High Church Lutheranism

High Church Lutheranism

High Church Lutheranism is the European name for the Lutheran movement that emphasises worship practices and doctrines that are similar to those found within both Roman Catholicism and the Anglo-Catholic wing of Anglicanism. In North America the term Evangelical Catholicism is used instead. However, if one understands Lutheran liturgical practice and theology according to Augsburg Confession and Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV, much of what is perceived by many as "high church" is simply official Lutheran practice.


The terms High Church and Low Church do not originally belong to the Lutheran tradition; historically, these have been applied to particular liturgical and theological groups within Anglicanism. The theological differences within Lutheranism have not been nearly so marked as those within the Anglican Communion; Lutherans have historically been unified in the doctrine expressed in the Book of Concord. However, quite early in Lutheranism, polarities began to develop due to influences of the Reformed tradition, leading to so-called "Crypto-Calvinism". The Pietist movement in the 17th century also moved the Lutheran church further in a direction that would be considered "low church" by Anglican standards. Pietism and rationalism led to the simplification or even elimination of certain ceremonial elements, such as the use of vestments by the end of the era of Lutheran orthodoxy. Unlike in the Church of England however, there has been little iconoclasm in Lutheran churches and church buildings have often remained richly furnished. [http://anglicanhistory.org/lutherania/severinsen.html] [http://www.blc.edu/comm/gargy/gargy1/liturgical_church.html] . In old church orders, however there was much more variation which could now be described as "high church" or "low church". One example of the more Catholic ones is the Swedish Church Ordinance 1571.

William Augustus Mühlenberg, father of the Ritualist movement in the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, was originally Lutheran and came from a Lutheran family. [http://www.ccel.org/php/disp.php?authorID=schaff&bookID=encyc08&page=51&view=png]

In the 20th century the terms "High Church" and "Low Church" began to be used to describe differences within the Lutheran tradition. However, this terminology is not characteristic of a Lutheran's identity as it often the case for an Anglican. [ [http://www.confessionallutherans.org/papers/touchgev.html Evangelical Catholics and Confessional Evangelicals: The Ecumenical Polarities of Lutheranism] by Gene Edward Veith] .

High church movements

The roots of 20th century Lutheran high church movements are in neo-Lutheranism, confessional Lutheranism, Anglo-Catholicism and the Liturgical Movement. These Lutheran high church movements have been much less significant than, for example, Anglo-Catholicism within the Church of England. High church Lutheranism has often been (especially in Scandinavian churches) a theologically orthodox revival movement at least among clergy, with a strong ecclesiology, standing in opposition to State church and "Folk church" ideologies. In this respect there are resemblances to the Oxford Movement in Anglicanism. Often it has been marginalised and resisted by advocates of liberal theology and pietism. High Church movements have in some cases, especially in Scandinavia, fallen into crisis because of the issue of ordination of women. Still they have influenced whole church bodies, and in some cases have developed liberal expressions. In Europe a certain amount of high church interest has been based on aesthetics, tastes in paraments, vestments and ceremonies, without any theological argumentation. Similarly, interest in mediaeval church buildings may have no concerns regarding the theology behind the form of worship taking place within these buildings.


Historically the most remarkable Lutheran high church movement by its influence on the whole church body is in the Church of Sweden, originally influenced by the Anglo-Catholic movement within the Church of England at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. The first religious order within the high church movement was the Societas Sanctae Birgittae, and it still exists. The movement spread intensively through the activity of Fr. Gunnar Rosendal, the hymn writer Fr. Olov Hartman and the retreat director Fr. Jan Redin. The more subtle high church influence of Bishop Bo Giertz has been remarkable especially among Pietists. The early high church movement caused the emergence of retreat centres, more frequent celebration of the Mass, and lively historical-critical study of Holy Scriptures. The ordination of women as clergy began in 1958, and caused a split within the Swedish high church party. One branch with liberal leanings accepted this step whilst the other did not. Today one of the leading figures of the high church movement is Bishop emeritus Bertil Gärtner who is against the ordination of women. The nucleus of the movement is arbetsgemenskapen Kyrklig Förnyelse (Swedish Church Union) together with numerous religious societies and communities.


