The Lutheran Church

The Lutheran ChurchThe Lutheran Church grew out of the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. The early career of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and his associates at the University of Wittenberg in Electoral Saxony, Germany, stamped the Lutheran Reformation of the Christian Church and subsequent Lutheran churches with their dominant characteristics: reliance on the doctrine of justification by faith alone in God’s forgiving activity in Jesus Christ, who is both Savior and Lord by his death and resurrection.

From the time of Luther’s posting of the Ninety-five Theses October 31, 1517, the Lutheran Church emerged through the expression of scriptural doctrine in the writings and debates of Luther and his followers, through their translation of the Bible into the language of the people, and their development of Bible-based liturgical forms, including hymns, and educational materials. In the religious turmoil of that era, the Evangelical Lutheran Church maintained an evangelical course, as evident in it’s sacramental doctrines of Infant Baptism and the Real Presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. The Lutheran Church published it’s teachings, what became known as The Book of Concord, June 25, 1580. It contains the long-standing confessions of orthodox Christianity, as well as doctrinal statements and expositions developed by the Reformers.

European immigrants spread Lutheranism to the future United States of America during colonial times. The first Lutheran service conducted in North America was conducted by the Reverend Rasmus Jensen on the shore of Hudson Bay, New York, in 1619. The first Lutheran congregation was formed by Reverend Reorus Torkillus in 1638 at Fort Christina, New Sweden, (now, Wilmington, Delaware).

Over the next centuries large numbers of immigrants from Lutheran lands in Europe arrived in America. From congregations founded by German immigrants, missionaries and pastors gathered in Chicago in 1847. There on April 26, 1847, the delegates established the Evangelical Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, by adopting and signing a synodical constitution. Among the leaders of the early Missouri Synod were its first two presidents, Dr. Carl Ferdinand Wilhelm Walther, and Reverend Fredrick C. D. Wyneken. What is now called The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is an organization of autonomous congregations, who govern themselves and call their own pastors and other church workers. The congregations affiliate as the Synod and maintain their own theological seminaries and the nation-wide Concordia University System. The Missouri Synod developed rapidly in the Midwest and spread eventually throughout the United States and into many foreign mission fields. Its American membership exceeds 3 million and is divided into forty separate districts.

Among American Christian bodies, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is noted for its adherence to Scriptural teachings as the Word of God and the Evangelical (gospel-centered) doctrines defined by the early Christian Church and the Lutheran Reformers of the sixteenth century. Missouri congregations are confessional churches, where Word and Sacrament dominate worship and all congregational activity.