Global Christianity 19th-century immigration to North America
Global Christianity

The arrival of millions of Europeans and their impact upon the churches.

Thousands of immigrants longed to see the Statue of Liberty as they entered
the United States

Nineteenth-century immigration greatly expanded religious pluralism in North America. Between 1815 and 1914, some 30 million people immigrated to the United States. The greatest numbers came from Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Austria-Hungary. Some were devout Christians and others had no firm faith commitments. Catholic and Protestant Americans therefore sought to recruit newcomers and minister to their needs through preaching, humanitarianism, and education.

Roman Catholics from central and eastern Europe wanted parishes and priests of their own languages and nationalities. The newcomers brought ethnic saints and festivals; their views of religious authority often clashed with Catholics who had become more "Americanized." Parochial schools, hospitals, and ethnic parishes were built in many immigrant Catholic communities.

Lutherans included those who wanted a "pure" Lutheran theology and those who were drawn toward American evangelicalism. Those who prized Lutheran confessionalism reversed earlier trends toward American revivalism and ecumenism. Scandinavian immigrants to the upper Midwest brought blends of Lutheran Pietism and confessionalism, and built churches, schools, and hospitals.

Orthodox Christians immigrated from Greece, Russia, and the Balkans in huge numbers during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Russian Orthodox began a mission in Alaska in 1794, but later waves of immigration made Orthodoxy a significant presence in most major North American cities. These churches had strong ethnic identities, differing from each other in language, worship, and customs.

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