Associate in Ministry (AIM)Associates in ministry are laypeople called and commissioned for service in congregations, agencies, schools and institutions of the ELCA. Their primary areas of service are education, youth, spiritual formation, campus ministry, outdoor ministry, music and the arts, administration, service and general ministry. For more information, visit Associates in Ministry in Rostered Leadership.
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BibleThe Bible is a collection of writings that Lutherans believe to be the written Word of God. It is accepted as inspired by God and the authoritative source and norm of the church's faith. For more information, visit the Bible.
BishopA bishop is a pastor, an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the ELCA, who is elected to a six-year term to provide pastoral care and oversight for the congregations and leaders of an ELCA synod. The bishop is the chief executive officer of the synod, and may be reelected. To learn more, visit ELCA Conference of Bishops.
Bishop, PresidingSee Presiding BishopBook of Concord, TheThe Book of Concord is a collection of 16th century confessions of the Reformation churches. Within it is the Augsburg Confession, which the ELCA accepts as a "true witness to the Gospel," as well as other confessional writings that the ELCA considers "further valid interpretations of the faith of the Church." (ELCA Confession of Faith)
CallFor Lutherans, “call” or “calling” refers to the vocations of every Christian — the roles in which they live out their faith, such as family member, citizen, worker, church member. In the context of public ministry, a call is an official invitation to become a public leader in this church. A pastor, deaconess, diaconal minister or associate in ministry receives a call as he or she begins serving a congregation, institution or agency of the church. For more information, visit Life as Vocation: Living Our Call, Each and Every Day.
CandidacyCandidacy is the process through which individuals explore their own sense of being called to public leadership in the church and through which representatives of this church determine if the individual is suited for this public ministry. The candidacy process includes a period of discernment and preparation, and concludes when a person is approved for service. Synods are responsible for overseeing the candidacy process. To learn more, visit Become a Leader.
CandidateA person officially preparing for rostered ministry in the ELCA. A formal positive entrance decision is made by a synod candidacy committee in order to be designated as a candidate. The candidate must then complete all requirements and also receive an endorsement decision and an approval decision. Learn more in Candidacy.
CatholicDerived from a Greek word meaning universal; may therefore be used to apply to all Christians. When it is used this way, it begins with a lower case "c"; when used with a capital "C" this word usually refers to the Roman Catholic Church.
ChaplainA pastor or a theologically trained lay leader who serves in an institutional setting such as a hospital, nursing home, prison, college or the armed forces. Learn more in Chaplaincy.
ChurchThis word is used to refer both to a local congregation (for example, Trinity Lutheran Church) and to the organization that includes congregations, institutions and agencies (for example, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). When capitalized, it usually refers to the whole Christian Church around the world and throughout history.
Church CouncilThe Church Council of the ELCA is its board of directors, serving as the interim legislative authority between meetings of the Churchwide Assembly. The Church Council meets at least two times each year and is composed of 33 members who are elected to six-year terms by the Churchwide Assembly together with the four churchwide officers (presiding bishop, vice president, secretary and treasurer). Learn more in Church Council.
Churchwide AssemblyThe Churchwide Assembly is the ELCA’s highest legislative authority. It reviews the work of the churchwide officers and churchwide units. It establishes ELCA policy and adopts the budget for the churchwide organization. It has sole authority to amend the constitution and bylaws of the ELCA. The Churchwide Assembly meets biennially in regular session. Learn more in Churchwide Assembly.
Churchwide OrganizationThe churchwide organization is one of the three expressions of the ELCA. It functions interdependently with congregations and synods of the ELCA. It is responsible for developing churchwide policy, standards for leadership, including ordained and rostered lay ministries and affiliation of institutions, and the coordination of the work of the ELCA both globally and throughout the territory of the ELCA.
ClergyIn the ELCA, the term “clergy” is normally used to describe those who are ordained pastors of the church. Learn more in Ordained Ministry.
Communion, or Holy CommunionOne of two sacraments for Lutherans, the other being Baptism. In Holy Communion, also called the Eucharist, Lutherans recall the saving acts of God through Word, bread and wine, and are connected with Christ and with Christians of all times and places. In this sacrament we are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Conference of BishopsThe Conference of Bishops is composed of the bishops of the 65 synods, the presiding bishop and the secretary of the ELCA. The conference meets at least two times each year and is a forum in which goals, objectives and strategies may be developed and shared concerning pastoral oversight, care and counsel for the synods. Learn more in Conference of Bishops.
