Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Mark Granquist


This thesis explores the history and enduring legacy of Haugeanism in American Lutheranism, a tradition that has been overlooked in the scholarship of recent decades. Originally, this lay-led Norwegian movement sought to enhance the spiritual life of Norwegian Lutherans within the established church and was fueled by the revival activity of Hans Nielsen Hauge in Norway. It became transplanted on American soil with the immigration of the nineteenth century. The interaction in America between the low-church Haugeans and their more formal counterparts rooted in the state church of Norway reveals that a sense of friction existed between the two emphases from early on. In time, the Haugean-based church body known as Hauge’s Synod participated in merger negotiations with the larger Norwegian-American Lutheran organizations that had greater emphasis on formality and ecclesiastical order, leading to the merger of 1917 that produced the NLCA. Though some scholars of the second half of the twentieth century provided a positive assessment of the coexistence of these two traditions within the NLCA, this assessment was incorrect and overlooked the struggle of the Haugeans for maintaining their tradition. The sense of friction that characterized the relationship between the theological subjectivism of the Haugeans and the theological objectivism of the others continued within the new church body. Even prior to the merger, many of the Haugean iii minority expressed reservations about the merger, yet in the end agreed to participate, sensing a call to influence the spiritual life of the organization. Yet the Haugeans, with their lack of focus on institutional life, often felt disenfranchised, especially in reaction to the closure of their educational institutions. At the same time, one observes that many Haugeans participated in a number of independent movements for mission and evangelism at this time, perhaps in reaction to this disenfranchisement. Because Haugeanism within the NLCA was not centrally organized, different pieties influenced its expression over the years, which can be observed at present. Today, the tradition of American Haugeanism lives on in these independent movements that supplement the work of established church bodies, similar to how Haugeanism functioned within the Church of Norway.