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On October 31, 1517, there was only one Protestant: Martin Luther. A few years later, there were millions. The violent explosion known as the Reformation split the church of the sixteenth century into a number of segments, of which the Lutheran Church is one.

Luther had been a Roman Catholic priest who had loved the Church and had no intention of separating from it; but he ventured to protest in 1517 against the Church's sale of certificates, called indulgences, which were said to reduce the time a soul must stay in purgatory. Luther had learned from Scripture that full forgiveness of sin is promised through faith in the merciful God revealed in Christ. This central idea led Luther to criticize many Roman Catholic teachings and practices. Soon the break was beyond repair.

Lutherans don't claim any doctrines different from the common Christian faith described in the New Testament, and first summarized in the Apostles' Creed. Lutherans believe that we are created by God, but we employ the freedom given by us to disobey our Creator. The result is a continual tragedy in human life; but God does not abandon us in our tragedy, he shares it with us. In Christ, He reveals Himself as the Savior God, suffering punishment and death so we may share with Him in the resurrection from death. through oneness in Christ, a new life begins us. It is nourished by God's gifts through his Word and sacraments. The Word is recorded in the Bible, but the Word itself is a living, active thing through which the Holy Spirit stirs us to grow in understanding and obedience to God's will.

Todays' Lutheran church is more moderate in speaking of the Pope than Luther was. For one thing, the Papacy has been drastically reformed since Luther's time. However, Lutherans absolutely reject any teaching that God has delegated supreme authority over the souls of his people to any man. There is only one church, Lutheranism teaches, but it is not any visible institution, such as the Roman Catholic Church, or the Lutheran Church. It consists of all the congregations of believers in which "the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered. The Lutheran believes that he should love Roman Catholics, as his brethern, however much they disagree in their understanding of the gospel. The Pope and bishops of the Roman Catholic Church, often make profound statements of Christian truth and peace. Lutherans know that among Roman Catholics are many of the finest Christians on earth, despite what Luther thought of the Pope.