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Accepted Paper:

The Ephrata Cloister: piety and power in Pennsylvania  
Elizabeth Lewis-Pardoe (Northwestern University)

Paper long abstract:

The Ephrata Cloister presented a paradox: a Protestant pietist commune of celibate, tonsured, mystics. Their authoritarian and charismatic leader, Conrad Beisel, won an array of men and women into his fold. They divorced their spouses and accepted an ascetic existence of minimal food and maximum prayer. Unfortunately for Beisel, those drawn to his Cloister were similarly literate, independent, men and women. Those who challenged his authority shared much of his biography: orphaned migrants from Germany, who sought success and spiritual solace in their new home. The problem came in their varied definitions of success and their willingness to defend their own spiritual experiences as equally valid bases for authority with Beisel's own. Men like Conrad Weiser, Ezechiel Sangmeister, and the Eckerlin brothers, ultimately rejected Beisel's claims to spiritual authority and thus undermined his ability to enforce orthodoxy of belief and action in his cloister.

Panel W034
Crisis in church? Religious authority and religious experience
  Session 1