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Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod facts for kids

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Abbreviation LCMS
Classification Lutheran
Orientation Confessional Lutheran
Structure National synod, 35 middle level districts, and local congregations
President Matthew C. Harrison
Associations Member of the International Lutheran Council
In altar and pulpit fellowship with the American Association of Lutheran Churches
Former member of Synodical Conference and Lutheran Council—USA.
Region United States, especially in the Upper Midwest.
Headquarters Kirkwood, Missouri
Founder C. F. W. Walther
Origin April 26, 1847
Chicago, Illinois
Separated from German Landeskirchen
Absorbed Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Illinois and Other States (1880)
Evangelical Lutheran Concordia Synod of Pennsylvania and Other States (1886)
English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri and Other States (1911)
Synodical Conference Negro Mission (1961)
National Evangelical Lutheran Church (1964)
Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (1971)
Separations Orthodox Lutheran Conference (1951)
Lutheran Churches of the Reformation (1964)
Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (1976),
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil (1980)
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Argentina (1986)
Lutheran Church–Canada (1988)
Congregations 6,101
Members 2,017,834 baptized
1,584,251 confirmed
Primary schools 793
Secondary schools 86
Tax status Internal Revenue Service 501c3
Tertiary institutions 2 seminaries, 9 colleges and universities
Other name(s) German: Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten
German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States
Publications The Lutheran Witness

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS or Missouri Synod) is a Lutheran denomination in the United States. It has 2 million members. This makes it the second-largest Lutheran group in the country. The LCMS was organized in 1847 at a meeting in Chicago, Illinois. At first it was called the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States (German: Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten).

The LCMS has congregations in all 50 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. More than half of its members are located in the Midwest. It is a member of the International Lutheran Council. The LCMS's headquarters are in Kirkwood, Missouri.

The current president has been Matthew C. Harrison since September 1, 2010.



The Missouri Synod was started by several communities of German Lutherans in the United States. F. C. D. Wyneken did mission work in Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. Martin Stephan started a community of Lutherans in Perry County, Missouri, and St. Louis, Missouri. Wilhelm Löhe sent missionaries to Michigan and Ohio.

The Saxon immigration

In the Kingdom of Saxony in the 19th century, Lutheran pastor Martin Stephan and many of his followers thought that their church would be forced to merge with the Reformed church. Because of this, Stephan and between 600 and 700 other Saxon Lutherans left Germany to move to the United States in November 1838. They had five ships.

Their ships arrived between December 31, 1838, and January 20, 1839, in New Orleans. One ship was lost at sea. Afterwards, they settled in Perry County, Missouri. At first, Stephan was the bishop. Later, other members said that Stephan was corrupt so he was kicked out. This made C. F. W. Walther the new leader.

The Löhe missionaries

In 1842, a German pastor named Wilhelm Löhe started sending missionaries to America. They started congregations in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana.

Founding and early years

St. Paul's in Chicago, where the first meeting of the Missouri Synod was held.

In 1844 and 1845, the three groups listed above (the Saxons, the Löhe missionaries, and Wyneken) started talking about starting a synod. On April 26, 1847, twelve pastors met in Chicago, Illinois, and officially started the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States. Walther was the first president.

The synod was conservative. Löhe left because he disagreed with some of its doctrine.

The Synodical Conference

In 1857 and 1872, the LCMS entered into fellowship with five other conservative Lutheran synods. These groups formed the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America.

English transition

For the thirty years after it started, the Missouri Synod focused on German-speaking Lutherans. In 1872, members of the Missouri Synod, along with three other synods, started the "English Evangelical Lutheran Conference of Missouri". This group focused on English-speakers. It became an independent synod in 1888 and merged with the LCMS in 1911.

English became more common in the LCMS during the first two decades of the 20th century. Some churched dropped all German services.


In 1947, the synod shortened its name to "The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod". In 1964, the National Evangelical Lutheran Church, an historically Finnish-American Lutheran church, merged with the LCMS. In 1971, the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, an historically Slovak-American church, merged with the LCMS.

The Synodical Conference broke up in 1963. Six years later, the LCMS formed the Lutheran Council in the United States of America (LCUSA) with several other Lutheran synods. These were moderate and liberal. Afterwards, the LCMS started becoming more conservative again.

Some of the more liberal professors and students left Concordia Seminary and started Seminex. In 1976, about 250 of the more liberal congregations left the Synod. Then the LCMS left the LCUSA.

Foreign missions

In the early 20th century, the LCMS sent missionaries to Brazil and Argentina. The Brazil District and the Argentina District were started, which at first were part of the LCMS. In the 1980s, they became independent synods.

The LCMS had congregations in Canada. In 1988, the Canadian congregations became an independent synod, the Lutheran Church-Canada. A small number of churches in Ontario and Quebec are still in the LCMS.


The Missouri Synod believes that the Bible is the first source for the teachings of the church, and that the Bible is best explained by the Book of Concord. The Missouri Synod also teaches biblical inerrancy, which is the teaching that the Bible does not have errors.

The Missouri Synod believes that justification comes from God "by divine grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone." It teaches that faith in Jesus is the only way to eternal salvation. God gives people grace through the Word of God and the Sacraments. The synod does not have an official definition of sacrament. This means that some Missouri Synod Lutherans may disagree about how many sacraments there are. All agree that Baptism and Communion are sacraments.

In the LCMS, babies are baptized, as well as children and adults.

The LCMS teaches that the body and blood of Jesus are truly present in the Eucharist. The synod practices closed communion. This mean that normally, only confirmed members of an LCMS church (or a church that has fellowship with the LCMS) can participate in communion at an LCMS church.

The LCMS supports creationism.


LCMS pastors are usually required to have a four-year bachelor's degree (in any discipline), as well as a four-year Master of Divinity degree. The latter degree can be earned from one of these institutions: Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana or at the two seminaries run by the Lutheran Church–Canada. After they receive this degree, pastors are called to a church and are ordained.

The LCMS does not let women be pastors.

Church structure

The LCMS is led by a synod president, who must have been ordained. He is elected by synod members at a synodical convention. This convention is held every three years. The current president is Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison.


The entire synod is divided into 35 districts, usually representing a specific geographic area. There are two non-geographic districts (the English District and the SELC District). The English District and the SELC District used to be their own synods, but they merged with the LCMS.

Each district is led by an elected district president, who must have been ordained. The districts are subdivided into circuits. Each circuit is led by a circuit visitor, who must be a pastor at one of the local churches.

Relationship with other Lutheran bodies

The LCMS is a member of the International Lutheran Council. It also has fellowship with the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC).

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