In Germany, the high church movement is much smaller than in Sweden. Because of several unions between Lutheran and Reformed churches since the Prussian Union, resulting in the simple spread of Calvinist concepts from the Reformed Churches by "osmosis," Lutheranism has been often influenced by quite Reformed context. The high church movement within the Evangelical Church in Germany has been much less influential than in Sweden and perhaps less integrated to the state Lutheran tradition. Still the movement is strongly involved in ecumenism and the Liturgical Movement. Whether "high church" or not, the 19th century Lutheran pastor, Wilhelm Loehe, of Neuendettelsau, Bavaria, Germany, certainly did much to contribute to Lutheran liturgical renewal in Germany and beyond, due to his missionary work. Loehe's influence can be seen in the Lutheran migration to Australia and North America. In North America this was seen in the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod and the Iowa Synod.

The case is much different in the Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Germany. This church is a confessional Lutheran church in full "pulpit and altar fellowship" (full communion) with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Because of the confessional Lutheran direction, there is a high church movement in that Church. [ [http://www.lutherischegemeinde.de/Videos/Video3.wmv Video Celebrating the lord's supper in a congration of the SELK] ] [ [http://www.lutherisch.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=93&Itemid=48. Information in English of Congregation in Berlin] ]

The German high church movement began in Reformation Jubilee 1917, inspired by publication of Stimuli et Clavi, 95 theses by Heinrich Hansen. This resulted in the founding of Hochkirchliche Vereinigung Augsburgischen Bekenntnisses (High Church Society of the Augsburg Confession) the following year. Subsequently other high church associations and societies also arose, distinguished from other Lutheran bodies by restored apostolic succession (mostly through Hochkirchliche St. Johannes-Bruderschaft, which is part of the HVAB, along with the Evangelische Franziskaner-Tertiaren. Other associations are Bund für evangelisch-katholische Einheit (Federation for Evangelical-Catholic Unity), including St. Jakobus- Bruderschaft), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Kirchliche Erneuerung in der Evang.-Luth. Kirche in Bayern (Working Group for Church Renewal in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria), Humiliatenorden, St. Athanasius-Bruderschaft, Hochkirchlicher Apostolat St. Ansgar, Bekenntnisbruderschaft St. Peter und Paul, Kommunität St. Michael in Cottbus and several religious communities.

Other organisations, such as Berneuchen Movement and Kirchliche Arbeit Alpirsbach are regarded as part of the Liturgical Movement, although the former is theologically high church and in co-operation with High Church associations and religious fraternities.

North America

Portions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada have "high church" emphases, with there being high church congregations that range from theologically liberal to conservative. The Society of the Holy Trinity is largest high church society in North America. Theologically it is moderate and relatively conservative in ecumenical openness. The most ornate liturgy is to be found in the small Evangelical Catholic Lutheran Churches, a few parishes of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod and in many Lutheran seminaries of all Lutheran varieties across North America which celebrate Solemn High Mass with ceremonial similar to that found in Anglo-Catholic parishes [http://www.ziondetroit.org/] [http://www.redeemerfortwayne.org/] . The devotional guild the Society of St. Polycarp was also founded within the LCMS [http://www.stpaullutheranchurchhamel.org/SocietyofStPolycarp.html] . The most important high church journals are "Lutheran Forum", published by American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (ALPB). and "Pro Ecclesia", a published by the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology in cooperation with the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (ALPB).

Valparaiso University, an independent Lutheran institution, has also continued in their own high-church tradition. The development of this high-church tradition is a unique blend between the movements within the various Lutheran church bodies. Students also play a key role in crafting these services. Another significant contributor to the high-church values of Valparaiso University if the presence of the annual Liturgical Institute on its campus.

Like some previously mentioned German religious clerical fraternities, in the United States the Evangelical Catholic Church and in recent years the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, Lutheran Orthodox Church and several other small, biblically and theologically conservative high church Evangelical Catholic Lutheran Churches have succeeded in restoring the historic Apostolic Succession from Old Catholic Churches. Additionally, some have moved from decentralized, democratic Congregationalist polity to highly centralized episcopal polity, worship using the liturgies of the Roman Catholic Church exclusively, and are actively working toward a form of visible, corporate reunion with the Roman Catholic Church. However, as is the case among Anglicans, "high church" movements have proven to be more attractive to the clergy than to the laity.

In North America, Lutheran liturgical renewal has also been seen in such organizations as the defunct St. James Society, the journal The Bride of Christ, the journal Gottesdienst, the Society of the Holy Trinity, the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood, the Society of Saint Polycarp, and the Good Shepherd Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana (www.ctsfw.edu).

Other countries

The Church of Norway is generally very pietistic and the high church movement is more isolated and much smaller than in Sweden. It has been promoted by Ordo Crucis [http://quatember.de/J1975/q75043.htm] and Bønne- og arbeidsfellesskapet Kirkelig Fornyelse.

