Author Topic: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans  (Read 6932 times)

Jeremy Loesch

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Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« on: May 07, 2012, 06:14:42 AM »
Hi friends, I have an historical question I thought some of you could answer pertaining to Norwegian Lutherans.

Some background: At my grandmother's memorial service I received a box that she had set aside.  Inside the box were letters that I had written to her, pictures my kids had drawn for her, my grandfather's cheerleading letter from Concordia-River Forest, and a bunch of books.  One of the books was Cammerer's "Preaching for the Church" that my grandfather had used to teach homiletics.  It includes his notes, a few papers.  Pretty special.  There was also a copy of James Adams' "Preus of Missouri".  This book deals with the Lutheran Civil War and is somewhat biographical about Jack Preus.  It is very interesting.

There are lots of references to the "Little Norwegians" and the "Big Norwegians".  Who are these groups, where did they come from, and where are they now?  And the book states that Jack Preus was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Is the Evangelical Lutheran Church the forerunner of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod? 

And how come the Norwegians and Swedes don't get along? 

If you have any answers or stories to pass along, I'd be interested in reading.  Thanks.

Jeremy 
A Lutheran pastor growing into all sorts of things.

gcnuss

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2012, 07:18:12 AM »
I grew up in the Evangelical Lutheran Church which had been know until the late '40s as the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America.  The ELC became part of the American Lutheran Church in the merger of 1960 (?) and, subsequently, part of the ELCA.

James Gustafson

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2012, 07:56:03 AM »
And how come the Norwegians and Swedes don't get along? 

I can take a stab at that one.  Literally.   ;)

Team Hesse

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2012, 08:29:47 AM »
Hi friends, I have an historical question I thought some of you could answer pertaining to Norwegian Lutherans.

Some background: At my grandmother's memorial service I received a box that she had set aside.  Inside the box were letters that I had written to her, pictures my kids had drawn for her, my grandfather's cheerleading letter from Concordia-River Forest, and a bunch of books.  One of the books was Cammerer's "Preaching for the Church" that my grandfather had used to teach homiletics.  It includes his notes, a few papers.  Pretty special.  There was also a copy of James Adams' "Preus of Missouri".  This book deals with the Lutheran Civil War and is somewhat biographical about Jack Preus.  It is very interesting.

There are lots of references to the "Little Norwegians" and the "Big Norwegians".  Who are these groups, where did they come from, and where are they now?  And the book states that Jack Preus was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Is the Evangelical Lutheran Church the forerunner of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod? 

And how come the Norwegians and Swedes don't get along? 

If you have any answers or stories to pass along, I'd be interested in reading.  Thanks.

Jeremy

Interesting questions. If I see Olaf this week I will see what his responses would be....

Always interesting talking to Olaf, Grethe, Tula, and Iver.....

Lou

Charles_Austin

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2012, 08:33:59 AM »
Many of the Norwegian immigrants to this country in the 19th Century were fleeing the "state church," and what they saw as the oppression of its bishops. Some were Haugeaners who had actually been imprisoned for preaching without being ordained.
When the Swedes came, they brought their bishops and the structure of the Church of Sweden with them. They did not see such things as bishops, a high view of the ordained ministry, the the liturgy as oppressive.
So the Norwegian-based church bodies in this country grew up in a slightly different ambiance than the Swedish churches. 

BrotherBoris

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2012, 09:11:04 AM »
Jeremy:  I think I can help you here.  The "Little" Norwegians were the ones that formed the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod around 1917 or so.  Eventually they dropped the adjective "Norwegian" and became known as the Evangelical Lutheran Synod or ELS.  They were on very friendly terms with the Wisconsin Synod and the Missouri Synod when they first began.  Many of the old ELS pastors received their training at Concordia: St. Louis. They broke fellowship with the LCMS in the late 1950s, I believe. They are still in fellowship with the Wisconsin Synod. They are associated with Bethany Lutheran College in Makato, Minnesota.  Their seminary is there also.

