Question for Lutherans from a clueless Catholic

I just have a quick question for my Lutheran friends that will probably sound stupid, but bear with me, ok. :o

I notice on some of our Lutheran members religion ID, there are usually a bunch of letters that follow. I’ve seen WELS, LCMS, ELCA, ELDoNA, and a few others.

So my question is…what do all those mean? It’s all a little confusing to me.

Thanks for any help you can give!

I know that LCMS is Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and ELCA is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. I’ve heard of WELS, but don’t know what it stands for. And no clue about ELDoNA.

They’re all divisions in the Lutheran church, although a bit more dissimilar than the 23 Catholic Churches. For instance, IIRC, the ELCA is fine with gay marriage, but not the LCMS. Although I might be wrong. One of our Lutheran brethren here would certainly be a better source for what the actual difference is. Hope this helped, though.

WELS = Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
LCMS = Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
ELCA = Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELDoNA = Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America

I promise to write a comprehensive reply to this in the near future. But wife just delivered our first child. :slight_smile:

Simply put, there’s little difference between the WELS and the LCMS, which despite their regional-sounding names, are both present in all fifty states with missions and sister church bodies in almost every country. These two bodies once shared fellowship, and ther leaders still meet together from time to time to rebuke the others for their minor heterdoxies or seeming toleration thereof. They’re also quite friendly with their little sister church the ELS. Reunion between these three ‘Confessional’ synods is, unlike many ecumenical projects, actually, potentially, on the horizon.

ELDoNA is a small splinter off the LCMS, due to (in a VERY simplified nutshell) objections over some unfortunate practices that the LCMS hadn’t responded to quickly or strongly enough, among other reasons. Frankly, that was the fault of our District Presidents (Bishops). Best part of ELDoNA? They actually use the term ‘diocese’ properly. :smiley:

Without malice toward the many Lutherans who remain in the ELCA, that body is not considered an orthodox Lutheran body by any of the synods above. Some of its members are certainly Lutheran, but the body itself either doesn’t ‘do’ Lutheranism very well, or simply isn’t at all.

That’s a very simplified nutshell; history, of course, is not contained in a nutshell. So someone is certain to take issue with some portion of the above and find offense. I can only promise that none was intended.

Congratulations Steido. No need for a reply, I imagine you will be busy for a while. :slight_smile:

Thanks, Don. I wasn’t familiar with ELDoNA.

Mary.

Some Lutherans on CAF use the word, “Confessional” to describe themselves rather than to distinguish each other. All Lutherans adhere to the Augsburg Confession, the foundation of the evangelical Catholic faith, but how they approach these confessions can be different.

Here’s an explanation on how “confessional” Lutherans uphold the Augsburg Confession/ Book of Concord; the emphasis is that the Confessions do not contradict Scriptures. Other Lutherans differentiate that the Confessions, “insofar as” they don’t contradict Scripture are the norm of the Lutheran faith.

Lutheran church bodies and Lutheran individuals that identify themselves as confessional hold to a “quia” (Latin for “because”) rather than a “quatenus” (Latin for “insofar as”) subscription to the Book of Concord. Quia subscription (the Book of Concord is adhered to because it is faithful to the Scriptures) implies that the subscriber believes that there is no contradiction between the Book of Concord and the Scriptures. Quatenus subscription (the Book of Concord is adhered to insofar as it is faithful to the Scriptures) implies that the subscriber leaves room for the possibility that there might be a contradiction of the Scriptures in the Book of Concord in which case the subscriber would hold to the Scriptures against the Book of Concord.[10] Some Confessional Lutherans maintain that this distinguishes them from other (“mainline”) Lutheran bodies and Lutherans, who, they believe, hold to a quatenus subscription.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessional_Lutheranism

This may be a simplistic definition but it helps me understand some of the very evident differences among Lutherans. It also explains why “Confessional” Lutherans, are, for the most part, disengaged from other Christians. And why these Lutheran bodies view ecumenical work as a non-priority.

With the exception of the LCMS, the other so-called 'Confessional" Lutherans did not participate in the 50 years of dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and Missouri Synod did not sign the Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and are not represented in the Commission on Unity between Lutherans and the Holy See… Whereas the ELCA and Lutheran World Federation, comprising around 90% of all Lutherans worldwide, follow the lead of the Catholic Church concerning episcopacy/ apostolic succession.

‘Confessional’ does not, necessarily mean Catholic. More ‘low church’ in worship, congregational identification and opposed to closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church seem to characterize some north American Lutherans outside the LWF.

