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American Lutheran Church, The.

Constituting convention met April 22–24, 1960, Minneapolis, Minnesota The ALC, merger of the American* Luth. Ch., The Evangelical* Luth. Ch., and the United Ev. Luth. Ch. (see Danish Lutherans in America, 5–6), began functioning January 1, 1961. The Lutheran* Free Ch. became part of The ALC on February 1, 1963. HQ: 422 S. 5th St., Minneapolis, Minnesota 55415. Pres.; Fredrik Axel Schiotz 1960–70; K. S. Knutson* 1971–73; David W. Preus 1973–.

I. Background.

Though not the 1st merger of syns. with diverse nat. backgrounds, the ALC was the 1st such large-scale combination in Am. It brought together groups that for generations had had strong orientation to Dan., Ger., and Norw. backgrounds in language and to a degree in patterss of piety. As evidence of Americanization of these originally for.-language groups, the merger was a major event in Am. Luth. hist.

The ALC grew out of the close assoc. of these syns. in the American* Luth. Conf. Cooperative ventures 1930–50 paved the way for consideration of merger. Inasmuch as all the conf. syns. were also in the NLC, there were 2 possible avenues to further unity. In 1949 the Augustana Luth. Ch. (see Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church) proposed an all-NLC merger, and the UELC a merger of the conf. syns. In 1950 the ALC, ELC, and UELC approved the latter plan and rejected the more inclusive merger, partially at least because they wanted discussion of doctrinal and practical issues to precede any merger with syns. outside the conf. The Augustana Luth. Ch. (a conf. mem.) and the ULC(A) (nonconf.), convinced that there were no unsolved important issues, continued to advocate the larger merger. Yet the Augustana Luth. Ch. helped plan for the conf. merger till 1952, withdrawing then because the merger was not inclusive enough and because it feared that ecumenical relationships would not receive adequate attention.

As evidence of unified approach to doctrine and ch. life the conf. syns. adopted United* Testimony on Faith and Life in 1952. A Joint Union Committee (1951–60) worked out merger details and a structure for the new ch. Its reports to the 1954, 1956, 1958, and 1960 conventions were approved by overwhelming majorities except in the LFC, where referendums in 1955 and 1957 failed by narrow margins. In 1961 an LFC referendum approved merger. On February 1, 1963, the LFC became part of The ALC. A few LFC congs protested the merger and continued independently as The Association* of Free Luth. Congs.

II. Doctrinal Basis and Spirit.

1. Scripture. The ch. accepts the Scriptures “as a whole and in all their parts as the divinely inspired, revealed and inerrant Word of God, and submits to this as the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life.” (Const.)

2. Confessions. “As brief and true statements of the doctrines of the Word of God, the Church accepts and confesses the following symbols, subscription to which shall be required of all its members, both congregations and individuals: (1) the ancient ecumenical creeds: the Apostolic, the Nicene, and the Athanasian; (2) the unaltered Augsburg Confession and Luther's Small Catechism. As further elaboration of and in accord with these Lutheran Symbols, the Church also receives the other documents in the Book of Concord.… The American Lutheran Church accepts without reservation the symbolical books of the evangelical Lutheran Church, not insofar as but because they are the presentation and explanation of the pure doctrine of the Word of God and a summary of the faith of the evangelical Lutheran Church.” (Const.)

3. Spirit. The United Testimony, like the const., accepts the Bible as inspired and infallible revelation and the “inerrant and completely adequate source and norm of Christian doctrine and life” but also rejects “all rationalizing processes which would explain away either the divine or the human factor in the Bible.” The United Testimony also: (1) decries separatistic spirit which ignores the existence of other Christian churches, (2) recognizes necessity of evangelism within the ch. as well as in the “world,” (3) notes hist. variety of worship forms within its constituency, reminds members that liturgy is a reflection of doctrine, and commends current concern for liturgical uniformity while warning against equating form with faith, (4) encourages lay activity, including lay preaching, when it has approval of the proper authority, (5) notes diversity of conviction in regard to some forms of amusement, dress, food, and beverages.

III. Size and Structure.

At the time of merger, The ALC had 4,941 congs., 4,884 clergymen, 2,306,780 bap. mems., 1,509,174 confirmed mems. Heaviest concentration of membe-rship is in Upper Midwest, esp. Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Iowa. 1960 property valuation: $514,699,668.

