Christian Cyclopedia

About the Cyclopedia

Lutheran Church in America.

I. Constituent bodies and date of merger. The LCA, result of merger of the AELC (see Danish Lutherans in America, 3–4), Augustana* Ev. Luth. Ch., the Suomi Syn. (see Finnish Lutherans in America, 2), and The United* Luth. Ch. in Am., was organized Detroit, Michigan, June 28–July 1, 1962, in full operation January 1, 1963.

II. History. Discussions leading to the merger were initiated by the ULC and the Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. 1955; a joint letter dated December 16 was sent by the presidents of these chs. inviting other Luth. bodies in Am. to designate duly authorized representatives to meet to consider organic union, draft a const., and devise organizational procedures to effect union. Favorable responses were received from the AELC and the Suomi Syn. A joint Commission on Luth. Unity was formed December 1956. Negotiations proceeded on the stated assumption that common adherence to the hist. Luth. Confessions provided adequate agreement in doctrine for merger of the chs. In 1960 a proposed const. was drawn up and an Agreement of Consolidation was approved by the 4 chs.

ULC hist. background. The preamble of the 1918 ULC const. included a standing invitation to all Ev. Luth. congs. and syns. in Am. to unite in 1 gen. organization (see also United Lutheran Church in America, The, I). In 1920 the ULC recognized no doctrinal reasons against complete cooperation and organic union with chs. calling themselves Ev. Luth. and subscribing the hist. Luth. Confessions (see Washington Declaration, B). In 1928 the ULC created a Commission on Luth. Ch. Unity and in 1934 directed the ULC pres. to invite the other Luth. chs. in Am. to discussions with a view to closer relationships and set up a Special Commission on Relationships to Am. Luth. Ch. Bodies (see also Savannah Declaration). Discussions with the Mo. Syn. and the ALC (in connection with the latter see Baltimore Declaration; Pittsburgh Agreement) led to neither union nor altar and pulpit fellowship. In 1944 the ULC declared itself to be in fellowship with all other Luth. chs. in Am. which accepted the Luth. Confessions, and invited the other Luth. chs. to make the same declaration. Beginning 1948 discussions were held with The Dan. Ev. Luth. Ch. of Am. (see Danish Lutherans in America, 3) on the possibility of The Dan. Ev. Luth. Ch. of Am. becoming a syn. of the ULC.

Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. hist. background. In 1948 both the August Ev. Luth. Ch. and the ULC proposed a fed. and/or merger of the 8 NLC chs. On invitation of the Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch., issued by its ex. council through the pres. of the ch., 34 representatives (who became known as The Committee of 34) of most of the NLC chs. met in Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 4, 1949, to consider the possibility of organic union or of steps possibly leading to it. A resolution presented by ALC pres. E. F. Poppen,* to the effect that it was the sense of the group that a closer organizational affiliation of the participating bodies in the NLC was desirable and should be sought by all proper means, was unanimously adopted. A Committee of 15 was set up to prepare a structural plan for consideration by the Committee of 34. The Committee of 15 recommended (1) a referendum of the 8 NLC chs. on the question of immediate union; (2) est. of a Nat. Luth. Federation as an intermediate step toward union. But before the September 27, 1949, meeting of the Committee of 34, which was to consider these proposals, representatives of the American* Luth. Ch., The Evangelical* Luth. Ch., and UELC (see Danish Lutherans in America, 5) met (September 16, 1949) and proposed that these 3 chs. begin looking toward union. The Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. entered into negotiations for this merger. But the following 1952 resolution of the Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. was presented to the Committee of 45 (9 representatives of each of the ALC chs.) at Minneapolis November 10, 1952: “The Augustana Lutheran Church expresses itself as being unwilling to continue in unity discussions which are not open to all Lutheran general bodies and which do not include the considerations of the subject of ecumenical relations.” The representatives of the ALC, ELC, and UELC replied that they were without authority from their respective chs. to include all other Luth. chs., but that the question of ecumenical relations was still open. The representatives of the Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. regarded the reply as unsatisfactory and withdrew from negotiations. In 1955 Augustana and the ULC(A) again sought to secure consideration of a merger of Luth. chs. in Am. Efforts toward union finally resulted in formation of the LCA.

III. Doctrinal basis, theol. work, spirit, and tendency.

LCA doctrinal basis: Const.Art. II. Confession of Faith. Section 1. This church confesses Jesus Christ as Lord of the Church. The Holy Spirit creates and sustains the Church through the Gospel and thereby unites believers with their Lord and with one another in the fellowship of faith.

“Section 2. This church holds that the Gospel is the revelation of God's sovereign will and saving grace in Jesus Christ. In Him, the Word Incarnate, God imparts Himself to men.

