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Lutheran versus German Evangelical congregations

Lutheran Church records held by the History and Genealogy D​epartment

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Congregations belonging to Lutheran denominations and those belonging to the Evangelical Synod of North America (ESNA) are often confused with one another. Many ESNA congregations identified themselves as Lutheran, which is often reflected in their names. In addition, it was not uncommon for Lutheran and ESNA congregations to share historical beginnings in a common congregation. Most existing congregations that originated in the ESNA are now incorporated into the present-day United Church of Christ.

The term “Evangelical” in German Protestantism simply means “Protestant” and was a term used by every German Protestant denomination. Lutheran congregations almost always identified themselves as “German Evangelical Lutheran.” ESNA congregations could identify themselves as either “German Evangelical” or “German Evangelical Lutheran” or sometimes as United Evangelical.

A helpful aid for determining if a congregation belonged to the German Evangelical Synod of North America as opposed to a Lutheran denomination is Richard H. Taylor’s, “Congregations of the German Evangelical Synod of North America and Related Groups” (Benton Harbor, Mich.: Richard H. Taylor, 1998; R 285.734 T245C).