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American Lutheran Church.

Organized August 11, 1930. Merger of Buffalo, Iowa, and Ohio syns. Pres.: C. C. Hein* 1930–37, E. F. Poppen* 1937–50, H. F. Schuh* 1951–60. Merged with ELC and UELC 1960 to form The American* Luth. Ch.

I. Formation.

Intersyn. friendship bet. the Iowa and Ohio syns. was stimulated in the late 19th c. by identical positions on fellowship and secret socs., occasionally overlapping syn. boundaries, and mutual opposition to the Mo. Syn. on the doctrine of predestination. Doctrinal consultations at Richmond, Indiana, 1883, Michigan City, Indiana, 1893, Toledo, Ohio, 1907 and 1912 culminated 1918 in official fellowship, based on the 1907 Toledo* Theses. Agitation for merger had already begun. Merger mechanics were worked out 1924–30. In 1925 the Buffalo Syn. asked to be included. The only significant threat to merger arose 1926 over whether the const. should ascribe inerrancy to every word of Scripture.

II. Doctrine.

The 1930 const. affirmed:

1. Scripture. “The Synod accepts the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the only infallible authority in all matters of faith and life.” An appendix explained: “The Synod believes that the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments in their original texts are, as a whole and in all their parts, the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and accepts these Books in the new generally redognized texts as substantially identical with the original texts and as the only inspired and inerrant authority, source, guide, and norm in all matters of faith and life.”

2. Confessions. All Confessions of the Book of Concord are accepted “as the true exposition and presentation of the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.”

3. Fellowship. Because unity in doctrine (in the sense of the Toledo Theses) and practice are the necessary prerequisite for ch. fellowship, the Galesburg* Rule is approved

4. Secret Societies. “The Synod is earnestly opposed to all organizations or societies, secret or open, which, without confessing faith in the Triune God and in Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of the eternal God, incarnate in order to be our only Saviour from sin, are avowedly religious or practice forms of religion, teaching salvation by works. It declares such organizations and societies to be antichristian and rejects any fellowship with them.”

III. Size and Structure.

In 1930 the ALC had 2,064 congs., 1,554 clergymen, 506,819 bap. mems., 340,500 communicants. At time of 1960 merger it had 2,081 congs., 2,168 clergymen (1958 statistics), 1,059,195 bap. mems., 696,695 communicants. Because of many consolidations of congs., the total number increased only slightly in 30 yrs., but size of average cong. increased from 165 to ca. 330 communicants.

The ALC had strongly centralized syn. structure. Congs. own property and were their own highest authority but voluntarily obligated themselves to support the work of the whole ch., which was administered largely by cen. syn. bds. rather than by 13 geog. districts. One layman and 1 pastor from each precinct of 18 congs. served as delegates to biennial conventions. Severe financial crises during its 1st decade caused the ALC to develop very cautious financial policies and to cen. in its Bd. of Trustees an unusually great amount of authority in policy matters.

IV. Work.

1. Education. The program of Christian education included Sunday schools, parochial schools, confirmation classes, adult membership classes, and higher education. In addition to its own sr. colleges (Capital, Columbus, Ohio; Texas Luth., Seguin, Texas; Wartburg, Waverly, Iowa) the ALC gave financial support to Pacific Luth. Coll. (U.) (see Universities in the United States, Lutheran, 3) and to California* Luth. Coll. Its sems. were Ev. Luth. (Columbus, Ohio) and Wartburg, Dubuque, Iowa). Its ministry to youth attending non- ch. colleges was carried out through the NLC's division of coll. and university work.

2. American Missions. By 1955, though 415 congs. still had at least 1 Ger. service a yr., much of the orientation toward Ger. had been overcome. Bet. 1930 and 1960, 527 new congs. were founded, over one fourth of the 1960 membership. In 1957 the Mex. Luth. Conf. of the Texas Dist. became an affiliate ch., La Iglesia Luterana Mexicana, with headquarters and theol. sem., Augsburg, in Mexico City.

3. World Missions. Part of the Hermannsburg* Mission's field in India was sold to the Ohio Syn. 1912, the rest was transferred 1916. By 1960 the field included 11 main stations, 4 high schools, a girls industrial school, a hosp., and a leprosarium.

