Who We Are / What We Believe

WHO WE ARE

Lutherans are a diverse group of people, convinced that the Holy Spirit is leading us toward unity in the household of God. Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are connected to the faith of the church through the ages and around the world.

Lutherans believe in the Triune God. We are part of God’s unfolding plan. When we gather for worship, we connect with believers everywhere and of every time. When we study the Bible and pray, we are drawn more deeply into God’s own saving story. When we serve others and addresssocial issues that affect the common good, we live out our Christian faith.

The ELCA invites you into this community of Christian faith. Welcome, and explore. What Do Lutherans Believe?

A faith founded on good newsLutherans are Christians who accept the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546). Luther was a German theologian who realized that there were significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the practices of the Roman Catholic church at that time. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the door of Wittenberg University, titled “95 Theses” (to debate 95 theological issues). His hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.

What started as an academic debate escalated into a distinct separation between the Roman Catholic church of the time and those who accepted Luther’s suggested reforms. “Lutheran” became the name of the group that agreed with Luther’s convictions.

Today, nearly five centuries later, Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of Luther’s theological teachings, such as Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone. These comprise the very essence of Lutheranism:

  • We are saved by the grace of God alone — not by anything we do;
  • Our salvation is through faith alone — a confident trust in God, who in Christ promises us forgiveness, life and salvation; and
  • The Bible is the norm for faith and life — the true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.

Over the years, different Lutheran church bodies have been established and organized to meet the needs of Lutherans in communities and nations all over the world. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest Lutheran group in North America, founded in 1988 when three North American Lutheran church bodies united: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America. Learn more about the History of the ELCA.

Lutheranism is a faith tradition that is open to all, regardless of background. The ELCA alone is almost five million members strong, with nearly 10,500 congregations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.