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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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A history of dissent

Our heritage is woven from both schisms and mergers

Today’s picture of Lutheranism reflects the many strands of immigration that brought Lutherans to America, those immigrants’ initial urge to reproduce or replace the church life of their homelands, and the fights they had with one another over everything from language to predestination.

Reminders of those early battles are still with us. In the mid-Atlantic states, Lutheran church buildings face each other like competing service stations. Many cornerstones in Ohio carry the name “English” or “German”—used as badges of loyalty in long-past conflicts. The Midwest has two Augustana Colleges, a legacy of former culture wars.

The causes of those schisms varied. In the Revolutionary years, when “liberty” was the watch-cry, one minister lamented that lay people were ready to bolt over paying a pastor’s salary. Later slavery became a source of division, causing the formation of the Hartwick Synod in New York and ultimately the splitting of Southern Lutherans from the rest of the nation.

With Martin Luther’s “Here I stand” as a slogan, it’s no wonder Lutherans have been quick to separate and slow to negotiate


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September issue

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