NORWEGIAN CHURCHES. Norwegian American churches established in the nineteenth century reflected the Lutheran religious emphases in the homeland. Low-church revivalism, led by Elling Eielsen, a self-taught layman, formed the basis for the Eielsen Synod (1846). This body splintered when the majority organized Hauge's Synod (1876), named in memory of the Norwegian revivalist Hans Nielsen Hauge. Representatives of a more traditional Lutheranism, led by university-trained immigrant clergymen, organized (1853) the Norwegian Synod, which soon formed ties with the German Missouri Synod.
The predestination controversy within the Missouri-influenced Norwegian Synod led to the formation in the 1880s of the Anti-Missourian Brotherhood, which assumed leadership in a union movement that created the United Church (1890). Polity and property disputes in the new body produced the Lutheran Free Church (1897). Negotiations, begun in 1905, brought 98 percent of the Norwegian Lutherans into the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America in 1917. An ultraconservative minority, the Norwegian Synod of the American Lutheran Church, was formed in 1918. The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America was united with the American Lutheran (German background) and the United Evangelical Lutheran (Danish background) churches to form The American Lutheran Church (1960). The Lutheran Free Church joined The American Lutheran Church in 1963. The drift away from an exclusive ethnic identity was all but complete by 1982, when The American Lutheran Church merged with two smaller branches to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). With more than 5.2 million baptized members, the ELCA was by 2000 the largest Lutheran church in the United States.
Nelson, E. Clifford, and Eugene L. Fevold. The Lutheran Church among Norwegian-Americans: A History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 2 vols. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1960.
E. CliffordNelson/a. r.