The Lutheran Church Responds to Conflict: The Civil War and Its Issues in Nineteenth Century America
The American Civil War had profound effect on those who experienced it. Over 600,000 succumbed to disease and warfare as a young nation struggled to define itself amid the day’s most pressing questions. Should slavery have a place in a nation where “all men are created equal?” Should the central government in Washington, D.C. be able to impose measures on an individual state’s government? These questions and others produced reactions in social, political, and economical spheres of American life that resulted in outright civil conflict by 1861. Sometimes overlooked, however, is what resulted in America’s religious institutions. Some called for slavery’s abolition, while others favored the practice. Some condemned secession, while others welcomed it. Some remained united, while others were torn asunder. The purpose of this paper is to examine such reactions, specifically as they regard the Lutheran church and its leaders. Three Lutheran synods will be taken into consideration: the General Synod, the Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Synod. An examination of these synods before and during the Civil War reveals this conclusion: Geographic location and doctrinal unity determined the effects of the Civil War and its issues upon the Lutheran synods of America.