Small Group: The Church & Denominations-09/05/18

Friends / Quakers

Founded:

It began in England during the mid-1600s, as people questioned the established church and sought new ways to understand Christianity.

  • The emerging faith community gathered around the leadership of George Fox and others who encouraged people to be guided by a direct, firsthand encounter with the Spirit.
  • These Quakers were seeking an authentic return to “primitive Christianity,” as practiced by the followers of Jesus in the first century.

 

George Fox

  • Had a revelation that “there is one, even, Christ Jesus, who can speak to thy condition.” He became convinced that it was possible to have a direct experience of Christ without the aid of an ordained clergy.
  • Members of the various Quaker movements are all generally united in a belief in the ability of each human being to experientially access “the light within”, or “that of God in every one”.
  • His followers considered themselves to be the restoration of the true Christian church, after centuries of apostasy in the churches in England.
  • Quakers also described themselves using terms such as true Christianity, Saints, Children of the Light, and Friends of the Truth.

 

Why are they called “Quakers”?
The term “Quaker” arose as a popular nickname used to ridicule this new religious group when it emerged in seventeenth century England.

  • Since the term was so widely recognized, members began using it informally, so people would know what they were talking about.
  • Formally, they call ourselves the Religious Society of Friends.
  • Today, they use “Friend” and “Quaker” interchangeably.

 

Generally where they meet is not called a ‘church’ but ‘meeting.’

They are generally Conscientious objectors

 

# People:

In 2017, there were 400,000 adult Quakers, with 52% in Africa

 

How Governed

Once a month, the meeting (congregation) holds a “meeting for worship for business.” Anyone who is part of the meeting may attend. Decisions are made without voting. Instead, the participants discuss the matter and listen deeply for a sense of spiritual unity. When the clerk recognizes that unity has been reached, it is called the “sense of the meeting.” If those present agree with the clerk’s expression of that sense, then the decision is recorded in the minutes.

  • There is no voting. On some occasions Friends may delay a decision because they feel the meeting is not following God’s will.

Pastor:
Quakers believe that we are all ministers and responsible for the care of our worship and community.

  • Rather than employing a pastor, Quaker meetings function by appointing members to offices and committees, which take care of things like religious education for adults and children, visiting the sick, planning special events, having the meeting house roof repaired—all the many things that any congregation needs.
  • A member of the meeting is appointed as “clerk,” a volunteer office. The clerk chairs business meetings and handles communications.
  • When the clerk’s term expires, a new clerk is appointed.

 

Scripture:

Liberal: The Bible is a book close to the hearts of many Friends.

  • Many Quakers turn to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures for inspiration, insight, and guidance.
  • They are valued as a source of wisdom that has been sacred to many generations.
  • Most Quakers do not consider the Bible to be the final authority or the only source of sacred wisdom.
  • They read it in the context of other religious writings and sources of wisdom, including the Light Within and worshipful community discernment.
  • Some Quakers have little interest in the Bible.

 

Conservative Christians see 2 Timothy 3:16 as the foundation of their view of scripture.

  • All Scripture is breathed out (inspired) by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

Based on that, and other texts, Conservative Christians believe the Bible was uniquely, verbally and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit and that it was written without error (inerrant) in the original manuscripts. It is the supreme and final authority in all matters on which it speaks.” They believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God and as the supreme and final authority.

However, Liberal Friends say that the passage does not in fact claim inerrancy for scripture, but only that it is useful. Liberal; Friends do not accept the standard translation of this passage as correct.

  • Early Quaker theologian Robert Barclay, among others, argued that an ambiguity in the original Greek version of the passage allowed it to be translated as, “Every scripture inspired by God is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
  • This translation opens up the possibility that only some passages in scripture are inspired by God, while others are not.

For Liberal Quakers, the Bible is a declaration of the fountain, the Spirit, and not the fountain itself. Therefore it is not the principal ground of truth; direct experience of the Spirit is the principal ground. The Bible may give secondary guidance, but even to read it properly we need to read in the Light of the Spirit.

