Our Beliefs

We believe in God’s grace for all people. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ God restores and saves all of God’s creation. We are witnesses to God’s love, forgiveness and grace. Learn more about our beliefs below. The text on this page is taken from synod’s homepage, www.elca.org. To learn even more about the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Click Here.

 

 

Faith

Faith

A living, daring confidence in God’s grace.

When Lutherans talk about faith, we are talking about the relationship God’s Holy Spirit creates with us. It’s a relationship where God’s promise of steadfast love and mercy in Jesus opens us to a life of bold trust in God and joyful, generous service to everyone we know and meet in daily life.

Martin Luther was exuberant when he described the freedom of “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.” He once wrote, “Oh, it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith. It is impossible for it not to be doing good things unceasingly.”

Faith convictions expressed as statements of belief flow from this confident trust in God. ELCA Lutherans share in the faith expressed in the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, in the Lutheran confessional writings (collected as the Book of Concord), and in the ELCA Confession of Faith.

At the same time faith does not close our minds to the world and our hearts to others. We continue to listen to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. We listen to the witness of others and we watch for the ways God is active in the world around us. Faith opens a place for engaging others in conversation, for seeking the truth, for asking questions and speaking love in word and deed. Faith is a full life, liberated for a living, daring confidence in God’s grace.

ELCA Teachings

ELCA Teaching



The ELCA confesses the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In our preaching and teaching the ELCA trusts the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

ELCA teaching or theology serves the proclamation and ministry of this faith. It does not have an answer for all questions, not even all religious questions. Teaching or theology prepares members to be witnesses in speech and in action of God’s rich mercy in Jesus Christ.

Scriptures, Creeds and Confessions



The ELCA’s official Confession of Faith identifies the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (commonly called the Bible); the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds; and the Lutheran confessional writings in the Book of Concord as the basis for our teaching. ELCA congregations make the same affirmation in their governing documents, and ELCA pastors promise to preach and teach in accordance with these teaching sources. This Confession of Faith is more than just words in an official document. Every Sunday in worship ELCA congregations hear God’s word from the Scriptures, pray as Jesus taught and come to the Lord’s Table expecting to receive the mercies that the Triune God promises. Throughout the week ELCA members continue to live by faith, serving others freely and generously in all that they do because they trust God’s promise in the Gospel. In small groups and at sick beds, in private devotions and in daily work, this faith saturates all of life.

Teaching for a life of faith



This connection to all of life is the clearest demonstration of the authority that the canonical Scriptures, the ecumenical Creeds and the Lutheran Confessions have in the ELCA. The Holy Spirit uses these witnesses to create, strengthen and sustain faith in Jesus Christ and the life we have in him. That life-giving work continues every day, as Martin Luther explained in the Small Catechism: the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”

Scriptures, Creeds, and Confessions

Scriptures, Creeds, Confessions Scriptures


A cradle that holds the infant Jesus. Baby blankets that clothe the newborn Christ. Lutherans often use these well-known metaphors from Martin Luther to describe the Christian Scriptures and their importance. These simple metaphors clearly and profoundly describe both what the Scriptures are and what is their purpose.

Simply stated, the Scriptures tell about Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit uses the Scriptures to present Jesus to all who listen to or read them. That is why Lutheran Christians say that the Scriptures are the “source and norm” of their teaching and practice. As the Gospel writer John wrote, “these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).

Obviously, the Scriptures that are collected into a book or Bible describe and speak about many other things — everything from the creation of the world to the world’s end. Because these writings originate from a time period that spans about a thousand years and come to us in a variety of handwritten manuscripts and fragments, they have been studied carefully with all the tools of research that are available. This research continues to enrich understanding of the Scriptures and their message.

Despite the diversity of viewpoints and the complexity of the many narratives contained in the Scriptures, Lutheran Christians believe that the story of God’s steadfast love and mercy in Jesus is the heart and center of what the Scriptures have to say.

Creeds


Like the Scriptures, the three ecumenical creeds — the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed — are written documents. They originate from the earliest centuries of the Christian church’s history, a time when theological and philosophical questions about the identity of Jesus were widely debated among Christians. All three creeds affirm that God is fully present in Jesus, that Jesus Christ is both God and human (not a semi-divine or superhuman creature that is neither). These three creeds are called ecumenical because they are all accepted and used by the overwhelming majority of the world’s Christians. All three are affirmed in the Lutheran confessional writings and in the ELCA’s governing documents.

Although these three creeds, like the Scriptures, are written, most Christians experience and use them spoken aloud with other Christians in worship. Along with many other Christians, Lutherans use the Apostles’ Creed at baptism; it is also the Creed most often used in basic Christian education (as in the Small Catechism). Lutheran Christians often use the Nicene Creed at festivals like Easter and Christmas and during seasons of the year related to those festivals. Some Lutheran congregations recite the Athanasian Creed on Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost) because of its focus on the relationships between the persons of the Triune God.

