Lutherans are Christians whose understanding of the Christian faith has been influenced by Martin Luther (1483-1546). Luther was a German theologian who questioned certain views and practices of the Roman Catholic Church of his time. He was expelled from the church for so questioning and became the pivotal figure for the movement that would become known as the Reformation. A church called "Lutheran" was formed around the basic convictions that were at the root of Luther's challenges to the Roman Church. A towering figure in Western civilization, many historians see Luther and the movement he inspired as the bridge between the medieval and modern world in Europe.
The Lutheran tradition of Christianity is based on the belief that human beings are freely accepted by God as a matter of divine grace. The believer does not win or earn God's favor, because this is already bestowed by God upon all. Christian faith is the response to this acceptance, the response of love for love, grace for grace, as these are known in the life and teachings of Christ Jesus. Lutherans believe that the Bible is the word of God insofar as it testifies to the Word of God that is known in Christ Jesus. The Bible is not literally God's words, but is understood as testimony to God's Word and therefore must be interpreted by believers.
The faith of Lutherans is rooted in the Bible, in the traditional confessions and practices of the church throughout the centuries, and in the conscience of the believer. All three of these factors were crucial in the making of the Lutheran Reformation of the church and continue to be the bases for the Lutheran understanding of the Christian faith. Lutherans see themselves as small "c" catholics, which is to say, as part of the universal church with Christians of all denominations.
Emanuel Lutheran Church is part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a denomination consisting of some 4,500,000 members in over 10,000 congregations across the nation. The ELCA is part of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which consists of over 68 million members from every continent. Together, Lutherans are recognized as leaders in relief and immigration efforts throughout the world. In the United States, Lutheran Social Ministries is the largest provider of housing for people with special needs.
Emanuel is a member church of the New Jersey Synod, which is the organizing body of all the ELCA churches in the territory of New Jersey. Emanuel contributes $44,500 to the support of the Synod and the ELCA in its offerings in addition to supporting other initiatives for ministry and social outreach in the New Brunswick community.