Missouri Synod vs ELCA: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is more conservative than the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
  2. The Missouri Synod does not ordain women while the ELCA ordains women as pastors.
  3. The ELCA is more open to cooperation with other Christian denominations than the Missouri Synod.

What is Missouri Synod?

The Missouri Synod refers to the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), which is a Christian denomination within the Lutheran tradition. It is one of the largest Lutheran denominations in the United States.

The Missouri Synod was established in 1847 by German immigrants who sought to preserve a conservative, confessional Lutheran theology. The name “Missouri Synod” originates from the organization’s early years when it was headquartered in Missouri.

The Missouri Synod emphasizes the authority of the Bible and adheres to the Lutheran confessions, particularly the Book of Concord, as the basis for its teachings. It holds to a conservative interpretation of Scripture and upholds traditional Lutheran doctrine, emphasizing the concepts of sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola gratia (grace alone), and sola fide (faith alone).

What is ELCA?

The ELCA refers to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States and is part of the Lutheran tradition.

The ELCA was officially formed in 1988 through the merger of three Lutheran denominations: the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Church in America. This merger brought together various regional and ethnic Lutheran bodies to create a unified denomination.

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The ELCA holds a more progressive stance on theological and social issues compared to other Lutheran bodies, such as the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). It emphasizes the importance of both Scripture and tradition in shaping its beliefs and practices.

Difference Between Missouri Synod and ELCA

  1. One of the primary differences between the Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the ELCA lies in their theological perspectives. The LCMS adheres to a more conservative interpretation of Scripture and strongly emphasises the authority of the Bible. The ELCA, on the other hand, tends to have a more progressive theological approach, incorporating reason, experience, and cultural context alongside Scripture.
  2. The LCMS and the ELCA also differ in their stances on social issues. The LCMS tends to hold more traditional views on topics such as human sexuality, gender roles, and marriage, adhering to a more conservative position. The ELCA, in contrast, has taken more progressive positions on these matters, affirming LGBTQ+ inclusion and advocating for gender equality.
  3. The LCMS does not ordain women as pastors or bishops, while the ELCA does. The ELCA has affirmed the full inclusion of women in ordained ministry, allowing women to serve as pastors and hold leadership positions within the church.
  4. The LCMS does not permit the ordination of openly LGBTQ+ individuals in committed same-sex relationships. In contrast, the ELCA allows for the ordination of LGBTQ+ individuals in committed same-sex relationships and has adopted more inclusive policies regarding LGBTQ+ issues within the church.
  5. The LCMS tends to be more cautious in ecumenical relations and cooperative efforts with other Christian denominations. It strongly emphasises maintaining doctrinal purity and has limited official relationships with other religious bodies. The ELCA, on the other hand, actively engages in ecumenical dialogues and partnerships with other Christian denominations and participates in interfaith discussions and initiatives.
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Comparison Between Missouri Synod and ELCA

Parameters of ComparisonMissouri SynodELCA
Membership SizeAbout 2 million membersAbout 3.3 million members
Worship StyleEmphasis on traditional liturgical worshipEmbraces a range of worship styles
Missionary WorkEngages in international mission effortsActive in both international and domestic missions
Interpreting the BibleEmphasizes the literal interpretation of ScriptureEmphasizes the contextual interpretation of Scripture
Role of TraditionAffirms the importance of historical Lutheran confessions and traditionsValues both Scripture and tradition in shaping beliefs and practices
  1. https://www.poplakewood.org/s/introlcms.pdf
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jacTm7vTaoYC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=difference+between+missouri+synod+and+elca&ots=dZltS466t_&sig=S4wLMWa0cCgfvkypxmWVG9CyYx8

Last Updated : 14 October, 2023

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