Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod

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Basic data
Matthew C. Harrison
Membership: International Lutheran Council
Church districts : 35
Municipalities : 6047 (as of: 2018)
Parishioners: approx. 2.0 million (as of 2018)
Address: International Center, 1333 Kirkwood Road
St. Louis, Mon 6 31 22-72 95 USA
Website: Missouri Lutheran Church Synod

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod ( German  Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod , LC-MS ) is the second largest Lutheran church in the USA .

Its origins lie in the immigration of a total of 665 Saxon Lutherans in January 1839 under the leadership of Martin Stephan . Stephan had organized their emigration with 5 ships from Bremen to New Orleans and on to Perry County by November 1838 .

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has its church leadership in St. Louis , Missouri . It has about 2.0 million baptized members. The LC-MS is divided into 35 districts.


The Missouri Synod came into being through the amalgamation of various churches of German Lutherans who emigrated between 1830 and 1840. In Indiana , Ohio and Michigan isolated German Lutherans were brought together by the missionary Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken . The Saxon emigration movement of conservative Lutherans under the leadership of Martin Stephan founded an Orthodox Lutheran church in Perry County (Missouri) and St. Louis. Wilhelm Löhe sent missionaries to Michigan and Ohio to bring together the fragmented Lutheran congregations. They found a congregation founded by Lutheran Franks in Frankenmuth .

The Saxon emigrants

Since the Saxon Lutheran regional church of the 19th century was shaped by theological rationalism , the 665 group of exiles under the leadership of the Dresden pastor Martin Stephan left Germany in November 1838. They tried to live their faith without reprisals.

In January 1839 four of the five emigrant ships landed in New Orleans (the ship "Amalia" was missing), and most of the emigrants settled in Perry County and later in or around St. Louis. Martin Stephan had himself proclaimed Bishop of the Apostolic Lutheran Episcopal Church in Stephansburg during the crossing . He was expelled from the Church on charges of financial infidelity and sexual abuse. Ferdinand Walther took over the leadership of the emigrant community.

Organization of the Missouri Synod

On April 26, 1847, twelve pastors, representing 15 German Lutheran communities, gathered in Chicago and founded a church called the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States. Wilhelm Walther became its first president. Under his leadership, the synod developed in a conservative, denominational-Lutheran direction that rejected the influences of rationalism and any form of syncretism . He was also involved in the establishment of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (ELFK) in Germany in 1876, which also strove in a denominational-Lutheran direction like the Missouri Synod.

Under the second President of the LC-MS, Friedrich Conrad Dietrich Wyneken, the main focus of the work was on the integration of German immigrants, for example by providing them with opportunities to settle in the vicinity of other Germans, by building churches and church schools, and training pastors and teachers . In 1897 the synod parishes had 685,000 members.


In connection with the entry of the USA into the First World War and the associated anti-German mood, the Missouri Synod removed the term “German” from its name. In 1947 she changed the name from "Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States" to "Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod".

Internal disputes - the walk-out

By the late 1960s, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod had two theological schools that coexisted. The more conservative was associated with the Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield (now Fort Wayne ). The other direction was taught at Concordia Seminary St. Louis and was more liberal and Hegelian .

In 1969, the President of the Concordia Theological Seminary, Jacob Aall Otteson Preuss , a Conservative theologian, was elected President of the Missouri Synod. Two months earlier, John Tietjen, a liberal theologian, had become president of the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

Preuss exerted research on the teaching of various professors at the Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, who were particularly accused of using the historical-critical method of interpreting the Bible . By using the historical-critical way of thinking, the confessional status of the Missouri Synod is abandoned and the validity of the Holy Scriptures and the confessions of the Lutheran Church are called into question. Although the board found that all faculty members were faithful to scripture and creed, the 1973 Missouri Synod passed a resolution accusing the faculty of disregarding the fundamental principle of Sola Scriptura . A new supervisory body was elected, which removed Tietjen from his office.

Despite several attempts to mediate, the suspension was upheld. Forty-five of the 50 faculty members and most of the students stopped teaching for a week to inform the Missouri Synod congregations of their positions. After the professors were ultimately asked to resume teaching, the majority of the students and the 45 professors split off on February 19, 1974 and founded a new seminar, the Concordia Seminary in exile, later renamed in "Christ Seminary". The remaining students and the remaining five professors continued teaching at the Concordia Seminary St. Louis with the support of the Concordia Theological Seminary .