Liberal Quakers see the Bible as the record of others’ encounter with the divine, of the Spirit as it spoke through others. It is the record of revelation, not Revelation itself.

  • Thus, Quakers believe in ongoing revelation; if Spirit spoke through others in the past, why should that process have ended? Friends’ experience is that that process is ongoing, as Spirit continues to inspire our words and actions.

Conservative/Evangelical: Quakers rely on revelation from the Holy Spirit but clearly they uphold all of the Bible as perfect and without error and so in this way they reflect most of the Protestant, evangelical churches.

  • Any personal revelation from God must be placed against the Word of God and if a person’s revelation from God differs from what the Bible says, they fully reject it.
  • The Scriptures are very useful, but are a subordinate source whose validity springs from the Spirit.
  • They contain the minimum necessary information for salvation, if assisted by the Holy Spirit, but alone are not an adequate primary rule of faith, practice, or individual Christian faithfulness.

God:

God is love, and all else follows from that.

  • God Himself is the true foundation of knowledge, and the purpose of earthly existence is to serve and glorify Him.
  • God speaks to human beings in this age as he has to the patriarchs, prophets, and peasants of old, and the testimony of His Spirit is the only true source of this highest knowledge.

George Fox

  • God that never errs. That there is one God and Father, of whom are all things. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom all things were made. Who was glorified with the Father before the world began, who as God is over all, blessed forever. That there is one Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father and the Son, the Leader and Sanctifier and Comforter of His people….
  • And we further believe, as the holy scriptures soundly and sufficiently express, that these three are one, even the Father, the Word, and Spirit.

With that said, they rarely use the word Trinity.

 Jesus:

In the fullness of time, according to the promise of the Father, Christ was manifested in the flesh and by the grace of God tasted death for every man. He is risen and ascended, and sits on the right hand of God in heaven, and is the only Mediator between God and man; and that he exercises his Prophetical, Kingly and Priestly office now in his church.

It is difficult to speak of Quaker views of Jesus.

  • On the one hand, Friends’ views of Jesus are very diverse, ranging from views very similar to mainstream Christian views to views of Jesus as entirely human, a spiritual teacher only.
  • On the other hand, liberal Friends do not actually talk about Jesus very much; they tend to speak more of God and of the Spirit.
  • Few Friends have tried to work out for themselves a very precise theology of Jesus.
  • They often see Jesus as the ultimate spiritual teacher, one who embodied the spiritual reality which he taught.
  • We should see Jesus as a Spirit-filled man, a man filled to overflowing with the living Spirit of God.
  • It gives us a Jesus who is fully human yet has divine qualities because Spirit is an overflowing presence in him

Holy Spirit:

Friends’ emphasis has always been on the role of the immediate guidance of the Holy Spirit, however, most Friends believe that the Spirit is unchanging and will not contradict itself.

What Quakers call ‘the Light Within’ they believe is called the Holy Spirit or Spirit in the Bible.

  • And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:17–18)

They see this text as justifying the Quaker teaching of being moved to speak in Meeting by the Spirit, though they don’t believe this happens in foreign tongues! We do believe that this Spirit is given to all, as is declared here. (as in the general population)

How Saved:

Liberal Quakers see mankind as basically good and that even those who are not saved are the children of God.

If you were to ask a group of liberal Quakers about salvation, they would probably draw a blank. In fact, liberal Quakers seldom talk about salvation. This is for a very good reason. Many liberal Quakers do not feel that there is anything to be saved from in the fundamentalist sense.

  • That is, they do not accept that we are inherently and inevitably sinners, that sinfulness is the fundamental nature of the human condition, that sin separates us from God and we need to be saved from it.
  • Original sin is not transmuted to infants as a predestined flaw.  As men and women, we are born innocent, but inevitably tend to sin by our own natures.  God extends His grace to give men and women the power to overcome sin and become genuinely holy and obedient.

For liberal Quakers, because all have the Light Within, we are not separated from God. Therefore, there is no need of something or someone external to us to intervene on our behalf to put us right with God.

