Ever been curious about how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America came to be? Let me just say, it wasn’t quick and easy! The quick answer is that in 1986 the ALC, ELC, and LCA merged to be the ELCA. But before that, there were the AELC, ELCC, UELC, and TALC, not to mention individual synods organized in the 19th Century by folks from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, etc. When I was an Iowa teenager, in the square mile where my family’s farm was located there were two ELCs, an ALC, a Wisconsin Synod, and a Lutheran Brotheran (not to be confused with Lutheran Brotherhood). My family belonged to one of the ELC’s and though we shared a minister and struggled financially to keep up two congregations, we couldn’t possibly unite. After all, one was country and the other town.
Two new books at the BGLibrary address the questions. “Lutherans in America” by Mark Granquist and “Lutheran Denominations in America” by L. DeAne Lagerquist might not have been your beach reading, but they’re just right for the beginning of another academic year. Granquist (Professor of Lutheran History, Luther College, Iowa) and Lagerquist (same, St. Olaf College, Minnesota) are perhaps today’s best known Lutheran historians.* Granquist “brings to light not only the institutions that Lutherans founded…but the people that lived within them.” Lagerquist traces the development of Lutheranism in our country “from the colonial era through the formation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
These two volumes are currently on display. Both are lively, fascinating reads. You’ll be surprised at how complicated we are! To paraphrase Granquist, we Lutherans are about “politics and policies” combined with “piety and practical experience.”
*That is, besides Holy Trinity’s own Mark Edwards, who, incidentally, recommended these books.