“Scandinavian Church Dispute”

Rev. & Mrs. Holm, in a New York Times sketch
Rev. & Mrs. Holm, in a New York Times sketch

We recently discovered three clippings from October, 1895 editions of the Racine Journal in our file cabinet. This is the second of the three articles, concerning a fractious series of Emmaus congregational meetings which would ultimately result in the founding of Bethania and Our Savior’s Lutheran Churches. (The spelling of Emaus with one “m” conforms to the Danish translation.)

SCANDINAVIAN CHURCH DISPUTE

A Split in the Membership of a Large Racine Congregation

Racine, Wis., Oct. 14 — There is a split between the members of the Emaus church on Mound avenue, the largest Scandinavian church in the sate [sic], having possibly 400 members. The property is valued at $25,000. To-day injunction papers were served by the First Scandinavian Lutheran congregation, a corporation, and Jens Petersen et al. against Rev. Viggo Holm, pastor, et al. The complaint sets forth that the congregation was incorporated under the laws of Wisconsin; that for eighteen years it has constituted one church and one congregation in a voluntary association composed of various Lutheran churches in different states and known as the Danish Evangelical Lutheran church of America; that in 1855 it was incorporated under the laws of Illinois, and known as the Danish Evangelical Church Educational association, but still was called by members under the old name, and that the plaintiffs have at all times acknowledged allegiance to the corporation and complied with its rules. The provisions of the by-laws duly adopted by the congregation provide in case of disputes or a division of the congregation that the property shall be the absolute and indisputable property of that portion of the congregation which shall remain faithful to the seven articles as set forth in the by-laws.

It is alleged that the defendants have refused to abide by the rules and regulations; that Viggo Holm, pastor, violated the constitution and by-laws by joining another congregation contrary to the contract by which he was employed by the congregation; also that he and others have violated the constitution by encouraging and advising strife and dispute among the members of the congregation, and that the defendants have conspired together with the purpose and intent of having the congregation renounce its allegiance to the original organization of the Danish churches of America; that Rev. Mr. Holm has used his influence to create dissentions and discord, and that the defendants have threatened to drive the plaintiffs out of the church and deprive them of their right and interest in the church property; that the Rev. Mr. Holm and others have threatened the plaintiffs with expulsion, etc. The plaintiffs allege that they have always been faithful, and are entitled to the property, and pray that an injunction be made, enjoining the defendants from interfering with the property and holding meetings, etc. They fear that the defendants will dispose of the property and shut them out. The injunction was signed by A. C. Judd, court commissioner, in the absence of Judge Fish, and holds good. The proceedings create great excitement among Scandinavians, and will interest Danishmen throughout the country, as similar litigation exists in Iowa and Minnesota.

(Illustration: sketch of Rev. & Mrs. N. V. Holm, in the New York Times, October 28, 1894.)

Next: “The Other Side”

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