What is an "ELCA Lutheran" Anyway --- And What Makes Us "Different?"
Members of the 5-million member strong Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] is the contemporary expression of three older church bodies: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America
Lutherans are Christians who accept the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) – a German theologian who realized significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church.
The “95 Theses”
On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the door of Wittenberg University, titled “95 Theses” (to debate 95 theological issues) with the hope that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible. What started as an academic debate escalated into a distinct separation between the Roman Catholic Church of the time and those who accepted Luther’s suggested reforms, known as the “Protestant Reformation.”
The name “Lutheran” originally was a derogatory term used by those opposed to Luther’s theology, but eventually became the name of the group that agreed with Luther’s convictions. 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: We are saved by the grace of God alone – not by anything we do; Our salvation is through faith alone — a confident trust in God, who in Christ promises us forgiveness, life and salvation; and The Bible is the norm for faith and life – the true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.
Continuing to Re-form
Because of Jesus Christ, we recognize a wide fellowship of churches around the world and work alongside them in ecumenical ministry and service, both in the United States and across the globe. Lutherans are part of a reforming movement within the whole Christian church, engaging in ecumenical dialogue with other church bodies for decades.
In fact, we have cooperative full communion agreements (sharing common convictions about theology, mission and worship) with several other Protestant denominations, including Moravians, Episcopalians, Presbyterians (U.S.A.),The Reformed Church in America, The United Church of Christ and United Methodists.
The ELCA also 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, representing a historic consensus on key issues of faith, and calling for further dialogue and study together.
Lutheranism is a faith tradition that is open to all, regardless of background. The ELCA has nearly 10,500 congregations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
We welcome you to learn more about our church and find out how we can help you along life’s path. To see more about what our state organization, the Virginia Synod, is doing, check out their website at http://www.vasynod.org/