Confession of FaithA confession of faith is a brief statement of a group’s beliefs. The ELCA Confession of Faith confesses the Triune God, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the written Word of God, accepts the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church and accepts the Augsburg Confession and the other confessional writings in the Book of Concord as valid interpretations of the faith of this church. View the ELCA Confession of Faith in its entirety.The Confession of Faith is also a normal component of Lutheran worship. The assembly affirms its own faith and their connection to the church catholic by saying the words of one of the ecumenical creeds.
CongregationA community of believers who assemble regularly for worship and who nurture, organize and carry out ministries among members and the neighborhood. As one of the three expressions of the ELCA, congregations cooperate with and support the wider church to share God’s boundless love with the world. Find a Congregation near you.
Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing ResolutionsThe basic commitments of the ELCA as well as its organizational outline, structural patterns, and rules of governance are expressed by its constitutions, bylaws, and continuing resolutions. These documents govern the life of the ELCA as congregations, synods and churchwide organization.
Diaconal MinisterA member of the ELCA Diaconal Ministry Community and the underlying ELCA roster of lay men and women in ministries of Word and service. This roster was established in 1993. ELCA diaconal ministers are called and consecrated and they serve in congregations, agencies and institutions of the ELCA. Their focus for ministry is the extension of the church’s ministry of witness and care into the world.
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EcumenicalA reference to the whole Christian church, including denominations and groups. The beliefs and practices of those who desire and work for worldwide unity and cooperation among all Christian people. Learn more about the ELCA’s approach to ecumenism in Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
EndorsementEndorsement is a step in the ELCA candidacy process in which the synod candidacy committee and the seminary the candidate attends evaluate and affirm the candidate's continued growth in preparation for, and sense of call to, rostered ministry. It is also part of the approval process of those preparing for ministries in specialized pastoral care and clinical education. Learn more in Candidacy.
EucharistFrom the Greek word for “thanksgiving.” Eucharist, also known as Holy Communion or the Lord’s Supper, is one of two sacraments for Lutherans, the other being Baptism. “The Eucharist” is also used as the name for the liturgical celebration of this sacrament.
EvangelicalThe Evangelical Lutheran Church in America understands "evangelical" as emphasizing the gospel or good news of salvation received apart from human works and, based on this, the ELCA values worship forms and confessions of faith of the historic Christian tradition. In the United States, the term “evangelical” is often associated with a religious and cultural movement known as "evangelicalism" that came to prominence in the 19th century and stresses individual conversion, the authority of the Bible, and moral and social reform.
Evangelical Lutheran Worship (ELW)Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), is the primary worship resource for use within the ELCA. It was preceded by Lutheran Book of Worship (1978). Learn more about ELCA worship resources in Worship.
EvangelizingThe act of spreading the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ by word and deed. Used specifically for the activity of inviting people to learn about Jesus Christ. Learn more about evangelizing activity in the ELCA.
Full CommunionA "full communion" relationship between denominations is an acknowledgement that there is enough agreement on matters of faith and life between denominations to commit to joint ministry, witness, and service. The ELCA has full communion agreements with The Episcopal Church, the Reformed Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ and the Moravian Church Northern and Southern Provinces. Learn more about the ELCA’s full communion partners in Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations.
Holy CommunionOne of two sacraments for Lutherans, the other being Baptism. In Holy Communion, also called the Eucharist, Lutherans recall the saving acts of God through Word, bread and wine, and are connected with Christ and with Christians of all times and places. In this sacrament we are fed with the Body and Blood of Christ.
Interim MinistryWord and Sacrament ministry, following the resignation or retirement of a congregation's pastor. Interim pastors serve for a specific period of time, or for the duration of a "pastoral vacancy," and some are specially trained to assist with transition following an extended pastorate, or for resolution of recent or long-term conflicts. Learn more in Interim Ministry.
Lifelong LearningAll members of the ELCA are encouraged to engage in lifelong learning through participation in Sunday school and other Christian education opportunities in the congregations or other offerings through higher educational institutions of the church. Learn more in Lifelong Learning.
LiturgyFrom the Greek word for "public service," liturgy is sometimes called "the work of the people of God." It is the rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship, a set order of worship used by the "liturgical churches" such as Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Lutheran churches all over the world.Luther, MartinMartin Luther, 1483-1546, was trained as a monk and a priest in his native Germany. His efforts to bring reform and renewal to the church were part of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Though he never wanted a church named after him, he is considered the founder of the Lutheran faith tradition. To learn more, visit Martin Luther in History.
Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW)Until the release of Evangelical Lutheran Worship in 2006, Lutheran Book of Worship was the primary worship resource for use within the ELCA. Since its release in 1978, it has been supplemented by other worship resources. Learn more about ELCA worship resources in Worship.
LutheranismThe beliefs and form of church governance associated with the 16th-century Reformation and Martin Luther. There are presently more than 68 million Lutherans around the world in over 150 Lutheran church bodies, of which the ELCA is one. To learn more, visit What Lutherans Believe.
MinistryThe ELCA affirms the shared mission of all its baptized members and commits itself to the equipping and supporting of all its members for their ministries in the world and in this church.
Ministry in Daily LifeGod's people fulfill their shared mission in a variety of ways. Lutherans believe that we are called to serve others in all our roles or offices — for example, as parents, children, citizens of a nation and the world, as workers, employers, retirees, students, congregation members and more. Clergy are called to the public office of preaching the Word and administering the sacraments. According to Martin Luther, the mission of every Christian is to pray for each other, to listen to and heed their neighbors’ cries of distress, to speak God's cheering word of forgiveness and consolation, and to share God's love by ministering to the poor and oppressed. Learn more at Life as Vocation.
OrdinationThe rite by which a person becomes a minister of Word and Sacrament in the church of Jesus Christ. In the Lutheran church, a person is only ordained when he or she has been prepared and approved for ministry and has received and accepted a call to a particular public ministry, usually a congregation. To learn more, visit Become a Leader.
PreachingThe public proclamation of God’s love and mercy for all creation through the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. Preaching is rooted in the readings of Scripture in the assembly’s public worship.
Presiding BishopAn ordained minister of Word and Sacrament who is a teacher of the faith of this church and who provides leadership for the life and witness of this church. The term is rooted in worship (“the bishop presides over the worshiping assembly”) and the presiding bishop serves as the chief pastor of the ELCA, the chief executive officer of the ELCA Churchwide Organization and the chief ecumenical officer of the church. The presiding bishop is elected to a six-year term and may be reelected. The current presiding bishop is the Rev. Mark. S. Hanson. To learn more, visit Office of the Presiding Bishop.
Reformed Tradition, TheOne of the branches of the 16th-century Reformation. Denominations that are part of the reformed tradition include various Reformed Churches, the Presbyterian Church and United Church of Christ. To learn more, visit History.
RegionThere are nine geographic regions within the ELCA, recognized as a partnerships among synods within the region. Each region is a means to coordinate responses by synods and the churchwide organization to mission and program opportunities within the region. To learn more, visit Synodical Relations.
Representational PrincipleThe Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has determined that at least 60 percent of the members of assemblies, councils, committees, boards and other organizations should be laypeople, half female and half male, and that, where possible, the representation of ordained ministers should be both female and male. It is also strives for a minimum goal of 10 percent of the membership of its assemblies, councils, committees, boards, or other organizational units being people of color and/or people whose primary language is other than English.
RosterThe official listing of those who have been ordained, consecrated or commissioned and are called to service in the ELCA. Currently, there are more than 17,000 rostered leaders in the ELCA. The ELCA has four rosters: associates in ministry, deaconesses, diaconal ministers and ordained ministers (pastors). Learn more in Rostered Leadership.
ScriptureA word often used to refer to the Bible, the sacred scriptures include the 66 books that are divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament.
SeminaryInstitution that offers theological education and professional training for leaders in the church and others interested in graduate-level study of theology. The ELCA has eight seminaries. Find out more about them in ELCA seminaries.
SermonA sermon is part of worship in which the pastor proclaims the Word of God, based on the written Word of God in the Bible and applying it to the worshipping community as appropriate. In the Lutheran liturgy, it comes right after the Bible lessons are read and before the confession of the creed, the offering and the Eucharist.SynodThere are 65 synods in the ELCA. A synod is typically a geographical grouping of congregations, with one exception. Each synod, in partnership with the churchwide organization, bears primary responsibility for the oversight of the life and mission of the ELCA in its territory. To learn more, visit Synodical Relations.
Synod AssemblyThe synod assembly is the highest legislative authority of the synod, with a regular meeting held at least biennially. (Most synod assemblies meet annually.) All ordained ministers under call and all rostered lay ministers under call are voting members, as are representative lay members from every congregation within the synod. To learn more, visit Synod Assemblies.
VocationFrom the Latin word for “call,” the word refers to our many callings as God’s baptized people — whatever our places and opportunities in life, we are called to serve others with love. Martin Luther emphasized, for example, that a shoemaker, a father changing a diaper and a pastor preaching a sermon are all called by God to serve in the roles in which they find themselves. To learn more, visit Vocation: In Service for the World.
Word of GodThe Word of God -- read, preached and sung by the assembly in worship, is essential to the orders of service in the Lutheran tradition. Lutherans understand the Word of God as:1) God's incarnate Word made flesh in Jesus, living among us;2) The word of God proclaimed and heard as law (that which convicts) and gospel (that which frees); and 3) The recorded Word of God in the canonical scripturesTo learn more, visit Book of Faith.