“Section 3. This church acknowledges the Holy Scriptures as the norm for the faith and life of the Church. The Holy Scriptures are the divinely inspired record of God's redemptive act in Christ, for which the Old Testament prepared the way and which the New Testament proclaims. In the continuation of this proclamation in the Church, God still speaks through the Holy Scriptures and realizes His redemptive purpose generation after generation.

“Section 4. This church accepts the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian creeds as true declarations of the faith of the Church.

“Section 5. This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and Luther's Small Catechism as true witnesses to the Gospel, and acknowledges as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of these symbols.

“Section 6. This church accepts the other symbolical books of the evangelical Lutheran church, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, Luther's Large Catechism, and the Formula of Concord as further valid interpretations of the confession of the Church.

“Section 7. This church affirms that the Gospel transmitted by the Holy Scriptures, to which the creeds and confessions bear witness, is the true treasure of the Church, the substance of its proclamation, and the basis of its unity and continuity. The Holy Spirit uses the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship. As this occurs, the Church fulfills its divine mission and purpose.”

This reflects the gen. theol. spirit and tendency of the LCA. Concentrated attention was given 1964–70 to a study of the doctrine of the ministry. Emphasis has also been laid on the church's responsibility in soc. work. Publications include M. J. Heinecken, The Meaning of the Cross and Christian Teachings: Affirmations of Faith for Lay People; W. H. Lazareth and R. O. Hjelm, Helping Youth and Adults Know Doctrine; G. W. Forell, Understanding the Nicene Creed and The Augsburg Confession: A Contemporary Commentary; J. Sittler, The Anguish of Preaching; J. H. P. Reumann and W. H. Lazareth, Righteousness and Society: Ecumenical Dialog in a Revolutionary Age; J. H. P. Reumann, Jesus in the Church's Gospels; J. A. Scherer, Mission and Unity in Lutheranism: A Study in Confession and Ecumenicity.

IV. Size and organizational structure.

As of January 1, 1970, the LCA had ca. 3,258,000 bap., ca. 2,275,000 confirmed mems.; ca. 6,200 congs., ca. 5,400 pastoral charges, 33 syns., ca., 7,600 ordained ministers.

The biennial conv. is the highest legislative authority. All congs., ministers, syns., officers, the ex. council, bds., agencies (except common agencies), and auxiliaries are bound by all actions pertaining to them taken by a conv. in conformity with the const. A pres., secy., and treas. are elected to 4-yr. terms at a regular conv. The ex. council (the 3 officers, 15 ministerial, and 15 lay mems. elected by the conv.) carries forward the work and policies of the ch. and acts for the ch. bet. convs., subject to review of its action by the following conv.

Congs. retain authority in all matters not committed to the LCA or its syns. by const. provision or by later ch. action. Syns. are agents of the ch. in admitting congs. and ministers to the ch. and in supervising and furthering ch. work in designated areas. Delegates to the convs. are elected by the syns.

A 9-mem. Court of Adjudication deals with questions of principle or practice (including questions involving disputed jurisdiction or interpretation of powers claimed or conferred by the ch.) and questions of doctrine or conscience referred to it. Its decisions are binding unless reversed by a conv. A consultative and advisory Conference of Syn. Presidents meets at least annually with the officers of the ch. to discuss problems, program, and plans affecting the syns.

V. Work. Assistance and service is made available to mem. congs. by various bds., commissions, and agencies. The Yearbook, compiled and pub. by the Bd. of Pub., provides information on organizational structure, on officers, staff, and other personnel, and on the syns., institutions, and agencies. It includes a list of colleges, sems., univs., campus pastors, summer camps, health and welfare agencies, congs., pastors, and information on Am. and World Missions work.

Colleges and univs. related to the LCA and its syns.: Augustana Coll., Rock Island, Illinois; Bethany Coll., Lindsborg, Kansas; California Lutheran Coll., Thousand Oaks, California; Carthage* Coll., Kenosha, Wisconsin; Gettysburg Coll., Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Grand View Coll., Des Moines, Iowa (2-yr.); Gustavus Adolphus Coll., St. Peter, Minnesota; Lenoir Rhyne Coll., Hickory, North Carolina; Midland* Lutheran Coll., Fremont, Nebraska; Muhlenberg Coll., Allentown, Pennsylvania; Newberry Coll., Newberry, South Carolina; Roanoke Coll., Salem, Virginia; Suomi Coll., Hancock, Michigan (2-yr.); Susquehanna* U., Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania; Thiel Coll., Greenville, Pennsylvania; Upsala Coll., E. Orange, New Jersey; Wagner Coll., Staten Is., New York; Waterloo Luth. U., Waterloo, Ont., Can.; Wittenberg* U., Springfield, Ohio.

Theol. sems. related to the LCA and its syns.: Hamma School of Theol., Springfield, Ohio; Lutheran School of Theol. at Chicago, Illinois; Lutheran Theol. Sem., Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; Lutheran Theol. Sem., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Lutheran Theol. Sem., Saskatoon, Sask., Can.; Lutheran Theol. Southern Sem., Columbia, South Carolina; Northwestern* Luth. Theol. Sem., St. Paul, Minnesota; Pacific Luth. Theol. Sem., Berkeley, California; Waterloo Luth. Sem., Waterloo, Ont., Can.

Through its Bd. of World Missions the LCA shares in work of affiliated chs. overseas and on miss. fields. Financial assistance and necessary assisting personnel are supplied. Miss. fields have included Argentina, Chile, Ethiopia (radio), Guyana, Jamaica, Hong Kong, India, Jap., Liberia, Malaysia, Peru, Taiwan, Tanzania, Trinidad, Uruguay.

With guidance and assistance of the Bd. of Am. Miss., new congs. are organized in the US and Can. Ministries have been performed among migrants, Am. Indians, and several ethnic groups.

The Bd. of Soc. Ministry is related to soc. miss. institutions and agencies through the syns., which, through committees on soc. ministry, advise and exercise gen. supervision of institutions and agencies approved and supported, directly or indirectly, by the syns. The Bd. of Soc. Ministry supplies consultative services for institutions and agencies, aids in training and placing workers, undergirds ministries to persons or groups with special needs, and helps initiate new work.

VI. Affiliations and relationships. The LCA is a mem. of the Lutheran* Council in the USA (the LCA-Can. Section [see IX] is a mem. of the Can. Luth. Council [see Canada, B 30]), the Lutheran* World Fed., the National* Council of the Chs. of Christ in the USA (the LCA-Can. Section is a mem. of the Canadian* Council of Chs.), and of the World* Council of Chs. Any Luth. ch. fostered by the Bd. of World Miss. which concurs in the LCA Confession of Faith and in its art. on Assoc. Chs. (Const., Art. XXI) is recognized as in filial assoc. An assoc., ch. may send 2 representatives to regular convs., with privilege of seat and voice. See also Fellowship, B.

VII. Official publications. Official LCA organ: The Lutheran. World Encounter is pub. by the Bd. of World Miss., Lutheran Women by the Luth. Ch. Women (LCA auxiliary); Resource is sponsored by the Bd. of Parish Educ.

VIII. Pres.: F. C. Fry* 1962–68, Robert J. Marshall 1968–.

IX. Function of syns. and relationship to gen. body.

The LCA is divided into 33 syns., which serve as agents of the ch. in implementing its program. All syns. except the Slovak Zion Syn. (see IX B 26) are organized on a geographic basis. LCA syns. in Can. constitute the LCA-Can. Section.

Principal function of syns. is shepherding constituent congs. and ministers, including oversight to conserve unity in the true faith and to guard against any departure therefrom, encouragement to the fuller employment of resources, guidance in filling vacancies in pastorates, and intervention and mediation in times of strife and division. The syns. have primary responsibility for recruiting, preparing, and ordaining ministers, receiving congs., and disciplining congs. and ministers. Responsibility for ownership and administration of theol. sems., for provision of Christian higher educ. through ch.-related colleges, for stimulating cong. evangelism and works of mercy, and for maintaining and supporting soc. mission institutions and agencies rests in the syns. Each syn. has jurisdiction in its own affairs; when the LCA deals with internal matters of a syn., the cooperation and consent of the syn. must be secured. A syn. desiring to pub. books of devotion and instruction must first secure permission from a conv. or the ex. council. Syns. may memorialize a conv. on any subject affecting the welfare of the ch.

X. The LCA merged in 1987 with the Association* of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and The American* Lutheran Church to form the Evangelical* Lutheran Church in America.

See also Interim Eucharistic Sharing.

ULC Minutes 1918–62; Augustana Ev. Luth. Ch. Minutes 1918–62; LCA Minutes 1962–70; The Lutheran 1930–70; The Lutheran Companion 1930–62; Lutheran Herald 1930–60; ULC Year Book 1930–62; LCA Yearbook 1963–71; A. R. Wentz, A Basic History of Lutheranism in America, rev. ed. (Philadelphia, 1964); R. C. Wolf, Documents of Lutheran Unity in America (Philadelphia, 1966). DF

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

Stay Connected! Join the LCMS Network:

Contact Us Online
(Staff Switchboard)
(Church Info Center)
1333 S Kirkwood Rd
Saint Louis, MO 63122-7226 | Directions


Featured Publication

The Lutheran Witness

LCMS Communications

Interpreting the contemporary world from a Lutheran Christian perspective.
Visit TLW Online