The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) are two separate church organizations that have as members the majority of followers who make up the Lutheran denomination. Martin Luther founded the faith due to his disagreement with the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church. Luther's perspective views many of Catholicism's formal rituals as unnecessary and hindrances to spiritual redemption. Lutheranism is a form of Christianity that believes in Jesus as the Son of God.
Lutherans believe that God is a triune being. The concept of God contains three separate, yet conjoined, spiritual beings that consist of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Fundamental beliefs of Lutherans consider the Bible to be divine scriptures that contain instructions for proper human conduct. Lutherans abide by the teachings of both the Old and New Testaments. The church baptizes new members and children in formal ceremonies that symbolize the forgiveness of sins and attainment of eternal life.
Martin Luther's main teachings profess that believers do not obtain salvation by any other means but God's grace. This belief means that humans' actions do not impact their spiritual destiny. God chooses to provide spiritual salvation to followers due to his willingness to forgo individual transgressions, so it is God's compassion that saves humanity from damnation, not an accumulation of good deeds. The power and decision to grant humans eternal life belongs to God.
Even though it is God's grace that saves humanity from eternal damnation, individuals must believe. They need to place trust in God's will and message to receive his forgiveness and compassion. The development of a sound faith is an individual journey among believers and may take longer to attain for some than others. Faith is more than just an acquaintance with the scripture's teachings, however. It is a sort of blind, yet firm, trust in the idea that there is eternal salvation through Jesus.
Some Lutherans do not believe in homosexuality or same-sex marriages. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod takes a more conservative, traditional approach to the issue. LCMS congregations hold the belief that homosexuality is in contrast to what the scriptures teach and they strive to help individuals overcome homosexual behaviors. The Evangelical Lutheran Church does not substantiate homosexual marriages but does allow openly gay members to become ordained as ministers. ELC Lutherans do not bar homosexuals from becoming church members or discussing issues related to being gay.
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