In honor of the 25th anniversary of the ELCA we have collected 25 facts about Lutherans and Lutheranism. This, of course, is only a small sampling from our almost 500-year history. Let us know what you would add to this list.

  1. The Lutheran Church is the oldest Protestant tradition.
  2. Martin Luther issued the “Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” that became known as his “95 Theses” in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517.
  3. Lutherans went viral nearly 500 years ago, when Martin Luther and his allies used the new media of the day — pamphlets, ballads and woodcuts — and circulated them through social networks to promote their message of the reformation of the church.
  4. Following the practice of naming a “heresy” after its leader, the name Lutheran originated as a derogatory term used by Johann Eck during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519.
  5. Rather than “Lutheran,” Martin Luther preferred to describe the reformation as “evangelical,” which is derived from the Greek word meaning “good news.”
  6. Generally speaking Lutheran teaching can be summed up by “Three Solas”: (1) Grace Alone; (2) Faith Alone; (3) Scripture Alone.
  7. The split between the Lutherans and the Roman Catholics began with the Edict of Worms in 1521, which officially excommunicated Luther and all of his followers.
  8. Luther’s Small Catechism (“Der Kleine Katechismus”) was published in 1529 for the teaching of children at home by their parents.
  9. Luther’s Large Catechism consisted of works addressed particularly to clergymen to aid them in teaching their congregations.
  10. The Book of Concord or “Concordia” (1580) contains documents that explain what Lutherans believe. It includes the three creeds of the ancient church and Reformation writings such as Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, and the Formula of Concord.
  11. Composer Johann Sebastian Bach, a devout Lutheran, is credited with 1,126 musical works listed in the complete Bach catalog (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis, or BWV). He wrote about 200 cantatas, including at least two for each Sunday and holy day in the Lutheran church year.
  12. Lutherans believe in “Salvation by grace through faith” — that salvation comes by grace through faith alone, not by works and sacraments.
  13. Philipp Melanchthon (Feb.16, 1497 — April 19, 1560), was one of the primary founders of Lutheranism. Born Philipp Schwartzerdt, he translated his name to its Greek form —┬á Melanchthon. He made the distinction between law and gospel the central formula for Lutheran evangelical insight.
  14. Since 1520, regular Lutheran services have been held in Copenhagen.
  15. During the 16th century, Lutheranism spread through all of Scandinavia as the monarchs of Denmark-Norway (also Iceland) and Sweden (also Finland) adopted Lutheranism.
  16. The first Lutheran worship service in North America is believed to have taken place in what is now known as Manitoba on Jan. 23, 1620. The sermon was delivered by Pastor Rasmus Jensen.
  17. Massive immigration from traditionally Lutheran countries to the United States between 1840 and 1875 resulted in 58 Lutheran synods being formed.
  18. The first Lutheran pastor to be ordained in the United States was German-born Justus Falckner on Nov. 24, 1703.
  19. German Lutheran Pastor Henry Muhlenberg was sent to North America as a missionary upon the request of Pennsylvania colonists. He is considered the patriarch of American Lutheranism.
  20. As late as the 19th century, Lutherans in the United States still looked to their European homelands to supply pastors and worship materials.
  21. Founded in 1826, the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in Pennsylvania is the oldest operating seminary in the ELCA.
  22. Lutherans form the largest religious denomination in Namibia, formerly German Southwest Africa.
  23. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, The Lutheran World Federation now has 143 member churches in 79 countries around the world representing 70.5 million Christians.
  24. On Jan. 1, 1988, The American Lutheran Church, The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and The Lutheran Church in America officially merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
  25. The ELCA is the largest Lutheran body in the United States.

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