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Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELCA logo
Classification Protestant
Orientation Mainline Protestant
Theology Combination of Old and Neo-Lutheranism with Confessing Movement, Evangelical Catholic, High Church, Haugean, Pietist, charismatic, progressive, leftist, feminist, and moderate to liberal influences
Polity Congregational and episcopal influences
Organizational structure The three levels of structure are the national church, 65 middle level synods, and local congregations
Leader Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson
Associations Lutheran World Federation, Christian Churches Together, Churches Uniting in Christ, National Council of Churches, World Council of Churches
Geographical areas United States and Caribbean
Origin Constituting Convention on April 30, 1987 in Columbus, Ohio,[1] operations began January 1, 1988[2]
Merge of Lutheran Church in America,
American Lutheran Church,
Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches
Separations Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, Lutheran Confessional Synod, Alliance of Renewal Churches, Augustana Orthodox and Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas,[3] Evangelical Mekane Yesus Fellowship in North America, Union of Oromo Evangelical Churches,[4] Fellowship of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, North American Lutheran Church
Congregations 10,396
Members 4,633,887 Baptized members
3,483,336 Confirmed members
2,439,494 Confirmed members took communion in the last two years
258,376 Unconfirmed members took communion in the last two years
2,499,877 Voting members[5]

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is a mainline Protestant denomination headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The ELCA officially came into existence on January 1, 1988, by the merging of three churches and currently has about 4,633,887 baptized members. It is the seventh-largest religious body[6] and the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.[7] The next two largest Lutheran denominations are the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (with approximately 2.41 million members[8]) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (with approximately 390,000 members). There are also many smaller Lutheran church bodies in the United States.



The ELCA formally came into existence on January 1, 1988, creating the largest Lutheran church body in the United States. The Church is a result of a merger between the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), all of which had formally agreed in 1982 to unite after several years of discussions. The ELCA's three predecessor churches were themselves the product of previous mergers and splits among various independent Lutheran synods in the United States.[9]


The American Lutheran Church

In 1960 the American Lutheran Church, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church merged to form The American Lutheran Church, with the Lutheran Free Church joining in 1963. The ALC brought approximately 2.25 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Norway, and Denmark. It was the most theologically conservative of the forming bodies, having a heritage of Old Lutheran theology.[10] It joined in fellowship with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and officially held to biblical inerrancy in its constitution, although it seldom enforced it by means of heresy trials and other doctrinal discipline. Its geographic center was in the Upper Midwest, especially Minnesota). Some congregations in the ALC opted not to join the merger and instead formed the American Association of Lutheran Churches.

The Lutheran Church in America

In 1962 the United Lutheran Church in America, the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Danish American Evangelical Lutheran Church formed the Lutheran Church in America. The LCA brought approximately 2.85 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Sweden, Slovakia, Denmark and Finland. Its demographic focus was on the East Coast (centered on Pennsylvania), with large numbers in the Midwest and some presence in the Southern Atlantic states. There are notable exceptions, but LCA-background churches tend to be more liturgical than ALC-background churches. Its theological orientation ranged from moderately liberal to neo-orthodox, with tendencies toward conservative Pietism in some rural and small-town congregations. Its theology originated in the Neo-Lutheran movement.[11]

The Seminex logo, circa 1974, depicting new life springing from a dead trunk. Design by Seminex faculty member Robert Werberig.

The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches

In 1976 the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) was formed from congregations that left the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in a schism precipitated by progressive-traditionalist disputes over higher criticism, academic freedom and ecumenism. Its establishment was precipitated by the Seminex controversy at the LCMS's Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1974. The AELC brought approximately 100,000 members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany; the complexion of its theology generally resembled that of the LCA, as the dissenting former "moderate" faction of the LCMS.


