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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lutheranism

Lutheranism has its roots in the work of Martin Luther, who sought to reform the Western Church to what he considered a more biblical foundation.

The name Lutheran originated as a derogatory term used against Luther by German Scholastic theologian Dr. Johann Maier von Eck during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519.

Martin Luther always disliked the term Lutheran, preferring the term Evangelical, which was derived from euangelion, a Greek word meaning "good news", i.e. "Gospel."

Martin Luther

The Second Diet of Speyer in 1529 prohibited future reformation and enforced The Edict of Worms. The word Protestant is derived from the Latin protestatio meaning declaration which refers to the letter of protestation by Lutheran princes against the decision of the Diet of Speyer. At first, this term Protestant was used politically for the states that resisted the Edict of Worms. Over time, however, this term came to be used for the religious movements that opposed the Roman Catholic tradition in the 16th century.

Lutheranism spread through all of Scandinavia during the 16th century, as the monarch of Denmark–Norway (also ruling Iceland and the Faroe Islands) and the monarch of Sweden (also ruling Finland) adopted Lutheranism. Through Baltic-German and Swedish rule, Lutheranism also spread into the Baltic countries of Estonia and Latvia.

Three English and Irish Lutheran servants to the Spanish in Mexico City became the first men to be killed for their faith in America in 1574. They ran into trouble with the Inquisition, which had been set up in Mexico three years previously. People from all over the country attended the public announcement of their sentences and the burning at the stake of the three Lutherans was an elaborate public spectacle on February 28, 1574.


In 1666 Philipp Jakob Spener (1635-1705) took up a post as a Lutheran Clergyman at a parish in Frankfurt. Four years later, influenced by the works of English Puritan writers such as Richard Baxter he began holding home Bible studies for prayer, Bible reading, and the sharing of Christian experience. Out of this came the German Pietist movement, which emphasized pious living and new birth in Christ and revitalized the German Lutheran church. In the eighteenth century Pietism greatly impacted Spener's godson, Nikolaus Count Von Zinzendorf and the Moravians.

On November 24, 1703, Andrew Rudman and two other Swedish church leaders ordained Justus Falckner in a Philadelphia church. He was the first Lutheran pastor ordained in the region that became the United States.


The first Lutheran missionaries arrived at Tranquebar in South India in 1706.

Johann Sebastian Bach was a devout member of the Lutheran Church and his sympathies lay in particular with the Pietist movement. He believed he could best serve his church and the people around him through his music.

The first Lutheran church body in North America, the Pennsylvania Ministerium, was founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1748. The group was known as the "Ministerium of North America" until 1792, when mindful of other Lutheran church bodies being founded in North America, the group renamed itself "The Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States".

An 1803 hymnal, published by the Pennsylvania Ministerium

Hebron Church was founded by German settlers in 1786, making it the first organized Lutheran church west of the Shenandoah Valley.

The first commercial advent calendars were printed in Germany in 1851. Originally used just by German Lutherans they are now ubiquitous among adherents of many Christian denominations.

In 1939 German Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the dramatic decision to return from America to Nazi Germany to be with his people in the tragic times that he saw ahead. He was opposed to the "German Christian Movement" which advocated the removal of all Jewish elements from the Christian faith and he challenged Christians to reject a complacent, immature and compliant faith. Instead Bonhoeffer believed that the Christian walk requires a costly involvement in the modern secular society. On April 9, 1945, two years after being arrested for involvement in the political resistance against Hitler, the Nazis hanged him.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German Lutheran pastor and theologian. By Bundesarchiv, Wikipedia Commons

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America came into existence on January 1, 1988, creating the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.

Today, Lutheranism is one of the largest denominations of Protestantism. With approximately 80 million adherents, it constitutes the third most common Protestant denomination after historically Pentecostal denominations and Anglicanism.


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