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Some Lutherans Reunited after More than 115 Years


    A story is told of the Apostle John when he was a very old man.  In AD 100, he was the last of the original Apostles still alive.  People traveled from all around to see him, and some came with questions.  Yet his answer was always the same:  “Love one another.”  Finally someone asked him why he didn’t answer the questions, and he replied, “Because when you love one another, the questions don’t matter.”  This can be true of individuals and also of churches; they can work together despite differences.

    Christianity includes the story of a group of churches which came together again in 1988 to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  It formed as a result of dozens and dozens of different Lutheran groups who decided, over the years, to join together.  And this story includes the tale of one group who rejoined after a 118-year separation. 

    Before we begin you need to know that this process involves a lot of different names and abbreviations.  It will be complex, but the beauty of its complexity is that in the end most of the groups came together.  So from the beginning.  The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC) formed in 1860.  [It had a different name when it formed, but that is not important here.] It split in 1870 into the AELC, the Conference of the Norwegian-Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (N-DC), and the Norwegian Augustana Synod (NAS). 

    In 1890 the N-DC and the NAS joined with the Anti-Missouri Brotherhood (A-MB) to form the United Norwegian Lutheran Church of America (UNLCA).  The A-MB had split from the Synod of the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, also known as the Norwegian Synod (NS) in 1886.  The NS itself had formed in 1853.

    In 1917, the UNLCA and some NS joined with the Hauge’s Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Synod (HS) in America to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. It changed its name to the Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC) in 1946.  The HS was formed in 1876 when the group separated from the Eielsen Synod, which was formed in 1846. 

    In 1960, the ELC joined with the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church (UELC) to form the American Lutheran Church (ALC).  Yes, it adopted the name of one of the groups.  The original ALC was formed in 1930 when the Iowa Synod, the Buffalo Synod, and the Joint Synod of Ohio joined together.  The UELC was formed in 1896 when the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Association of America and the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America joined together. 

    The new ALC added a member in 1963, the Lutheran Free Church.  This group formed back in 1897 when they split from the UNLCA, which had formed in 1890 when the A-MB, the NAS, and the N-DC came together.  So they joined the group which they had broken from sixty-six years earlier.

    And in 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed when the ALC joined with the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AsELC); the ELCA is the group which exists today.  The LCA and the AsELC both originated when other Lutheran groups joined together just like the ALC, but that is another story.

    And the 118 years separation part?  When the AELC split in 1870, it formed three groups, the AELC, the NAS, and the N-DC.  The AELC went one way, and the N-DC and the NAS went another way.  But they were joined together in 1988 as the ELCA.  So they separated in 1870 and came together again in 1988.  The Apostle John would have been pleased. 


©Mark Nickens 2009


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