Mark S. Hanson, Third Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, speaking at the inauguration of Augsburg College President Paul C. Pribbenow on Oct. 20 2006. (Credit: Caleb Williams, Augsburg College Echo newspaper)

The ELCA is headed by a Presiding Bishop, who is elected by the Churchwide Assembly for a term of six years. To date, three pastors have been elected to the position of presiding bishop of the ELCA. Herbert W. Chilstrom served as the first presiding bishop from 1988 to 1995. He was followed by H. George Anderson (1995-2001), who had previously been the President of Luther College. The current presiding bishop is Mark S. Hanson, who also serves as president of the Lutheran World Federation. Hanson began his tenure as bishop in 2001; he was re-elected in August 2007 for a second term.

Lutherans of the United States
 Lutheranism portal

The ELCA is divided into 65 synods, one of which is non-geographical (the Slovak Zion Synod) and 64 regional synods in the United States and the Caribbean, each headed by a synodical bishop and council.[12] Within the ELCA the term synod refers to the middle judicatory, which is referred to in some other denominations as "districts" or "dioceses".

Outside of the United States, ELCA also has congregations in the Caribbean region (Bahamas, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and one congregation in the border city of Windsor, Ontario, a member of the Slovak Zion Synod. Before 1986, some of the congregations that form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada were part of the ELCA's predecessor churches.

Within the church structure are divisions addressing many programs and ministries. Among these are support for global mission, outdoor ministries, campus ministries, social ministries, and education. They include the Lutheran Peace Fellowship, Lutheran Women's Caucus, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, and the Lutheran Youth Organization ELCA Youth Gathering. The denominational publishing house is Augsburg Fortress, and the official denominational magazine is The Lutheran. ELCA predecessor bodies established twenty-seven colleges and universities now affiliated with the ELCA.

Most local congregations are legally independent non-profit corporations that own their own property. Actual governing practice within the congregation ranges from congregational voters' assemblies to elder-and-council-led, to congregations where the senior pastor wields great, if informal, power (more common in larger churches).[13]


Luther's Seal
 Lutheranism portal


Lutheranism is associated with the German reformer Martin Luther, with its official confessional writings found in the Book of Concord. The ELCA accepts the unaltered Augsburg Confession (not the variata) as a true witness to the Gospel. The ELCA is less conservative than the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) or Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the second and third largest Lutheran bodies in the United States respectively.[14] Although having a sizable conservative minority, most ELCA Lutherans are theologically moderate-to-liberal. Most other Lutheran bodies in the U.S. hold more strictly to Confessional Lutheranism, Pietism, or a combination of the two, than the ELCA does.

Differences within the ELCA

The ELCA has many differences of opinion among its constituent congregations, which have caused a number of disputes over social and doctrinal issues. In part, this is due to the fact that it assimilated three different Lutheran church bodies, each with its own factions and divisions, thus inheriting old intra-group conflicts while creating new inter-group ones. Differences on issues usually reflect theological disputes between various parties.

The ELCA is a very broad organization. It contains groups of socially conservative or liberal factions with focuses on various topics such as liturgical renewal,[15][16] confessional Lutheranism, charismatic revivalism, moderate to liberal theology, and liberal activism. The theologically liberal segment of the ELCA is represented by independent organizations such as Lutherans Concerned/North America, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries, and the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women's Caucus. Adherents of Evangelical Catholicism practice High Church Lutheranism and include the members of the Society of the Holy Trinity. Those oriented toward Confessional Lutheranism, Evangelicalism, or an admixture of the two include the WordAlone network and those involved with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. Members of the Charismatic Movement include congregations and pastors associated with the Alliance of Renewal Churches.


The ELCA constitution asserts:

This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." [17]

ELCA clergy tend not to subscribe to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy, but see validity in various scholarly methods of analysis to help in understanding the Bible.[18] This is in concord with most liberal Protestant bodies and in contrast to the LCMS and WELS, which practice the historical-grammatical method of biblical interpretation.