  • This conflicts with what the Bible teaches that “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one”(Rom 3:1) and that “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom 3:10).

Others believe in Jesus Christ and that He lived a sinless life and became for us the sacrifice that was necessary to restore fallen mankind to a right relationship with God and that a person can be saved based upon their belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  But this is not what we think.

  • Salvation comes from the free gift of God’s grace, received in faith, demonstrated in our lives by our works.
  • This universal saving Light is extended to all people, everywhere, and at all times.
  • The Light can bring salvation even if the Scriptures are absent.
  • Outward knowledge of the historic Jesus is not a criteria for salvation by Him.

Receiving and accepting the Light transforms the individual, sanctifying and justifying him or her.  Good works are an inevitable indicator that this has taken place.  But rejecting the Light is always possible, and even after we accept God’s grace, we can through our own will turn from it and be lost.

After Life:

Liberal Quakers don’t talk very much about what happens after death and one can find many different views among Friends about death, often quite unformulated.

  • Some liberal Friends take a scientific or materialist view of death.
  • Others embrace a view like that found in mainstream Christianity.
  • For many liberal Friends, death is not a worry because the experience of the Light Within is an experience of the presence of God. It is an experience that makes many feel confident that God is with us, that we are not separate from God. Many feel a confidence in this God, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). Feeling this presence and confidence, we may feel that whatever happens at death, it will be all right, God will continue to be with us.

Most Quakers do believe in heaven and hell but feel it is more up to their personal interpretation of it and even the afterlife is left to speculation and up to each individual to interpret.

 Worship:

Around 11% of Friends practice waiting worship, or unprogrammed worship (more commonly known today as Meeting for Worship), where the order of service is not planned in advance, is predominantly silent, and may include unprepared vocal ministry from those present.

Unprogrammed worship (also known as waiting worship, “silent worship”, or holy communion in the manner of Friends) is based on the practices of George Fox and the Early Friends, who based their religious beliefs and practices on their interpretation of how the early Christians worshipped God their Heavenly Father.

  • Friends gather together in “expectant waiting upon God” to experience his still small voice leading them from within.
  • There is no plan on how the meeting will proceed, and actual practice varies widely between Meetings and individual worship services.
  • Friends believe that God plans what will happen, with his spirit leading people to speak.
  • When a participant feels led to speak, he or she will stand and share a spoken message of (“vocal ministry“) in front of others.
  • When this happens, Quakers believe that the spirit of God is speaking through the speaker.
  • After someone has spoken, it is customary to allow a few minutes pass in silence for reflection on what has been said, before further vocal ministry is given.
  • Sometimes a meeting is entirely silent, sometimes many speak.
  • Meetings are often limited to an hour, ending when two people (usually the elders) exchange the sign of peaceby handshake. This handshake is often shared by the others.

For Quakers, sacraments are understood as an inward, spiritual, experience. We don’t have a custom of performing sacramental ceremonies.

  • Generally NO water baptism or Lord’s Supper

Shrewsbury Quakers

Our Meeting

  • We are an unprogrammed meeting, which means that there is no set order of service. We wait in expectant silence; vocal messages are given as members and attenders are moved. Children attend for only the first fifteen to twenty minutes at which point they proceed to First Day School. Meeting for Worship lasts about one hour, and is concluded with the shaking of hands with those sitting nearby, followed by announcements of upcoming events. Also at this time, we introduce ourselves when visitors attend. Following Meeting for Worship there is an opportunity for fellowship. There is always coffee and tea and good conversation.
  • Prior to Meeting for Worship there is an adult discussion group which meets at 9:15 a.m. All are welcome to attend. We discuss variety of subjects of a religious nature, as well as topics of interest to individual members, who may lead the discussion that morning.
  • Following Meeting for Worship and a brief time of fellowship and weather permitting, Friends here hold a silent witness for peace that lasts approximately a half hour. Additionally, there are different activities held throughout the month. Our monthly newsletter, Shrewsbury Concerns, contains details.
  • On the fourth Sunday, we have “Pot Luck”. This is a time for fellowship and food. Everyone, especially new attenders, are encouraged to stay for the hour that we will be together after Meeting for Worship. To receive telephone notification, please leave your phone number with the Clerk or another Friend.
  • We have not described all of our activities and events, but we want you to have a general overview if you are new to this Meeting. We invite you to participate in any activity to which you find yourself led. We believe that the Inward Light leads you on your spiritual quest and journey. We hope you will ask questions. Any Member or regular attender will be happy to help you.