The "Big" Norwegians were those who formed the old Evangelical Lutheran Church which became part of the American Lutheran Church which joined with the old LCA in 1988 to form the ELCA.  They are associated with places like St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and with Luther Seminary in Minneapolis, MN. 

The Little Norwegians were theologically almost exactly the same as the Old Missouri Synod.  Originally, they did not use the Common Service, but what was called "Bugenhagen's Liturgy" in the Lutheran Hymnary of 1917.  In 1996 the ELS published an updated version of the Lutheran Hymnary. It is a very impressive hymnal, both liturgically and musically. I recommend that you purchase a copy. You might well enjoy it. It contains the Bach chorales, rhythmic chorales, Scandinavian folk tunes and both the Norwegian Liturgy (in English) and the Common Service.

Although many of the Norwegian Lutherans were militantly Low Church, such as the Haugeans and the Lutheran Free Church, the Little Norwegians were NOT Low Church.  If anything the Little Norwegians were traditional and moderately High Church for their day.  Their pastors always chanted their portions of the Liturgy.  It wasn't considered "optional" to them. Chanting was simply how it was done. Period. In regard to vestments, they used the black cassock and white surplice with a stole for the clergy. It was simple, but quite dignified.  Years ago some of their clergy used the old Norwegian style ruff collar, but one almost never sees this nowadays.  I have never seen ELS clergy use the chasuble, but it has been over 20 years since I have been in one of their churches.  I suppose some parishes that are higher up the candle might possibly use a chasuble these days, but I think it would still be rare.

Regarding the Norwegian views of Swedes, here is what I picked up living in a Norwegian community in Minnesota:

First of all, I never saw any outward hostility or anger toward the Swedes. They were simply viewed as other people of Scandinavian descent.  The only criticism I have heard about them was that they were not confessional Lutheran enough and they wanted to Americanize faster than the Norwegians did. Supposedly this lead to the Swedes adopting more Methodist style hymns and revival tunes than the Norwegians were comfortable with.  The general description I heard of Lutheranism among Swedish Americans was that they took the hard edges off of Lutheranism and made it more appealing to the general public. From the Norwegian perspective, this was viewed as selling out to the American culture.  The Swedes did not require a subscription to the entire Book of Concord like the Norwegians did. The Swedes did not militantly defend close communion like the Norwegians did. The Swedes did not seem to be interested in the doctrine of predestination very much (which was a HUGE issue for the Norwegians years ago.)  Overall, I think the Norwegians viewed the Swedes as too progressive.


Chuck Sampson

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2012, 10:08:43 AM »
Hi friends, I have an historical question I thought some of you could answer pertaining to Norwegian Lutherans.

Some background: At my grandmother's memorial service I received a box that she had set aside.  Inside the box were letters that I had written to her, pictures my kids had drawn for her, my grandfather's cheerleading letter from Concordia-River Forest, and a bunch of books.  One of the books was Cammerer's "Preaching for the Church" that my grandfather had used to teach homiletics.  It includes his notes, a few papers.  Pretty special.  There was also a copy of James Adams' "Preus of Missouri".  This book deals with the Lutheran Civil War and is somewhat biographical about Jack Preus.  It is very interesting.

There are lots of references to the "Little Norwegians" and the "Big Norwegians".  Who are these groups, where did they come from, and where are they now?  And the book states that Jack Preus was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church.  Is the Evangelical Lutheran Church the forerunner of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod? 

And how come the Norwegians and Swedes don't get along? 

If you have any answers or stories to pass along, I'd be interested in reading.  Thanks.

Jeremy
Here's a link to a thread from 2010, a summary of the Norwegian Lutheranism in America by my friend, Pr. Tom Olson . . .  http://www.alpb.org/forum/index.php?topic=3230.msg174248;topicseen#msg174248
While Pr. Austin is correct in noting the ecclesiastical tensions between Norwegian and Swedish Lutheran in America, a far greater factor was Norway's chafing under Swedish domination during the period of united government . . . 
 http://www.everyculture.com/multi/Le-Pa/Norwegian-Americans.html

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2012, 10:17:42 AM »
From my notes on the Norwegian Lutheran groups.


In 1917 the Norwegian Lutheran Church in America (name changed in 1946 to Evangelical Lutheran Church) was created as a merger of:


United Norwegian Lutheran Church in America (formed 1890)
Hauges Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod (formed 1846)
Synod for the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (formed in 1853)


However, in 1900 the Lutheran Church of the Brethren split from the United Norwegians.


In 1918 a group split from the Synod for the Norwegian ELC and formed the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (1957 name changed to Evangelical Lutheran Synod)


Besides these Norwegians who were part of early mergers (and splits) there was also the Lutheran Free Church (1897, which merged with the ALC in 1962, but some split and formed the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations).


There is also the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Eielsen Synod (formed in 1846).
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

James_Gale

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2012, 10:29:30 AM »
Many of the Norwegian immigrants to this country in the 19th Century were fleeing the "state church," and what they saw as the oppression of its bishops. Some were Haugeaners who had actually been imprisoned for preaching without being ordained.
When the Swedes came, they brought their bishops and the structure of the Church of Sweden with them. They did not see such things as bishops, a high view of the ordained ministry, the the liturgy as oppressive.
So the Norwegian-based church bodies in this country grew up in a slightly different ambiance than the Swedish churches.

The Norwegians' biggest ecclesiastical battles were not with the Swedes (there were very few of those), but with one another.  Consider, for example, the very nasty litigation over control of Augsburg College. 

For those who really want to dig into the history, there is a two-volume work called The Lutheran Church Among Norwegian-Americans by E. Clifford Nelson and Eugene L. Fevold, published in 1960.  The two volumes are filled with enough tales of more (organizational) marriages and divorces -- some quite messy -- to make a Kardashian blush.

Dave Likeness

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #9 on: May 07, 2012, 10:43:41 AM »
My grandfather was born in Norway and came by boat
to America in 1902 at the age of 18.  He settled in
Davenport, Iowa and began his trade as a baker.
His girl friend came over from Norway in 1905 and they
were married immediately.   They came to the USA due
to the overpopulation  of Norway and it was difficult
to earn a living in Norway. 

They were conservative Lutheran Norwegians who joined
a LCMS church in Davenport.  They did this because there
were no Lutheran Norwegian parishes in the area.  My
grandfather was named Likness, but he changed his name
on the boat to our nation to Likeness.  He wanted it to
sound more English than Norwegian.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #10 on: May 07, 2012, 10:44:09 AM »
The Norwegians' biggest ecclesiastical battles were not with the Swedes (there were very few of those), but with one another.  Consider, for example, the very nasty litigation over control of Augsburg College. 


True. As noted above, there were numerous different Norwegian groups in the U.S. There was only one (sort of) Swedish group: The Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod of North America (formed 1860, name changed in 1948 to Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church).


The "sort of" is because, as I understand it, there were Swedes who split from the State church (like Hauge did,) but they formed a separate denomination: The (Swedish) Evangelical Covenant Church.
"The church had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

James_Gale

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #11 on: May 07, 2012, 11:01:10 AM »
Regarding the Norwegian views of Swedes, here is what I picked up living in a Norwegian community in Minnesota:

First of all, I never saw any outward hostility or anger toward the Swedes. They were simply viewed as other people of Scandinavian descent.  The only criticism I have heard about them was that they were not confessional Lutheran enough and they wanted to Americanize faster than the Norwegians did. Supposedly this lead to the Swedes adopting more Methodist style hymns and revival tunes than the Norwegians were comfortable with.  The general description I heard of Lutheranism among Swedish Americans was that they took the hard edges off of Lutheranism and made it more appealing to the general public. From the Norwegian perspective, this was viewed as selling out to the American culture.  The Swedes did not require a subscription to the entire Book of Concord like the Norwegians did. The Swedes did not militantly defend close communion like the Norwegians did. The Swedes did not seem to be interested in the doctrine of predestination very much (which was a HUGE issue for the Norwegians years ago.)  Overall, I think the Norwegians viewed the Swedes as too progressive.

As a "Swedish Lutheran" (with no Swedish blood, by the way) who has lived in Minnesota, I am fascinated by the spin about the Swedes that you picked up among Norwegians (who are much more numerous but were historically very divided among themselves). 

Augustana did give preference to Augustana over the rest of the Confessions.  However, it did embrace the rest of the "Symbols" as "pure and Scriptural."  Augustana viewed its membership in the General Council as clear evidence of its Confessional commitment, a commitment that it did not find in all of the Norwegian churches (or in some other other "Lutheran" bodies).  Indeed, the "me-and-my-Bible-alone," prairie piety of some of the Norwegians looked "non-Confessional" to the Swedes.  The Swedes thought that they were the ones protecting the Confessions from the pietistic practices of some Norwegians. 

And the Swedes most assuredly didn't go for "Methodist" or "Baptist" hymns.  If anything, Augustana went in a more high-church direction than most of the Norwegians. 

As for communion, the Swedes most assuredly observed the Galesburg Rule.  I don't know what created the sense that Norwegians were more committed to "close(d)" communion than were the Swedes.

In short, I don't doubt that you are sharing what you heard from Norwegians about the Swedes.  But it doesn't really comport with the history of Augustana. 

BrotherBoris

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2012, 11:34:00 AM »
James Gale writes: 

As a "Swedish Lutheran" (with no Swedish blood, by the way) who has lived in Minnesota, I am fascinated by the spin about the Swedes that you picked up among Norwegians (who are much more numerous but were historically very divided among themselves).

Augustana did give preference to Augustana over the rest of the Confessions.  However, it did embrace the rest of the "Symbols" as "pure and Scriptural."  Augustana viewed its membership in the General Council as clear evidence of its Confessional commitment, a commitment that it did not find in all of the Norwegian churches (or in some other other "Lutheran" bodies).  Indeed, the "me-and-my-Bible-alone," prairie piety of some of the Norwegians looked "non-Confessional" to the Swedes.  The Swedes thought that they were the ones protecting the Confessions from the pietistic practices of some Norwegians.

And the Swedes most assuredly didn't go for "Methodist" or "Baptist" hymns.  If anything, Augustana went in a more high-church direction than most of the Norwegians.

As for communion, the Swedes most assuredly observed the Galesburg Rule.  I don't know what created the sense that Norwegians were more committed to "close(d)" communion than were the Swedes.

In short, I don't doubt that you are sharing what you heard from Norwegians about the Swedes.  But it doesn't really comport with the history of Augustana.

James: Thanks for your response!

It is very interesting to hear things from the Swedish Lutheran perspective.  I try to remain neutral and fair to both sides. My roots were in German Lutheranism, so I don't have anything invested emotionally with the Norwegians. (I simply lived among them for a number of years and attended an ELS college and church).  I highly doubt everything they told me about the Swedes was either fair or accurate.  I am familiar with the old Augustana Synod and the old Augustana Synod Hymnal of 1925.  That particular hymnal preserves the old Olavus Petri rite of the Swedish Mass in English translation.  Its a really nice service, and liturgically it is very rich, both textually and musically. I think its kind of a shame that it hasn't been preserved somewhere in American Lutheranism. I really liked the evangelical catholic flavor to it and much of the music that was used with it.

I can see why Swedes might think of Norwegian Lutheranism as "me and my Bible alone prairie Lutheranism".  There is, especially among the more pietistic Norwegians a great sense of austerity and plainness. 

For what its worth, I had locals in Mankato, Minnesota tell me that their perception was that the Swedes were, on the whole, wealthier and more urbane than the "Norskies" (as they called themselves.) There was a perception that the Swedes and many of the old Augustana Synod churches were where the Lutherans who had "arrived" financially attended. The Norwegians perceived themselves as more rustic, more rural and less wealthy than the Swedes.  I don't know if any of this is actually true.  I do know that Norwegian humor is very self-deprecating and that the Norwegians are the only ethnic group I have ever known that actually enjoys telling ethnic jokes about themselves

One joke they used to tell me in Mankato was that whenever someone moved from Sweden to Norway, the IQs of both nations went up.  ;)

Take care.

