The year 2017 is the 500th Anniversary of Lutheranism.
It’s pretty amazing, really… that the efforts made by a young Augustinian monk named Martin Luther back in the early 1500’s to remedy a few issues within the Roman Catholic Church of his day… would eventually give birth to the third largest Christian denomination in the world (third only to the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches). Worldwide, Lutherans number almost 70 million. In the Americas, there are about 11 million. And of those, 4.8 million were ELCA Lutherans as of 2008. As of December 2014, there are 3.7 million ELCA Lutherans.
But who are Lutherans?
We are catholic in that we are part of the universal, apostolic Church. We claim no exclusive access to God, but share many things in common with our brothers and sisters of other Christian denominations.
We are evangelical in the original sense of the word, which comes from the Greek word for “gospel” or “good news”. We hold the gospel of Jesus Christ to be central to our own sense of who we are as a people of God. In fact, we are still known as “evangelische” among the European churches, not as “Lutheran”, which was originally used as a term of derision.
We are liturgical, following the church seasonal calendar, as well as the lectionary. (There are pages describing both of these on this website.) And while there is both freedom and room for different worship styles, historically, most Lutheran congregations have kept the structure of the mass as our order of worship, which we inherited from our Roman Catholic roots.
We are sacramental, believing that through the power and promise of the Word, combined with such earthly elements as water, bread, and wine, God reaches out to bless us with life, grace, and salvation. (Please see the page on this website that focuses upon the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.)
We are biblical, looking to the Word of God as the authoritative source and norm for our identity, our mission, and our life in this world (I Thessalonians 2:13 and II Timothy 3:16).
We are confessional, proclaiming our faith through the words of the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. We also hold as true the statements of faith found in the Book of Concord.
And we are ecumenical, continually reaching across denominational lines to become partners in ministry with others.