Christ Lutheran Church

The Roots of the WELS


October 31, 2009 is a special day for congregations of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. On this day we remember the great truths of the Lutheran Reformation. It also marks the beginning of 160th anniversary celebration of our church body.

Have you ever pulled up an elm or oak seedling about six inches high growing wild in the garden? And were you surprised to find out that there was as much root below the ground as there was tree above it?

It is that way, too, with a Christian congregation or a synod. When you look at a congregation, it is like looking at a tree. You see what is plainly visible above ground; you do not see the vast wide-spreading root system hidden in the ground.

If we search for the roots of a Christian congregation, we are led into the deep and distant past, down through the years until we finally arrive at the cross of Jesus Christ. We can still go farther. These roots extend all the way back to the Garden of Eden where God promised that he would send a Savior who should crush the power of Satan. So a Christian congregation or a synod has its root in the cross of Christ and God's gracious promises of salvation.

Roots That Lead Back to Germany

We can speak of roots also in another sense. The Wisconsin Synod did not just happen. Something led to its founding. The root of the WELS can be traced first into Milwaukee, then east to New York state, across the Atlantic Ocean, and then to three small towns in the lower valley of the Rhine River in Germany.

In 1837 a small group of Christians who were living in the three German cities of Langenberg, Elberfeld, and Barmen became interested in the spiritual welfare of the Germans who were emigrating in large numbers to the United States. They decided to train and send preachers and teachers to spread the Gospel among the German people there.

The first missionary to be sent to America was John Muehlhaeuser. He served for 10 years in New York City and in Rochester, New York, before coming to Milwaukee in 1848. In Milwaukee he became the first pastor of Grace Church, a congregation which he himself founded.

Two other German missionaries, William Wrede and John Weinmann, joined Pastor Muehlhaeuser in New York and Wisconsin. These three pastors served Granville, Town Oakwood, and Grace Churches. In the year 1850, these congregations and their pastors met to establish the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Click here to visit the WELS website.