Congratulations! :clapping: Don’t feel any rush. You’re response was already pretty helpful. :thumbsup:

Simply put, there’s little difference between the WELS and the LCMS, which despite their regional-sounding names, are both present in all fifty states with missions and sister church bodies in almost every country. These two bodies once shared fellowship, and ther leaders still meet together from time to time to rebuke the others for their minor heterdoxies or seeming toleration thereof. They’re also quite friendly with their little sister church the ELS. Reunion between these three ‘Confessional’ synods is, unlike many ecumenical projects, actually, potentially, on the horizon.

Ok cool, good info. I had heard of the Missouri and Wisconsin synods before, though I was under the impression that if you lived in Wisconsin, you were part of the Wisconsin synod etc… :o

ELDoNA is a small splinter off the LCMS, due to (in a VERY simplified nutshell) objections over some unfortunate practices that the LCMS hadn’t responded to quickly or strongly enough, among other reasons. Frankly, that was the fault of our District Presidents (Bishops). Best part of ELDoNA? They actually use the term ‘diocese’ properly. :smiley:

Without malice toward the many Lutherans who remain in the ELCA, that body is not considered an orthodox Lutheran body by any of the synods above. Some of its members are certainly Lutheran, but the body itself either doesn’t ‘do’ Lutheranism very well, or simply isn’t at all.

That’s a very simplified nutshell; history, of course, is not contained in a nutshell. So someone is certain to take issue with some portion of the above and find offense. I can only promise that none was intended.

That was very helpful. So, just to clarify, there aren’t really any major doctrinal differences between the synods, just mainly differences in practices? (Excluding the ELCA of course.) Or am I way off?

Thank you. Perhaps Jon, Ben or one of the other Lutherans can chime in.

Don’t worry, you’re certainly not the first. Confusion is amplified by the fact that the ELCA uses similar terminology to the Confessional synods, but to mean different things - for instance, its districts are called ‘synods’ and are assigned regional/state names like “Alaska Synod.”

I don’t mean to gloss over the doctrinal differences that do exist, for they remain dividing enough that intercommunion is generally discouraged, but doctrinal disagreement is markedly less apparent in the Confessional bodies. While they may call each other heterodox (often with enthusiastically colorful words!) they do recognize each other as adherents to the Augsburg Confession.

A couple of thoughts.
Lutheran “synods” and dioceses in America, at least initially, represented the European national or regional origins of the founders and members of those groups. Even in Europe, Lutheranism was never particularly hierarchical in the way the Catholic Church is.
As time has passed, many of these have merged into larger synods, though there continue to be smaller independent groupings of Lutheran parishes.

archive.org/stream/earlyhistoryoflu00scha#page/n0/mode/2up

This is a little online book in the link that discusses the early history of Lutheranism here.

Jon

The Association of Religion Data Archives has a helpful Lutheran family tree for the American church bodies.

It’s interesting that a lot of the different church bodies were clearly started along ethnic lines that then merged together and later split along doctrinal lines.

Thanks both of you for these links. They were quite interesting and helpful.

I see. It’s starting to make more sense now, thanks!

I just have one more question, though. Both you and EvangelCatholic mentioned the Augsburg Confession, but I have to admit I’m pretty ignorant as to what exactly that refers to. Also the Book of Concord’s another one I’ve heard referenced. Are these Lutheran creeds or catechism’s or what exactly?

Like I said, this is all new to me so I’m pretty clueless here. :slight_smile:

The Augsburg Confession is a statement of faith that was written by Philip Melancthon and signed by several Lutheran theologians and German princes and presented to Emperor Charles V in 1530.

The Book of Concord is a collection of Lutheran dogmatic statements that cover the period from the start of the Lutheran Reformation until 1580. The Augsburg Confession is one of the documents in the Book of Concord.

google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=lutheran%20satire%20elca&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB4QtwIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D0Nx8QqiADyw&ei=JfWyU4DfIsKGyASI4YHwCA&usg=AFQjCNGgpiGO2SKel7gd90ZYTPUAS9m1RA&sig2=FHmI44DAy7D96msLWQTutg&bvm=bv.70138588,d.aWw

:rotfl:

But the worst part is it’s true. If Lewis were still around to write, I shudder to imagine what today’s Screwtape would do inside our churches. :sad_yes:

One can find the Augsburg Confession here:bookofconcord.org/augsburgconfession.php

Jon

The Wisconsin Synod is a little more complex that what is in the tree above from the Assoc. of Religion Data: WELS - Our History

And to further confuse non-Lutherans, there was a Synodical Conference, begun in 1872, that held the WELS, the ELS, LCMS in unity until 1967. Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America

I can only imagine how messy this looks to the OP.

:smiley: That was great.

Great. Just when I thought I had it all figured out in my head. :whacky:

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