WHAT’S IN A NAME: LUTHERAN


Church names of Lutheran congregations differ in frequency from Catholic and Orthodox congregations. Here are the top choices for four representative synods of the ELCA, the oldest and largest of the Lutheran bodies in America.


Pennsylvania is a stronghold for the ECLA, having 5 synods of approximately equal size.  The Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod contains many of the oldest ELCA congregations in its boundaries.

Top 10 name choices of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod

15    St. John

12    St. Paul

9    Christ (with all variations)

8    Grace

7    St. Peter

5    Immanuel

5    St. Luke

5    Zion

4    Saint (Mark, Matthew, and Michael each individually named)

Saint names account for 56  (about one third) of the 170 congregations, St. Andrew (2) and St. Michael (4) were the only Saints not among the 12 disciples, St. Luke, or St. Paul.  This is a great difference from Catholic and Orthodox practice which give newer Saints much recognition.

Indiana – Kentucky Synod top 10

16    St. John

15    St. Paul

13    Christ (with all variations)

11    St. Mark

11    Trinity

8    First

8    St. Peter

8    Zion

7    Grace (with variations)

7    Faith

The 219 Indiana – Kentucky Synod congregations were planted beginning about 100 years later than the Pennsylvania ones. This follows the western immigration patterns of America.

Among the 219 congregations, Saint names again account for about one third. Geographic location names show up with the same small frequency as in Pennsylvania.  Oddly, there is one 3rd Lutheran Church, and no 2nd.  There is little difference between the name choices.

Western North Dakota Synod top 10 (out of 190)

18    First Lutheran

15    Trinity

10    Zion

8    Peace

8    Our Savior (all variations)

6    Bethlehem

6    St. John

6    St. Paul

5    Faith

5    Bethany

5    Hope

The Western North Dakota Synod was initially populated with scandinavian – northern European immigrants in ethnic church bodies later merged into the present day ELCA.  The ELCA has undergone many such merges on its way to the ELCA name. This probably explains the popularity of First Lutheran. The Saint names, 14, account for only slightly more than 7 %, far under the 33% of the other two synods.

Texas – Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod (127 congregations) top 10

13    St. John

13    St. Paul

8    Christ (all variations)

6    First Lutheran

5    Trinity

4    Peace

3    Bethlehem

3    Grace

3    Zion

2    St. Peter

Saint names account for almost 25% of the 127 congregations, while the rest is scattered.  The ELCA was late in church planting here.

This is in contrast to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, the 2nd largest Lutheran body in America.  Germans, mostly from southern Germany began their immigration wave through Texas in the 1830s, and spread north and east.  In faith and practice, they hold generally the same theology and confessions as does the ELCA. In interpretation, they are much more conservative than the ELCA, and are not in altar or pulpit fellowship.

Missouri Synod church names, upon casual examination, seem very similar to ELCA. Again, a great difference from Catholic and Orthodox preferences.

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About Fr. Orthohippo

The blog of a retired Anglican priest (MSJ), his musings, journey, humor, wonderment, and comments on today's scene.
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