The ELS is founded on two basic biblical principles.
- The entire Bible – the Old and New Testaments – is the Word of God, inspired by God the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is true in every way, and without error. In the Bible, God reveals everything a person needs to know for salvation. It is the one and only authority for Christian teaching, faith, and life.
- The central truth of the Bible is Jesus Christ. In the Bible, God reveals to mankind His Son Jesus, the world’s only Savior from sin, death, and the devil. Jesus Christ is God’s Son, who was born into the world as a sinless man, died innocently for the world’s sins at the cross, and rose again to victory. By God’s grace, through faith in Jesus, we are saved from eternal death and we will enjoy eternal life in heaven. The Bible is written so that all people may believe in Jesus as their Savior from sin, and that by believing, have eternal life in His Name, St. John 20.
(From the tract, “The History of the ELS”)
The ELS is a church body that traces its roots to the Reformation of the 1500s through Norwegian Lutherans who came to America in the 1800s. Our synod consists of congregations in 18 states and conducts or assists mission work in seven foreign countries.
We also belong to the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, a worldwide association of various Lutheran groups in full doctrinal fellowship with each other. This association includes the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), our sister synod in America.
Prior to 1958, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod was known as the “Norwegian Synod,” because the synod’s founders had come to America from Norway. In 1853 they founded a church body. When a majority of that church body merged with two other Norwegian-American Lutheran church bodies in 1917, a minority of pastors and congregations chose to withdraw. They believed that by taking part in the merger they would compromise the teachings of the Bible. Specifically, they disagreed on the doctrine of “election.” The churches taking part in the merger allowed the belief that God chose people for salvation “in view of faith” that He knew they would possess, but this means that God would save people by virtue of what was in them, and not by grace! The small minority believed that God called people in eternity to be saved by grace alone. These 13 pastors and nine congregations reorganized themselves into a new synod, keeping the name “The Norwegian Synod.”
In 1958, the synod changed its name to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, making clear its mission to go into all the world to preach the Gospel to all people.
Our synod has its own hymnbook, the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, which offers only traditional Lutheran worship using a gentle update of the liturgies and hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) and Lutheran Hymnary (1913). Our synod also has its own college, bookstore, and seminary.