In 1975 the Synod authorized the Praeses to take action against those District Presidents who had given their district permission to ordain Christ Seminary graduates in Missouri Synod wards . In 1976 four district presidents were dismissed from office. As a result, about 250 congregations with 100,000 members split off from the Missouri Synod and formed the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America (AELC) in 1977 . A short time later, the AELC introduced the ordination of women , which is categorically rejected by the Missouri Synod.

In 1988 the AELC merged with the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The Missouri Synod withdrew from the collaboration with the ALC that had begun in the 1960s, even before this merger was completed.

The theological differences that led to the separation of this group can be substantiated with two questions:

  • Is the historical-critical method a key to a proper understanding of the Scriptures? So does the Bible contain statements that are to be understood as time- and place-bound?
  • Is the distinction between law and gospel a dogmatic belief or a hermeneutic principle that has to be proven again and again in Holy Scripture?

In addition, there are the different views on the ordination of women.

Lutheran theology


One of the main features of the Reformation in the 16th century was the emphasis on the scriptural principle Sola scriptura - "only the script". The Missouri Synod confesses the Bible as the only norm (norma normans) for doctrine and dogmas. The interpretation of the Holy Scriptures can only take place on the basis of the Lutheran Confessions, as they are laid down in the Book of Concord (norma normata) .


Another feature of the Reformation were the statements sola gratia - "only by grace" and sola fide - "only through faith" and solus Christ - "only Christ". The Missouri Synod is fully committed to these Reformation statements. Every form of work righteousness as one thinks to see it in the Roman Catholic Church , as well as every foreign religion, are therefore categorically rejected as not leading to salvation. The Missouri Synod professes Jesus Christ as the center of all scriptures and faith in him as crucified and resurrected as the only way to salvation.

Understanding of the Sacrament

The Missouri Synod teaches that God's word - both in scripture and in the form of scriptural preaching - and the sacraments are signs of divine grace that believers receive as a gift from the Holy Spirit . This creates faith , the forgiveness of sins due to the death of Christ, salvation and eternal life .

The sacraments are considered to be actions that are grounded in the work of Jesus and arise through the connection of God's word with earthly elements. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are usually understood as sacraments .

Baptism is practiced as infant baptism. A baptism of young people or adults takes place only when the unbaptized into the church. A repeat or postponement of baptism is rejected as heresy .

The Communion is done with bread and wine. The use of grape juice is rejected as an unbiblical heresy.

Real presence

In accordance with Lutheran doctrine of the Lord's Supper, the Missouri Synod confesses the real presence of Christ's body and blood “in, with and under” bread and wine. Thus the Lord's Supper is not just a symbolic event, but a real reception of Christ.

Despite similarities to the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation , this is rejected as heresy by the Missouri Synod. Similarly, in baptism, God himself works on the person to be baptized.


With regard to eschatology , the Missouri Synod rejects the doctrine of an earthly 1000-year kingdom . It teaches the physical return of Christ at the Last Judgment . The doctrine of all reconciliation is rejected.

Law and gospel

The "Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod" makes a clear distinction between the law of God and the gospel of God.

Regardless of their position within the books of the Bible, law is understood to mean all statements that are commands and instructions from God. However, it is not possible for man to fulfill God's law, so that he lives under the wrath, judgment and condemnation of God.

The Gospel, on the other hand, shows the unconditional devotion of God to the sinner and promises him redemption without the works of the law. So while the law condemns man, the gospel is a promise from God. Both the law and the gospel are gifts from God; both are necessary: ​​the law to show man his sinful nature and to lead him to the gospel, through which he may experience and receive forgiveness of sin due to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ . According to the teaching of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, both the Old and New Testaments contain both essential elements, law and gospel. For this reason, the Old Testament remains an indispensable part of the Bible.

church service

Because of the orientation of Martin Stephan and CFW Walther, the Missouri Synod is also in the church practice High Church coined differs in the High Church worship services but not from other Lutherans in the United States than from the practice in Germany with the exception of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church ( SELK ), with which the Missouri Synod maintains full church and sacrament fellowship. Only church members and members of a church affiliated with the Missouri Synod in church and communion fellowship are allowed to attend the sacrament. Martin Luther's Deutsche Messe is the basis for the divine service . Changes to this order have hardly been made so far. Some congregations in the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod also use modern instruments such as pianos , guitars and modern Christian songs in their worship services in addition to the organ , other classical instruments or classical music and chorales . In addition to traditional church services, congregations with growing membership meanwhile offer so-called “contemporary worships” in which modern Christian songs dominate.