The much larger New Guinea field owes its origin 1886 to the work of J. Flierl* and to the work of the Rhenish* Miss. Soc. 1887. The Iowa Syn. helped support the mission almost from the first. The Rhenish Miss. Soc. transferred its Madang field to the ALC 1932. Now the ALC and the Neuendettelsau fields are united in the Ev. Luth. Ch. of New Guinea (see New Guinea, 5). In 1958 there were 77 ordained missionaries, 88 lay workers, 82 national pastors, 1,232 national evangelists, 853 unregistered schools with 26,649 pupils and 887 national teachers, 11 secondary schools, 1 sem., 6 hospitals, and 4 nurses training schools.

In 1957 the ALC opened a new miss. field in Ethiopia with headquarters in Addis Ababa. Within 2 yrs. Ger., Norw., and Swed. missions joined with the ALC to form the Ethiopian Ev. Ch. (see also Ministry, Education of, XI A).

4. Social Service. Charitable institutions at Mars, Pennsylvania, Melville, Sask., Richmond, Indiana, and Springfield, Minnesota, were owned by the ALC; those at Toledo, Ohio, and Muscatine and Waverly, Iowa, were partially supported; and those at Sterling, Nebraska, Williston, Ohio, and Round Rock, Texas, were fully approved. The Bd. for Christian Soc. Action promoted soc. work and researched areas of vital soc. concern.

5. Other. Pub. house: Wartburg Press, Columbus, Ohio Official paper: Lutheran Standard. Ger. paper: Kirchenblatt. Organizations: Luther League, Women's Miss. Fed., Brotherhood.

V. Relationships with Other Churches.

1. Lutheran. No other Luth. syn. was as actively involved 1930–60 in promoting intra-Luth. unity on as many fronts. In 1930 the ALC entered into close fellowship of work and worship with 4 other “middle syns.” in The American* Luth. Conf. The 1960 merger of The American* Luth. Ch. grew out of cooperation and fellowship in the conf.

In 1934 the ALC resumed negotiations toward doctrinal unity which its constituent syns. had carried on with the Mo. Syn. before 1930. In 1938 the ALC approved the Mo. Syn. Brief* Statement plus its own appended Declaration as a basis for fellowship. But neither these statements nor the unified Doctrinal Affirmation (1944) brought official doctrinal agreement or fellowship. Despite a 1946 resolution despairing “of attaining Lutheran unity by way of additional doctrinal formulations and reformulations” the ALC was soon back at work with the Mo. Syn. on a new statement, the Common* Confession. By 1956 both syns. had approved it, but fellowship failed to materialize because the ALC was ready to merge with the ELC and the UELC and because of a continuing difference of approach of prerequisites for ch. fellowship.*

Negotiations with the ULC(A) produced the Pittsburgh* Agreement (1940) on Scripture, fellowship, and secret socs. Both syns. adopted the statement, but differences in interpretation of the document's function prevented est. of pulpit and altar fellowship. In 1946 the ALC authorized “selective* fellowship” with Luths. of other syns. who agreed in doctrine and practice with the ALC const. Much local cooperation bet. ALC and ULC(A) congs. ensued. The ALC's 1950 rejection of a proposed merger of all NLC bodies reflected continuing uneasiness over the ULC(A) position on secret socs. and fellowship with non-Luths.

On the wider Luth. scene the ALC prized highly the cooperative work of the NLC. The ALC was represented at the Luth. World. Conv. of 1935 and participated fully in work of the LWF.

2. Non-Lutheran. Strongly isolationist regarding non-Lutherans in 1930, the ALC gradually overcame some of its fear of ecumenical ventures. Its delegates committed it to WCC membership at Amsterdam in 1948, a decision that every subsequent ALC convs. reaffirmed. The ALC belonged to neither the FCCCA nor its more inclusive successor, the NCCCUSA. Yet some ALC bds. used services of NCC agencies. An ALC committee was authorized to study and analyze implications of council membership as prelude to possible decision of membership. Membership in local councils of ministers and chs. was left to cong. decision. Some took an active role in these ventures, but no accurate statistics on degree of participation are available. FWM

See also Intuitu fidei; Lutheran Church in America, II; Lutheran Council in Canada, 2; Minneapolis Theses (1925); National Lutheran Council, 9.

P. H. Buehring, The Spirit of the American Lutheran Church (Columbus, 1940); F. W. Meuser, The Formation of the American Lutheran Church (Columbus, 1958); A. R. Wentz, A Basic History of Lutheranism in America, rev. ed. (Philadelphia, 1964); E. C. Nelson, Lutheranism in North America, 1914–1970 Minneapolis, 1972); The Lutherans in North America, ed. E. C. Nelson et al. (Philadelphia, 1975); Minutes of the biennial conventions 1930–60. Official archives of the ALC are at Wartburg Theol. Sem., Dubuque, Iowa.

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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