The Lutherans

The Lutherans

The Lutherans

The Lutherans

Synopsis

Lutheran churches in the United States have included multiple ethnic cultures since the colonial era and continue to wrestle with increasing internal variety as one component of their identity. By combining the concerns of social history with an awareness for theological themes, this volume explores the history of this family of Lutheran churches and traces the development from the colonial era through the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988. An introduction details the origins of Lutheranism in the European Reformation and the practices significant to the group's life in the United States. Organized chronologically, subsequent chapters follow the churches' maturation as they form institutions, provide themselves with leaders, and expand their membership and geographic range. Attention is given throughout to the contributions of the laity and women within the context of the Lutherans' continued individual and corporate effort to be both authentically Lutheran and genuinely American.

Excerpt

Denominational history has a risky potential to become merely an exercise in group autobiography or a saga of family history. The historian who is herself a member of the denomination (as I am) and who imagines her audience to share that membership is tempted to write as an insider for insiders, focusing on the familiar and happy moments while passing by the troublesome ones and giving at least passing reference to each and every cousin and in-law. Lutherans have not been immune from this inclination toward private accounts of their past. Taking others of their own kind as the primary audience has directed both the approach and the content of much of Lutheran historical work, as in other denominations. Lutheran theological concern for the church as the location of preaching and administration of the sacraments, both carried out by clergy, has augmented many historians' prior tendency to focus upon the official actions, major debates, and public leaders of any group. American Lutherans' perennial wrestling with policy and organizational matters has similarly generated lengthy and detailed descriptions of the frequent shifts in synods and other forms of governance and left little space for the lives and ministry carried out inside those structures.

Although the author of this volume is a Lutheran, I do not anticipate that its readers will be. I do not expect that most of them will come here for definitive accounts of internecine disputes or for exhaustive treatments of developments within specific subgroups of American Lutheranism. Rather, I imagine the readers of this history to resemble in many ways my students at St. Olaf College (or earlier at Valparaiso University) in a course on American Lutheranism. While some are Lutherans, they often know little about the history of Lutherans; and many who are not Lutheran know only what they have intuited from attending a college affiliated with a Lutheran church. These students have significantly informed my approach to this topic, my selection of material, and my presentation of it here. I have been informed by the questions they asked and by asking . . .

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