Martin Luther: badass.
In 1517, a Roman Catholic monk in Germany named Martin Luther ignited a liberation movement that became known as "The Protestant Reformation." Luther wasn't the first person to suggest reforms to the church, but his invitation to debate known as The 95 Thesis happened to coincide with the recent invention of the printing press.
Luther and his fellow reformers initially sought peaceful debate about some church practices that resulted in widespread abuse. Chiefly, they focused on a church teaching that people could earn their way into heaven (and out of purgatory) buy purchasing "indulgences." This further oppressed people experiencing generational poverty under harsh religious rules.
The Protestant Reformation contended that God's Grace was a freely given gift, people don't have to earn God's love. God's love comes FIRST.
Martin Luther's theological principles, along with the writings of his colleague Phillip Melanchthon formed the basis for a movement that swept across Germany then throughout Europe, challenging the church's grip on people, land, and power. Naturally, the church hierarchy wasn't thrilled.
Yet, ordinary people continued to join the movement and stand up to religious corruption and spiritual abuse. A 30 year-long war was fought, decimating Europe, and in the end, Protestants gained rights and self-governance.
The Lutheran movement in Germany overlapped with similar movements in Great Britain, Switzerland, and elsewhere. Church at the time was synonymous with community life; intertwined with politics and economics. The movements spread to Scandinavia, and eventually travelled around the globe with immigration and missionary activity. Each community constructed their theology within their own culture and context.
In the United States, Lutheranism came with European immigrants seeking religious freedom and new livelihoods. Lutherans have a complex and rich history with its share of mistakes and failures. We try to own those as well as our successes because Lutherans firmly believe that people are always both "saints and sinners." We don't claim to be perfect. We are boldly imperfect, and grateful for God's love through Jesus, our original liberator.
Today Lutheranism as a global movement continues to inspire liberation and healing. In 2009 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America became the first Lutheran denomination in the US to formally include LGBTQ identified pastors in relationships. We spent 20 years talking about it first, and there is still much work to do, but we're proud. The group of ELCA churches in the LA-metro area (the Southwest California Synod) became the first group to elect an openly gay Bishop, Rev. R. Guy Erwin, in 2012. We're proud of that too!
We hope you'll check out one of our SoCalLutheran congregations and learn more about the movement of God's Love we call church and join us in celebrating 500 years of FABULOUS posting