Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio

The Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States, commonly known as the Joint Synod of Ohio or the Ohio Synod, was a German-language Lutheran denomination whose congregations were originally located primarily in the U.S. state of Ohio, later expanding to most parts of the United States. The synod was formed on September 14, 1818, and adopted the name Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States by about 1850. It used that name or slight variants until it merged with the Iowa Synod and the Buffalo Synod in 1930 to form the first American Lutheran Church (ALC), 1930–1960.[1]

Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States
AbbreviationOhio Synod, Joint Synod of Ohio
TheologyConfessional Lutheran
StructureNational synod, middle level districts, and local congregations
AssociationsNational Lutheran Council
Former member of Synodical Conference
RegionUnited States, especially in Ohio and nearby states.
HeadquartersColumbus, Ohio
OriginSeptember 14, 1818
Somerset, Ohio
Branched fromPennsylvania Ministerium (Ministerium of Pennsylvania)
SeparationsEnglish District Synod
Merged intoAmerican Lutheran Church (1930-1960)
Congregations876 (1929)
Members166,521 (1929)
Ministers768 (1929)

In 1929, just before its merger into the ALC, the Ohio Joint Synod had 768 pastors, 876 congregations, and 166,521 members.[2]


Origin and namesEdit

During the 1780s and 1790s, German-speaking Lutherans began to move west from the original 13 states on the Atlantic coast into the portion of the old Northwest Territory formed 1787, that is now the future state of Ohio (and included territories north of the Ohio River, future states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and eastern Minnesota), with the numbers increasing after Ohio gained statehood in 1803. The Pennsylvania Ministerium sent two itinerant Lutheran pastors, Wilhelm Georg Forster and Johannes Stauch, to minister to the immigrants. By 1818 the Ministerium had sent another ten pastors, including Paul Henkel and John Michael Steck. These pastors began meeting together as the Ohio Conference of the Pennsylvania Ministerium, with the first convention on October 17–19, 1812, in Washington County, Pennsylvania. and the last on September 20–24, 1817, in New Philadelphia, Ohio. However, the Ohio Conference was not an independent synod, and so any candidates for the pastoral office were required to go to Pennsylvania for ordination. Most candidates found it difficult to make that trip across the Appalachian Mountains, so instead the Ohio Conference merely licensed them to preach. In order to remedy this, the conference asked for and received permission from the Pennsylvania Ministerium to form a new synod, and on September 14, 1818, in Somerset, Ohio, the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Preachers in Ohio and the Adjacent States (German: General Conferenz der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Prediger in Ohio und den angrenzenden Staaten) was organized.[3][1]

The synod was known under several other names during its history, including the German Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium in Ohio and the Neighboring States (German: Das Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Ministerium in Ohio und den benachbarten Staaten) from 1818 to 1849, and the Synod and Ministerium of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Ohio from 1830 to 1843. It finally adopted the name Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States by about 1850, and used that name or slight variants thereafter.[1] The term "Joint Synod" reflected the division of the synod into Eastern and Western districts or "district synods" in 1831, and the organization of a non-geographical English District in 1836 to assist the increasing numbers of English-speaking ministers, congregations and members.[4]

Theological developmentEdit

The theology of the Ohio Synod was initially shaped by that of the Pennsylvania Ministerium and the Tennessee Synod, and by unionism and the New Measures of the Second Great Awakening.[1] In 1820 the synod discussed joining the Lutheran General Synod being organized, but, for "practical reasons" rather than theological ones, decided not to.[5] The establishment of relations with Johann Konrad Wilhelm Löhe and the immigration of additional Lutheran pastors from the German Confederation (Germany) in the early 1840s resulted in an increasing conservative right-ward movement with the synod taking a stronger stance in support of the Lutheran doctrinal confessions contained in the Book of Concord of 1580.[1]

General CouncilEdit

In 1866, the Pennsylvania Ministerium proposed a union of Lutheran synods to a number of conservative synods unhappy with the theological direction being taken in the earlier General Synod of 1820, including the Ohio Synod. Ten of those synods adopted a proposed constitution and in a convention on November 20, 1867, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, established the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America. The Ohio Synod sent representatives to the convention, but declined membership until differences on certain points of doctrine could be addressed. Those so-called Four Points, all of which the Ohio Synod opposed, concerned the teaching of millennialism, allowing non-Lutherans to commune at Lutheran altars, allowing non-Lutheran ministers to preach in Lutheran pulpits, and permitting Lutherans to hold membership in Masonic and other secret societies. Failure to reach agreement with the General Council on these points led the Ohio Joint Synod to look elsewhere for affiliations and allies.[6]

