ELC is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
The ELCA confesses the Triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In our preaching and teaching the ELCA trusts the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.
ELCA teaching or theology serves the proclamation and ministry of this faith. It does not have an answer for all questions, not even all religious questions. Teaching or theology prepares members to be witnesses in speech and in action of God’s rich mercy in Jesus Christ.
Scriptures, Creeds and Confessions
The ELCA’s official Confession of Faith identifies the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (commonly called the Bible); the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds; and the Lutheran confessional writings in the Book of Concord as the basis for our teaching. ELCA congregations make the same affirmation in their governing documents, and ELCA pastors promise to preach and teach in accordance with these teaching sources. This Confession of Faith is more than just words in an official document. Every Sunday in worship ELCA congregations hear God’s word from the Scriptures, pray as Jesus taught and come to the Lord’s Table expecting to receive the mercies that the Triune God promises. Throughout the week ELCA members continue to live by faith, serving others freely and generously in all that they do because they trust God’s promise in the Gospel. In small groups and at sick beds, in private devotions and in daily work, this faith saturates all of life.
Teaching for a life of faith
This connection to all of life is the clearest demonstration of the authority that the canonical Scriptures, the ecumenical Creeds and the Lutheran Confessions have in the ELCA. The Holy Spirit uses these witnesses to create, strengthen and sustain faith in Jesus Christ and the life we have in him. That life-giving work continues every day, as Martin Luther explained in the Small Catechism: the Holy Spirit “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.”
Luther and Lutheranism
Martin Luther (1483-1546) was eight years old when Christopher Columbus set sail from Europe and landed in the Western Hemisphere. Luther was a young monk and priest when Michaelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. A few years later, he was a junior faculty member at a new university in small-town Germany, intently studying the Scriptures, “captivated with an extraordinary ardor for understanding Paul in the Epistle to the Romans.”
In these days Luther was tormented by the demand for righteousness before God. “I did not love, yes, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners, and secretly, if not blasphemously, certainly murmuring greatly, I was angry with God.” Then, in the midst of that struggle with God, the message of the Scriptures became clear, like a long-shut door opening wide. When he realized that a “merciful God justifies us by faith … I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”
What Luther discovered is the freedom of Christians trusting God’s mercy in Christ. As he later wrote, “Faith is God’s work in us. It changes us and makes us to be born anew of God. This faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing. It is impossible for it not to be doing good works incessantly. Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that believers would stake their lives on it a thousand times.”
This discovery set Luther’s life on a new course —both his own life and his public service as a preacher and teacher. When a church-endorsed sales team came to the Wittenberg area in October, 1517, Luther was concerned that the promotion and sale of indulgences undermined the promise of God’s unreserved mercy in Jesus and the faith that trusts that promise. His 95 Thesesor Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences became the first of a life-long stream of books, sermons, letters, essays, even hymns in which he expressed his confidence in this life-giving promise from God, the Gospel, and its liberating implications for all of life in church and society.