Like other Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA confesses at least two Sacraments, Communion (or the Eucharist) and Holy Baptism (including infant baptism). Confession and absolution is often included as a Sacrament, however, as it is a return to the forgiveness given in baptism, strictly speaking there are only two sacraments. Guidance on sacramental practices in the ELCA is provided in The Use of the Means of Grace, a statement adopted by the 1997 Churchwide Assembly.[19]

In addition to the two sacraments, ELCA churches also practice the other five sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church - not as sacraments, but as acts that are sacramental in character, or sacramentals. These include confirmation, ordination, anointing the sick, confession and absolution, and marriage. Their practice and their view as "minor sacraments" varies between churches of a "high" and "low" church nature.

Eucharist, also called the Lord's Supper

The ELCA holds to the Lutheran doctrine of the Sacramental Union, that is, that Christ's body and blood is truly present "in, with and under" the bread and wine.[20] All communicants orally receive not only bread and wine, but also the same body and blood of Christ that was given for them on the cross.[21] Members of other denominations sometimes erroneously perceive this as a belief in consubstantiation. Lutherans, however, reject the philosophical explanation of consubstantiation, preferring to see the presence of the Lord's body and blood as mysterious rather than explainable by human philosophy. The Lutheran belief in the mysterious character of the consecrated bread and wine is more similar to Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief than most Protestants. In contrast, most Protestant church bodies doubt or openly deny that the true body and blood of Christ is eaten in the Lord's Supper.

Unlike certain other American Lutheran church bodies, the ELCA practices open communion, permitting all persons baptized in the name of the Trinity with water to receive communion. Some congregations also commune baptized infants similarly to Eastern Orthodox practice. The ELCA encourages its churches to practice the Eucharist at all services, although some churches alternate between non-communion services with those containing the Lord's Supper.

Social issues

The ELCA's stances on social issues are outlined in its Social Statements and Messages[22]. Social Statements, which must be adopted by a 2/3 majority of a Churchwide Assembly, have been adopted on the following topics:

Abortion (1991)
Church in Society (1991)
Death Penalty (1991)
Economic Life (1999)
Education (2007)
Environment (1993)
Health and Health Care (2003)
Human Sexuality (2009)
Peace (1995)
Race, Ethnicity & Culture (1993)

Role of women

The ELCA ordains women as pastors, a practice that all three of its predecessor churches adopted in the 1970s. Some have become synod bishops. The most recent ELCA hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, has alternate gender-neutral invocations and benedictions in all settings. All of the psalms and many of the hymns and parts of the liturgy have been altered to remove masculine pronouns referring to God.[23]

Augustana Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C. is a "Reconciling in Christ" congregation, meaning they welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered clergy

On August 21, 2009, the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis voted to ordain gays and lesbians in committed monogamous relationships to serve as clergy.[24] By a vote of 559 to 451, delegates approved a resolution declaring that the church would find a way for people in "publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gender relationships" to serve as official ministers. Congregations that do not wish to call these persons to ordained ministry are not required by these policy changes to do so.[25]

In reaction, Lutheran CORE, which opposed the decision, stated that it would, "initiate a process that we hope will lead to a reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism."[26] In 2008, 37% of ELCA pastors were found to support same-sex marriage.[27]

In October 2009, the board of one of the ELCA's partner churches, the Evangelical Mekane Yesus Fellowship in North America, voted to declare disunity with the ELCA. A press release stated that the board was no longer "in good conscience" "able to commune and partner with ELCA Church that has willfully disobeyed the word of God and regrettably departed from the clear instructions of the Holy Scriptures" that "marriage is only between a man and a woman."[28]

Creation and evolution

The ELCA has not adopted an official position on creation or evolution, but there is general agreement on interpreting the Bible within its historical contexts and applying critical methods of research.


