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Temperance Movements and the Lutheran Church.

Temperance movements, advocating abstinence from use of intoxicants, try to deal with an old problem (cf. Gn 9:21). Unsuccessful attempts to cope with the problem in the US by state and local laws in the 19th and 20th c. led to the 18th Amendment to the Const. of the US, which went into effect early 1920 and prohibited “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes.” The Volstead Act (named after its author, congressman Andrew John Volstead; 1860–1947; b. Goodhue Co., Minnesota; mem. US House of Representatives 1902–22), passed October 1919, designed for enforcement of the 18th Amendment, defined intoxicants as beverages with “one-half of one per centum or more of alcohol by volume.” The 21st Amendment, passed and ratified 1933, repealed the 18th or Prohibition Amendment.

Maine enacted a law 1846 prohibiting the sale of liquor by any except those designated by selectmen.

The General* Syn. of the Ev. Luth. Ch. in the USA resolved 1853 that “this General Synod views with pleasure the success thus far attending the efforts for the removal of Intemperance by the introduction of the Maine Liquor Law, and would be glad to see our ministers and people co-operating with others in extending its principles throughout our land” (Proceedings, p. 47); 1889: “The General Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the United States, in Allegheny assembled, in accord with previous deliverances of the Synod, bids the Prohibitory Constitutional Amendment in Pennsylvania Godspeed, and hopes her members, in the exercise of their Christian liberty as citizens, will all vote for it” (Proceedings, p. 8); but Pennsylvania rejected the proposed amendment. In 1918 the Gen. Syn. adopted the report of its Committee on Temperance, which stated: “For this [widespread state ratification of the 18th Amendment] and all the great victories over the organized and nefarious liquor traffic we give devout thanks to the great Head of the Church, Who has beyond question providentially led and helped us in the great contest. Our Church of the General Synod has ever been found on the right side, and by her ministers and laymen has actively and practically assisted in achieving this most significant victory of moral reform of all time” (Proceedings, p. 111).

The Ev. Luth. Syn. of N. Illinois* resolved 1853 that “we, as a Synod, and as individuals, will give our influence to the introduction and establishment of a 'liquor law,' that shall be similar in its provisions to the 'Maine Law,' for the total suppression of this evil” (Minutes, p. 17).

In 1890 The United* Norw. Luth. Ch. in Am. resolved “that it is the duty of every church member and of every citizen to take active part by word and example in wiping out this impious and ruinous traffic” (Proceedings, p. 122),

The Scand. Ev. Luth. Augustana Syn. (see Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church) resolved 1889 “I. That we regard it as the duty of the Christian Church earnestly to require of its members to lead a strictly temperate life.

“II. That it is the duty of every church-member to use all his or her influence and such lawful christian means as are at his or her disposal in the furtherance of true temperance in society and the state at large.

“III. That it is the special duty of parents and guardians to youth thoroughly to instruct them in the principle of true temperance, properly to present to them the evils of intemperance according to the teachings of God's Word, science and every-day experience” (Proceedings, p. 81).

1890 Augustana Syn. Proceedings, pp. 81–82: “Resolved by the Scand. Ev. Luth. Augustana Synod … That it heartily endorses the action of the Nebraska Conference in making preparations for a vigorous campaign, and that it recommends to the voters of that state the adoption of the Prohibition Amendment to the State Constitution at the next November election;

“Furthermore that as material aid is in great need in this campaign, we as a Synod also recommend to our people to give liberal donations to the Nebraska Prohibitory Campaign fund.”

In 1930 the Augustana Syn. resolved to “reaffirm our steadfast purpose to oppose any and all measures looking to the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment” (Proceedings, p. 45).

Other syns. took similar stands and action.

LCMS passed no resolutions on manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquors (cf. Ro 14:3, 15–21) but holds that excessive drinking is sinful and that reform can be achieved only through the Gospel of Christ. ARS

See also Alcoholism.


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod


Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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