Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Overview
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a mainline Protestant denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches. As of December 31, 2009, it had 4,543,037 baptized members, with 2,527,941 of them counted as active participants in their congregations. It is the seventh-largest religious body and the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

.
Encyclopedia
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a mainline Protestant denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

 headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches. As of December 31, 2009, it had 4,543,037 baptized members, with 2,527,941 of them counted as active participants in their congregations. It is the seventh-largest religious body and the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The next two largest Lutheran denominations are the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (with approximately 2.41 million members) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is a North American Confessional Lutheran denomination of Christianity. Characterized as theologically conservative, it was founded in 1850 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As of 2008, it had a baptized membership of over 389,364 in more than 1,290 congregations,...

 (with approximately 390,000 members). There are also many smaller Lutheran church bodies in the United States
Religion in the United States
Religion in the United States is characterized by both a wide diversity in religious beliefs and practices, and by a high adherence level. According to recent surveys, 83 percent of Americans claim to belong to a religious denomination, 40 percent claim to attend services nearly every week or...

.

History

The ELCA formally came into existence on January 1, 1988, creating the largest Lutheran church body in the United States. The Church is a result of a merger between the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), all of which had formally agreed in 1982 to unite after several years of discussions. The ELCA's three predecessor churches were themselves the product of previous mergers and splits among various independent Lutheran synods in the United States.

The American Lutheran Church

In 1960 the American Lutheran Church, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church
United Evangelical Lutheran Church
The United Evangelical Lutheran Church was one of the many denominations formed when Lutherans came to the United States from Europe...

, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church (United States)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church or ELC was formed in 1917 as the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America .-Background:The Norwegian Lutheran Church of America was formed by merger of the Hauge Synod , the Norwegian Synod , and the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America...

 merged to form The American Lutheran Church
American Lutheran Church
The American Lutheran Church was a Christian Protestant denomination in the United States that existed from 1960 to 1987. Its headquarters was in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Upon its formation in 1960, the ALC designated Augsburg Publishing House , also located in Minneapolis, as the church publisher...

, with the Lutheran Free Church
Lutheran Free Church
The Lutheran Free Church was a Lutheran denomination that existed in the United States from 1897 to 1963 mainly in Minnesota and North Dakota...

 joining in 1963. The ALC brought approximately 2.25 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, and Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

. It was the most theologically conservative of the forming bodies, having a heritage of Old Lutheran
Old Lutherans
Old Lutherans refers to those German Lutherans who refused to join the Prussian Union in the 1830s and 1840s.Attempted suppression of the Old Lutherans led many to immigrate to Australia and the United States, resulting in the creation of significant Lutheran denominations in those countries.The...

 theology. It joined in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and officially held to biblical inerrancy in its constitution, although it seldom enforced it by means of heresy trials and other doctrinal discipline. Its geographic center was in the Upper Midwest
Upper Midwest
The Upper Midwest is a region in the northern portion of the U.S. Census Bureau's Midwestern United States. It is largely a sub-region of the midwest. Although there are no uniformly agreed-upon boundaries, the region is most commonly used to refer to the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and...

, especially Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

. Some congregations in the ALC opted not to join the merger and instead formed the American Association of Lutheran Churches
American Association of Lutheran Churches
The American Association of Lutheran Churches was formed on November 7, 1987 as an alternative choice for churches in The American Lutheran Church denomination who did not want to be part of the merger with two other Lutheran church bodies, Lutheran Church in America , & American Evangelical...

.

The Lutheran Church in America

In 1962 the United Lutheran Church in America
United Lutheran Church in America
The United Lutheran Church in America was established in 1918 with the merger of three independent German-language synods: the General Synod , the General Council and the United Synod of the South . The Slovak Zion Synod joined the United Lutheran Church in America in 1920...

, the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church
Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church
The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church was a Lutheran church body in the United States that was one of the churches that merged into the Lutheran Church in America in 1962...

, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Danish American Evangelical Lutheran Church
American Evangelical Lutheran Church
The American Evangelical Lutheran Church was one of the many denominations formed when Lutherans immigrated to America. Originally known as the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in America , the predominantly Danish-American church was informally known as "the Danish Church."In 1872 Grundtvigian...

 formed the Lutheran Church in America
Lutheran Church in America
The Lutheran Church in America was a U.S. and Canadian Lutheran church body that existed from 1962 to 1987. It was headquartered in New York City and its publishing house was Fortress Press....

. The LCA brought approximately 2.85 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

, Slovakia
Slovakia
The Slovak Republic is a landlocked state in Central Europe. It has a population of over five million and an area of about . Slovakia is bordered by the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south...

, Denmark and Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

. Its demographic focus was on the East Coast (centered on Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

), with large numbers in the Midwest and some presence in the Southern Atlantic
South Atlantic States
The South Atlantic United States form one of the nine Census Bureau Divisions within the United States that are recognized by the United States Census Bureau....

 states. There are notable exceptions, but LCA-background churches tend to be more liturgical than ALC-background churches. Its theological orientation ranged from moderately liberal to neo-orthodox, with tendencies toward conservative Pietism
Pietism
Pietism was a movement within Lutheranism, lasting from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century and later. It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptism, inspiring not only Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement, but also Alexander Mack to...

 in some rural and small-town congregations. Its theology originated in the Neo-Lutheran
Neo-Lutheranism
Neo-Lutheranism was a 19th century revival movement within Lutheranism which began with the Pietist driven Erweckung, or Awakening, and developed in reaction against theological rationalism and pietism...

 movement.

The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches

In 1976 the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches
Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches
The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches was a U.S. church body that existed from 1976 through the end of 1987. The AELC formed when approximately 250 dissident congregations withdrew from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in 1976, and ended as an independent body when it became part...

