We see God, the world, others, and ourselves through a variety of different faith understandings. Here are those core ideas that bind us together in a common mission and ministry.
WHAT'S A LUTHERAN?
A Lutheran is a Christian
This family of Christians began during the Protestant Reformation. With a membership estimate at around 80 million worldwide, Lutheranism is the third-largest Protestant movement.
A Lutheran Follows the Teachings of Jesus
Our understanding of this was articulated by Martin Luther in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in his attempt to reform the Catholic Church. We believe Jesus taught a radical way of love that included all people, especially those who knew oppression, exclusion, or rejection. Jesus eventually became the ultimate example of that love.
A Lutheran is Centered in the Cross
We know of no other God than the one we see in Jesus on the cross. There at the cross, the heart of God is exposed, vulnerable, and bleeding for the sake of the world. The cross, the primary symbol of Lutheran faith, stands for the greatest act of love the world has ever known. Through this act, we are reconciled with God and are no longer separated because of sin, our human brokenness. Jesus rising from the dead or resurrection, validates this gift of love and becomes the sign of new life for all.
A Lutheran is Evangelical
Luther’s opponents first used the term “Lutheran” in 1519, but Luther preferred the term “Evangelical.” Lutherans later adopted this label for themselves.
A Lutheran is Into the Bible
The Word of God speaks truth in to our lives and is the main source of our understanding of God, ourselves, and the world. Through the story within its pages, we meet Jesus, the Son of God, and discover the heart of God for all people. We hold that Scripture is not necessarily always accurate in all its details, recognizing it also reflects cultural values and biases in the time it was written. We believe God’s Spirit continues to enlighten the church with new understanding and interpretation of the Bible, making it a living and breathing source of life and inspiration.
A Lutheran is Part of a Larger Church
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
A Lutheran is Sacramental
Lutherans observe baptism and communion (the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist). In baptism, we are offered forgiveness of sin and welcomed into the Christian family. In communion, we receive the true body and blood of Christ and are nourished for life’s journey.
A Lutheran Lives in Grace
Grace means simply “the free gift of God’s love.” There’s nothing we can do to earn or deserve God’s love. It is ours because God gives it to all people. You don’t have to accept it or reach out and take it to make it effective. Rather, as we acknowledge God’s goodness, we receive it into our lives. Every day becomes a celebration of grace and living out of our gratitude for it. You are loved by God! Period!
NOT WHAT YOU THINK!
The Word “Evangelical” can Certainly be a Point of Confusion!
“Evangelical” comes from a Greek word and means “good news.” We use it to talk about the good news of Jesus in that we are loved by God and saved by God’s grace, not by the good things we do. It is a word that goes back to our Lutheran roots where the original Lutheran church in Germany was the “Evangelische Kirche” (Evangelical Church).
Unfortunately, the word has been hijacked in the past 50 years by the conservative religious right and is often associated with a specific kind of Christian. Associations with the “e” word today imply legalistic theology, a literal interpretation of the Bible, dismissal of opposing viewpoints, perceived hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community, skepticism of science and academia, and understandings of such issues as masculinity, femininity, family and marriage that many find oppressive. What holds this group together seems to be their position on moral issues like abortion and gun control.
We are part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and even now, we are bold to reclaim the word “evangelical.” In a sense, only in recent history has it been stolen by a small group of Christians who are more legalistic than evangelistic. As Lutherans, we have been evangelical long before some people came and distorted the term.
So, don’t let the “e” word scare you away. It’s time we take back our namesake and teach the world again that evangelical means love not hate, affirmation not oppression, open not narrow-minded. Let’s share the love of God with everyone, all people, for all need to hear the good news!
We are “good news” people and seek to live out this self-understanding by sharing an open and loving, affirming and embracing extension of God’s love.