Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe, Friedensau, Germany.↩
Registry Office Frankfurt a.M., No. 4102.↩
E. Hennecke, "Beim Gang durch die Gemeinden: Bruder Fritz Bäcker.” Der Adventbote, April 15, 1958.↩
See Friedrich Bäcker, “Gemeindediakonie und Erntedankarbeit.” Der Adventbote, September 15, 1923, 274; Cf. Philipps-Universität Marburg, "Ratio Mark - US Dollar 1914-1923," accessed June 17, 2019, https://www.uni-marburg.de/fb06/ng/downloads/vl_weimar/VL_Material%20Weimar%208.pdf.↩
This becomes clear in Friedrich Bäcker, “Das Recht der Jugend auf Vergnügen.” Der Adventbote, June 1, 1923, 199–200. See Friedrich Bäcker, “Ein geheimer "Miterzieher" der Eltern.” Der Adventbote, November 15, 1926, 348–349.↩
See Friedrich Bäcker, “Ausblick auf 1925,” Der Adventbote, January 15, 1925, 23–24.↩
Friedrich Bäcker, “Der 1. Kongress der europäischen Adventjugend.” Der Adventbote, September 15, 1928, 179–180.↩
Cf. Friedrich Bäcker, “Eine erfreuliche Nachricht,” Der Adventbote, June 1, 1925, 172.↩
"The Dardanelles and the Entrance to the Golden Horn at Constantinople," Review and Herald, May 1929, 1.↩
See Friedrich Bäcker, “Ist der Halbmond zu- oder abnehmend?” Der Adventbote, December 15, 1935, 378–379.↩
See for example “Was geht in der Türkei vor?” Der Adventbote, December 15, 1929, 378–379; "The Eternal Flame in Asia Minor," Gegenwarts-Fragen, 1935, 91–92.↩
"Die erste Freizeit der Adventjugend in der Türkei," Jugendleitstern, 1931, 12–13.↩
Friedrich Bäcker, "Wie die Zugvögel von Südosten nach Nordwesten,” Der Adventbote, September 15, 1938. 278.↩
Friedrich Bäcker, “Krisis im Islam,” Der Adventbote, March 15, 1936, 83–85.↩
The Armenians and Greeks living in Turkey should be mentioned here.↩
Friedrich Bäcker, "Die Arbeit der Missionare im Urteil der orientalischen Christen," Der Adventbote, June 15, 1937, 189–190.↩
See Friedrich Bäcker, “Jesus Christus, wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott IV.” Der Adventbote, December 1, 1936. 360-363. See “Jesus Christus, wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott I,” Der Adventbote, October 1, 1936, 294–296; “Böser Schein,” Der Adventbote, May 15, 1936, 148–149.↩
Bäcker, “Jesus Christus, wahrer Mensch und wahrer Gott II,” Der Adventbote, October 15, 1936, 310–311. Cf. W. K. Ising, "Work among the Mohammedans." Der Adventbote, 15. Dezember 1935, 373–376.↩
See “Hansa Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald, 1937), 95.↩
Hennecke, "Beim Gang durch die Gemeinden," 125.↩
Personal Information Sheet↩
Before that she was still living in the Netherlands and was transferred to the old people’s home in Mettmann on August 2, 1967, just a few days before her death. Cf. Gemeinschaft der Siebenten-Tags Adventisten in Niedersachsen [Seventh-day Adventists in Niedersachsen], Überweisung von DAK Empfänger [Transfer from DAK recipient], August 2, 1967, Historical Archives of Seventh-day Adventists in Europe; Registry Office Mettmann, Death Certificate, 1967, No. 238, 1967, Historical Archives of the Seventh-day Adventists in Europe.↩
W. Müller's efforts with the publication of the Jugendleitstern in 1920 only lasted until 1922 due to inflation. After the magazine was published by Bäcker in 1925, it established itself until the beginning of the Nazi era in 1933. After the end of the Second World War, from 1951-1985, Jugendleitstern became an indispensable institution for the German Advent youth.↩
It should be noted that the last Adventist youth magazine in Germany Youngsta had to stop publishing in autumn 2018 after 15 years and therefore there is no longer an Adventist youth magazine in Germany. In the age of digitalization, print media are becoming increasingly dispensable, but in Baker's time a printed youth magazine was of great value.↩