Lutherans, along with all Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. We believe Jesus was fully divine and fully human. In Jesus, God became human, bore our human condition and our sins, in order to save us from sin and death and restore us to a right relationship with God. Jesus came to make known God’s love and grace to our broken and seeking world. The ultimate symbol of that love is the Cross, where Jesus was crucified, and gave his life for the sake of the world. In Christ we enjoy grace, mercy, freedom, and new life.
In fact, Lutherans were the first protestants. It all began in 1517 when a German monk named Martin Luther posted a list of 95 points of disagreement with the Roman Catholic Church on the doors of the Cathedral Church in Wittenberg on October 31st. The main differences between Luther and the Church concerned the nature of our salvation. Lutherans believe that we are saved by God’s grace, which we receive through faith, not by anything we do.
Today, nearly five centuries later, Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of Luther’s theological teachings, such as Grace alone, Faith alone, Scripture alone. These comprise the very essence of Lutheranism:
For a quick intro into the basic theology of Lutherans, check out Pastor Nadia’s presentation at the 2012 National Youth Gathering – Nadia’s take on Lutheran Theology.
Lutherans love the Bible, but we do not take it literally. We are not fundamentalists. We read the Bible through the lens of God’s grace. We believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded by faithful people. It is the story of God and God’s people – the story of God’s great love for us. When we read the Bible we become part of the story. For us, the heart of the biblical message is the good news that Jesus Christ died and rose again to bring us into relationship with God. That relationship gives hope, comfort, and purpose to our lives.
Worship is at the heart of our community. In worship we experience God together. God speaks to us as we sing hymns, read passages from the Bible, listen to sermons as the pastor preaches, and we are fed at the Lord's Table by receiving Holy Communion. May people say our service is very similar to the Catholic church - and that's true! We base our patterns for worship on traditions that share similar roots in the Christian tradition.
Over the years, different Lutheran church bodies have been established and organized to meet the needs of Lutherans in communities and nations all over the world. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the largest Lutheran group in North America, founded in 1988 when three North American Lutheran church bodies united: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America. Learn more about the History of the ELCA.
Lutherans are continuing to reform the church and the whole of Christianity by working very diligently by engaging our Christian brothers and sisters in dialogue between the faiths; choosing to focus on ways that we can work together rather then be divided. The fruits of those collaborative efforts are in our many ecumenical partnerships that have been established as “full communion” (meaning that we have reached agreements on many of the issues that used to keep us apart). At present the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in Full Communion with these Protestant denominations:
The ELCA has an ongoing dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1999, representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This represented a historic consensus on key issues of faith and called for further dialogue and study together.
To learn more about these ecumenical relationships, visit Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.