What is a Lutheran?

Back in the 1500s a priest and seminary professor named Martin Luther tried to make some corrections to the Roman Catholic Church he served. The Church wasn’t ready to change yet. Though not Luther’s original intent, there was a split and the Lutheran Church began. From this heritage the Lutheran Church uses liturgical worship, a service that feels familiar to Catholics of today.

Lutherans believe Jesus was both God and human, and we believe He is (mysteriously) truly present in the bread and wine of communion. We believe Jesus lived on earth pretty much as the Gospel accounts describe, that he was killed on a cross, and that he rose again to life after three days. We believe this means we are well loved by God, and completely forgiven of anything wrong we have ever done. We believe God exists as three persons in one, another mystery: Yahweh who created all, Jesus who walked among us as a human, and the Holy Spirit who continues to guide us still.

We emphasize God’s love over everything else. It’s not about following rules; it’s about God’s grace and his great love for us. We can’t earn that—it’s free. Wow! This amazing situation inspires us to work for God, reaching out to those who have less than we do. Lutherans have a long tradition of service to others, expressed locally by our church’s food pantry and other ministries, in New Hampshire by Lutheran Social Service’s Good News Garage, in New England by the contemporary musical group A Bunch of Guys which raised $30,000 for world hunger in just a few months, and expressed globally by Lutheran World Relief (disaster relief) and ELCA World Hunger.

Lutherans live all over the world, with a solid presence in the US especially in the Midwest. In the US there are several organizational bodies of Lutheran, or ‘branches’ if you will. The largest body is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). There are also the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Synod. Triumphant Cross is an ELCA church.

The ELCA has agreements with the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the United Church of Christ (UCC or Congregational) which establish these churches as “full communion” partners. There is a common confessing of the Christian faith; these churches can interchange ordained clergy and engage in worship together including communion. The ELCA and the Roman Catholic Church came close to achieving a similar agreement, and some years ago the Catholic Church took the step of officially pardoning Martin Luther.

Politically, Lutherans span the full spectrum from liberal to conservative. What we share in common is a desire to grow in faith and to make the world a better place. When in doubt, we lean toward including others and away from excluding them. Check out what TCLC members say.