The issue of abortion is a matter of contention within the ELCA. In a Social Statement adopted in 1991,[29] the church set out its position on the matter as follows. The ELCA describes itself as "a community supportive of life," and encourages women to explore alternatives to abortion such as adoption. However, the Social Statement asserts that there are certain circumstances under which a decision to end a pregnancy can be "morally responsible." These include cases where the pregnancy "presents a clear threat to the physical life of the woman," situations where "the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse," and "circumstances of extreme fetal abnormality, which will result in severe suffering and very early death of an infant." Regardless of the reason, the ELCA opposes abortion when "a fetus is developed enough to live outside a uterus with the aid of reasonable and necessary technology." The ELCA opposes "laws that deny access to safe and affordable services for morally justifiable abortions," and "laws that are primarily intended to harass those contemplating or deciding for an abortion." The statement emphasizes the prevention of circumstances leading to abortion, specifically encouraging "appropriate forms of sex education in schools, community pregnancy prevention programs, and parenting preparation classes."


Churchwide Assemblies

The Churchwide Assembly meets biennially in odd-numbered years and consists of elected lay and ordained voting members; between meetings of the Churchwide Assembly, the ELCA Church Council governs the denomination.

1987 Columbus, Ohio (ELCA Constituting Convention)
1989 Chicago, Illinois
1991 Orlando, Florida
1993 Kansas City, Missouri
1995 Minneapolis, Minnesota
1997 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
1999 Denver, Colorado
2001 Indianapolis, Indiana
2003 Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2005 Orlando, Florida
2007 Chicago, Illinois
2009 Minneapolis, Minnesota
2011 Orlando, Florida

Church Fellowship

The ELCA is a member of the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and Christian Churches Together and is a "partner in mission and dialog" with the Churches Uniting in Christ.

The Church maintains full communion relationships with member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (which is a communion of 140 autonomous national/regional Lutheran church bodies in 78 countries around the world, representing nearly 66 million Christians), the Moravian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (the U.S. branch of the Anglican Communion), and the United Methodist Church.

On October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, Germany, the Lutheran World Federation – of which the ELCA is a member – signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Roman Catholic Church. The statement is an attempt to reconcile an historical theological divide between the two faiths. The Declaration also states that the mutual condemnations between 16th century Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church no longer apply to those that have signed onto the document.


The differences between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) arise from theological, historical, and cultural factors. The LCMS was in fellowship with the American Lutheran Church, one of the ELCA predecessor bodies. Although the denominations cooperate through Lutheran World Relief and military chaplaincy, they are not officially in communion with each other.

When the first Lutheran immigrants came to North America, they started church bodies that reflected, to some degree, the churches they left behind in Europe. Many maintained until the early 20th century their immigrant languages. They sought pastors from the "old country" until patterns for the education of clergy could be developed here. Eventually, seminaries and church colleges were established in many places to prepare pastors to serve congregations.

The earliest predecessor synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was constituted on August 25, 1748, in Philadelphia. It was known as the Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States. The ELCA was created in 1988 by the merging of the 2.85 million member Lutheran Church in America, 2.25 million member American Lutheran Church, and the 100,000 member Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Previously, the ALC and LCA in the early 1960s came into being as a result of mergers of eight smaller ethnically-based Lutheran bodies composed of German, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Slovak, Dutch, and other folk.

The LCMS was established in 1847 by German immigrants fleeing the forced Prussian Union, who settled in Perry County, Missouri. The LCMS is the second largest Lutheran church body in North America with 2.4 million adherents. It differs from the ELCA in that the LCMS prefers a more direct application of biblical teaching to modern times, does not practice the ordination of women, and does not practice open communion. In the mid-1970s the Seminex controversy over use of historical-critical biblical study led to the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, one of the predecessor bodies of the ELCA.

The ELCA tends to be more involved in ecumenical endeavors than the LCMS, which prohibits its clergy from worshiping in ecumenical gatherings. The ELCA is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churches and the National Council of Churches USA. The LCMS rejects these as being unionist.

