11 Reasons I'm Proud to Pastor in
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Since my "brand" of Christian is a tiny minority in this part of God's world, I get asked a lot of questions about our denomination. Most commonly either How are you different from the other Lutheran groups we know? -or- Is that like Mormon or something?

I've been trying to create a short list of what's best about us, what makes us truly unique. Here's a first attempt:

11. Although we are "protestant" and in fact in a sense descended from the true founders of Protestantism (well, actually that honor goes to Jan Hus and the Moravians, but that's a whole other and more complicated story), we are Protestants of the Evangelical Catholic variety. We emphasize how to keep proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ clearly while maintaining as much of catholic substance and practice as possible. We're Protestant Catholics.

10. We have the best national youth gathering of any denomination, hands-down. 35,000 youth gathering in the abandoned places of empire (last two times around in New Orleans, this next time in Detroit). www.elca.org/gathering. You really have to see it to believe it.

9. Lutheran theology more faithfully proclaims the freedom we have in Christ than any other theological tradition of which I'm aware. When the gospel says you are free, you are free indeed. Love God and do what you will (Augustine).

8. We are widely and deeply ecumenical. I think we may be in full communion agreements with more denominations than any other denomination, including Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians, Moravians, United Church of Christ, and the Reformed church. Plus many more ongoing bilateral conversations.

7. We are a member of the Lutheran World Federation, which connects us to Lutherans in as far flung places as Iceland, Australia, El Salvador, Madagascar, India, Tanzania, and beyond.

6. We write social statements. Lots of them. Because we believe taking a public stand on matters of social justice is simply what Christian communities are called to do.

5. Conformity is not required in our denomination. Your average ELCA congregation may split about 50/50 Republican and Democrat, for example. We find ways to be different, together.

4. I've eaten lutefisk and heard a Lutheran mariachi band at church potlucks. The most important word in that last sentence is "potlucks," but the most intriguing words in that sentence are "lutefisk" and "mariachi."

3. Lutherans have the largest charitable organization in North America, Lutheran Services in America. Whether it is Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran World Relief, ELCA Disaster Response, Lutheran hospitals, and beyond, Lutherans have a deep and abiding commitment to service to the neighbor in need.

2. Lutherans do liturgy. Our approach to liturgy, however, is very "open concept." So liturgy is (often) accompanied by piano or organ, but it is also rock liturgy, frontier liturgy, or beyond. But Lutherans do liturgy, and it is a beautiful mark of who we are.

1. And we are committed to liturgy because it is worship context for the sacraments, the way and the place through which we meet and encounter Christ, who is hands down the best reason to be a part of the ELCA. Lutherans know Christ is the main thing.

Every denomination has a unique personality, a way of being in the world that contributes to the wider ecumene and Christian witness in the world. These are hallmarks of our personality. There are others. You're welcome to list them.

Clint Schnekloth is lead pastor at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Fayetteville, Arkansas.