The ELCA was formed 25 years ago with the merger of three separate church bodies — The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America.In the late 19th century there were approximately 20 Lutheran church bodies that would eventually merge to become The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. Here is a snapshot from some of those mergers (and one exile) that led to the formation of the ELCA.
The first significant merger of church bodies happened in 1917 when three ethnic Norwegian synods joined to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. This photo is of the 1917 procession of that church body.
This is a detail from the 1918 United Lutheran Church in America convention where three ethnic German synods were joined.
A group photo from the 40th and final meeting of the Minnesota District of the Ohio Synod at Luther College, St. Paul, Minn. The Joint Synod of Ohio merged with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Iowa and Other States and the Lutheran Synod of Buffalo to become The American Lutheran Church in 1930.
Communion at the Lutheran Church in America Constituting Convention, Cobo Hall, Detroit, 1960. The Lutheran Church in America was formed by the merger of the Augustana Church, the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Suomi Synod and the United Lutheran Church in America.
The procession from Central Lutheran Church to the Minneapolis Municipal Auditorium at The American Lutheran Church Constituting Convention in 1960.
In 1974 the president of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod’s Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, was suspended. A majority of seminarians and faculty left the seminary to continue their work in another setting, forming “Seminex,” a seminary-in-exile. Meanwhile, a moderate movement in the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod called Evangelical Lutherans in Mission was formed.
The issue of whether to ordain graduates of Seminex led to the removal of four district presidents at the 1975 Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod convention. By 1976 approximately 300 congregations and 110,000 members formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches with the stated goal of promoting unity with The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. In 1977 The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod decision to place fellowship with The American Lutheran Church “in protest,” along with the “Call to Lutheran Union” of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches nudged the three church bodies, The American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, toward merger.
ELCA Constituting Convention, Columbus, Ohio. Bishops David Preus (left), James Crumley Jr., (right) and Will Herzfeld (holding chalice) fill a communion vessel, symbolizing the three merging church bodies forming one church. Herbert W. Chilstrom, first presiding bishop of the ELCA, looks on from behind the altar.
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ELCA at 25
25th anniversary of the Constituting Convention of ELCA
The many faces of American Lutheranism