Results from the Pew Research Center U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 2008:[30]

Pew Survey Results by Denomination LCMS ELCA
Number of adults surveyed out of total of 35,556: 588 869
Percent of adults in the United States: 1.4% 2.0%
Percent of adult Protestants in the United States: 2.7% 3.8%
Do you believe in God or a universal spirit? Absolutely Certain: 84% 77%
Fairly Certain: 12% 19%
Do not believe in God: 1% 0%
Don't Know/Refused/Other: 1% 1%
The Bible Word of God to be taken literally word for word: 42% 23%
Word of God, but not literally true word for word/Unsure if literally true: 39% 48%
Book written by men, not the word of God: 15% 20%
Don't Know/Refused/Other: 4% 9%
Abortion Abortion should be legal in all cases: 16% 18%
Abortion should be legal in most cases: 35% 42%
Abortion should be illegal in most cases: 32% 26%
Abortion should be illegal in all cases: 13% 6%
Don't know/Refused: 5% 7%
Interpretation of Religious Teachings There is only ONE true way to interpret the teachings of my religion: 28% 15%
There is MORE than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion: 68% 82%
Neither/Both Equally: 1% 1%
Don't Know/Refused: 3% 2%
Homosexuality Homosexuality should be accepted: 44% 56%
Homosexuality should be discouraged: 47% 33%
Neither/Both Equally: 4% 3%
Don't Know/Refused: 5% 3%

Comparison to LCMS in ELCA's point of view according to the Honoring Our Neighbor's Faith [31] These conclusions are not agreed upon by the WELS or LCMS.

1 Believe in triune God Same
2 Accept Lutheran Confessions as true teachings of biblical faith Same
3 Believe that God comes to us through the Word and the sacraments Same
4 Teach justification by grace through faith Same
5 Believe that the Bible should not be subject to higher critical methods Many within the ELCA believe that the Bible can speak effectively through the use of higher critical study.
6 Believe that the Bible restricts women from certain church positions including ordained ministry Believes the Bible permits, even encourages, full participation by women in the life of the church
7 High degree of doctrinal agreement necessary before fellowship is possible Agreement on a more basic level is sufficient for fellowship.


A pastor in an ELCA church

As a Lutheran church body, the ELCA professes belief in the "priesthood of all believers" as reflected in Martin Luther's To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, that all baptized persons have equal access to God and are all called to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ. Some people are called to "rostered ministry", or vocations of church leadership and service. After formation, theological training, and approval by local synods these people are "set aside, but not above" through ordination or commissioning/consecration. The Division for Ministry at the ELCA's headquarters is responsible for the oversight and pastoral care of rostered ministers, in addition to the synodical bishop.[32] More and more ELCA congregations are employing specialized and even general ministers outside of this national oversight. The ELCA currently has four types of rostered ministers:

Pastor (Priest)

An ordained minister is called to the "office of public ministry" of "Word and sacrament" and considered a "steward of the mysteries" of the Church (i.e., the means of grace). Pastors primarily serve congregations, but this role has been expanded to include other forms of ministry as well (e.g., hospital and military chaplains). Pastors are ordinarily trained at one of eight ELCA seminaries located throughout the United States, although there are alternative paths for ordination to serve particular communities in which it is difficult to provide trained leaders or to allow rostering of clergy transferred from other denominations. Pastors generally hold a Bachelor of Arts degree or its equivalent, as well as a four-year master of divinity degree, are required to learn biblical Hebrew and Greek, and are required to complete a one-year internship of full-time service in pastoral ministry. A bishop is a pastor called to serve either a synod or as presiding bishop of the ELCA. A bishop is only a bishop as long as he or she serves in that office and returns to being known simply as a pastor when service as a bishop ends.

Diaconal minister

Diaconal Ministers are ministers of Word and Service who may serve as a chaplains, youth ministers, or in some aspect of social justice or advocacy work. This is the newest category established by the ELCA. A Diaconal minister is similar to the role performed by permanent deacons in the Episcopal Church.


A Deaconess is a lay woman, married or single, who serves the Church in a variety of ways. Traditionally, deaconesses served in the caring professions as nurses, social workers, or teachers.

Associate in Ministry

Serves local congregations, synods or other ministries in a variety of roles as parish administrators, parish musicians, youth ministry leaders, or other positions.


