The ELCA uses Trinitarian language to name and address God

Members periodically raise concerns about ELCA ministries or policies. ELCA FactChecker examines these concerns and offers factual responses.

 Concern: Does the ELCA use Trinitarian language to name and address God?

Response: Yes. When people are baptized in the ELCA, the words “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” are used.  That Trinitarian name continues to be used throughout the life of ELCA members, not only in the proclamation, prayer and praise of public worship, but also in education for students of all ages, in private confession and forgiveness, baptismal remembrances, prayer and devotions.

These practices follow the ELCA’s official Confession of Faith which names the Triune God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moreover, the ELCA’s officially approved liturgies such as in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, also use Father, Son and Holy Spirit to name and address God. Finally, the ELCA’s official guides for worship and administration of the sacraments, Principles for Worship and The Use of the Means of Grace, use the same Trinitarian name: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

At the same time, there are some Christians who believe it is important to expand the language used to name and address God. The Scriptures include:

  • God (and at least two different words for God in the Hebrew Old Testament)
  • Lord
  • Almighty One
  • Wonderful Counselor
  • Everlasting Father
  • Rock
  • Fortress
  • Shepherd
  • Strength
  • Shelter

There are many more in the Scriptures. Some Christians believe it is important to include words and images that guard against the mistaken impression that God is a male, such as the comparison of God to a mother nursing or comforting a child (Isaiah 49:15; 66:13). Many ELCA members also use other expressions in prayers and songs. One example of several images used side-by-side is the Swedish hymn “Thy Holy Wings” (ELW 613).  Along with images of “rock and hiding place” the hymn also includes an image used by Jesus — the mother hen comforting her chicks (Matthew 23:37).

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