 (AELC) was formed from congregations that left the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in a schism precipitated by progressive-traditionalist disputes over higher criticism, academic freedom
Academic freedom
Academic freedom is the belief that the freedom of inquiry by students and faculty members is essential to the mission of the academy, and that scholars should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment.Academic freedom is a...

 and ecumenism
Ecumenism
Ecumenism or oecumenism mainly refers to initiatives aimed at greater Christian unity or cooperation. It is used predominantly by and with reference to Christian denominations and Christian Churches separated by doctrine, history, and practice...

. Its establishment was precipitated by the Seminex
Seminex
Seminex is the widely used abbreviation for Concordia Seminary in Exile . An institution for the training of Lutheran ministers, Seminex existed from 1974 to 1987. It was formed after a walk-out by dissident faculty and students of Concordia Seminary in St...

 controversy at the LCMS's Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary
Concordia Seminary is located in Clayton, Missouri, an inner-ring suburb on the western border of St. Louis, Missouri. The institution's primary mission is to train pastors, deaconesses, missionaries, chaplains, and church leaders for the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod . The current president of...

 in St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

 in 1974. The AELC brought approximately 100,000 members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany; the complexion of its theology generally resembled that of the LCA, as the dissenting former "moderate" faction of the LCMS.

Organization

The ELCA is headed by a Presiding Bishop
Presiding Bishop
The Presiding Bishop is an ecclesiastical position in some denominations of Christianity.- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America :The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the chief ecumenical officer of the church, and the leader and caretaker for the bishops of the...

, who is elected by the Churchwide Assembly for a term of six years (it was a 4 year term until 1995). To date, three pastors have been elected to the position of presiding bishop of the ELCA. Herbert W. Chilstrom served as the first presiding bishop from 1987 to 1995. He was followed by H. George Anderson
H. George Anderson
H. George Anderson was the second Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America from October 1995 to October 2001...

 (1995–2001), who had previously been the President of Luther College
Luther College (Iowa)
Luther College is a four-year, residential liberal arts institution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, located in Decorah, Iowa, USA...

. The current presiding bishop is Mark S. Hanson, who is the past president of the Lutheran World Federation. Hanson began his tenure as bishop in 2001; he was re-elected in August 2007 for a second term.

The ELCA is divided into 65 synods, one of which is non-geographical (the Slovak Zion Synod
Slovak Zion Synod
The Slovak Zion Synod is one of the 65 bodies that make up the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is the only non-geographic synod in the ELCA, the only ELCA synod to have a congregation in Canada, and the only synod based on mission and outreach...

) and 64 regional synods in the United States and the Caribbean, each headed by a synodical bishop and council. Within the ELCA the term synod refers to the middle judicatory
Middle judicatory
A middle judicatory is an administrative structure or organization found in a religious denominations between the local congregation and the widest or highest national or international level...

, which is referred to in some other denominations as "districts" or "dioceses".

Outside of the United States, ELCA also has congregations in the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 region (Bahamas, Bermuda
Bermuda
Bermuda is a British overseas territory in the North Atlantic Ocean. Located off the east coast of the United States, its nearest landmass is Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about to the west-northwest. It is about south of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and northeast of Miami, Florida...

, Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and one congregation in the border city of Windsor, Ontario
Windsor, Ontario
Windsor is the southernmost city in Canada and is located in Southwestern Ontario at the western end of the heavily populated Quebec City – Windsor Corridor. It is within Essex County, Ontario, although administratively separated from the county government. Separated by the Detroit River, Windsor...

, a member of the Slovak Zion Synod
Slovak Zion Synod
The Slovak Zion Synod is one of the 65 bodies that make up the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is the only non-geographic synod in the ELCA, the only ELCA synod to have a congregation in Canada, and the only synod based on mission and outreach...

. Before 1986, some of the congregations that form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination, with 152,788 baptized members in 624 congregations, with the second largest, the Lutheran Church–Canada, having 72,116 baptized members...

 were part of the ELCA's predecessor churches.

Within the church structure are divisions addressing many programs and ministries. Among these are support for global mission, outdoor ministries, campus ministries, social ministries, and education. They include the Lutheran Peace Fellowship
Lutheran Peace Fellowship
Lutheran Peace Fellowship is an organization of Lutherans who work for peace and social justice issues. It includes members and supporters in all the Lutheran denominations and more than a few people from other faith traditions. LPF is a nonprofit organization supported largely by its members as...

, Lutheran Women's Caucus
Lutheran Women's Caucus
The Lutheran Women's Caucus was organized by women in the Missouri Synod in the 1960s and opened up to other synods in the 1970s, during the second wave of American feminism. The purpose of the LWC was to support the ordination of women in the Lutheran church. Marie Meyer was responsible for...

, Lutheran Volunteer Corps
Lutheran Volunteer Corps
The Lutheran Volunteer Corps is a national volunteer service program that was founded in 1979 by Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington, D.C...

, and the Lutheran Youth Organization ELCA Youth Gathering
ELCA Youth Gathering
The ELCA Youth Gathering is a national convention held every 3 years in a different American city attended by high-school-age youth of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The years before 2009 the gathering would last two weeks, with certain churches coming one week, the others going the...

. The denominational publishing house is Augsburg Fortress
Augsburg Fortress
Augsburg Fortress is the official publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and also publishes for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada as Augsburg Fortress Canada...

, and the official denominational magazine is The Lutheran
The Lutheran
The Lutheran is the primary publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The editorial offices are at 8765 West Higgins Road in Chicago, Illinois with the denominational offices...

. ELCA predecessor bodies established twenty-six colleges and universities now affiliated with the ELCA.

Most local congregations are legally independent non-profit corporations that own their own property. Actual governing practice within the congregation ranges from congregational voters' assemblies to elder-and-council-led, to congregations where the senior pastor wields great, if informal, power (more common in larger churches).

