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The Norwegian Lutheran Church in the United States

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Title: The Norwegian Lutheran Church in the United States  
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Subject: Norway–United States relations, History of Lutheranism
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The Norwegian Lutheran Church in the United States

Trondhjem Norwegian Lutheran Church
Webster Township, Rice County, MN
National Register of Historic Places

The Norwegian Lutheran Church in the United States is a general term to describe the Lutheran church tradition developed within the United States by immigrants from Norway.


Most Norwegian immigrants to the United States, particularly in the migration wave between the 1860s and early 20th century, were members of the Church of Norway, an evangelical Lutheran church established by the Constitution of Norway. As they settled in their new homeland and forged their own communities, however, Norwegian-American Lutherans diverged from the state church in many ways, forming synods and conferences that ultimately contributed to the present Lutheran establishment in the United States.

Early foundations

The first organized emigrants from Norway to the United States were religious dissenters on the Restauration during 1825. It is widely considered that many of them had Quaker sympathies, but it is also clear that many were Haugeans, adherents of the lay preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge, who was a devout Lutheran but at odds with the established Norwegian State Church. Many of these emigrants subsequently relocated to the Fox River Settlement in LaSalle County, Illinois. By most accounts, the first minister at Fox River was a layman by the name of Ole Olsen Hetletvedt (1797– 1854), a Haugean in leaning. He was one of the early Norwegian settlers who had crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 1825 on board the the Restauration. [1]

In 1839, Eielsen Synod, founded in 1846 at the Jefferson Prairie Settlement, was named in his honor. Eislsen was resident pastor at Jefferson Prairie from 1846 to 1872.[2]

The [3]

In February 1853, several Lutheran ministers including Ulrik Vilhelm Koren. The Synod adopted the ritual of the Church of Norway.[4] [5] The Eielsen Synod struck an uncompromising doctrinal line for many Norwegian immigrants. In 1848, Paul Andersen and Ole Andrewson broke out of Eielsen's Synod and started the first Norwegian and Scandinavian Church in Chicago, joining the Franckean Synod. The Frankean Synod was noted for its socially progressive views. They stayed in this synod for only three years before joining the Northern Illinois Synod. In 1860, the same group started yet another synod, the Scandinavian Augustana Synod over theological differences with English speaking Lutherans, who they believed were not faithful to Augsburg Confession.

In 1870, the Norwegian and Danish churches left the Scandinavian Augustana Synod and form two new church bodies: Conference of the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and Norwegian Augustana Synod.

The Hauge Synod was formed in 1876 following a split with the Eielsen Synod. The Hauge Synod was named after Norwegian revivalist lay preacher Hans Nielsen Hauge. Red Wing Seminary, located in Red Wing, Minnesota, was the Hauge Synod educational center.[6] The United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America was the result of the union formed in 1890 between the Norwegian Augustana Synod, the Conference of the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Anti-Missourian Brotherhood which had dated from 1887.

Altar at Mindekirken in Minneapolis

Norwegian Language Churches

Although many churches in America have their roots with Norwegian settlers, most have abandoned the Norwegian language in the primary service. Two churches in the United States still use Norwegian as a primary liturgical language. They are Den Norske Lutherske Minnekirke, built in 1912 in Chicago, Illinois, and Den Norske Lutherske Mindekirke in Minneapolis, Minnesota, formed in 1922.[7][8]

Norwegian Lutheran Church bodies in the US

Norwegian Lutheran colleges in the US


  1. ^ (Santa Rosa’s Slooper Son, James Webster Olson)Slooper Ole Olsen Hetletveit
  2. ^ (The Promise of America)Pastor in Koshkonong; first Norwegian pastor in the US
  3. ^ (Wisconsin Historic Society Dictionary)Claus Lauritz Clausen
  4. ^ (Evangelical Lutheran Synod Chronology)A Timeline History of the Norwegian Synod (1853) and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (1918)
  5. ^
  6. ^ ( Hauge Lutheran Innermission Federation.2009)The Hauge Movement in America
  7. ^ (by Joe Grodahl Biever. The Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church of Minnesota. 2004)The Founding of Mindekirken
  8. ^ (Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church of Chicago)History of the Church

Other sources

Related Reading

  • (Norwegian American Historic Association. Volume 23: Page 3)The Norwegian Immigrant and His ChurchFevold, Eugene L.
  • ( Kirkentidende in 1905, Koren’s Samlede Skrifter, pp. 454-498 – translation by C. U. Faye)Why Is There No Church Unity Among Norwegian Lutherans In America?Koren, Ulrik Vilhelm
  • (Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, MN, October 30-31, 2003)The Legacy of Jakob Aall Ottesen and The Enduring Legacy of Preus, Koren, and OttesenTeigen, Erling T.
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