Published in 2006, Evangelical Lutheran Worship is the main hymnal used in congregations. Many ELCA congregations are classically liturgical churches. Their liturgy is rooted in the Western liturgical tradition, though Lutheran-Orthodox dialog has some minimal influence on Lutheran liturgy. Because of its use of the Book of Concord, including Luther's Small Catechism and its retention of many pre-Reformation traditions, such as vestments, feast days, the sign of the cross, and the usage of a church-wide liturgy, there are many aspects of the typical ELCA church that are very catholic and traditional in nature. Many Lutheran churches use traditional vestments (alb, cincture, stole, chasuble, cope, etc.). Since the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, most major parts of the ELCA's popular liturgies are worded exactly like the English Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Many ELCA congregations use informal styles of worship or a blend of traditional and contemporary liturgical forms.

Springing from its revered heritage in the Lutheran Chorale, the musical life of ELCA congregations is just as diverse as its worship. Johann Sebastian Bach and African songs are part of the heritage and breadth of Lutheran church music. The musical portion of the Lutheran liturgy includes metrical psalter, metrical responses and hymns. Evangelical Lutheran Worship has ten settings of Holy Communion, for example. They range from plainsong chant, to Gospel, to Latin-style music. Congregations worship in many languages, many of which are represented in Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Other books used in ELCA churches include the Lutheran Book of Worship, With One Voice, This Far by Faith, and Libro de Liturgia y Cántico.


Results from the Pew Research Center U.S. Religious Landscape Survey of 2008:[33]

Demographic Results for 2008 ELCA LCMS Total Population
Age 18-29 8% 11% 20%
30-49 36% 32% 39%
50-64 29% 31% 25%
65+ 27% 26% 16%
Marital Status Never Married 11% 11% 19%
Married 63% 60% 54%
Living with Partner 3% 5% 6%
Divorced/Separated 10% 11% 12%
Widowed 13% 13% 8%
Children at home under 18 No Children 70% 72% 65%
One Child 11% 11% 13%
Two Children 13% 10% 13%
Three Children 5% 5% 6%
Four or more Children 1% 2% 3%
Race White (non-Hispanic) 97% 95% 71%
Black (non-Hispanic) 1% 2% 11%
Asian (non-Hispanic) 1% 1% 3%
Other/Mixed (non-Hispanic) 1% 1% 3%
Latino 1% 1% 12%
Region Northeast 19% 7% 19%
Midwest 51% 64% 23%
South 16% 16% 36%
West 14% 13% 22%
Gender Male 44% 47% 48%
Female 56% 53% 52%
Level of Education Less than High School 6% 9% 14%
Graduated High School 38% 38% 36%
Some College 26% 25% 23%
Graduated College 19% 18% 16%
Post-graduate 11% 9% 11%
Family Income Less than $30,000 24% 24% 31%
$30,000-$49,999 24% 20% 22%
$50,000-$74,999 21% 20% 17%
$75,000-$99,999 15% 18% 13%
$100,000 or more 17% 17% 18%

Clergy Sexual Abuse Cases

In March and April 2004, the ELCA agreed to pay the largest per capita settlement in a church abuse case in the United States to date. The payment was a combination of a jury award and a separate settlement, both stemming from civil suits filed by fourteen plaintiffs against the ELCA, a member synod, several church officials, one of the church's seminaries, and one of its congregations. The plaintiffs charged that they had been sexually abused by an ELCA minister at a church in Marshall, Texas, and that the defendants had been negligent in their oversight and evaluation of the offender. Seeking to reassure member congregations, a church spokesperson subsequently noted that "ELCA bishops do not have authority to reassign clergy, and they do not move known perpetrators to other ministry locations." The offending minister was convicted and sentenced to prison in 2003, and removed from the ELCA's clergy roster.

