Evangelical Lutheran Churches

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Luther rose : a symbol of the Evangelical Lutheran churches

Evangelical Lutheran churches are based on the Bible , in part on the dogmas of the old church and on the confessional documents of the Evangelical Lutheran Church , which were written by Martin Luther and other Lutheran theologians, such as Philipp Melanchthon , in the course of the Wittenberg Reformation . The Lutheran denominational family has around 83 million Christians.


The term Lutheran was originally a polemical term used by the Roman Catholic side to identify Protestants as heretics . Johannes Eck used them in his 1520 book Adversus Lutheranos, et alios hostes Ecclesiae ("Against the Lutherans and other enemies of the Church").

It was not until later that the term became a self-designation to demonstrate a differentiation from both the Roman Catholic and the Evangelical Reformed .

Originally, Luther's main concern was to reform the Roman Church . It was not until the Confessio Augustana (Augsburg Confession) of 1530 that it became clear that a reformation of the Old Believers was not possible.

Many of the Lutheran churches call themselves Evangelical Church AB with reference to the Augsburg Confession.


Bible and Confessional Scriptures

In Lutheran theology, the Bible has the rank of "norma normans" (normative norm), while the Lutheran confessional writings are "norma normata" (standardized norm = norm standardized by the Bible). According to the concord formula (FC) “From the summary concept”, “God's word is the only guideline and rule of all doctrine ... to which no man's writings should be respected, but everything should be subjected to the same.” The confessional writings nevertheless have a very high dignity, “because (quia bond) they are taken from God's word and firmly and well founded in it ”(FC: from the summary concept). According to free-church Lutherans, this quia bond as a relationship between scripture and confession can only be found in Germany in the old confessional Lutheran churches , such as the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church . The Lutheran regional churches see the bond between scripture and confession not as a quia (because), but as a "quatenus" (insofar) bond. This gives rise to different positions in the teaching and life of the churches.

The confessional documents (BSLK) are:

  1. The Apostolicum
  2. The Confession of Nicaea / Constantinople (325/381 AD)
  3. The Athanasianum

Not all Lutheran churches have the concord formula in their confessional status. A distinction is therefore made between Concordian Lutheran and non-Concordian Lutheran churches.

Sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, solus Christ

The basic ideas of Lutheran theology can be summarized in four Latin formulas:

  1. Sola gratia ”: salvation owes itself solely to the grace or goodness of God. No human action or striving, however good works, can be claimed as a merit to God. The healing always remains a gift in all phases of being a Christian.
  2. Sola fide ”: only faith as trust not in oneself, but in Jesus Christ, allows a person to be considered righteous before God.
  3. Sola scriptura ”: the Bible is the only basis for theological judgment or condemnation. It is not against contemporary speech, not against the critical use of reason , not even against new, current confessions or church traditions; it is also not intended to replace them (no biblicism ). But it is the yardstick and the norm. All sermons and ecclesiastical teaching are to be measured against it.
  4. Solus Christ ”: trust for salvation is only in the person of Jesus Christ , his work and his teaching.

Lutherans reject the veneration of Mary as practiced by the Roman Catholic Church, the papacy and the hierarchical constitution of the Church as iure divino (according to divine law, i.e. unchangeable). In some Lutheran churches, the historical episcopate has been preserved in apostolic succession . Today's Lutherans distance themselves from Luther's anti-Judaism and in many cases admit complicity in its history.

Liturgy and worship

Evangelical Lutheran Church Agenda

In the Lutheran church are preaching and communion service of central importance. In addition to the sermon and the celebration of Holy Communion, Holy Baptism and Holy Confession belong to the means of grace of this denomination. However, within the Lutheran churches it is controversial whether confession can be considered a sacrament , as in the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches.

