Lutheran History

Evangelical Lutheran Church of America History

A merger of three Lutheran churches formed the ELCA in 1988. They were The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America.

Now 25 years later, the ELCA is a church that shares a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. As members of the ELCA, we believe that we are freed in Christ to serve and love our neighbor. With our hands, we do God’s work of restoring and reconciling communities in Jesus Christ’s name throughout the world. 

We trace our roots back through the mid-17th century, when early Lutherans came to America from Europe, settling in the Virgin Islands and the area that is now known as New York. Even before that, Martin Luther sought reform for the church in the 16th century, laying the framework for our beliefs.

Lutheran History

Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Roman Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation. Beginning with the 95 Theses, Luther's writings were disseminated internationally, spreading the ideas of the Reformation beyond the ability of governmental and churchly authorities to control it.

The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics began with the 1521 Edict of Worms, which condemned Luther and officially outlawed citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending his ideas. The punishment decreed for Lutheranism was seizure of all property, with half going to the Imperial government and half given to their accusers. The divide centered over the doctrine ofJustification. Lutheranism advocates a doctrine of justification "by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone," which went against the Roman view of "faith formed by love" or "faith and works". Unlike the Reformed Churches, Lutherans retain a high respect for the authority of the Church Fathers, as well as many of the liturgical practices and sacramental teachings of the pre-Reformation Church, with a particular emphasis on the Eucharist, or Lord's Supper. Lutheran theology differs from Reformed theology in Christology, the purpose of God's Law, the divine grace, the concept of perseverance of the saints, and predestination. Like most denominations, Lutheranism is split between Liberal and Conservative/Confessional camps.  The Lutheran Church believe the issue of authority is an important issue - for Lutherans the scriptures are the sole authority for questions of faith and life, i.e. what should we believe and how shall we live.  The Roman Catholic church places decrees of popes and council on equal basis with scripture, for Lutherans God’s word alone is our authority.