Programmed Worship:

  • In programmed worship there is often a prepared Biblical message, which may be delivered by an individual with theological training from a Bible College. There may be hymns, a sermon, Bible readings, joint prayers and a period of silent worship. A paid pastor may be responsible for pastoral care.
  • 89% of all Friends/Quakers follow a programmed worship style

Other Beliefs:

Many other Quakers practice ‘religious pluralism’ which draws spiritual knowledge and practice from various religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and the nature religions.

Marriage

A meeting for worship for the solemnization of marriage in an unprogrammed Friends meeting is similar to any other unprogrammed Meeting for Worship.

  • At the beginning of the meeting the couple exchange vows before God and gathered witnesses, and then the meeting returns to open worship.
  • At the end of meeting, the witnesses, including the youngest children, are asked to sign the wedding certificate as a record.
  • Most US states expect the marriage document to be signed by a single officiant (a priest, rabbi, minister, Justice of the Peace, etc.). Quakers routinely modify the document to allow three or four Friends to sign as the officiant.
  • Usually, a separate document containing their vows and the signatures of all present is kept by the couple, and often displayed prominently in their home.

Same-Sex marriage:

Various Friends meetings around the world have voiced support for, and have recognized, same-sex marriages. In 1986, Hartford Friends Meeting in Connecticut, U.S., reached the decision that

“the Meeting recognized a committed union in a celebration of marriage, under the care of the Meeting. The same loving care and consideration should be given to both homosexual and heterosexual applicants as outlined in Faith and Practice.”

Since then, other meetings of liberal and progressive Friends have recognized marriage between partners of the same sex.

There are also Friends who do not support same-sex marriage, and some Evangelical meetings in the United States have issued public statements stating that homosexuality is a sin.

Continuing Revelation:

Most Friends believe in the religious belief that truth is continuously revealed to individuals directly from God. Quakers are taught that Christ comes to teach the people himself. Friends

often focus on trying to hear God.

Equality:

From its beginning, the Religious Society of Friends taught equality of all persons, including women.

Major Divisions:

The Religious Society of Friends debated a number of issues in the early 19th Century that led the various Friends Meetings to develop separate fellowships.

  • The first major division dealt with Scriptural authority, among other issues. “Orthodox Quakers” emphasized Biblical sources while “Hicksite” and his followers believed the inward light was more important than scriptural authority.
  • The next major controversy led to separation in the Orthodox branch. “Gurneyite” Friends, were deeply influenced by the evangelical movement (as were other Protestant denominations of the era), especially the ideas of John Wesley.

Around 89% of Quakers worldwide belong to the “evangelical” and “programmed” branches of Quakerism—these Quakers worship in services with singing and a prepared message from the Bible, coordinated by a pastor.

Evangelical Friends often refer to where they gather as Friends churches

In 1947, the Association of Evangelical Friends was formed, In 2007-2008 the name was changed to the Evangelical Friends Church, International (EFCI)

A key doctrinal issue that sets Evangelical Friends apart from other Quakers is their view of salvation. Evangelical Friends believe that all people are in need of salvation, and that salvation comes to a person by putting his faith in Jesus Christ.

Because of evangelical Friends’ origins within the Gurneyite faction during the 19th century series of schisms that divided the Society, some Evangelical Friends rely relatively less on the authority of the Inner Light and more on their belief in the authority of a literal reading of the

Scripture

The Evangelical Friends Church affirms baptism and communion as spiritual realities. Unlike most of the other branches of Friends, several of the Yearly Meetings within the EFC do allow freedom of conscience in regards to participating in water baptism or in offering and receiving communion within their churches.