Lutheran churches usually donate child baptism , but also expressly do not reject baptisms shortly before confirmation or in adulthood. Last Supper services are regularly celebrated in the form of the German Mass , which goes back to the liturgical reform by Martin Luther in 1526. The presence of Christ in Holy Communion is understood as a real presence : Christ's body and blood are distributed and received with bread and wine. Children are also allowed - at least within the VELKD and also in the Evangelical Church AB in Austria - to take part in the Lord's Supper ( children's evening meal ). In the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church ( SELK ), children and young people are allowed to take part in Holy Communion if they have previously been instructed in the Lutheran understanding of the Lord's Supper. Here the SELK speaks of early communion. Confirmation and participation in Holy Communion (early communion) are separated.


Main directions

The Lutheran churches today have three main directions, which are expressed in three worldwide organizations:

Lutheran churches of old denomination

A special form of the Lutheran churches in Germany and in the countries in which a state church exists are the Lutheran churches of old denominations (confessional churches ).

Most of the Lutheran churches of old denomination are often viewed as more conservative. "Conservative" means here above all that they are very closely tied to the Lutheran confessions, which are summarized in the Book of Concords of 1580. Through this bond, they reject any form of unionism ( church fellowship of different denominations) and thus also the Leuenberg Agreement .

Most of the Lutheran confessional churches worldwide are united in the International Lutheran Council .


Cross with Luther rose

In most cases, Lutheran churches are organized synodally and episcopally . The synods are the highest authorities for legislation as well as teaching and personnel decisions and are each chaired by a synod president or a praeses . In the Lutheran churches in Germany or Austria the spiritual supervision of a bishop or a bishop is exerted or via the ordination has right. The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church is also headed by a bishop who exercises the right to ordination and doctrinal supervision. He is responsible for the entire Federal Republic of Germany. The leadership function in the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) is exercised by a praeses. The Danish Church in South Schleswig is headed by a provost and (unlike the Danish People's Church ) is synodal.


Like almost all member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the Lutheran regional churches are also involved in the World Council of Churches . Due to the Leuenberg Agreement of 1973, most of the Lutheran churches in Europe belonging to the LWF, including all German regional churches, have full communion and communion with the Reformed, United and Methodist churches in Europe. Numerous members of the Lutheran denominational family work in the evangelically oriented Evangelical Alliance .

In Germany, both the Lutheran regional churches and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Working Group of Christian Churches work together with Catholic and Orthodox churches.

Legal status

In Germany and in some Scandinavian countries, Lutheran churches, in regional church or state-independent organizational form, have public law status. The close connection between church and state results from the sovereign church regiment , which led to a connection between “throne and altar”. This is why the Lutheran regional churches in Germany as well as the United and Reformed regional churches have a closer relationship to the state (e.g. clearly in the church tax system ), which has been regulated in detail by state church treaties since the 20th century .

The Lutheran churches with old denominations have public law status, but do not collect church taxes. Your church members voluntarily pay church fees directly to the congregation. This forwards a certain amount to the general church treasury. Likewise, leaving the church does not take place at the local court, but directly at the rectory in writing.

The also Lutheran Danish Church in southern Schleswig , which looks after the Danish ethnic group in the north of Schleswig-Holstein , has the legal form of a registered association as a free church.

In other countries, for example Austria, Switzerland and the USA, the Lutheran Church is one of various churches due to the stricter separation of church and state.

Situation in individual countries


The common church and the umbrella organization of the Lutheran regional churches in Germany is the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD). The member churches of the VELKD are member churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), which also includes the Reformed and United Churches . Simultaneous membership in EKD and VELKD is not mandatory. In Schleswig-Holstein there are also Danish-speaking Lutheran congregations under the umbrella of the Danish Church in South Schleswig (Dansk Kirke i Sydslesvig) .

