What is the LCMS?

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is a Lutheran denomination of Christianity which traces its origins to a group of Saxon Lutherans who emigrated from Germany in 1838 over complaints of state-forced ecclesiastical union with other Protestant denominations. This group formed an Auswanderungsgesellschaft (“emigration society”), sailed to New Orleans, and settled in Perry County, Missouri, about 100 miles south of current LCMS headquarters in St. Louis. The LCMS was formally established in Chicago in 1847. Over the course of the next century and a half, it established congregations, seminaries, schools, and missions across the United States and abroad.

Historic marker at the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg in Perry County, Mo.

Today, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod claims nearly 2 million members, making it the second-largest Lutheran Church in the United States.[1] Its membership has steadily fallen since the 1970s, however, prompting questions about the church’s future. The LCMS commissioned University of Alabama researcher George Hawley to study this decline. His report, published in December of 2016, laid emphasis on “low fertility among [LCMS] adherents” in the context of overall decline in “religious identification and observance” in the United States.[2, 3]

LCMS officials now routinely cite Hawley’s report to back up their demographic explanation for declining membership in the church. LCMS president Matt Harrison spoke about the report at some length in a speech he gave in 2018.[4]

relevant clip runs 38:55-58:28


1] LCMS. “The LCMS Today”.
2] George Hawley. “The LCMS in the Face of Demographic and Social Change: A Social Science Perspective.” Journal of Lutheran Mission. December 15, 2016. p.7
3] Reporter. “Journal of Lutheran Mission: Special Edition”. The LCMS. December 16, 2016.
4] Matthew Harrison. “LCMS Synod Report: June 14, 2018.” Indiana District-LCMS (Vimeo channel). 38:55-58:28