History of the ELCA – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

A Union of Common Beliefs

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was formed over 20 years ago. This new church was formed from three separate and well-established North American church bodies:

  • The American Lutheran Church
  • The Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and
  • The Lutheran Church in America.

Beginning January 1, 1988, these churches, with shared beliefs and missions, officially formed the ELCA. Two decades later, this energized church is composed of 4.8 million members and nearly 10,500 congregations across the U.S. and Caribbean. Today, the ELCA reflects the rich and diverse heritage of the people it serves.

But to understand our heritage fully, one must trace our roots back through the mid-17th century, when early Lutherans came to America from Europe, settling in the Virgin Islands and the area that is now known as New York. Even before that, Martin Luther sought reform for the church in the 16th century, laying the framework for our beliefs.

Go Back in Time!

To learn more about how our church developed in this country, visit Lutheran Roots in America.

To understand our milestones in the context of world history, visit Our History in Context.

To get a broad understanding of Martin Luther, his mission and historical significance, visit Opening the Door to Luther.

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