Patheos Watermark

You are running a very outdated version of Internet Explorer. Patheos and most other websites will not display properly on this version. To better enjoy Patheos and your overall web experience, consider upgrading to the current version of Internet Explorer. Find more information HERE.

Ethics and Community

Community Organization

Lutherans define their denomination by doctrine rather than community structure. Lutheran churches have been organized on Episcopal (bishops), congregational, and Presbyterian (elected hierarchy) models.


Lutheranism has a relationship of clergy to laity similar to most Protestant churches. For practical reasons many leadership functions are given to the clergy (performing sacraments, preaching, organizing the community), but, unlike priests, these clergy are ministers who enjoy no special religious privilege.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Lutherans base moral thought and action on the Bible, the foundational doctrines found in the Book of Concord, and on the historical example of Martin Luther. They do not think it is possible to be sinless, but they expect acts of service from the redeemed.

Vision for Society

Lutherans' social vision is largely derived from Luther's "Two Kingdoms" theology, which argues that the Kingdom of God is present in this world, but paints a fairly realistic picture of the possibilities for love, justice, and mercy in the secular kingdom.

Gender and Sexuality

Lutherans are split on leadership roles for women, and on gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex unions. European churches tend to be liberal. In North America, the largest Lutheran denominations are fairly liberal (though divided), while the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is conservative.