In January 2007, Kathleen Hopkins of the Asbury Park Press, Toms River, New Jersey, reported,

"Eight more men have come forward to join a lawsuit alleging they were molested as children during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by a now-deceased, one-time pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran Church in Brick. That brings to 19 the number of men making allegations against the Rev. Robert L. Slegel. In the year since the lawsuit was filed, the number of plaintiffs has grown from six, each of whom was seeking $5 million in damages. With the additional plaintiffs, the damages sought have grown to about $95 million, said their Toms River attorney, Robert R. Fuggi."[34]

See also


  1. ^ ELCA Constituting Convention
  2. ^ ELCA Family History 1900s
  3. ^ Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Texas website
  4. ^ Here We Stand: Response of The Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Churches of the ELCA to the 2009 ELCA Church Wide Assembly on the Social Statement of human sexuality
  5. ^ ELCA statistics for 2008. A small number of churches may not have recorded those that took communion in the last two years. Some churches allow child communion before confirmation, others do not.
  6. ^ NCC's 2010 Yearbook chronicles church trends
  7. ^ ELCA Quick Facts, retrieved December 13, 2007
  8. ^ "About Us". Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-08. 
  9. ^ For example, see Lowell Almen, One Great Cloud of Witnesses, (Minneapolis:Augsburg Fortress, 1997) p.9-12 for a brief recounting of the formation of the ELCA; or the Roots of the ELCA is available online (retrieved March 27, 2007
  10. ^ Nelson, E. Clifford. The Lutherans in North America. Revised ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1980. p. 509
  11. ^ Nelson, E. Clifford. The Lutherans in North America. Revised ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1980. p. 509
  12. ^ For further information about the ELCA's structure and organization, see 2005 ELCA Constitution (pdf document, retrieved March 27, 2007)
  13. ^ See the Model Constitution for Congregations (retrieved March 27, 2007) - especially Chapter 5 "Powers of the Congregation" and Chapter 7 "Property Ownership".
  14. ^ See also, and
  15. ^
  16. ^ Cimino, Richard. Lutherans Today, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 2003, 81-101.
  17. ^ For more information on the history and current documents of the ELCA, look at other resources linked to the "About the ELCA" section of the [ELCA] Web site. See the series of essays, "With Confidence in God's Future" for more on ELCA's ecumenical outlook. Get it in [Word], or [PDF] format.
  18. ^ See The Bible on the ELCA website or Higher Criticism in the Christian Cyclopedia.
  19. ^
  20. ^ The Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord, Article 8, The Holy Supper, paragraph 38.
  21. ^ Cf. unaltered Augsburg Confession, Article 10: Of the Lord's Supper.
  22. ^
  23. ^ ELCA/ELCiC Celebrate New Hymnal. The Lutheran Hedgehog 1(5). Sept.-Oct. 2006. p 6.
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ Spring, Paull W. Update on Lutheran CORE's Convocation Accessed online on September 27, 2009 at
  27. ^ Robert P. Jones, Ph.D. and Daniel Cox. Mainline Protestant Clergy Views on Theology and Gay and Lesbian Issues: Findings from the 2008 Clergy Voices Survey. p. 7. Accessed online on September 26, 2009 at [1]
  28. ^ Mekane Yesus members fellowship rejects to roster homosexuals for Church Ministry Accessed November 21,2009.
  29. ^ [2]
  30. ^ U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Diverse and Politically Relevant. Washington D.C.: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. June 2008. Accessed online on September 27, 2009 at
  31. ^ p. 86 Honoring Our Neighbor's Faith, Robert Buckley Farlee (ed.), Chicago: Augsburg Fortress, 1999. ISBN 0-8066-3846-X
  32. ^ Information on the Division's work and the various types of rostered ministry can be found at the Division's web page.
  33. ^ U.S. Religious Landscape Survey: Religious Beliefs and Practices, Diverse and Politically Relevant: Detailed Data Tables. Washington D.C.: Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. June 2008. Accessed online on November 21, 2009 at
  34. ^ Asbury Park Press, "8 more join lawsuit alleging molestation by ex-Brick pastor" January 3, 2007 APP Press Full Story

External links

A history of many of the bodies that merged to form ELCA:


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