Lutheranism

Lutheranism is associated with the German reformer Martin Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

, with its official confessional writings found in the Book of Concord
Book of Concord
The Book of Concord or Concordia is the historic doctrinal standard of the Lutheran Church, consisting of ten credal documents recognized as authoritative in Lutheranism since the 16th century...

. The ELCA accepts the unaltered Augsburg Confession
Augsburg Confession
The Augsburg Confession, also known as the "Augustana" from its Latin name, Confessio Augustana, is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Lutheran reformation...

 (not the variata
Augsburg Confession Variata
The Altered Augsburg Confession is a later version of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession that includes substantial changes in the teaching of holy communion and the presence of Christ in bread and wine....

) as a true witness to the Gospel. The ELCA is less conservative
Conservative Christianity
Conservative Christianity is a term applied to a number of groups or movements seen as giving priority to traditional Christian beliefs and practices...

 than the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) or Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the second and third largest Lutheran bodies in the United States respectively. Although having a sizable conservative minority, most ELCA Lutherans are theologically moderate-to-liberal. Most other Lutheran bodies in the U.S. hold more strictly to Confessional Lutheranism, Pietism
Pietism
Pietism was a movement within Lutheranism, lasting from the late 17th century to the mid-18th century and later. It proved to be very influential throughout Protestantism and Anabaptism, inspiring not only Anglican priest John Wesley to begin the Methodist movement, but also Alexander Mack to...

, or a combination of the two, than the ELCA does.

Differences within the ELCA

The ELCA has many differences of opinion among its constituent congregations, which have caused a number of disputes over social and doctrinal issues. In part, this is due to the fact that it assimilated three different Lutheran church bodies, each with its own factions and divisions, thus inheriting old intra-group conflicts while creating new inter-group ones. Differences on issues usually reflect theological disputes between various parties.

The ELCA is a very broad organization. It contains groups of socially conservative or liberal factions with focuses on various topics such as liturgical renewal, confessional Lutheranism, charismatic revivalism, moderate to liberal theology, and liberal activism. The socially liberal segment of the ELCA is represented by independent organizations such as Lutherans Concerned/North America
Lutherans Concerned/North America
Lutherans Concerned/North America is an organization of laypeople, pastors, and congregations that are primarily from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada who are working for the full acceptance and inclusion of people of all sexual orientations...

, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries , founded on October 31, 2007, is an organization committed to the full participation of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the life and ministry of the Lutheran church...

, and the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus
The Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus is a group of Christian feminists organized in 1973. It was originally named the "Evangelical Women's Caucus" because it began as a caucus within Evangelicals for Social Action, which had issued the "Chicago Declaration." Its mission is to "support,...

 A socially conservative Lutheran organization, once within, an now departed from the ELCA opposed to the denomination's stance on openly-gay clergy is the Lutheran Coalition For Renewal
Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE, or Coalition for Renewal, is a community of confessing Lutherans spanning Lutheran church bodies. Lutheran CORE describes itself as:...

 (Lutheran CORE). Adherents of Evangelical Catholicism practice High Church Lutheranism
High Church Lutheranism
"High Church Lutheranism" is the name given in Europe for the 20th century Lutheran movement that emphasizes worship practices and doctrines that are similar to those found within both Roman Catholicism and the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism...

 and include the members of the Society of the Holy Trinity
Society of the Holy Trinity
The Society of the Holy Trinity is a Lutheran ministerium dedicated to the renewal of the Lutheran church and ministry...

. Those oriented toward Confessional Lutheranism, Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism
Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.Its key commitments are:...

, or an admixture of the two include the WordAlone
WordAlone
WordAlone is a Lutheran grassroots network of congregations and individuals within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America , the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States. According to its website, WordAlone advocates reform and renewal of the church, representative governance,...

 network and those involved with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ
Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ
Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ is an association of Lutheran congregations in the United States. It began in 2000 in response to the liberalization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America . LCMC is characterized by the traditional stances it takes on Lutheran polity, biblical...

. Members of the Charismatic Movement
Charismatic movement
The term charismatic movement is used in varying senses to describe 20th century developments in various Christian denominations. It describes an ongoing international, cross-denominational/non-denominational Christian movement in which individual, historically mainstream congregations adopt...

 include congregations and pastors associated with the Alliance of Renewal Churches
Alliance of Renewal Churches
The Alliance of Renewal Churches is a connection of charismatic Lutheran churches. This movement emerged out of the Charismatic Movement and is focused in the Midwest and California; although there are members from all around the country.The Alliance of Renewal Churches is closely connected...

.

Scripture

The ELCA constitution states:
This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life."


ELCA clergy tend not to subscribe to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy
Biblical inerrancy
Biblical inerrancy is the doctrinal position that the Bible is accurate and totally free of error, that "Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact." Some equate inerrancy with infallibility; others do not.Conservative Christians generally believe that...

, but see validity in various scholarly methods of analysis to help in understanding the Bible. This is in concord with most moderate Protestant bodies and in contrast to the LCMS and WELS, which practice the historical-grammatical method
Historical-grammatical method
The historical-grammatical method is a Christian hermeneutical method that strives to discover the Biblical author's original intended meaning in the text. It is the primary method of interpretation for many conservative Protestant exegetes who reject the so-called historical-critical method used...

 of biblical interpretation.

Sacraments

Like other Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA confesses at least two Sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

s, Communion (or the Eucharist
Eucharist in the Lutheran Church
The Eucharist in the Lutheran Church refers to the liturgical commemoration of the Last Supper....

) and Holy Baptism (including infant baptism). Confession and absolution is often included as a Sacrament, however, as it is a return to the forgiveness given in baptism, strictly speaking there are only two sacraments. Guidance on sacramental practices in the ELCA is provided in The Use of the Means of Grace, a statement adopted by the 1997 Churchwide Assembly.

