Lutheran Christians believe that we are part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church. This means that along with Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and other Christians, that our foundation dates back to Jesus Christ and his apostles. In the early 16th century, an Augustinian monk and Old Testament scholar named Father Martin Luther wrestled with the questions of a loving God in the midst of a corrupt ecclesial and governmental institution (the Church at the time). Once Luther returned to the real sources that mattered (scripture) he (re)discovered what early Church theologians like St. Paul and St. Augustine had preached all along: Justification by grace through faith. This means that we are saved (made right/justified) from our sinful self and world by God's free gift (grace) through the faith given to us in relationship with God.
This theological insight sparked the Reformation.
The Wittenberg University became the center of the movement to bring the church back to the sources and end its abuses against the people. People then as now believe that this movement would have caused a sect to form within Roman Catholicism, similar to the Jesuits, or Franscicans. Tragically, all those who took a stand with Luther were excommunicated by Pope Leo X. Throughout the last five centuries there has been magnificent effort from both Lutherans and Roman Catholics as well as Orthodox Christians to work toward unity including apologies, documents of unity (Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, 1999) and (Joint Declaration of Pope Francis and Bishop Munib Younan, 2017). We believe that the Book of Concord, a collection of our confessions, is consistent with teachings from Scripture and it is our norm and authority.
Of course, there are many stereotypes of Lutherans, especially here in the midwest! This is because all of the Scandinavian countries had Lutheranism as their state religion and many brought their religion with them to this country. If you would like to study Lutherans in their natural habitats, listen to Prairie Home Companion, go to a beer hymn sing, watch this video, or join us for coffee and bars after worship!