Although the const. ascribes “basic authority” as part of the ministry of Word and sacrament to the cong., it refrains from calling congs. sovereign, indep. units. Membership implies voluntary cong. participation in full work of the ch. Highest legislative authority is vested in the biennial gen. conv. of ca. 1,000 delegates, of whom ca. half are laymen. The Ch. Council, with clergy and lay representation from all districts, has special responsibility for spiritual welfare of the ch., the Bd. of Trustees for its bus. affairs. Together these 2 groups constitute the Joint Council, with power to act (legislate) in emergency situations between conventions.

The original 19 districts (each divided into conferences) were reduced to 18 when the Can. District became constitutionally operative January 1, 1967, as The Ev. Luth. Ch. of Can. (see Canada, A 26).

IV. Work.

Fields of work outside the US have included Brazil, Cameroun, Colombia, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, India, Jap., Madagascar, New Guines, Nigeria, S Afr., and Taiwan. See also Tokai Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In higher educ. the ch. supports 11 colleges and universities: Augsburg, Augustana, California Luth., Capital, Conc., Dana, Luther, Pacific Luth., St. Olaf, Texas Luth., Wartburg; Waldorf (Jr.) Coll., Forest City, Iowa; Oak Grove Luth. High School, Fargo, N. Dakota. Sems.: The Ev. Luth. Theol. Sem., Columbus, Ohio; Luther Theol. Sem., St. Paul, Minnesota; Wartburg Theol. Sem., Dubuque, Iowa; Pacific Lutheran Theol. Sem., Berkeley, California.

Schools of nursing: Fairview Hosp., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Luth. Deaconess Hosp., Minneapolis, Minnesota; Luth. Gen. and Deaconess Hosp., Park Ridge, Illinois.

Official pub.: The Lutheran Standard, pub. by Augsburg Pub. House, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

V. Affiliations and Relationships.

1. With Other Lutherans. The merger conv. continued the affiliations that all the syns. had with the NLC and LWF. The same conv. declared “willingness to enter into discussions looking toward pulpit and altar fellowship with any and all Lutheran Churches which confess their adherence to the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God in all matters of faith and life and subscribe to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church,” and it encouraged congs. to cooperate in worship and work with congs. of other Luth. syns. wherever there is agreement in confession and practice. In 1962 The ALC and the LCMS invited the LCA to discuss achievement of full fellowship, but the LCA Joint Commission declined until the three agree on the exact nature of a new cooperative agency to replace the NLC. The ALC and the LCMS est. fellowship with each other 1969.

2. With non-Lutherans. Membership of the merged ch. in the WCC was a provision of the Articles of Union. To give opponents a fair hearing WCC membership was reevaluated in print and debate 1960–62. At the 1962 conv. WCC membership was reaffirmed.

Officially the ALC neither encourages nor restricts membership in local councils of chs. and ministerial assocs. United Testimony (1952) opened the door to such affiliation: “So long as witness can be borne to the truth as we see it in Christ, a measure of outward fellowship may be enjoyed even with such as differ with us in the apprehension of certain aspects of the truth.” United Testimony also affirms the Galesburg* Rule as correct guiding principle. FWM

See also Fellowship, B; Interim Eucharistic Sharing; Lutheran Council in the United States of America, I.

Handbook of the A. L. C. (1960); Report of the Joint Union Committee (1958, 1960); Reports and Actions of the A. L. C. (1962); R. C. Gremmels, Unity Begins with You (Columbus, 1958); Documents of Lutheran Unity in America, ed. R. C. Wolf. (Philadelphia, 1966).

VI. Districts.

Districts (see III) were organized bet. April 1960 and January 1961 as mergers and/or realignments of divisions of the former ALC, ELC, and UELC. The LFC was integrated after February 1963. WGT

VII. Merged 1987 with the Associations* of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran* Church in America to form the Evangelical* Lutheran Church in America. Dissenting mems. of The ALC and others moved immediately (April 30–May 1, 1987) at Bloomington, Minnesota, toward formation of an alternative body, The American Association of Lutheran Churches (TAALC); constituting conv. held November 5–7, 1987,

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

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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