In addition to the two sacraments, ELCA churches also practice the other five sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church — not as sacraments, but as acts that are sacramental in character, or sacramentals. These include confirmation
Confirmation (Lutheran Church)
Confirmation in the Lutheran Church is a public profession of faith prepared for by long and careful instruction. In English, it is called "affirmation of baptism", and is a mature and public profession of the faith which "marks the completion of the congregation's program of confirmation...

, ordination
Holy Orders
The term Holy Orders is used by many Christian churches to refer to ordination or to those individuals ordained for a special role or ministry....

, anointing the sick, confession and absolution
Confession in the Lutheran Church
In the Lutheran Church, Confession is the method given by Christ to the Church by which individual men and women may receive the forgiveness of sins; according to the Large Catechism, the "third sacrament" of Holy Absolution is properly viewed as an extension of Holy Baptism.-Beliefs:The Lutheran...

, and marriage
Marriage
Marriage is a social union or legal contract between people that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found...

. Their practice and their view as "minor sacraments" varies between churches of a "high" and "low" church nature.

Eucharist, also called the Lord's Supper

The ELCA holds to the Lutheran doctrine of the Sacramental Union
Sacramental Union
Sacramental union is the Lutheran theological doctrine of the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Christian Eucharist....

, that is, that Christ's body and blood is truly present "in, with and under" the bread
Sacramental bread
Sacramental bread, sometimes called the lamb, altar bread, host or simply Communion bread, is the bread which is used in the Christian ritual of the Eucharist.-Eastern Catholic and Orthodox:...

 and wine. All communicants orally
Mouth
The mouth is the first portion of the alimentary canal that receives food andsaliva. The oral mucosa is the mucous membrane epithelium lining the inside of the mouth....

 receive not only bread and wine, but also the same body and blood of Christ that was given for them on the cross. Members of other denominations sometimes erroneously perceive this as a belief in consubstantiation
Consubstantiation
Consubstantiation is a theological doctrine that attempts to describe the nature of the Christian Eucharist in concrete metaphysical terms. It holds that during the sacrament, the fundamental "substance" of the body and blood of Christ are present alongside the substance of the bread and wine,...

. Lutherans, however, reject the philosophical explanation of consubstantiation, preferring to see the presence of the Lord's body and blood as mysterious rather than explainable by human philosophy. The Lutheran belief in the mysterious character of the consecrated bread and wine is more similar to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief than most Protestants. In contrast, most Protestant church bodies doubt or openly deny that the true body and blood of Christ is eaten in the Lord's Supper.

Unlike certain other American Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA practices open communion
Open communion
Open communion is the practice of Christian churches that allow individuals other than members of that church to receive Holy Communion...

, permitting all persons baptized in the name of the Trinity with water to receive communion. Some congregations also commune baptized infants
Infant communion
Infant Communion refers to the practice of giving the Eucharist, often in the form of consecrated wine, to infants and children. This practice is standard in the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches; here, communion is given at the Divine Liturgy to all baptized and chrismated...

 similarly to Eastern Orthodox practice. The ELCA encourages its churches to practice the Eucharist at all services, although some churches alternate between non-communion services with those containing the Lord's Supper.

Social issues

The ELCA's stances on social issues are outlined in its Social Statements and Messages. Social Statements, which must be adopted by a 2/3 majority of a Churchwide Assembly, have been adopted on the following topics:
Abortion (1991)
Church in Society (1991)
Death Penalty (1991)
Economic Life (1999)
Education (2007)
Environment (1993)
Genetics (2011)
Health and Health Care (2003)
Human Sexuality (2009)
Peace (1995)
Race, Ethnicity & Culture (1993)

Role of women

The ELCA ordains women as pastors
Ordination of women in Protestant churches
The ordination of women in Protestant churches has often been carried out in light of the theological doctrine of the priesthood of all believers, which might include women if the expression is taken in a very literal sense.-Elders, pastors and ministers:...

, a practice that all three of its predecessor churches adopted in the 1970s. Some have become synod bishops. The most recent ELCA hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, includes alternate gender-neutral invocations and benedictions in all settings. All of the psalms and many of the hymns and parts of the liturgy have been altered to remove masculine pronouns referring to God.

Ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered clergy

On August 21, 2009, the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis voted to allow congregations to call and ordain gays and lesbians
Ordination of LGBT Christian clergy
The ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender clergy who are open about their sexuality, are sexually active, or are in committed same-sex relationships is a debated practice within some contemporary Christian Church communities....

 in committed monogamous relationships to serve as clergy. By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships" to serve as official ministers. Congregations that do not wish to call these persons to ordained ministry are not required by these policy changes to do so.

In reaction, Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE, or Coalition for Renewal, is a community of confessing Lutherans spanning Lutheran church bodies. Lutheran CORE describes itself as:...

, which opposed the decision, stated that it would, "initiate a process that we hope will lead to a reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism." In February 2010, Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE
Lutheran CORE, or Coalition for Renewal, is a community of confessing Lutherans spanning Lutheran church bodies. Lutheran CORE describes itself as:...

 announced that it will secede from the ELCA and form a new denomination to be named the North American Lutheran Church
North American Lutheran Church
The North American Lutheran Church is a church body which claims to embody the theological center of Lutheranism in North America. It is committed to the authority of the Bible as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life...

 (NALC). As of 2008, 37% of ELCA pastors were found to support same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage
Same-sex marriage is marriage between two persons of the same biological sex or social gender. Supporters of legal recognition for same-sex marriage typically refer to such recognition as marriage equality....

.

The ELCA, in removing sexual orientation as a bar for candidacy in the professional ministry, joined most of its Lutheran sister churches in Europe, including in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Austria. The ELCA is also among a growing number of Christian churches in the United States to make this move.

In contrast, the board of one of the ELCA's partner churches, October 2009, the Evangelical Mekane Yesus Fellowship in North America
Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is a Christian denomination in Ethiopia. It was created in 1959 with the merger of Lutheran and other congregations established by missionary work in that country, taking its name from the first congregation in Addis Ababa, Mekane Yesus...