The Missouri Synod rejects the ordination of women as unbiblical. Apart from this clear guideline, the role of women is debated within the Church. In 1969 women received the right to vote in synods of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. In 2004, the Synod decided by a narrow majority that women services as presbyters , lecturers or Kirchner Interior may accept.


The synodal structure is congregational with a praeses at the head.


35 dioceses

Missouri Synod facilities

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has ten universities within the Concordia University System . The Missouri Synod is also responsible for the worldwide radio program “ The Lutheran Hour ”. The Synod owns the Concordia Publishing House .


With regard to ecumenism , the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod does not belong to either the World Council of Churches (WCC) or the Lutheran World Federation ( WCC) because of its opposition to liberal theology and its understanding of the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments and the Lutheran Confessions ( LWF).

A common platform for Lutheran churches was created with the International Lutheran Council .

With nearly 2.0 million members, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod is the second largest American Lutheran Church after the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with 3.4 million members, followed by the Evangelical Lutheran Wisconsin Synod with 360,000 members ( Status: 2018).

She cultivates full church and communion fellowship only with the Lutheran churches, which, from their point of view, are bound by God's infallible word in the Old and New Testaments and regard the Lutheran confessions as its valid and binding interpretation. There is full church and communion fellowship with 29 Lutheran churches worldwide, including B. with

Web links


  • Walter O. Forster: Zion on the Mississippi. The Settlement of the Saxon Lutherans in Missouri 1839–1841. Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis 1953, OCLC 257362592 (dissertation, Washington University in St. Louis); Revised and expanded version: Ibid [2004?], ISBN 0-570-04539-8 .
  • Chr. Hochstetter: The history of the Evangelical Lutheran Missouri Synod in North America, and its teaching struggles from the Saxon emigration in 1838 to 1884. Heinrich J. Naumann, Dresden 1885 ( scan in Google book search).
  • Renate Schönfuß-Krause: A Saxon became the “Luther of America”. In search of freedom of belief - 665 Saxon Lutherans emigrated from Dresden to North America. In: the Radeberger. Independent local newspaper with official news for Radeberg… Vol. 27, No. 43, October 27, 2017, p. 7 ( [PDF; 2.6 MB, accessed on August 18, 2019]).
  • Renate Schönfuß-Krause: Addiction to the cross became curse of the cross (t). The emigration of Saxon Old Lutherans - between utopia and reality. Part I. In: Altenburger Geschichts- und Hauskalender 2018. E. Reinhold Verlag, Altenburg 2017, ISBN 978-3-95755-033-0 .


  1. a b c Overview. (PDF; 539 kB) In:, The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, August 31, 2018, accessed on August 18, 2019: "1,968,641 baptized members".
  2. ^ Evaluation of the New Orleans passenger lists, 1813–1863. In: (with registration).
  3. Reinhold H. Goetjen: Holy Love and Sinful Love, Holy Hatred and Sinful Hatred . Messiah Lutheran Church, North Hollywood, California 1966, OCLC 8294007 , p. 32 .
  4. See Close Communion ( Memento of April 30, 2005 in the Internet Archive ) (Closed Communion). In:, accessed on August 18, 2019.
  5. See A Glimpse at Our Service. (WMV) (No longer available online.) In: Evangelical Lutheran Philippus Congregation Gifhorn, archived from the original on June 24, 2007 ; Retrieved on August 19, 2019 (high liturgical Lutheran service SELK; 3 mementos from video recordings). .
  6. See Reflections on Contemporary Worship - Page 2 ( Memento September 9, 2005 in the Internet Archive ). In:, accessed on August 18, 2019 (English; discussion about contemporary worship).
  7. See A. L. Barry: Lutheran Worship: 2000 Beyond ( Memento of August 18, 2004 in the Internet Archive ). In:, accessed on August 18, 2019 (English; excerpt from the LC-MS understanding of the service).