Lutheran Church

From Ohio History Central

Martin Luther founded Lutheranism, a Protestant religious denomination, during the 1500s. Luther was a Catholic monk and professor of theology who resided in Germany. He originally intended only to reform Roman Catholicism, but he formed his own religious faith, Lutheranism, once the Pope excommunicated him from the Catholic Church. Today, Lutheranism is one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world, with approximately eighty million members.

According to Luther, God viewed all humans as sinners. Luther argued that entrance to heaven was not based on a person's worthiness. Completing good works did not attain someone salvation. Only if a person believed in God's existence and greatness, would he or she receive God's grace. One must have faith in God's love. Unlike Roman Catholics who practiced seven sacraments, Lutherans endorsed only two: baptism and communion. Rather than conducting services in Latin like the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church had its ministers give sermons in the language of their congregates. In France, ministers delivered sermons in French and, in England, in English. Latin was a language that usually only the college-educated people understood. Lutherans believed that all people should have access to God's word. Lutheranism permitted the congregation to have larger control over religious leaders. The Lutheran Church also permitted church members to play an active role in religious services, including allowing the congregation to profess their love of God through song. In essence, Lutheranism was a much more democratic religious faith than Roman Catholicism.

Lutheranism arrived in North America during the 1600s. The majority of the first Lutherans settled in New Amsterdam (modern-day New York City). In the 1700s, thousands of German Lutherans migrated to Pennsylvania. During the late 1700s and the early 1800s, these people slowly moved westward into what was first the Northwest Territory and then Ohio. Most Ohio Lutherans were German immigrants. Every Ohio community with a sizable German population had a Lutheran congregation. Cincinnati had one of the largest German communities. Ministers conducted most Lutheran services in this city in German rather than English. The Lutherans, like other religious faiths in Ohio, placed a heavy emphasis on education. The Lutherans founded Wittenberg College in 1845 and Capital College in 1850 to educate their brethren. In Ohio, Lutherans remained in the minority among the various religious faiths. Although Lutherans are one of the largest Protestant faiths in the world today, Ohio Lutherans still comprise a relatively small number, and most of these people are descendants of the original German migrants.

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