Lutheran Confessions


On many occasions in the 16th century, Martin Luther and other evangelical reformers were asked to give an account of their teaching and practice. In response Philip Melanchthon, one of Luther’s colleagues, wrote, “We must see what Scripture attributes to the law and what it attributes to the promises. For it praises and teaches good works in such a way as not to abolish the free promise and not to eliminate Christ.” Although the writings that comprise the Book of Concord engage a range of issues regarding teaching and practice, they do not address every question or topic. Rather, they focus on the Scriptures’ purpose: to present Jesus Christ to faith.

The Book of Concord includes seven writings composed by Luther and others. Lutheran churches around the world have affirmed these writings, and the ELCA affirms them in its governing documents. Lutherans most often use them in teaching — for example, when the Small Catechism is used in basic Christian instruction, or when the Augsburg Confession is used to teach women and men preparing for ministry.

Theological Conversations

Theological Conversations


Theology is a conversation. It involves speaking and listening, understanding and sharing understanding, and it consists of words written or spoken among two or more people for a specific purpose. In an evangelical faith community, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, theological conversations serve a purpose related to the Evangel, the message of good news in Jesus Christ that the Scriptures proclaim. In other words, evangelical theological conversation serves the full and free expression of the gospel in the life of the world.

Evangelical, Lutheran theology does several things. Participants in evangelical theological conversations attend to the goodness of the gospel message — the specific good that God does in Jesus Christ’s cross and resurrection. They also seek the language and actions that give the most winsome expression to this compassionate mercy and liberating hope.

In these conversations many questions need attention and many viewpoints are helpful. All participants have something to contribute. The resources available in the Theological Conversations section invite you into this conversation that serves the gospel’s free course in the life of the world.

Luther and Lutheranism

Luther and Lutheranism

Martin Luther (1483-1546)


Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 11.25.16 AMMartin LutherMartin Luther was eight years old when Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe and landed in the Western Hemisphere. Luther was a young monk and priest when Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. A few years later, he was a junior faculty member at a new university in small-town Germany, intently studying the Scriptures, “captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.”

In these days Luther was tormented by the demand for righteousness before God. “I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.” Then, in the midst of that struggle with God, the message of the Scriptures became clear, like a long-shut door opening wide. When he realized that a “merciful God justifies us by faith … I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”

What Luther discovered is the freedom of Christians trusting God’s mercy in Christ. As he later wrote, “Faith is God’s work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. This faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.”

This discovery set Luther’s life on a new course —both his own life and his public service as a preacher and teacher. When a church-endorsed sales team came to the Wittenberg area in October, 1517, Luther was concerned that the promotion and sale of indulgences undermined the promise of God’s unreserved mercy in Jesus and the faith that trusts that promise. His 95 Theses or Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences became the first of a life-long stream of books, sermons, letters, essays, even hymns in which he expressed his confidence in this life-giving promise from God, the Gospel, and its liberating implications for all of life in church and society.

Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations

Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations


The ELCA is committed to fostering unity among the children of God for the sake of the world. The ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations team is responsible for encouraging the activity of ecumenical and interreligious life in this church and enhancing the public commitments of this church in Lutheran, ecumenical and interfaith circles.

The ELCA is committed to promoting understanding among Christians and greater unity among Christ’s people. Brokenness can be healed and divisions can be overcome. To this end, the activity of ecumenical life in the ELCA is one of cooperation, facilitation, accompaniment and formation within this church, and with our ecumenical and interreligious companions.

What does this mean? We cooperate with partners, such as The Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA.

We facilitate the ecumenical and interreligious work of congregations, synods and churchwide ministries by offering resources; convening the Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network; supporting the reception of our full communion agreements through the work of the coordinating committees; and serving as liaison with full communion churches and dialogue partners.

We accompany others including our interreligious partners through initiatives like the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign: Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values.

We provide resources and information about opportunities for ecumenical and interreligious formation throughout the ELCA.

All of our work is grounded in our statement, The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“…that they may all be one.” ~ John 17:21

Faith and Society

Faith and Society


“Faithful participation in society is integral and vital to the mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.” – Social Statement Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective

The ELCA is a church that believes God is calling us into the world — together. As part of this call, we seek the common good for society, provide moral vision and are committed to addressing social and cultural injustices and issues. The ELCA participates in God’s just and loving purpose for all of creation in many different ways, from the daily actions of members as citizens, to efforts in social service, to public witness for justice.

In response to God’s gracious love that seeks justice, the ELCA equips and nurtures us for our callings in the world, fosters social service and ministries of mercy, encourages learning and moral deliberation around social and cultural concerns, enacts social teaching and policy documents, interprets and applies social policy, and partners with agencies, organizations and institutions dedicated to service and justice.

Resources and opportunities for participation in addressing social concerns are found on many ELCA Web pages; see especially those dedicated to “Publically Engaged Church.” You may also find the ELCA social messages and statements here.

 

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