Christianity Knowledge Base

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod or ELS is a US-based Protestant Christian denomination based in Mankato, Minnesota. It describes itself as a conservative, confessional Lutheran body.


There are approximately 21,729 members in 142 established congregations and 12 mission churches. The current Church Body President is the Rev. John Moldstad, M.Div., S.T.M., who has been serving since 2002. Note that the ELS uses the term synod differently than the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and is a separate denomination.


The Evangelical Lutheran Synod traces its history back to 1853 when the "Norwegian Synod" was organized in the Midwestern United States. They practiced "fellowship", a form of full communion, with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) during the 1850s and 1860s. In 1872, they along with the LCMS and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) formed the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America.

A series of mergers during the early 20th century led to disagreement among members of the Norwegian Synod. A group of people therefore gathered at Lime Creek Lutheran Church near Lake Mills, Iowa, in June of 1918 and reorganized as the Norwegian Synod of the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (also known as "Little Norwegian" Synod) The name was later changed to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod in 1957.

Around 1957, the ELS broke "fellowship" with Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod over doctrinal disagreements, though they retained fellowship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

In 1993, the ELS and WELS working with a number of other worldwide Lutheran churches, some of which had been founded through mission work by both synods, founded the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC).

Education ministries and missions[]

In 1927 it began operating Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. In 1946 it established its own seminary, also in Mankato, MN, called Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary. It carries on an active home mission program and now has more than 140 congregations in many states. It also has foreign missionaries laboring in Peru and Chile in South America and in Ukraine, Latvia, and Czech Republic in Eastern Europe. Additional plans might include parts of Southeast Asia.

Internet links[]

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