, voted to declare disunity with the ELCA. A press release stated that the board was no longer "in good conscience" "able to commune and partner with ELCA Church that has willfully disobeyed the word of God and regrettably departed from the clear instructions of the Holy Scriptures" that "marriage is only between a man and a woman."

In April 2010, The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted revisions to ministry policy documents to bring them in line with the August 2009 vote, as well as adding sections on integrity, substance abuse and addiction.
The release noted that the revised ministry policies would be posted on the church's website by the end of April, 2010.

Since August 2009, according to the office of the ELCA secretary, over 600 congregations have left the ELCA through January 2011. Income has declined, with a projected income of 48 million in 2011, down from a budgeted 51 million in 2010, and a total budget of 88 million in 2005.

Creation and evolution

The ELCA has not adopted an official position on creation
Creationism
Creationism is the religious beliefthat humanity, life, the Earth, and the universe are the creation of a supernatural being, most often referring to the Abrahamic god. As science developed from the 18th century onwards, various views developed which aimed to reconcile science with the Genesis...

 or evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, but there is general agreement on interpreting the Bible within its historical contexts and applying critical methods of research.

Reproductive cloning

The ELCA has not yet taken an official position regarding reproductive cloning. However, Task Force on Genetics of the church’s “Church in Society” initiative is studying the theological and ethical issues that the world is likely to face in coming years as a result of Genetic Science. The task force has issued a draft report for comment and discussion. The draft statement covers a wide range of topics, from genetic testing
Genetic testing
Genetic testing is among the newest and most sophisticated of techniques used to test for genetic disorders which involves direct examination of the DNA molecule itself. Other genetic tests include biochemical tests for such gene products as enzymes and other proteins and for microscopic...

 to GMOs
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

. A section in this report which has been described by an independent reviewer as "a remarkably nuanced analysis and statement regarding a very complex scientific, social, and religious issue." The task force recommends opposition to reproductive cloning, as almost all religious groups currently do. However, the main theological reasoning is unique. Lewis D. Eigen explains:


The argument they articulate is not the common but weak argument that it would be “offensive to God,” “against the will of God” or “man encroaching into God’s domain”, but they observe that the clone would be denied the dignity of possessing a unique human genotype. This is an extremely interesting argument—that each and every human being has the right to his or her own uniqueness—particularly a unique genotype.


The draft statement further asserts that any clones that might be created should have full acceptance as human beings and access to rites of the church.

Abortion

The issue of abortion
Abortion debate
The abortion debate refers to discussion and controversy surrounding the moral and legal status of abortion. The two main groups involved in the abortion debate are the self-described "pro-choice" movement and the "pro-life" movement...

 is a matter of contention within the ELCA. In a Social Statement adopted in 1991, the church set out its position on the matter as follows. The ELCA describes itself as "a community supportive of life," and encourages women to explore alternatives
Crisis pregnancy center
A crisis pregnancy center , sometimes called a pregnancy resource center , is a non-profit organization established to counsel pregnant women against having an abortion....

 to abortion such as adoption
Adoption
Adoption is a process whereby a person assumes the parenting for another and, in so doing, permanently transfers all rights and responsibilities from the original parent or parents...

. However, the Social Statement asserts that there are certain circumstances under which a decision to end a pregnancy
Pregnancy
Pregnancy refers to the fertilization and development of one or more offspring, known as a fetus or embryo, in a woman's uterus. In a pregnancy, there can be multiple gestations, as in the case of twins or triplets...

 can be "morally responsible." These include cases where the pregnancy "presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman," situations where "the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse," and "circumstances of extreme fetal abnormality
Disability
A disability may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental or some combination of these.Many people would rather be referred to as a person with a disability instead of handicapped...

, which will result in severe suffering and very early death of an infant." Regardless of the reason, the ELCA opposes abortion when "a fetus is developed enough to live outside a uterus with the aid of reasonable and necessary technology." The ELCA opposes "laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable abortions," and "laws that are primarily intended to harass those contemplating or deciding for an abortion." The statement emphasizes the prevention of circumstances leading to abortion, specifically encouraging "appropriate forms of sex education in schools, community pregnancy prevention programs, and parenting
Parenting
Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood...

 preparation classes."

Churchwide Assemblies

The Churchwide Assembly meets biennially in odd-numbered years and consists of elected lay and ordained voting members; between meetings of the Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA Church Council governs the denomination. A constitutional amendment passed in 2011 that will switch it to a triennially meeting after 2013.
1987 Columbus, Ohio
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus is the capital of and the largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio. The broader metropolitan area encompasses several counties and is the third largest in Ohio behind those of Cleveland and Cincinnati. Columbus is the third largest city in the American Midwest, and the fifteenth largest city...

 (ELCA Constituting Convention)
1989 Chicago, Illinois
1991 Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Orlando is a city in the central region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat of Orange County, and the center of the Greater Orlando metropolitan area. According to the 2010 US Census, the city had a population of 238,300, making Orlando the 79th largest city in the United States...

1993 Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City, Missouri is the largest city in the U.S. state of Missouri and is the anchor city of the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, the second largest metropolitan area in Missouri. It encompasses in parts of Jackson, Clay, Cass, and Platte counties...

1995 Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Minneapolis , nicknamed "City of Lakes" and the "Mill City," is the county seat of Hennepin County, the largest city in the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the 48th largest in the United States...

1997 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

1999 Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado
The City and County of Denver is the capital and the most populous city of the U.S. state of Colorado. Denver is a consolidated city-county, located in the South Platte River Valley on the western edge of the High Plains just east of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains...

2001 Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis is the capital of the U.S. state of Indiana, and the county seat of Marion County, Indiana. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city's population is 839,489. It is by far Indiana's largest city and, as of the 2010 U.S...