Most of the Lutheran churches of old denomination in Germany are now united in the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK); there is also the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baden and the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church . Although there are similarities between these churches on many questions regarding doctrine, understanding of tradition and organization, and there are great similarities in further convictions, not all denominational Lutheran churches have established full church and communion fellowship. Such a church and communion fellowship exists between the independent Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Baden. The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church terminated the church fellowship with the SELK in 1989. Even in the past there was no church or communion fellowship between the other Lutheran free churches.

Different theological standpoints between VELKD and SELK

  • Holy Communion : Both Lutheran churches see communion as a sacrament. However, there are differences. In the member churches of the VELKD, both wine and grape juice are permitted as elements. The SELK rejects grape juice in the Lord's Supper as an element of theological considerations. The VELKD has full church and communion fellowship with churches of different denominations based on the Leuenberg Agreement or bilateral agreements. The SELK rejects any kind of unionism and asks how two different views of the Lord's Supper can still lead to communion between churches and the Lord's Supper (example of Reformed and Lutheran).
  • The ministry of the church: Both Lutheran churches have ministers. Both in the VELKD and in the SELK there are discussions about the spiritual office. The Bishops' Conference of the VELKD has issued several statements in which it states that the spiritual office is to be derived from the priesthood of all baptized. The SELK, on ​​the other hand, does not derive the spiritual office from the priesthood of all baptized, but from or under the apostolate. Consequently, only ordained people are allowed to preach publicly and administer the sacraments in the SELK. Vicars and preachers are permitted to do this in the VELKD. The VELKD ordains women to the parish office, the SELK does not.
  • Doctrine of Justification: Due to the joint declaration on the doctrine of justification between the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church on October 31, 1999 in Augsburg, the positions have also shifted here. If SELK and VELKD have so far agreed on this question, this teaching unit has been called into question.
  • Scripture: There are also big differences between VELKD and SELK in scripture and hermeneutics .
  • Confessional commitment: There are differences between the two Lutheran church bodies in the relationship between the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran confessional writings (see above).


The Lutheran Church in Austria is called the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (A. B.) in Austria . This distinguishes it from the Evangelical Church of the Helvetic Confession in Austria (Reformed Church, Helvetic Confession according to Zwingli); Both churches are linked to the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg and Helvetic Confessions in Austria , with a joint general synod . The Lutherans - as well as the Reformed - have been allowed to practice their religion freely since the Tolerance Patent of 1781, and they have been a recognized religion since the Protestant Patent in 1861 (this is the current legal formulation; today there is complete religious freedom in Austria ). Lutherans, Reformed, and Methodists hold religious instruction together.

The central organs of the Lutheran Church are the synod as theological, the higher church council as the organizational and the bishop (elected for six years) as spiritual leadership. The church fellowship is divided into seven dioceses, the superintendentures . In total there are about 200 Evangelical Lutheran parishes (parishes) in Austria.


Most of the Protestant Christians in Switzerland belong to Reformed churches. A Lutheran congregation was established in Geneva in 1707, and others in several larger cities in the 19th century. They have been united in the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein (BELK) since 1967 .


The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands , founded in 1818, merged with two Reformed churches to form the Protestant Church in the Netherlands .


There are two Lutheran churches in Romania:

See also

Web links

Commons : Lutheranism  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ About the LWF. In: lutheranworld.org. Lutheran World Federation, accessed September 12, 2018; The German-language website About Us, accessed on September 12, 2018, is out of date.
  2. Sydslesvigs synodekirke kan lære folkekirken noget. Kristeligt Dagblad, accessed July 24, 2010 .
  3. Dansk Kirke i Sydslesvigs Håndbog for menighedsrådsmedlemmer ( Memento from 22 August 2016 in the Internet Archive ), 2011, p. 7 (Section II.7. Provsten ).
  4. Minority report of the state government 2007, p. 47 (PDF; 1.5 MB)
  5. Volker Stolle: Lutheran Church in Social Change in the 19th and 20th Centuries . Edition Ruprecht , Göttingen 2019, ISBN 978-3-8469-0310-0 , pp. 320-325 .