Universalist Liberal

Friends of this perspective, while recognizing that Quakerism has historically been a branch of the Christian Church, do not believe that Quakerism is or should be limited to a Christian – or Western – understanding. Friends who hold this perspective often see Quakerism as a meeting ground for followers of various world religions – and of none at all.

Universalist Liberal Friends tend to put little or no emphasis on religious beliefs as a basis for membership in the local Meeting. Instead, adherence to Friends practices – however interpreted by the individual – is the cornerstone of participation in the Society of Friends.

Christ-Centered Liberal

The Christ-centered Liberal viewpoint is that, while Quakerism should not be defined by any particular set of beliefs, the life and teachings of Jesus are central to their personal faith journey. Some Christ-centered Liberal Friends would self-identify as Christians; others would not.

Christ-centered Liberal Friends are in general agreement with universalists in their view of the role of belief and practice. While Christ-centered Friends find the life and teachings of Jesus to be deeply significant for them as individuals, they are often comfortable co-existing in Meetings that have no common faith in Jesus. They see sharing in a loving community, relying on Friends practices, and listening for truth wherever it can be found, as a sufficient basis for membership in the Meeting.

Conservative

Friends who hold a conservative viewpoint are in some ways similar to Christ-centered Liberal Friends.

  • Both see Friends practices of waiting worship and decision-making as being central to their understanding of what it means to be a Friend, and both have a personal commitment to Jesus as Guide and Teacher.
  • Unlike Christ-centered Liberal Friends, however, Friends from the conservative perspective hold that faith in Jesus Christ and fidelity to the Christian tradition are essential for the Meeting community as a whole.
  • While seeking not to be legalistic about beliefs, Friends from the conservative viewpoint see common Christian faith – not only common worship and decision-making practice – as being the basis for membership in the Meeting.

Evangelical

Evangelical Friends are those who have been influenced, to some degree or another, by the Protestant stream of Christianity.

  • While in agreement with conservative Friends that Christian faith is crucial for the Meeting as a whole, evangelical Friends are more open to modifying Friends practice to better suit what they sense to be the needs of their local community.
  • While most evangelical Friends still practice waiting worship, almost all evangelical Friends now include prepared elements in their worship services. Employing congregational singing and prepared sermons,
  • Meetings with a predominantly evangelical viewpoint might, at first glance, appear similar to mainstream Protestant services. Some are even more experimental, including praise bands and electronic presentations.
  • The great majority of evangelical Friends employ pastors to assist with education, worship services and pastoral care of the congregation.
  • But unlike in many other Christian churches, evangelical Friends pastors are understood to be servants of the Meeting. The local meeting for business is the ultimate decision-maker, with the pastor serving as an honored – but equal – member of the church.

Fundamentalist

Fundamentalist Friends share a religious culture and self-understanding that is highly influenced by Evangelical Protestantism.

  • Friends from the fundamentalist stream tend to have fully programmed worship services, in the celebration-oriented style of the wider Evangelical Protestant Church.
  • Fundamentalist Friends have a very high view of Scripture, holding the Bible as the primary authority in the life of the Church.
  • They tend to assign more authority to the pastor than most evangelical Friends churches. In some cases, the pastor, along with a small group of leaders, serve as the primary decision-makers for the church.

 Colleges and Universities

Azusa Pacific University, George Fox University, George Fox Evangelical Seminary, Houston Graduate School of Theology, Friends University

 Prominent Leaders:

  • Susan B. Anthony, Judi Dench, George Fox, Herbert Hoover, Dave Matthews

Richard Nixon, William Penn

  

Lutheran

Founded:

Founded by Martin Luther and his ‘theological discoveries’ between 1513-1530.

These first protestants never intended to leave the Catholic church but to affirm the Bible as the SOLE authority for Christian life, belief and practice.

Luther’s efforts to reform the theology and practice of the Catholic Church launched the Protestant Reformation in the German-speaking territories of the Holy Roman Empire.

