What’s the difference between Missouri Synod and ELCA?

Answered by Willie Powers

The Missouri Synod, officially known as the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are two different Lutheran bodies in the United States. While both are Lutheran denominations, they have distinct differences in their beliefs, practices, and approaches to issues.

1. Theological Differences:
The LCMS is known for its conservative theological stance, adhering closely to traditional Lutheran teachings. It emphasizes the authority of scripture and holds to a literal interpretation of the Bible. The ELCA, on the other hand, is more progressive in its theology and is known for its willingness to engage with contemporary issues and interpretations of scripture.

2. Social Issues:
The ELCA has taken more liberal positions on social issues such as human sexuality, gender equality, and same-sex marriage. It allows for the ordination of openly gay and lesbian clergy and affirms the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals. The LCMS, however, maintains a more conservative stance on these issues, adhering to a traditional understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman and limiting ordination to heterosexual individuals.

3. Worship Styles:
The worship styles in the two denominations also differ. The LCMS tends to have a more traditional and formal worship style, often featuring liturgical elements, hymns, and a reverence for tradition. The ELCA, while also valuing tradition, is more open to contemporary worship styles, including contemporary music, informal worship settings, and creative expressions of worship.

4. Ecumenical Relationships:
The ELCA has been actively engaged in ecumenical dialogue and cooperation with other Christian denominations, seeking common ground and unity. It has full communion agreements with some other mainline Protestant churches, allowing for shared clergy and sacraments. The LCMS, however, maintains a more cautious approach to ecumenism, emphasizing doctrinal purity and maintaining distinct Lutheran identity.

5. Governance and Structure:
The ELCA operates with a more centralized governance structure, with decision-making power resting in a national assembly. It allows for a broader range of theological perspectives within its congregations. The LCMS, on the other hand, has a more decentralized structure, with more autonomy given to individual congregations and a stronger emphasis on doctrinal unity and adherence to synodical resolutions.

It is important to note that these are broad generalizations, and there can be variations within individual congregations and pastors. Moreover, the experiences and beliefs of individuals within each denomination may differ. Understanding these differences can help individuals make informed decisions about which denomination aligns best with their own beliefs and preferences.