Much has happened to The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and to North American Lutheranism generally-since that day on April 26, 1847, when Dr. C. F. W. Walther and 11 other pastors and 16 congregations formed the “German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States” at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chicago.
First, the latter half of the 19th and the early years of the 20th century witnessed a period of rapid church growth because of the heavy influx of immigrants from Lutheran countries: Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and even Iceland. Confirmed membership in Lutheran churches in this period grew from 175,000 in 1850 to 2,205,000 in 1910.
Second, thanks to the expansion of railroads and the opening of the frontier, many of these immigrants settled in the upper Midwest, in the Northwest, and in western Canada. There they established communities with strong ethnic flavors and were able to transplant much of the culture and way of life from their old homeland to the new. They continued to use their national languages-German, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, and Danish.
And it was during this period that the LCMS grew from just over a dozen congregations scattered throughout Indiana, Illinois, and eastern Missouri to nearly 350,000 baptized members in 1885; almost 700,000 in 1900; and more than 1,250,000 in 1935. The Synod would go on to grow to 1.5 million by 1947, its centennial year, and to 2,873,814 in North American congregations in 1973.
As its membership increased, so did its activities. The Synod has been involved in education, for example, from its beginning, when it inherited two seminaries, one at Fort Wayne, Ind. (Concordia Theological Seminary, now back at Fort Wayne after periods in St. Louis, Mo., and Springfield, lll.), and one at St. Louis, Mo. (moved from Altenburg, Mo., it became Concordia Seminary). The Synod also soon acquired a teachers college, now Concordia College, River Forest, 111., founded in 1885.
A second teachers college (Concordia Teachers College at Seward, Nebr.) was added in 1894. Over the years a network of 11 other North American colleges has developed.
By 1938 the Missouri Synod was supporting missionary work in India, China, Nigeria, Brazil, and Argentina. The North American church included American Indians and blacks. Special ministries included the deaf and blind.
Today The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has about 2.7 million baptized members in more than 6,000 congregations throughout the United Sates, Canada, and Argentina (those in Brazil have become a sister church). Through its missionaries and overseas workers the LCMS ministers to people in 29 nations of the world, joyfully joining the apostle Paul in saying, ”Him we proclaim!”
A Brief History of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is taken from Called to Witness, Teachers Guide, copyright © 1981 by Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.