  • Beginning with the Ninety-Five Theses, first published in 1517, Luther’s writings were disseminated internationally, spreading the early ideas of the Reformation beyond the influence and control of the Roman Curia and the Holy Roman Emperor.
  • The split between the Lutherans and the Catholics was made public and clear with the 1521 Edict of Worms: the edicts of the Diet condemned Luther and officially banned citizens of the Holy Roman Empire from defending or propagating his ideas, subjecting advocates of Lutheranism to forfeiture of all property, half of the seized property to be forfeit to the imperial government and the remaining half forfeit to the party who brought the accusation. The divide centered primarily on two points: the proper source of authority in the church, often called the formal principle of the Reformation, and the doctrine of justification, often called the material principle.

The name Lutheran originated as a derogatory term used against Luther by German Scholastic theologian Dr. Johann Maier von Eck during the Leipzig Debate in July 1519

  • Eck’s debating skills led to Luther’s open admissions of heresy in order to not be defeated. Luther declared that sola scriptura (scripture alone) was the basis of Christian belief, that the Pope had no power as he was not mentioned in the Bible, and condemned the sale of indulgences to the laity to reduce their time in purgatory, as there was no mention of purgatory in the Bible.
  • The debate led Pope Leo X to censor Luther and threaten him with excommunication from the Catholic Church in his June 1520 papal bull, which banned Luther’s views from being preached or written. There was much opposition to the bull, especially in north west Germany where Lutheran beliefs were strongest.
  • A joint verdict on the outcome of the debate was to be issued by the University of Erfurt and the University of Paris, but the theological faculty of Erfurt recused itself. The faculty in Paris delivered a negative verdict on Luther’s writings in 1521, but made no direct reference to the debate in Leipzig itself.

Eck and other Catholics followed the traditional practice of naming a heresy after its leader, thus labeling all who identified with the theology of Martin Luther as Lutherans.

Martin Luther always disliked the term Lutheran

Theology of the Cross

to refer to theology that posits the cross as the only source of knowledge concerning who God is and how God saves. It is contrasted with the Theology of Glory, which places greater emphasis on human abilities and human reason.

  • The Lutheran tradition includes an emphasis on the theology of the cross – that God is found where we least expect – not in what the world considers powerful, but in what the world considers weak and foolish. God comes to us in human flesh and dies on a Roman cross at the hands of his own creatures in order to conquer sin and death and make a way for us to be saved.

They are highly missions oriented

# People:

Lutheranism is the third largest Protestant denominations. With approximately 80 million adherents

 How Governed

Episcopal in government

 Scripture:

Generally hold to what Baptist believes… with the exception of liberal branches of the Lutheran church.

 God:

Generally hold to what Baptist believes… with the exception of liberal branches of the Lutheran church.

 Jesus:

Generally hold to what Baptist believes… with the exception of liberal branches of the Lutheran church.

Holy Spirit:

Generally hold to what Baptist believes… with the exception of liberal branches of the Lutheran church.

 How Saved:

Even though I am a sinner and deserving of death and hell, this shall nonetheless be my consolation and my victory that my Lord Jesus lives and has risen so that He, in the end, might rescue me from sin, death, and hell.—Luther

Justification: Lutherans believe that whoever has faith in Jesus alone will receive salvation from the grace of God and will enter eternity in heaven instead of eternity in hell after death or at the second coming of Jesus.

The key doctrine, or material principle, of Lutheranism is the doctrine of justification. Lutherans believe that humans are saved from their sins by God’s grace alone (Sola Gratia), through faith alone (Sola Fide), on the basis of Scripture alone (Sola Scriptura). Orthodox Lutheran theology holds that God made the world, including humanity, perfect, holy and sinless. However, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, trusting in their own strength, knowledge, and wisdom. Consequently, people are saddled with original sin, born sinful and unable to avoid committing sinful acts. For Lutherans, original sin is the “chief sin, a root and fountainhead of all actual sins.”

Lutherans teach that sinners, while capable of doing works that are outwardly “good”, are not capable of doing works that satisfy God’s justice. Every human thought and deed is infected with sin and sinful motives. Because of this, all humanity deserves eternal damnation in hell. God in eternity has turned His Fatherly heart to this world and planned for its redemption because he loves all people and does not want anyone to be eternally damned.

