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What Luther Says

What's Up With The LCMS-English District?

There are 35 Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) Districts and a majority of them were established geographically.

However, one District in particular (the LCMS English District) is a collection of congregations throughout North America and it encompasses a total of 160 congregations with about 56,000 baptized members.

I'm bringing this up only because I live in the LCMS-Eastern District, and yet, the new church that I've been calling home for only a few weeks now belongs to the English District though it's smack dab in the middle of the Eastern District.

So, naturally, that made me curious.

What's up with the LCMS-English District? Why haven't I heard of it before? Why in the world is it the only LCMS District compromised of congregations from diverse geo-metro regions?

Well, here's what I found the on the "About Us/Our History" page on the English District's website...

The English District is one of 35 districts of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. At one time the English District was an independent Lutheran Synod in North America, organized in 1888 as the "English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri." Its history goes back to colonial times. 
In the early days of Lutheranism in the United States, the Henkels, a prominent Lutheran family, provided pastoral leadership for the church in Virginia. The family was concerned about Lutheran confessional teaching. In 1851, the Henkel family published the first English edition of the Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions. Members of the family were responsible for establishing several synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. One of those synods, the Tennessee Synod, was organized in 1820 by Pastor Paul Henkel. The Tennessee Synod believed firmly in the authority of God's Word. It insisted on strong catechetical training within the congregations. 
Immediately after the American Civil War, Pastor Polycarp Henkel, grandson of founding patriarch Paul Henkel, served as pastor of Zion Church, Gravelton, Missouri. The leaders of the Tennessee Synod learned of the existence of the Missouri Synod, a strong confessional synod headed by Dr. Carl F. W. Walther, with headquarters in St. Louis. Tennessee Synod pastors and laymen in Missouri invited Dr. Walther to meet with them. In August of 1872, representatives of the “German Missouri Synod” met with the pastors and congregations of the Tennessee Synod at Zion in Gravelton. Dr. Walther presented sixteen theses that expressed the confession of the Missouri Synod. While the theses were in English, the discussions were conducted both in German and English since the Tennessee Synod members did not speak German. As a result of the meeting "The English Evangelical Lutheran Conference of Missouri" was organized. In 1888 the English Conference of the Tennessee Synod in Missouri was organized as a separate synod, the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri. However, the new English Synod continued attempts to become one organically with "The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States." 
Finally in 1911, the English Synod was accepted into the “German Missouri Synod” as a non-geographic synodical district. The “English Synod of Missouri” did not want amalgamation, but it did want to be part of the Missouri Synod because of its confessional and scriptural Lutheran stance. 
When the union of the two synods was effected, the sainted Dr. Harry Eckhardt, then President of the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, said, "We come here to join ranks with you and march with you, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder, bearing farther and farther, into the world of lost sinners the one saving Gospel, whether it be by means of the German language or the English or any tongue, just so it be the old Gospel. We have been in one faith. Now we are one in organization. May we ever be one and inseparable." 
Prior to Dr. Eckhardt, Pastors F. Kuegele, William Dallmann, and Adolph Meyer were Presidents of the English Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri. When the English District was established, Dr. Harry Eckhardt was elected its first President. This District has continued to the present day. 
There are English District congregations in one Canadian province and in 19 U.S. states, from Naples, Florida to Minneapolis, from New York to San Diego, from Pembroke, Ontario, Canada to Lincoln, Nebraska, to Arizona, urban and suburbs. English District congregations minister in 29 different languages including: French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Tigrian, Urdu, Amharic, Nuer, and Sign. The English District serves campuses, human care and other types of ministries. 
In 1911, there were fifty-three congregations. However, during the life of the English District over five hundred congregations have been members of the Conference/Synod/District. Today, the District numbers 161 congregations, mission starts, and social ministries. 
Most of them have been transferred to the geographic districts of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. Thirty-three of the oldest and largest congregations were released to form the Southeastern District in 1939. In 1946 another group of congregations was released to form the Montana District. So it has gone through the years. 
When the English Synod joined the Missouri Synod, it presented to the Synod two colleges for ministerial education: Concordia College at Conover, North Carolina, and St. John's College at Winfield, Kansas. It also turned over to the Missouri Synod several publications: "The Lutheran Witness", its official magazine; and "The Lutheran Guide", a magazine for youth. The Missouri Synod was given the publishing rights for "The Sunday School Hymnal". The English Synod also turned over to the Missouri Synod the full manuscript for the first English hymnal of the Synod. In 1912 that manuscript became "The Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal" which served the Missouri Synod until 1941. The idea for the Church Extension Fund was also generated by the English Synod. The District's program from the beginning has been to provide for pastoral education, to assist congregations in parish education with materials and programs, and to do mission work within the borders of the United States and Canada. 
The English District sees itself in the role of the servant. It is a servant to the congregations, servant to other districts, and servant to the entire Synod. The English District seeks to help in situations and circumstances where other districts cannot carry out their goals and need help. For the Synod, we promote our mutual faith, one in purpose and in organization. Where others will not, or can not, we are ready to serve. 
What Dr. Eckhardt said in 1911 still holds, "We have been one in faith. May we ever be one and inseparable with Missouri. We are all contending for the same sound Lutheranism for which he (Walther) so unflinchingly stood. We add to all this the old motto of Missouri: Soli Deo Gloria! (To God alone be all glory)."

Fascinating, huh?

Bottom line though?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, at the end of the day, I don't really care about the history of this District so long as it includes a church that me and my family can go to in order to hear the Word faithfully preached and to receive the Sacraments rightly administered.

I think we may have finally found one!

NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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