Synodical ConferenceEdit

In October 1870, the Joint Synod of Ohio contacted several of the conservative Midwestern Lutheran synods that were opposed to the larger now nationwide General Synod of 1820, or had either never joined the General Council of 1866 or had withdrawn from it, to discuss the possibility of a union. This led, on July 10–16, 1872, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to the Joint Synod of Ohio, the Missouri Synod, the Wisconsin Synod, the Minnesota Synod, the Illinois Synod, and the Norwegian Synod forming the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America.[7] However, in 1881, less than a decade later, the "Predestination Controversy" led to the Ohio Synod leaving the Synodical Conference. In that controversy the Ohio and Norwegian synods held that God elects people to salvation "in view of the faith" (Latin: intuitu fidei) he foresaw they would have, while the Missouri and Wisconsin synods held that the cause is wholly due to God's grace. Efforts made between 1903 and 1929 to reach agreement on the issue were ultimately unsuccessful.[8] During this time, Frederick William Stellhorn left the Missouri Synod to become a seminary professor in the Ohio Synod.

Administrative offices for the synod by the 1910s with a President and a few secretaries and staff were established in Columbus, Ohio near its publishing house and Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary (1830) and affiliated Capital University (1850).


During the discussions with the Missouri and Wisconsin synods, The Ohio Joint Synod continued to work with the smaller Iowa and Buffalo synods. In 1930 those three synods (also largely made up of German-American Lutherans in the Mid-West) merged to form the American Lutheran Church (1930-1960), centered in Columbus, Ohio and continuing its affiliations with the previous Joint Synod seminary and university there along with several other educational institutions from the former Iowa and Buffalo synods. After a short but influential three decades of existence, the first ALC (German based but increasingly Americanized), led the movement for a first multi-ethnic union in 1960 with the Evangelical Lutheran Church (mainly Norwegian-American Lutherans) and the United Evangelical Lutheran Church (mainly Danish-American Lutherans) to form a new body named similarly as The American Lutheran Church (The ALC), with headquarters now in the former Scandinavian strongholds of Minneapolis, Minnesota, in which an additional body, the Lutheran Free Church joined in 1963. That second ALC body in turn after only 28 years of existence merged with the eastern based Lutheran Church in America (which itself was a subsequent union from 1962 of four smaller various ethic-based synods) and with offices in New York City and Philadelphia joined with the decade old Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (from a theological split ("Lutheran Civil War") in the old Missouri Synod in 1974-1976), in 1988 to form the current larger Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with about two-thirds of American Lutherans today with offices in Chicago.

Seminaries and collegesEdit

In 1830, the synod instituted its Theological Seminary in Canton, Ohio, with two students in attendance. A year later the seminary was relocated to Columbus, Ohio. Growth in the range of subjects offered led to the division of the institution into two parts. The non-theological secular programs became Capital University (founded in 1850) at Columbus' Bexley suburb, and the seminary was renamed as the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary. The Theological Seminary continued to serve as a seminary of the Joint Synod of Ohio's successor church bodies, the first and second instances of the American Lutheran Church (1930-1960 and 1960-1988). In 1974, it merged with the Hamma Divinity School, which was the theological department of Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio and associated with the Lutheran Church in America, to form today's Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus.

A "practical" seminary requiring less academic study was begun as a department of the Theological Seminary in 1881. It moved to a separate campus in Afton, Minnesota, in 1884 and named Luther Seminary. In 1892, it moved again to the Phalen Park area of Saint Paul, Minnesota, and became part of the St. Paul Luther College, Seminary, and Academy. That seminary merged into the Iowa Synod's Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1932,[1] shortly after the merger of the two German-based synods into the first American Lutheran Church two years earlier.

The college division of St. Paul Luther College, Seminary, and Academy continued operating in Afton, Minnesota, from 1884 to 1893, and in Saint Paul from 1893 to 1935, at which time it merged into Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. The Ohio Synod also operated several educational institutions that were relatively short-lived: Hebron Academy opened in Hebron, Nebraska, in 1911, added a junior college in 1924 as Hebron College and Academy, and closed in 1942. Similarly, St. John's Academy opened in Petersburg, West Virginia, in 1921, added a junior college in 1931 to become St. John's Academy and College, and closed in 1933 in the deepening Great Depression. Other schools included Woodville Normal School in Woodville, Ohio, from 1882 to 1923; a second practical seminary in Hickory, North Carolina, from 1887 to 1912; and Pacific Seminary in Olympia, Washington from 1907 until 1911, when the theological department was discontinued, and 1917, when the remaining college department was discontinued.[1]

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Christian Cyclopedia (2000), "Ohio and Other States, The Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of".
  2. ^ "Ohio Synod". American Denomination Profiles. Association of Religion Data Archives. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  3. ^ Neve (1916), p. 347.
  4. ^ Neve (1916), p. 348.
  5. ^ Neve (1916), p. 90.
  6. ^ Ochsenford 1912, pp. 153—156.
  7. ^ Christian Cyclopedia (2000), "Synodical Conference".
  8. ^ Christian Cyclopedia (2000), "Chicago Theses".


Further readingEdit