To this end, “God sent his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, into the world to redeem and deliver us from the power of the devil, and to bring us to Himself, and to govern us as a King of righteousness, life, and salvation against sin, death, and an evil conscience,” as Luther’s Large Catechism explains. Because of this, Lutherans teach that salvation is possible only because of the grace of God made manifest in the birth, life, suffering, death, and resurrection, and continuing presence by the power of the Holy Spirit, of Jesus Christ. By God’s grace, made known and effective in the person and work of Jesus Christ, a person is forgiven, adopted as a child and heir of God, and given eternal salvation. Christ, because he was entirely obedient to the law with respect to both his human and divine natures, “is a perfect satisfaction and reconciliation of the human race,” as the Formula of Concord asserts, and proceeds to summarize:

[Christ] submitted to the law for us, bore our sin, and in going to his Father performed complete and perfect obedience for us poor sinners, from his holy birth to his death. Thereby he covered all our disobedience, which is embedded in our nature and in its thoughts, words, and deeds, so that this disobedience is not reckoned to us as condemnation but is pardoned and forgiven by sheer grace, because of Christ alone.

Lutherans believe that individuals receive this gift of salvation through faith alone. Saving faith is the knowledge of, acceptance of, and trust in the promise of the Gospel. Even faith itself is seen as a gift of God, created in the hearts of Christians by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word and Baptism. Faith receives the gift of salvation rather than causes salvation. Thus, Lutherans reject the “decision theology” which is common among modern evangelicals.

Since the term grace has been defined differently by other Christian church bodies (e.g. Roman Catholicism) it is important to note that Lutheranism defines grace as entirely limited to God’s gifts to us. Justification comes as a pure gift, not something we merit by changed behavior or in which we cooperate. Grace is not about our response to God’s gifts, but only His gifts.

 After Life:

Lutherans do not believe in any sort of earthly millennial kingdom of Christ either before or after his second coming on the last day. Lutherans teach that, at death, the souls of Christians are immediately taken into the presence of Jesus, where they await the second coming of Jesus on the last day. On the last day, all the bodies of the dead will be resurrected.

Their souls will then be reunited with the same bodies they had before dying. The bodies will then be changed, those of the wicked to a state of everlasting shame and torment, those of the righteous to an everlasting state of celestial glory. After the resurrection of all the dead, and the change of those still living, all nations shall be gathered before Christ, and he will separate the righteous from the wicked.

Christ will publicly judge all people by the testimony of their deeds, the good works of the righteous in evidence of their faith, and the evil works of the wicked in evidence of their unbelief. He will judge in righteousness in the presence of all people and angels, and his final judgment will be just damnation to everlasting punishment for the wicked and a gracious gift of life everlasting to the righteous.

Worship:

Holds to the ‘Normative Principle of Worship’

  • If it is NOT prohibited in Scripture it MAY be done in worship.

Liturgical in style and follows the church year. Although there are substantial non-liturgical minorities.

Vestments worn by clergy and alter persons.

Luther put singing back in the mouths of everyday people and out of the skilled and trained only.

Luther was a highly prolific hymn writer often used contemporary melodies to put Christian word to them.

Martin Luther was a great fan of music, and this is why it forms a large part of Lutheran services; in particular, Luther wanted singing in the church to move towards singing as a Gemeinschaft (community).

Lutheran hymns are well known for its doctrinal, didactic, and musical richness. Most Lutheran churches are active musically with choirs, handbell choirs, children’s choirs.

Lutherans also preserve a liturgical approach to the celebration of the Mass (or the Holy Eucharist/Communion), emphasizing the sacrament as the central act of Christian worship.

In the 1970s, many Lutheran churches began holding contemporary worship services for the purpose of evangelistic outreach. These services were in a variety of styles, depending on the preferences of the congregation.

 Baptism

Lutherans hold that Baptism is a saving work of God, mandated and instituted by Jesus Christ.

