Lutheranism is a major branch of WesternChristianity that identifies with the teachings of the sixteenth-century German reformer Martin Luther. Luther's efforts to reestablish the theology and practice of the Roman Catholic Church and Carlstadt's Reform movement, launched the Protestant Reformation and, though it was not Luther's original intention, left Western Christianity divided. Augsburg Confession of 1530 established the Lutheran Church; while the 19th Ecumenical Council of Trent of 1543 officially chartered the Roman Catholic Church through the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. Prior to 1543, Catholics belonged to the old Western Catholic Church from which Martin Luther was an ordained Augustinian monk.
The split between Lutherans and Roman Catholics arose mainly over the doctrine of justification before God. Specifically, Lutheranism advocates a doctrine of justification "by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone," distinct from the Roman Catholic view of works in addition to faith. Lutheranism is also distinct from the Reformed Churches, another major church which arose during the Reformation. Unlike the Reformed Churches, Lutherans have retained many of the sacramental understandings and liturgical practices of the "Old Catholics". Lutheran theology differs considerably from Reformed theology in its understanding of divine grace, predestination, baptism, sacraments of the altar and to eternity after death.
Today, millions belong to Lutheran churches worldwide; furthermore, the world's 400 million Protestant Christians can trace their tradition, at least in part, back to Luther's reforming work.
The Pennsylvania Ministerium was the first Lutheran church body in North America. With the encouragement of Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the Ministerium was founded at a meeting of German-American Lutheran clergy on 26 August 1748. The group was known as the "Ministerium of North America" until 1792, when it adopted the name "The Ministerium of Pennsylvania and Adjacent States." The Pennsylvania Ministerium was also the source of the first Lutheran liturgy in America. Because of its unique place in the history of North American Lutheranism, the Ministerium continued to influence the church politics of Lutherans in America into the twentieth century.
Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (an anglicanization of Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg) (September 6, 1711 – October 7, 1787), was a GermanLutheran pastor, sent to North America as a missionary. Muhlenberg was integral to the founding of the first Lutheran church body, or denomination, in North America and is considered to be the patriarch of the Lutheran Church in the United States. Muhlenberg's family had a significant impact on colonial life in North America. In addition to Henry Muhlenberg's role in the Lutheran church, his children became pastors, military officers, and politicians. Muhlenberg is commemorated in the liturgical calendar of the Lutheran Church on October 7.