2003 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2005 Orlando, Florida
2007 Chicago, Illinois
2009 Minneapolis, Minnesota
2011 Orlando, Florida
2013 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

 (schedule)

Church Fellowship

The ELCA is a member of the National Council of Churches
National Council of Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace...

, the World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

, and Christian Churches Together
Christian Churches Together
Christian Churches Together in the USA is a Christian ecumenical group formed in 2006 to "broaden and expand fellowship, unity and witness among the diverse expressions of Christian faith today"....

 and is a "partner in mission and dialog" with the Churches Uniting in Christ
Churches Uniting in Christ
Churches Uniting in Christ brings together ten mainline American denominations , and was inaugurated on January 20, 2002....

.

Full Communion

The Church maintains full communion
Full communion
In Christian ecclesiology, full communion is a relationship between church organizations or groups that mutually recognize their sharing the essential doctrines....

 relationships with member churches of the Lutheran World Federation
Lutheran World Federation
The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of national and regional Lutheran churches headquartered in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. The federation was founded in the Swedish city of Lund in the aftermath of the Second World War in 1947 to coordinate the activities of the...

 (which is a communion of 140 autonomous national/regional Lutheran church bodies in 78 countries around the world, representing nearly 66 million Christians), the Moravian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America
Reformed Church in America
The Reformed Church in America is a mainline Reformed Protestant denomination in Canada and the United States. It has about 170,000 members, with the total declining in recent decades. From its beginning in 1628 until 1819, it was the North American branch of the Dutch Reformed Church. In 1819, it...

, the United Church of Christ
United Church of Christ
The United Church of Christ is a mainline Protestant Christian denomination primarily in the Reformed tradition but also historically influenced by Lutheranism. The Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches united in 1957 to form the UCC...

, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

), and the United Methodist Church
United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church is a Methodist Christian denomination which is both mainline Protestant and evangelical. Founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the UMC traces its roots back to the revival movement of John and Charles Wesley...

.

Relations with the Roman Catholic Church

On October 31, 1999 in Augsburg
Augsburg
Augsburg is a city in the south-west of Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and home of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben and the Bezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is, as of 2008, the third-largest city in Bavaria with a...

, Germany, the Lutheran World Federation – of which the ELCA is a member – signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification
The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a document created by and agreed to by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue...

with the Roman Catholic Church. The statement is an attempt to reconcile an historical theological divide between the two faiths. The Declaration also states that the mutual condemnations between 16th century Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church no longer apply to those that have signed onto the document.

ELCA and LCMS

The differences between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) arise from theological, historical, and cultural factors. The LCMS was in fellowship with the American Lutheran Church, one of the ELCA predecessor bodies. Although the denominations cooperate through Lutheran World Relief and military chaplaincy, they are not officially in communion with each other.

When the first Lutheran immigrants came to North America, they started church bodies that reflected, to some degree, the churches they left behind in Europe. Many maintained until the early 20th century their immigrant languages. They sought pastors from the "old country" until patterns for the education of clergy could be developed here. Eventually, seminaries and church colleges were established in many places to prepare pastors to serve congregations.

The earliest predecessor synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was constituted on August 25, 1748, in Philadelphia. It was known as the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States. The ELCA was created in 1988 by the merging of the 2.85 million member Lutheran Church in America, 2.25 million member American Lutheran Church, and the 100,000 member Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Previously, the ALC and LCA in the early 1960s came into being as a result of mergers of eight smaller ethnically-based Lutheran bodies composed of German, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Slovak, Dutch, and other folk.

The LCMS was established in 1847 by German immigrants fleeing the forced Prussian Union
Prussian Union (Evangelical Christian Church)
The Prussian Union was the merger of the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church in Prussia, by a series of decrees – among them the Unionsurkunde – by King Frederick William III...

, who settled in Perry County, Missouri
Perry County, Missouri
Perry County is a county located in Southeast Missouri in the United States. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the county's population was 18,132. In 2008 the population was estimated to be 18,743. Its county seat is Perryville. The county was officially organized on November 16, 1820 from Ste...

. The LCMS is the second largest Lutheran church body in North America with 2.4 million adherents. It differs from the ELCA in that the LCMS prefers a more direct application of biblical teaching to modern times, does not practice the ordination of women
Ordination of women
Ordination in general religious usage is the process by which a person is consecrated . The ordination of women is a regular practice among some major religious groups, as it was of several religions of antiquity...

, and does not practice open communion
Open communion
Open communion is the practice of Christian churches that allow individuals other than members of that church to receive Holy Communion...

. In the mid-1970s the Seminex
Seminex
Seminex is the widely used abbreviation for Concordia Seminary in Exile . An institution for the training of Lutheran ministers, Seminex existed from 1974 to 1987. It was formed after a walk-out by dissident faculty and students of Concordia Seminary in St...

 controversy over use of historical-critical biblical study led to the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, one of the predecessor bodies of the ELCA.

The ELCA tends to be more involved in ecumenical endeavors than the LCMS, which prohibits its clergy from worshiping in ecumenical gatherings. The ELCA is a member of the Lutheran World Federation
Lutheran World Federation
The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of national and regional Lutheran churches headquartered in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland. The federation was founded in the Swedish city of Lund in the aftermath of the Second World War in 1947 to coordinate the activities of the...

, World Council of Churches
World Council of Churches
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and sub-regional, national and local churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service. It is a Christian ecumenical organization that is based in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland...

 and the National Council of Churches USA
National Council of Churches
The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA is an ecumenical partnership of 37 Christian faith groups in the United States. Its member denominations, churches, conventions, and archdioceses include Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, African American, Evangelical, and historic peace...

. The LCMS rejects these as being unionist
Indifferentism
Indifferentism, in Roman Catholic theology, describes the belief that there is no evidence that one religion or philosophy is superior to another. The Catholic Church ascribes indifferentism to all atheistic, materialistic, pantheistic, and agnostic philosophies...

