Difference between Missouri Synod and ELCA

Both The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) bear the name of the founder of the Protestant movement Martin Luther. The services performed in these Churches are similar, as are attributes such as the outline of the building of the churches, the robes of pastors and the color of the altar. Yet, there are some differences between the teachings and beliefs of these two Protestant denominations. Let’s see what they are.


Missouri Synod vs ELCA
St. Paul’s Church in Chicago, where the first meeting of the Missouri Synod was held

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), sometimes referred to as the Missouri Synod is one of the oldest Protestant denominations in the United States. Founded by the joint efforts of several Lutheran communities in the middle of the 19th century in the states of Ohio, Michigan and Indiana, the Missouri Synod nowadays counts over 2 million people in their community.

Augustana Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C. is a “Reconciling in Christ” congregation, welcoming people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the biggest denomination among the Lutheran sub-branches in the United States. The modern ELCA Church was founded after the merging of several Lutheran Churches in 1988. As of 2014, ELCA counts around three and a half million baptized by the Church. The ELCA community is famous, among other things, for its social agenda, introducing Social Statements and Messages that are adopted by the ELCA community and include topics on education, human sexuality, the death penalty and abortion as well as other subjects that are considered questionable among the mainstream Christian community.

Comparison chart

Missouri Synod ELCA
Do not allow women and homosexuals to become pastors Allow women and homosexuals to become pastors
Members of other Protestant denominations are not welcome to communion at Missouri Synod altars Members of other Protestant denominations are welcome to communion at ELCA altars
Abortion is considered a sin Abortion is not considered a sin
Condemns non-traditional interpretations of the Lord’s Supper Accepts contrarian views on presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Lord’s Supper
Preach only traditional Lutheran doctrines Allow for variations in preaching the Lutheran doctrines
The Bible is the God’s Word The Bible can be subject to interpretations

Missouri Synod vs ELCA

What is the difference between Missouri Synod and ELCA?

  • Missouri Synod congregations do not have women among their pastors. ELCA, on the other hand, allows women to become pastors. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was also one of the first denominations to ordain open homosexuals into pastoral office. Missouri Synod, being a more conservative sub-branch and following the passages on condemnation of homosexuality in the Bible, do not allow homosexual priests into office. Any sort of same-sex relationships, including gay marriage are condemned in The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod community.
  • Missouri Synod doesn’t allow pastors from other sub-branches of the Protestant movement to serve in their congregations. ELCA, on the other hand, welcomes pastors from other Protestant communities. One can see members of Methodist, Presbyterian, the United Church of Christ, or Episcopal churches going to communion at ELCA altars.
  • Missouri Synod considers abortion to be a sin. ELCA, on the other hand, doesn’t consider abortion to be a sin and allows for it.
  • Some Protestant authorities do not share the same view on Jesus Christ’s presence in the Sacrament. For Missouri Synod, the rite of Holy Communion is the Sacrament that must be seen as the actual presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Those who do not agree with that are excluded from the Missouri Synod community. ELCA, on the other hand, allows for different opinions and interpretations of the Last Supper.
  • There is a tradition in the Lutheranism of preaching initial doctrines of the movement. While many of those doctrines have evolved and developed since the 16th century, the Missouri Synod do not allow for any variations that go against the official body of doctrines. ELCA, on the other hand, allows its pastors to preach doctrines that are different from the traditional corpus of Lutheran doctrines.
  • For Missouri Synod the Bible is literally the Words of God from beginning to end. The Bible, therefore, is not a subject of any interpretations and every Word written in the Old and New Testament must be taken literally. For ELCA community, on the other hand, the Bible is rather the collection of inspired writings that, however, can be a subject to divergence and multiple interpretations.