St. James Lutheran Church is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and a member of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod. The ELCA is broken up into nine geographic regions and a synod is a smaller geographical area within the region. Our synod, the North/West Lower Michigan Synod is in region 6 and is one of 6 synods in the region. As members of the synod and the ELCA, we are joined with other Lutherans and Christians throughout North America and the world.
Lutherans are a denomination of Christianity that was formed shortly after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century. We believe in the triune God, which means that we confess God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Lutherans gather each week for worship to celebrate the good news of God’s love and forgiveness, to hear the Word of God (the Scriptures), and to share in the meal of Holy Communion that nourishes and strengthens us to go into the world to be God’s people in our daily lives and our life’s work (vocation). We are a denomination that lives out our faith by loving and serving others who are in need.
Specifically, What do Lutherans Believe?
Lutherans are Christians who accept the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546). Luther was a German theologian who realized that there were significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the practices of the Roman Catholic church at that time. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the door of Wittenberg University, titled “95 Theses” (to debate 95 theological issues). His hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.
What started as an academic debate escalated into a distinct separation between the Roman Catholic church of the time and those who accepted Luther’s suggested reforms. “Lutheran” became the name of the group that agreed with Luther’s convictions.
Today, nearly five centuries later, Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 (or the Sunday closest to it) and still hold to the basic principles of Luther’s theological teachings, such as Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone. These comprise the very essence of Lutheranism:
- We are saved by the grace of God alone — not by anything we do (Grace is defined as God’s love freely given);
- Our salvation is through faith alone — a confident trust in God, who in Christ promises us forgiveness, life and salvation; and
- The Bible is the norm for faith and life — the true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.
Over the years, different Lutheran church bodies have been established and organized to meet the needs of Lutherans in communities and nations all over the world. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest Lutheran group in North America, founded in 1988 when three North American Lutheran church bodies united: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America.
Tell Me More About What you Believe.
- We believe that God acts out of love and grace (which is God’s love freely given) and that ultimately it is love that changes people.
- We think that what truly matters in the life of faith is God’s choice of us and not our decision for God.
- We see God as both revealed and hidden. The crucified Jesus reveals to us the heart of God. Yet for us God remains a deep mystery. We think we need to be a bit humble when it comes to making statements about what God is up to in the world.
- We believe that the ordinary world is where God meets us. We think that God comes to us through means like water, bread and wine, and other people.
- For us, the Bible is “living word.” It is an address from God that invites us into a deeper relationship with God. We value it too much to think that it is infallible or without error.
- We think that Christians live in a both/and relationship with the world. We don’t despise the secular realm, but we also don’t think that it is ultimate. We welcome scientific study but don’t feel that life can be fully captured by scientific analysis. We like to live in the land of ambiguity.
- For us, the church is a creation of God, not the result of religious experiences or the actions of leaders.
- We believe that the church is a community of faith in which all have a role to play. for us, all of us are ministers.
- We think that Christians of today are connected to Christians of every time and place. We do certain things in worship and in church life because those things reflect our deep connection to those who have come before us. We are people of tradition, but believe that changing and being changed is what our tradition is all about.
- We Lutherans believe that before God an in the presence of the crucified Jesus all of us are beggars. We think that ultimately our worth and purpose in life come as gifts from God, not from anything we do.
Statements of Belief
The convictions shared by Christians from many different traditions are expressed in statements of belief called creeds.
These ecumenical creeds that Lutherans affirm and use in worship confess the faith of the church through the ages and around the world.
Lutherans accept the following credal declarations as true statements of the faith:
Some of the information on this page was adapted from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s web site.
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