Who We Are
History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The ELCA formally came into existence on January 1, 1988, creating the largest Lutheran church body in the United States. The Church is a result of a merger between the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), all of which had formally agreed in 1982 to unite after several years of discussions. The ELCA's three predecessor churches were themselves the product of previous mergers and splits among various independent Lutheran synods in the United States.
The American Lutheran Church
In 1960 the American Lutheran Church, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church merged to form The American Lutheran Church, with the Lutheran Free Church joining in 1963. The ALC brought approximately 2.25 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Norway, and Denmark. It was the most theologically conservative of the forming bodies, officially teaching biblical inerrancy in its constitution (although seldom enforcing it by means of heresy trials and the like). Its geographic center was in the Upper Midwest (with especially large numbers in Minnesota).
The Lutheran Church in America
In 1962 the United Lutheran Church in America, the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church formed the Lutheran Church in America. The LCA brought approximately 2.85 million members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany, Sweden, Slovakia, Denmark and Finland. Its demographic focus was on the East Coast (centered on Pennsylvania), with large numbers in the Midwest and some presence in the Southern Atlantic states. There are notable exceptions, but LCA-background churches tend to be more formalistically liturgical than ALC-background churches. Its theological orientation ranged from moderately liberal to neo-orthodox, with tendencies toward conservative pietism in some rural and small-town congregations.
The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches
In 1976 the AELC was formed from congregations that left the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in a schism precipitated by progressive-traditionalist disputes over biblical literalism, academic freedom and ecumenism. Its establishment was precipitated by the Seminex controversy at the LCMS's Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri in 1974. The AELC brought approximately 100,000 members into the ELCA. Its immigrant heritage came mostly from Germany; the complexion of its theology generally resembled that of the LCA, as the dissenting former "moderate" faction of the LCMS.