About Lutheranism

The Lutheran Church

Back in the early 16th century the people who lived in the region that is now modern day Germany were experiencing economic and political discontent. By the time there had been a consolidation of both political and church power within the Holy Roman Empire which had created a number of problems, the worst of which were the selling of indulgences (or "promises of forgiveness"). The Middle Ages were coming to an end and the Age of Enlightenment was about to begin. People were open to new ideas and the invention of the printing press helped to spread these new ideas across the continent of Europe.

Also at this time Pope Leo X was building St. Peter's Basilica in Rome and needed to raise money. A loan was granted to the church and a papal indulgence (similar to a bond) was issued as collateral. The sale of indulgences was entrusted to a man by the name of Johann Tetzel, a Dominican monk, who used pressure tactics to get poor German peasants to purchase them in order to release themselves or a loved one from purgatory (a place of purification or temporary punishment).

Martin Luther, who was a priest and professor of theology, objected to the Roman Catholic Church selling what God offered as a free gift. He posted a series of "95 theses (points for debate) on October 31, 1517, on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. Because of the printing press, these 95 theses circulated widely. The German peasants and political leaders read Luther's ideas and liked what they read. Luther wanted the Roman Catholic Church to reform, but the church refused. The church eventually threw Martin Luther out and banned his ideas. The people, however, liked his ideas and began to break away from the Roman Catholic Church. Luther wanted to call this new breakaway group "evangelicals" but his opponents attached Luther's name to the movement, and so the Lutheran Church was born. There are currently around 104 million Lutherans worldwide, making it the largest protestant denomination in the world.

Zion is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ELCA was officially formed in 1988 as a result of merging three Lutheran Denominations. The Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church Today there are about 4.5 million members in the ELCA throughout the United Sates, found in over 65 synods and nine geographic regions. Zion is a member of the Northwest Ohio Synod. For more information about the Lutheran Church, check out the following links: