These pages are intended as a genealogical guide to the many changes of names and locations of Lutheran churches within Chicago. They include many non-ELCA congregations, including information on Missouri Synod and German Evangelical congregations.
Norwegians arrived in Chicago in the 1830s. Elling Eielsen, a leader among these immigrants, was the first Norwegian American pastor ordained in America in 18??. He traveled among congregations in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin by foot. Among the seeds he planted was the group that became Trinity Lutheran Church, a Hauge Synod congregation located in the Norwegian immigrant neighborhood along Milwaukee Avenue, just to the west of the Loop. In the Loop, the more high church Norwegians founded the Norwegian Synod congregation that eventually became First Norwegian and later Lake View Lutheran in 1848. Another Norwegian Synod congregation, Our Savior's, followed in 1858, across the Chicago River from the Loop at Erie & May. When First Norwegian lost their building in the Chicago Fire in 1871, the records and parishioners were temporarily housed in Our Savior's until a new facility could be constructed. The other strand of Norwegian American Lutherans were those that cooperated with English-speaking "American" Lutherans and Swedish Lutherans in the Northern Illinois Synod of the General Synod. In 1860 the Scandinavian portion left to found the Augustana Synod in order to serve their own congregations and train their own pastors in their own Scandinavian languages. In 1870 the Norwegians left to form their own body, but soon fell into two camps, the Norwegian Augustana Synod and the Norwegian-Danish Conference. In 1890 these two bodies merged together with a faction of the Norwegian Synod, the anti-Missourian Brotherhood, founded in opposition to the Norwegian Synod's close cooperation with the Missouri Synod, to form the United Norwegian Lutheran Church. The three strands had competing churches within the Norwegian ethnic enclaves in Chicago. These enclaves were strongest on the North Side, following Milwaukee Avenue northwest as the decades passed, thought there were also sections of the South Side with scattered congregations.
In 1917 the three Norwegian Lutheran bodies merged to form the Norwegian Lutheran Church of America. A few dissident congregations from the Norwegian Synod refused to participate and helped create the "Little" Norwegian Synod, later the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
The Swedes in Chicago, and in America, were less likely to remain Lutheran than their Norwegian counterparts, though those that did did not have the splits and theological controversies that the Norwegians and Germans did. The Scandinavian Augustana Synod was formed in 1860, with the Norwegians and Danes leaving in 1870. Large contingents of Swedes in Chicago were Swedish Mission Covenant, Swedish Methodist, or Swedish Baptist. The earliest congregation amongst Swedish immigrants, St. Ansgarius, became part of the Episcopal Church. In 1853 Immanuel Swedish Lutheran Church was formed, at first meeting in the First Norwegian Lutheran building. This became the motherchurch for Augustana Synod congregations in Chicago.
Danish immigrants to the U.S. were few, but those that remained Lutheran were split between those that followed Grundtvig's folk church model and those that were more pietistic. These became the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church and the United Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church, respectively. In Chicago there were only a handful of Danish Lutheran congregations, so some Danes worshiped with the Norwegians, as the languages are very similar.
English-speaking Lutherans, many descended from German immigrants to Pennsylvania and New York, had numerous congregations in Chicago. Many of these were split between the Northern Illinois Synod, belonging to the umbrella organization the General Synod, and the Chicago Synod, which belonged to the more conservative General Council. A German-speaking synod, the Wartburg Synod, was also active in Chicago. As second-generation Lutherans of German and Scandinavian descent preferred English, these congregations picked up some of these families. English-speaking congregations of the ethnic church bodies were also organized. The General Synod and General Council were among two of three bodies that formed the United Lutheran Church in America in 1918. One of the Slovak Lutheran synods became part of the ULCA, while the other eventually merged into the Missouri Synod.
German-speaking Lutherans in Chicago primarily belonged to the Missouri Synod. An early German Illinois Synod had been absorbed by the Missouri Synod in 1870. There were also a few congregations of the German Iowa Synod and the Joint Synod of Ohio, two of three bodies that merged to form the old American Lutheran Church in 1930.