In the Church of Denmark the high church movement is marginal. It is promoted by Sct. Ansgar Broderskab [http://quatember.de/J1954/q54041.htm] . Praying of the Daily office has been promoted by Teologisk Oratorium [http://www.kommunitaeten.de/quat/J1976/q76112.htm] (most well known member having been Regin Prenter) and by Selskabet dansk Tidegærd.

The Church of Iceland and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland have also had high church groups and interest has been expressed among both clergy and laity, though to a very small extent.

Academic theology

Through ecumenism high church ideas have been accepted more widely in academic theology. E.g. recent ecumenical Lutheran research in the Mannermaa School has begun to see Luther as a Catholic teacher. High church Lutherans in North America often use the term "Evangelical Catholic" (first used by Swedish archbishop Nathan Söderblom) instead of "high church", because it is felt to be more theologically precise. Within high church Lutheranism there has been less movement towards Roman Catholicism than within Anglo-Catholicism. There are some well known Lutheran theologians, such as Richard John Neuhaus and Reinhard Hütter who have become Roman Catholic, while others such as Jaroslav Pelikan have joined Eastern Orthodoxy. [http://www.foclnews.org/braaten.htm] .

Theology and spirituality

High Church Lutheranism stresses certain elements of the Church: sacraments, ordained ministry, liturgy and continuity of the church, all of which are traditional Lutheran theology, but were thought to have been neglected due to Pietism and the Age of Enlightenment. Sometimes there is also emphasis on Apostolic Succession, ecumenism and Mariology. The classical manifesto of the Scandinavian high church revival program is "Kyrklig förnyelse" by Gunnar Rosendal (1935). In its beginning the German high church movement was inspired by the 95 theses "Stimuli et Clavi" by pastor Heinrich Hansen (1917).

High church spirituality is characteristically more theocentric than that of pietistic and rationalistic Lutheranism. In addition to the Theology of the Cross there is usually emphasis on Christus Victor, which makes it clear that Easter is more important than Good Friday. Theocentricism makes salvation history and the cycle of the church year important, from point of view of incarnation i.e. the following, by the people, of the life of Christ through communal worship.

These stresses have created the need to give an evangelical interpretation to the sacrifice of the Mass in order to provide a more theocentric view to Real presence. E.g. in Sweden there has been discovering of Laurentius Petri´s theology on the sacrifice of the Mass [http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/ArticlePages/200508/16/20050816074758_svkhjs971/20050816074758_svkhjs971.dbp.asp] [http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/crhale/rosendal.html] . In high church Lutheran spirituality the Mass is considered the central act of worship as it encapsulates central Christian doctrines such as the relationship between the members of the Trinity and the one, but eternally efficacious, sacrifice of Christ on Calvary.

One divide within high church Lutheranism is in the matter of the direction of liturgy. Some follow the understanding of liturgy as "work of the people" whereas others follow the understanding of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV which states that the liturgy is not a sacrifice but squares with the public ministry. A common hallmark of this divergence is the preference of the term "Divine Service" for the liturgy of Holy Communion (from Gottesdienst, Gudstjaenst, Jumalanpalvelus) among those who see the liturgy as chiefly the service of Christ for the Church. This divergence in liturgical theology is also manifested in debates on eucharistic prayers, the epiclesis, and the role of the laity in the liturgy.

Often the praying of the Divine office is also characteristic to high church Lutheran spirituality. Confession as a sacrament is sometimes rare part of Lutheran tradition and is not considered unique to "high church". A small number of high church Lutheran congregations reaffirm Melanchthon's wider use of the word "sacrament" (in the Apology and in Loci Communes) by considering Holy Matrimony, Unction, Confirmation, and Holy Orders to be Sacraments.

Liturgical practices

Formal liturgy based on the western Catholic Mass with varying degrees of chanting, the use of organ music, crucifixes, silver chalices, hosts and the use of vestments for Holy Communion has always been characteristic of Lutheran worship. The use of hosts has been an important way to express belief in Real presence. The return of the sign of the cross, eucharistic prayer and regular use of vestments in all churches are results of the liturgical movement, but things like altar servers, Gospel processions, incense, a complete eucharistic prayer (i.e. including the epiclesis rather than merely Christ's Words of Institution) are regarded as "high church". Also genuflection, together with the elevation of the host and chalice, is often regarded among more Protestant-minded Lutherans as Roman Catholic practices, although Martin Luther himself held these practices [ [http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=e&word=ELEVATION Elevation (Christian Cyclopedia)] ] and they were part of early Lutheranism. In Scandinavian Lutheran churches the use of altar bells during the elevation (to draw the attention of the congregation during the Words of Institution) was occasionally practiced until the 18th century. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during the moment of Elevation is also a Lutheran practice [ [http://users.aol.com/SemperRef/venerable.html#fnVII The Sacrament of the Altar: The Sacrament Is Adorable And Extended In Time] ] , However, except among the most high church of the North American Lutheran Churches such as the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is seldom practised, even in High Church circles.


