Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

From Ohio History Central

Today, Lutheranism is one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world, with approximately eighty million members. In the United States, there are several different Lutheran denominations. The largest is known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Martin Luther founded Lutheranism, a Protestant religious denomination, during the 1500s. Luther was a Catholic monk and professor of theology who lived in Germany. He originally intended only to reform Roman Catholicism, but he formed his own religious movement once the Pope excommunicated him from the Catholic Church.

According to Luther, God viewed all humans as sinners. Luther argued that entrance into heaven was not based on a person's worthiness. Completing good works did not earn someone salvation. Only if a person believed in God's existence and greatness would he or she receive God's grace. One must have faith in God's love. Unlike Roman Catholics who practiced seven sacraments, Lutherans endorsed only two: baptism and communion. Rather than conducting services in Latin like the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church had its ministers give sermons in the language of their congregations. Lutherans believed that all people should have access to God's word. Lutheranism permitted congregations to have some control over their religious leaders. The Lutheran Church also permitted church members to play a role in religious services through song and other activities.

Lutheranism arrived in North America in the 1600s. The majority of the first Lutherans settled in New Amsterdam (modern-day New York City). In the 1700s, thousands of German Lutherans moved to Pennsylvania. During the late 1700s and the early 1800s, many of these people moved westward into what was first the Northwest Territory and then Ohio. Most Ohio Lutherans were German immigrants. Every Ohio community with a sizable German population had a Lutheran congregation. Cincinnati had one of the largest German communities. Ministers conducted most Lutheran services in this city in German rather than English. The Lutherans, like other religious denominations in Ohio, placed a heavy emphasis on education. The Lutherans founded Wittenberg College in 1845 and Capital College in 1850 to educate their members. The Lutheran Church currently operates Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.

In Ohio, Lutherans remained in the minority among the various religious faiths. Although Lutherans are one of the largest Protestant faiths in the world today, Ohio Lutherans still comprise a relatively small number of people. Many of them are descendants of the original German immigrants.

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