  • Baptism is a “means of grace” through which God creates and strengthens “saving faith” as the “washing of regeneration” in which infants and adults are reborn.
  • Since the creation of faith is exclusively God’s work, it does not depend on the actions of the one baptized, whether infant or adult.
  • Even though baptized infants cannot articulate that faith, Lutherans believe that it is present all the same.
  • Because it is faith alone that receives these divine gifts, Lutherans confess that baptism “works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.”
  • Holding fast to the Scripture cited in 1 Peter 3:21 “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
  • Therefore, Lutherans administer Baptism to both infants and adults.

Eucharist

Lutherans hold that within the Eucharist, also referred to as the Mass, or the Lord’s Supper.

Lutherans believe that the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ are present in, with and under the bread and the wine.

Other Beliefs:

Confirmation

  • In 7th and 8th grade our youth are invited to study the faith in an intentional way leading to an opportunity for them to affirm their baptismal promises and in so doing to become voting members of the congregation.
  • The two-year course of study in preparation for confirmation includes study of the Church, the Bible, Luther’s Small Catechism and Basics of Lutheran Theology and Christian living.
  • Classes meet for 6-8 week semesters each fall and spring.
  • Participants are strongly encouraged to attend the NJ Synod’s Confirmation Camp experience in the summer.
  • The Affirmation of Baptism service is held during the primary Sunday Service on Pentecost Sunday.

Lutheran ministers can marry.

Some have women pastors.

Lutherans are a mix between Calvinists and Arminian… and don’t quite fit in either.

Generally not charismatic

Lutherans hold that sacraments are sacred acts of divine institution.

  • Whenever they are properly administered by the use of the physical component commanded by God along with the divine words of institution, God is, in a way specific to each sacrament, present with the Word and physical component.
  • He earnestly offers to all who receive the sacrament forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. He also works in the recipients to get them to accept these blessings and to increase the assurance of their possession.

 Major Divisions:

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

  • Most liberal of all Lutheran synods
  • One of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the USA.
  • Allows for LGBTQ+ marriage and ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy. ELCA policy states that LGBTQ+ individuals are welcome and encouraged to become members and to participate in the life of the congregation.
  • Woman pastors

Lutheran Church of the Reformation: WLB, NJ

Affirmation of Welcome

  • Believing that Christ’s welcome is unconditional
  • Believing that in that unconditional welcome we have access to God’s saving love
  • Believing that God’s unconditional saving love is for the whole world
  • The people of God, members of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, West Long Branch, publically affirm their welcome of all people.
  • Such welcome is not based on and will not be hindered by gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status or history, race, social standing, political affiliation or any other such human invention.
  • We extend Christ’s welcome to all who seek to experience God’s saving love through the proclamation of God’s Word and through the reception of the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. This welcome is extended with no strings attached.

Missouri Synod

  • More Conservative
  • The second largest Lutheran Church body is The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and has about 2.6 million members.
  • Does not ordain women, but they do allow women to serve as officers in the church.
  • Transubstantiation (Lords Supper)
  • Takes the Scriptures as literal.

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS)

  • Most conservative
  • No to Homosexuality and LGBGT movement
  • No woman pastors

 Prominent Leaders:

  • Sports: Tom Brady, NFL (New England Patriots),  Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR Lou Gehrig, MLB (former NY Yankee), Tom Landry, NFL (former Dallas Cowboys head coach),  Troy Aikman, NFL (former Dallas Cowboys quarterback)
  • Entertainment: Mary Hart, Entertainment Tonight,  Kirsten Dunst, David Hasselhoff, actor
  • Musician: John Mellencamp, Sally Struthers, Bruce Willis.
  • Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach, Georg Friedrich Handel
  • Writers: Hans Christian Andersen, Theodor Geisel “Dr. Seuss”
  • Business: Steve Jobs, Apple Computers co-founder
  • Military: Norman Schwartzkoph, US ARMY General
  • Clergy/theologian: Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Franz Delitzsch, Paul Tillich

 

Categories: Small Group, The Church & Denominations