Worldwide: The Lutheran Church is the oldest and largest Protestant church in the world. It had its origin in the Reformation movement in the 1500’s. It began when Martin Luther, a Catholic priest and a professor at the University of Wittenberg in Germany posted 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, protesting the church practice of selling “indulgences”. The Theses were posted for the purpose of raising issues for discussion. Discussion didn’t result rather the result was “all out” war. The Reformation spread throughout Europe. The Lutheran Church was established but also many other protestant churches came into being as well.
In the early 1600’s Lutheranism spread to the new world. The first known Lutheran activity in America took place on Christmas Eve in 1619, when a small group of Scandinavians held a communion service. The first permanent Lutheran settlers arrived from Holland and settled on Manhattan Island in 1623. The Dutch formed an outpost in Albany, N.Y. in 1624. Swedish Lutherans founded “New Sweden” and built a log church in Wilmington, Delaware in 1638. In 1649 the Lutheran colony of New Netherland (Hudson River Valley) petitioned for a minister for their own congregation. They also built churches in the Hudson Valley. Then, in the early 1700’s William Penn established a colony that offered religious freedom, which was to attract thousands of Lutherans. In the 1730’s, The Salzburgers, refugees from Austria, established Lutheranism in Georgia. During this same time period Germans were settling in South Carolina.
Nationally, St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland is a member congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA is comprised of approximately 11,000 congregations and 5,000,000 baptized members located in every state as well as in the Bahamas and the Carribean. The ELCA has 8 seminaries; 29 colleges and universities. There are about 17,000 ordained ministers on its rolls. In addition to the ordained there are over 1,200 Associates in Ministry. The ELCA is also related to and an active participant with 4 Ecumenical Organizations; with 5 inter church organizations; and 18 other organizations.
Regionally, St. John’s is a member congregation of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod. The SWPA Synod has approximately 230 congregations and about 93,000 baptized members. There are approximately 260 ordained ministers on the rolls of synod and 11 Associates in Ministry.