.

Results from the Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center is an American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1990, Donald S...

 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 2008:
Pew Survey Results by Denomination LCMSELCA
Number of adults surveyed out of total of 35,556: 588 869
Percent of adults in the United States: 1.4% 2.0%
Percent of adult Protestants in the United States: 2.7% 3.8%
Do you believe in God or a universal spirit? Absolutely Certain: 84% 77%
Fairly Certain: 12% 19%
Do not believe in God: 1% 0%
Don't Know/Refused/Other: 1% 1%
The Bible Word of God to be taken literally word for word: 42% 23%
Word of God, but not literally true word for word/Unsure if literally true: 39% 48%
Book written by men, not the word of God: 15% 20%
Don't Know/Refused/Other: 4% 9%
Abortion Abortion should be legal in all cases: 16% 18%
Abortion should be legal in most cases: 35% 42%
Abortion should be illegal in most cases: 32% 26%
Abortion should be illegal in all cases: 13% 6%
Don't know/Refused: 5% 7%
Interpretation of Religious Teachings There is only ONE true way to interpret the teachings of my religion: 28% 15%
There is MORE than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion: 68% 82%
Neither/Both Equally: 1% 1%
Don't Know/Refused: 3% 2%
Homosexuality Homosexuality should be accepted: 44% 56%
Homosexuality should be discouraged: 47% 33%
Neither/Both Equally: 4% 3%
Don't Know/Refused: 5% 3%


Comparison to LCMS in ELCA's point of view according to the Honoring Our Neighbor's Faith These conclusions are not agreed upon by the WELS or LCMS.
Number LCMS ELCA
1 Believe in triune God
Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

Same
2 Accept Lutheran Confessions as true teachings of biblical faith Same
3 Believe that God comes to us through the Word and the sacraments Same
4 Teach justification by grace through faith Same
5 Believe that the Bible should not be subject to higher critical methods Many within the ELCA believe that the Bible can speak effectively through the use of higher critical study.
6 Believe that the Bible restricts women from certain church positions including ordained ministry Believes the Bible permits, even encourages, full participation by women in the life of the church
7 High degree of doctrinal agreement necessary before fellowship is possible Agreement on a more basic level is sufficient for fellowship.

Ministry

As a Lutheran church body, the ELCA professes belief in the "priesthood of all believers
Priesthood of all believers
The universal priesthood or the priesthood of all believers, as it would come to be known in the present day, is a Christian doctrine believed to be derived from several passages of the New Testament...

" as reflected in Martin Luther's To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation
To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation
To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation is the first of three tracts written by Martin Luther in 1520. In this work, he defined for the first time the signature doctrines of the Priesthood of all believers and the two kingdoms.-History:...

, that all baptized persons have equal access to God and are all called to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ. Some people are called to "rostered ministry", or vocations of church leadership and service. After formation, theological training, and approval by local synods these people are "set aside, but not above" through ordination or commissioning/consecration. The Division for Ministry at the ELCA's headquarters is responsible for the oversight and pastoral care of rostered ministers, in addition to the synodical bishop. More and more ELCA congregations are employing specialized and even general ministers outside of this national oversight. The ELCA currently has four types of rostered ministers:

Pastors (clergy)

An ordained minister is called to the "office of public ministry" of "Word and sacrament" and considered a "steward of the mysteries" of the Church (i.e., the means of grace
Means of Grace
The Means of Grace in Christian theology are those things through which God gives grace. Just what this grace entails is interpreted in various ways: generally speaking, some see it as God blessing humankind so as to sustain and empower the Christian life; others see it as forgiveness, life, and...

). Pastors primarily serve congregations, but this role has been expanded to include other forms of ministry as well (e.g., hospital and military chaplains). Pastors are ordinarily trained at one of eight ELCA seminaries located throughout the United States, although there are alternative paths for ordination to serve particular communities in which it is difficult to provide trained leaders or to allow rostering of clergy transferred from other denominations. Pastors generally hold a Bachelor of Arts degree or its equivalent, as well as a four-year master of divinity
Master of Divinity
In the academic study of theology, the Master of Divinity is the first professional degree of the pastoral profession in North America...

 degree, are required to learn biblical Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 and Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, and are required to complete a one-year internship of full-time service in pastoral ministry. A bishop
Bishop
A bishop is an ordained or consecrated member of the Christian clergy who is generally entrusted with a position of authority and oversight. Within the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox Churches, in the Assyrian Church of the East, in the Independent Catholic Churches, and in the...

 is a pastor called to serve either a synod
Synod
A synod historically is a council of a church, usually convened to decide an issue of doctrine, administration or application. In modern usage, the word often refers to the governing body of a particular church, whether its members are meeting or not...

 or as presiding bishop
Presiding Bishop
The Presiding Bishop is an ecclesiastical position in some denominations of Christianity.- Evangelical Lutheran Church in America :The Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the chief ecumenical officer of the church, and the leader and caretaker for the bishops of the...

 of the ELCA. A bishop is only a bishop as long as he or she serves in that office and returns to being known simply as a pastor when service as a bishop ends.

Diaconal minister

Diaconal Ministers are ministers of Word and Service who may serve as a chaplain
Chaplain
Traditionally, a chaplain is a minister in a specialized setting such as a priest, pastor, rabbi, or imam or lay representative of a religion attached to a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, military unit, police department, university, or private chapel...

s, youth ministers, or in some aspect of social justice or advocacy work. This is the newest category established by the ELCA. A Diaconal minister is similar to the role performed by permanent deacons in the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church.

Deaconess

A Deaconess
Deaconess
Deaconess is a non-clerical order in some Christian denominations which sees to the care of women in the community. That word comes from a Greek word diakonos as well as deacon, which means a servant or helper and occurs frequently in the Christian New Testament of the Bible. Deaconesses trace...

 is a lay woman, married or single, who serves the Church in a variety of ways. Traditionally, deaconesses served in the caring professions as nurses, social workers, or teachers.

Associate in Ministry

Serves local congregations, synods or other ministries in a variety of roles as parish administrators, parish musicians
Church music
Church music may be defined as music written for performance in church, or any musical setting of ecclestiacal liturgy, or music set to words expressing propositions of a sacred nature, such as a hymn. This article covers music in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. For sacred music outside this...

, youth ministry
Youth ministry (Evangelical)
A Protestant/Evangelical Youth ministry is a Christian ministry intended to instruct and disciple youths in what it means to be a Christian, how to mature as a Christian, and how to encourage others to claim Jesus as their Savior. This is accomplished through teaching, relationship building and/or...

 leaders, or other positions.

Worship

Published in 2006, Evangelical Lutheran Worship
Evangelical Lutheran Worship
Evangelical Lutheran Worship or ELW is the current, primary liturgical and worship guidebook and hymnal for use in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, replacing its three predecessors, the Lutheran Book of Worship , the Hymnal Supplemental , and...

is the main hymnal
Hymnal
Hymnal or hymnary or hymnbook is a collection of hymns, i.e. religious songs, usually in the form of a book. The earliest hand-written hymnals are known since Middle Ages in the context of European Christianity...

 used in congregations, though some continue to use the older Lutheran Book of Worship, and many use supplementary resources as well. Many ELCA congregations are classically liturgical churches. Their liturgy is rooted in the Western liturgical tradition, though Lutheran-Orthodox dialog has some minimal influence on Lutheran liturgy. Because of its use of the Book of Concord, including Luther's Small Catechism
Luther's Small Catechism
Luther's Small Catechism was written by Martin Luther and published in 1529 for the training of children. Luther's Small Catechism reviews The Ten Commandments, The Apostles' Creed, The Lord's Prayer, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, The Office of the Keys & Confession, and The Sacrament of the...

 and its retention of many pre-Reformation traditions, such as vestments, feast days, the sign of the cross, and the usage of a church-wide liturgy
Agenda (liturgy)
The name Agenda is given, particularly in the Lutheran Church, to the official books dealing with the forms andceremonies of divine service.- The Term; its Equivalents Before the Reformation :...

, there are many aspects of the typical ELCA church that are very catholic and traditional in nature. Many Lutheran churches use traditional vestments (alb, cincture, stole, chasuble, cope, etc.). Since the Second Vatican Council
Second Vatican Council
The Second Vatican Council addressed relations between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. It was the twenty-first Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church and the second to be held at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. It opened under Pope John XXIII on 11 October 1962 and closed...

 of the 1960s, most major parts of the ELCA's popular liturgies are worded exactly like the English Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Many ELCA congregations use informal styles of worship or a blend of traditional and contemporary liturgical forms.

Springing from its revered heritage in the Lutheran Chorale
Chorale
A chorale was originally a hymn sung by a Christian congregation. In certain modern usage, this term may also include classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character....

, the musical life of ELCA congregations is just as diverse as its worship. Johann Sebastian Bach and African songs are part of the heritage and breadth of Lutheran church music. The musical portion of the Lutheran liturgy includes metrical psalter
Metrical psalter
A metrical psalter is a kind of Bible translation: a book containing a metrical translation of all or part of the Book of Psalms in vernacular poetry, meant to be sung as hymns in a church. Some metrical psalters include melodies or even harmonizations...

, metrical responses and hymns. Evangelical Lutheran Worship has ten settings of Holy Communion, for example. They range from plainsong chant, to Gospel, to Latin-style music. Congregations worship in many languages, many of which are represented in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Other books used in ELCA churches include the Lutheran Book of Worship
Lutheran Book of Worship
Lutheran Book of Worship is a worship book and hymnal used by several Lutheran denominations in North America. It is often referred to by its initials as the LBW, and in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America the LBW is sometimes called the "green book" as opposed to With One Voice, a...

, With One Voice, This Far by Faith, and Libro de Liturgia y Cántico.

Demographics

Results from the Pew Research Center
Pew Research Center
The Pew Research Center is an American think tank organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides information on issues, attitudes and trends shaping the United States and the world. The Center and its projects receive funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1990, Donald S...

 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 2008:
Demographic Results for 2008ELCALCMSTotal Population
Age 18-29 8% 11% 20%
30-49 36% 32% 39%
50-64 29% 31% 25%
65+ 27% 26% 16%
Marital Status Never Married 11% 11% 19%
Married 63% 60% 54%
Living with Partner 3% 5% 6%
Divorced/Separated 10% 11% 12%
Widowed 13% 13% 8%
Children at home under 18 No Children 70% 72% 65%
One Child 11% 11% 13%
Two Children 13% 10% 13%
Three Children 5% 5% 6%
Four or more Children 1% 2% 3%
Race White (non-Hispanic) 97% 95% 71%
Black (non-Hispanic) 1% 2% 11%
Asian (non-Hispanic) 1% 1% 3%
Other/Mixed (non-Hispanic) 1% 1% 3%
Latino 1% 1% 12%
Region Northeast 19% 7% 19%
Midwest 51% 64% 23%
South 16% 16% 36%
West 14% 13% 22%
Gender Male 44% 47% 48%
Female 56% 53% 52%
Level of Education Less than High School 6% 9% 14%
Graduated High School 38% 38% 36%
Some College 26% 25% 23%
Graduated College 19% 18% 16%
Post-graduate 11% 9% 11%
Family Income Less than $30,000 24% 24% 31%
$30,000-$49,999 24% 20% 22%
$50,000-$74,999 21% 20% 17%
$75,000-$99,999 15% 18% 13%
$100,000 or more 17% 17% 18%

See also

  • Differences between the WELS & ELCA

External links


A history of many of the bodies that merged to form ELCA:
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK