A Caltech Library Service

Conflict and community: a case study of the immigrant church in the United States

Gjerde, Jon (1984) Conflict and community: a case study of the immigrant church in the United States. Humanities Working Paper, 101. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA.

[img] PDF - Published Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Conflict within the immigrant church was oftentimes a central feature in the development of ethnic communities and their conceptions of peoplehood and religious identification. This case study examines a schism that tore apart various Norwegian-American settlements in the late nineteenth century. Known as the "Election Controversy," churches within the Norwegian Synod were forced to determine the extent to which election was based solely on God's grace. Households in the Crow River settlement in central Minnesota could not agree on a single position and the schism eventually resulted in the division of the church. The lines of conflict were drawn according to subcommunities based on regional background and a chain migration to the settlement that juxtaposed people of different cultural backgrounds in a single community. While those from many sub-communities remained within the church, the new church consisted of those from the Gausdal sub-community, a group that carried a very distinct cultural pattern from Norway. Yet the conflict was exacerbated by the incongruous symbols of the developing church. Ironically, the church in a more democratic environment had shifted theologically toward a less egalitarian stance in regard to salvation, an important shift especially to those who were culturally distinct and felt deprived of power in the congregation. The conjunction of a community structure rife with socioeconomic cleavages and a theology with inherent ambiguities and contradictions, then, created a synergy that resulted in tumultuous conflict in Crow River. In spite of the schism, however, the election controversy was an example of conflict, but not cultural disintegration. On the Synod level, the new church bodies formed out of the conflict played a large role in unifying the Norwegian-American church. And locally the schism did result in smaller congregations, but the new churches were more culturally cohesive than in the past.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Additional Information:An earlier version of this paper was presented at the "Luther and the City of Man" conference in Minneapolis on November 12, 1983. The author would like to thank Nicholas B. Dirks, Phillip Hoffman, J. Morgan Kousser, John Modell, and Rudolph J. Vecoli for helpful comments and criticisms in the reformulation of this draft.
Group:Humanities Working Papers
Series Name:Humanities Working Paper
Issue or Number:101
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100106-101028322
Persistent URL:
Official Citation:Gjerde, Jon. Conflict and community: a case study of the immigrant church in the United States. Pasadena, CA: California Institute of Technology, 1984. Humanities Working Paper, No.101.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:17074
Deposited By: Lindsay Cleary
Deposited On:06 Jan 2010 23:02
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:22

Repository Staff Only: item control page