* Kihlström, B., "Högkyrkligheten i Sverige och Finland under 1900-talet". 1990
* Rosendal, G., [http://anglicanhistory.org/usa/crhale/rosendal.html "The Catholic Movement in the Swedish Church"] 1950
* Drobnitzky, W: "Hochkirchliche Bewegung". Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (RGG), Dritte Auflage, III Band, 1959
* Mumm, Reinhard: "Hochkirchliche Bewegung in Deutschland". Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Band XV, 1986
* Swidler, Leonard J.: [http://global-dialogue.com/swidlerbooks/VANGUARD.htm "The Ecumenical Vanguard: The History of the Una Sancta Movement"]
* Meland, Bernard E.: [http://www.jstor.org/view/00224189/ap040063/04a00030/0 "Friedrich Heiler and the High Church Movement in Germany"] (JSTOR)
* Sasse, Hermann: “A Brotherly Warning Against the ‘High Church’ Danger,” translated by M.C. Harrison in The Lonely Way: Selected Letters and Essays (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2002), pgs. 304-305.
* McCain, Paul T.: [http://cyberbrethren.typepad.com/cyberbrethren/2006/11/strange_fire_on.html 'A Warning Against the High Church Danger']

ee also

*Evangelical catholic
*Liturgical Movement
*Christian monasticism
*Laurentius Petri Gothus
*Priory of St. Wigbert
*Östanbäck monastery
*Nordic Catholic Church
*Gabriel Hebert

Notable persons in the history of High Church Lutheranism

*Bo Giertz
*Bertil Gärtner
*Albert Lysander (priest)
*Gunnar Rosendal
*Nathan Söderblom
*Yngve Brilioth
*Yngve Kalin

*Wilhelm Loehe
*Theodor Kliefoth
*Heinrich Hansen
*Friedrich Heiler
*Helmut Echternach

North America
*Arthur Carl Piepkorn
*Luther Reed
*Paul H.D. Lang
*Paul Z. Strodach
*Frank Senn

External links

USA and Canada

* [http://www.e-ccet.org/ Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology]
* [http://www.alpb.org/ American Lutheran Publicity Bureau]
* [http://www.stpaullutheranchurchhamel.org/SocietyofStPolycarp.html Society of St. Polycarp]
* [http://www.llpb.us/ Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood]
* [http://societyforlutheranliturgy.blogspot.com/ The Society for the Preservation of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy]
* [http://www.gottesdienst.org/ "Gottesdienst - A Quarterly Journal of the Evangelical-Lutheran Liturgy"]
* [http://www.staugustineshouse.org/ Saint Augustine's House Lutheran Monastery in Oxford, Michigan]
* [http://www.wordandsacrament.com/ Word and Sacrament]


* [http://www.luther-in-bs.de/ "Luther in Braunschweig"] , partly in English
* [http://www.hochkirchliche-vereinigung.de/ Hochkirchliche Vereinigung Augsburgischen Bekenntnisses & Hochkirchliche St. Johannesbruderschaft]
* [http://www.krb-selbstverlag.de/ Hochkirchliche Apostolat St. Ansgar -Selbstverlag]
* [http://www.stmichael-online.de/ Evangelisch-lutherische Kommunität St. Michael]
* [http://www.congregatio-augustini.de/ Congregatio Canonicorum Sancti Augustini]
* [http://www.kommunitaeten.de/ Evangelische Gemeinschaften und Kommunitäten]


* [http://www.pastoraltidskrift.nu/ "Svensk Pastoraltidskrift"] , by-weekly high church and traditionalist theological magazine.
* [http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/klostren/OSTANENG.htm Östanbäck monastery] in English.
* [http://home.swipnet.se/alsike_kloster/english/english1.htm Alsike convent and the Sisters of the Holy Spirit] in English


* [http://www.kirkeligfornyelse.org/ Bønne-og arbeidsfellesskapet Kirkelig Fornyelse] , a sister organisation of The Church Union in Church of England
** [http://www.skg.no/kf.htm Documents of Kirkelig Fornyelse]


* [http://ftp.post-boks.dk/sdt/index.html Selskabet dansk Tidegærd] - society of Danish liturgy of the hours

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