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What are the primary differences between the WELS, LCMS, LCMC, NALC, and ELCA Lutheran denominations?

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This is a quick rundown, keeping in mind that not every individual parish fully subscribes to everything their parent organization does (don't judge a book by its cover, but be aware of the connotations each cover generally carries):

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)

  • The Bible is inspired and inerrant, the Confessions are a clear and accurate articulation of biblical truth.
  • Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone, given to us as a gift by grace through faith in Him. Universalism is rejected.
  • Women cannot vote in congregational meetings nor serve in public ministry (no authority over men in any way in the church).
  • Functional view of ministry (no pastoral "office" per say—all members are ministers of Christ, pastors are men called to the specific vocation of preaching/teaching and administering the Sacraments). All forms of ministry are divine calls.
  • Close Communion (only baptized believers who share their distinctly Lutheran confession of faith in all points of doctrine may commune).
  • Marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is sin.

Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)

  • The Bible is inspired and inerrant, Confessions are a true and binding exposition of all scripture and serve as authoritative texts.
  • Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone, given to us as a gift by grace through faith in Him. Universalism is rejected.
  • Women are free to vote in congregational matters, and may serve publicly in humanly established offices as long as those offices do not include any of the distinctive functions of the pastoral office.
  • Believe in a pastoral "office" of ministry, pastor has received a divine call from God, and no one is to preach, teach, or administer the sacraments without a regular call. Only the pastoral office is divinely established, while all other church offices are human institutions. Only men may be called to the pastoral office.
  • Close Communion (only baptized believers who share their distinctly Lutheran understanding of the Lord's Supper may commune; agreement in all doctrinal matters is not necessary).
  • Marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is sin.

Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC)

The LCMC is intentionally placed here in between the LCMS and the NALC. They are similar to the LCMS on their view of scripture, salvation, communion, and marriage and homosexuality. They are closer to WELS concerning their view on ordained ministry (functional view), however they affirm the call of women to ordained pastoral ministry.

North American Lutheran Church (NALC)

  • The Bible is inspired, Confessions are valid interpretations of the faith of the Church and true witnesses to the Gospel.
  • Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone, given to us as a gift by grace through faith in Him. Universalism is rejected.
  • Women and men are free to serve in all aspects of congregational life and ministry.
  • Believe in a pastoral "office" of ministry, pastor has received a divine call from God and includes qualified men and women.
  • Open Communion (all baptized believers are welcome to commune).
  • Marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is sin.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

  • The Bible is inspired, the Confessions are valid interpretations of the faith of the Church and true witnesses to the Gospel.
  • Salvation is universal. What God has done in Christ is done for all in the world; God's act in Christ is the way that all come to God. Universalism is accepted.
  • Women and men are free to serve in all aspects of congregational life and ministry.
  • Functional view of ministry (no pastoral "office" per say - we are all ministers of Christ, pastors are men called to the specific vocation or "rostered ministry" of preaching/teaching and administering the Sacraments).
  • Open Communion (all baptized persons are welcome to commune). In practice, all are welcome to commune, sometimes including non-human partakers (pets).
  • Accepts and supports monogamous, same-gender relationships. Allows non‐celibate gays and lesbians to serve as clergy. The individual church may choose to call or not call gay or lesbian clergy.

Yes, I posted this question as an opportunity for self-answering it. I originally wrote this for an online Lutheran forum in January 2012 and recently wanted to find it. However, much to my chagrin, a Google search turned up no results no matter how carefully I searched. I decided that this post needs to be here on Stack Exchange where others can find it (including me!).

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