Jeremy Loesch

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2012, 11:36:19 AM »
Thank you all very much!  It's very interesting.  So the "Big Norwegians" are called big because of the number of members and the "Little Norwegians" were little due to the amount of their members.  And it does help me see that the NELS became the ELS over time.  (I think the ELS hymnary is a worthy book.)

Very interesting stuff!

Thanks.  Jeremy
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James_Gale

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Re: Question(s) for or about Norwegian Lutherans
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2012, 11:48:53 AM »
James Gale writes: 

As a "Swedish Lutheran" (with no Swedish blood, by the way) who has lived in Minnesota, I am fascinated by the spin about the Swedes that you picked up among Norwegians (who are much more numerous but were historically very divided among themselves).

Augustana did give preference to Augustana over the rest of the Confessions.  However, it did embrace the rest of the "Symbols" as "pure and Scriptural."  Augustana viewed its membership in the General Council as clear evidence of its Confessional commitment, a commitment that it did not find in all of the Norwegian churches (or in some other other "Lutheran" bodies).  Indeed, the "me-and-my-Bible-alone," prairie piety of some of the Norwegians looked "non-Confessional" to the Swedes.  The Swedes thought that they were the ones protecting the Confessions from the pietistic practices of some Norwegians.

And the Swedes most assuredly didn't go for "Methodist" or "Baptist" hymns.  If anything, Augustana went in a more high-church direction than most of the Norwegians.

As for communion, the Swedes most assuredly observed the Galesburg Rule.  I don't know what created the sense that Norwegians were more committed to "close(d)" communion than were the Swedes.

In short, I don't doubt that you are sharing what you heard from Norwegians about the Swedes.  But it doesn't really comport with the history of Augustana.

James: Thanks for your response!

It is very interesting to hear things from the Swedish Lutheran perspective.  I try to remain neutral and fair to both sides. My roots were in German Lutheranism, so I don't have anything invested emotionally with the Norwegians. (I simply lived among them for a number of years and attended an ELS college and church).  I highly doubt everything they told me about the Swedes was either fair or accurate.  I am familiar with the old Augustana Synod and the old Augustana Synod Hymnal of 1925.  That particular hymnal preserves the old Olavus Petri rite of the Swedish Mass in English translation.  Its a really nice service, and liturgically it is very rich, both textually and musically. I think its kind of a shame that it hasn't been preserved somewhere in American Lutheranism. I really liked the evangelical catholic flavor to it and much of the music that was used with it.

I can see why Swedes might think of Norwegian Lutheranism as "me and my Bible alone prairie Lutheranism".  There is, especially among the more pietistic Norwegians a great sense of austerity and plainness. 

For what its worth, I had locals in Mankato, Minnesota tell me that their perception was that the Swedes were, on the whole, wealthier and more urbane than the "Norskies" (as they called themselves.) There was a perception that the Swedes and many of the old Augustana Synod churches were where the Lutherans who had "arrived" financially attended. The Norwegians perceived themselves as more rustic, more rural and less wealthy than the Swedes.  I don't know if any of this is actually true.  I do know that Norwegian humor is very self-deprecating and that the Norwegians are the only ethnic group I have ever known that actually enjoys telling ethnic jokes about themselves

One joke they used to tell me in Mankato was that whenever someone moved from Sweden to Norway, the IQs of both nations went up.  ;)

Take care.

I don't know how much of this is even relevant to most Lutherans today.  Young people in the ELCA probably don't know or care whether their congregation has Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German, Finnish, Slovak, or other roots.  But I do find the history interesting.  And there are lessons embedded in history for those who care to study them.

The perceived "class" differences between the Swedes and Norwegians are interesting to consider.  Once upon a time, the Swedes probably did consider themselves to be the sophisticated Scandinavians.  But frankly, that didn't necessarily mean much.  If you walk the halls of the Minneapolis Club and read the names of the past presidents, it becomes clear that the leading businessmen in Minnesota were not Scandinavian of any stripe.