Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America

Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America

The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America was a Lutheran joint fellowship (in this sense, a declaration of unity of belief) organization between the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS). It dissolved in 1963.


The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America was organized in 1872 by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the LCMS and the Norwegian Synod as a joint expression of their unity of faith. The organization was an agreement to work together in matters relating to Christian evangelism. Included with this was a sharing of pulpits between clergy of all groups, sharing of educational facilities and co-operation on evangelism and mission work.

The Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (Slovak Synod) joined in 1908. The Synodical Conference was later joined by the Evangelical Lutheran Synod shortly after it broke away from the Norwegian Synod in 1917.

Doctrinal differences among the synods of the Synodical Conference, especially concerning the doctrine and practice of church fellowship, surfaced during the 1940s and '50s. Problems began when the LCMS began exploratory talks with leaders of the American Lutheran Church (ALC). The ALC differed on their doctrine of Predestination and therefore did not share doctrinal fellowship with the Synodical Conference. Since there had been no recent change on the ALC's doctrinal position, the LCMS was then charged by some within the Synodical Conference of changing its position on church fellowship.

After years of continued talks, the ELS severed its fellowship relations with the LCMS in 1955 and withdrew from the Synodical Conference. Two years later the WELS publicly recognized the same doctrinal disagreements with the LCMS, but did not officially break fellowship with the LCMS until 1961. During this time period, the WELS instead decided to "admonish" the LCMS to return to its former doctrine and practice.

Dissatisfaction over this decision led about 70 pastors and a similar number of congregations to leave the WELS and form the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). The Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) maintained that that both the WELS and ELS had misapplied the principles of Christian Fellowship themselves by not breaking away from the Synodical Conference and the LCMS when doctrinal differences had first been perceived. This issue remains a matter of contention between the CLC and the WELS and ELS.

While the ELS and WELS had withdrawn fellowship from the Synodical Conference, they retained fellowship with one another and do to the present day.

uccessor Organizations

While the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America was never directly replaced, several organizations were later formed that claim to follow in the spirit of the original Synodical Conference.

Among these are the Church of the Lutheran Confession, mentioned above, and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference which was formed in 1993 by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod and twenty other international church bodies.

The Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference is probably closest in spirit to the original Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, in that it comprises two of the original members and has many of the same goals as the original organization.

uggested Reading

* Braun, Mark. 2003. [http://online.nph.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?10418&productID=150711 "A Tale of Two Synods"] . Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House.
* Schuetze, Armin W. [http://online.nph.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?10418&productID=150677 "The Synodical Conference: Ecumenical Endeavor"] , Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House.
* Wolf, Edmund Jacob. [http://www.archive.org/details/thelutheransinam00wolfuoft The Lutherans in America; a story of struggle, progress, influence and marvelous growth.] New York: J.A. Hill. 1889.
* [http://scbreakup.blogspot.com "Synodical Conference Breakup"] ; A collection of synodical documents from the 1950s to the 1960s.

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