Lutheran Church-Canada, Central District

Lutheran Church-Canada, otherwise known as the LC-C, is a national Lutheran Church autonomously organized in 1988. Rev. Edwin Lehman was elected as the first national president, and Winnipeg was selected as the site for the national office. The Church body is divided into three “Districts”: the Alberta-British Columbia District, which includes a few congregations bordering the western edge of Saskatchewan; the East District, which includes Ontario (with the exception of northwestern Ontario), Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces; and the Central District, formerly named Manitoba-Saskatchewan District, which is comprised of Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and northwestern Ontario to the Manitouwadge/Marathon area on the north shore of Lake Superior. The Central District office is located in Regina. Rev. Roy K. Holm was first elected district president. It was at this time of autonomy that the pastors and congregations in northwestern Ontario, who belonged to the Minnesota North District of the Missouri Synod, took the opportunity to join LC-C and became part of the Central District.

Following the American Revolution, United Empire Loyalists relocated to Upper Canada, Lower Canada, and the Maritimes. There was a second Lutheran emigration from New York State to Ontario in 1793. As changes occurred in early 19th-century Europe in the Prussian Union, and later in Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the privileges initially granted to the Germans were being eroded and the large German families were pressed into seeking land elsewhere. The transfer of Rupert’s Land to the newly confederated nation of Canada paved the way for settlers to begin to flow into western Canada. To this end, the Canadian government conducted advertising campaigns in Europe, and many Germans sold their belongings and moved to the New World. Later, after each of the two World Wars, large numbers of Lutherans immigrated to Canada.

Lutheran Church-Canada remains in partnership with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) and is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). Until the establishment of Canadian seminaries pastors were trained in the United States—either at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, or at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana—and assigned to congregations in Canada. Lutheran Church-Canada has two seminaries: Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario; and Concordia Lutheran Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta. Concordia University College of Alberta, established in Edmonton in 1921, is an accredited post-secondary institution. As early as 1879, the Lutherans at Town Berlin (Ossowo), Manitoba, not far from Portage la Prairie, were served intermittently by visiting pastors from Minnesota. The first resident missionary of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Rev. Herman Buegel, was sent to Winnipeg in 1891. By 1900, congregations were planted in Winnipeg, in the settlements north of Langenburg (Landestreu, Hoffenthal, Beresina), in Arat (Frankslake), and in Neudorf. As homesteaders continued settling the west, Lutheran congregations were established. When the Manitoba-Saskatchewan District was formed in 1922, there were seventy-five congregations and sixty-nine preaching stations. Rev. Paul E. Wiegner was elected as its first president.

The depression of the 1930s and the war years of the 1940s had a pronounced effect on the congregations and ultimately the District. In the 1950s the massive shift of population from country to city accelerated, and new missions were opened to reflect the movement of the rural population into neighbouring small towns and urban cities. Throughout the decades the District carried through the various programs being produced by the Missouri Synod. Christian education, Sunday schools, vacation Bible schools, Bible classes, and in some areas parochial schools played a large role in these programs. Canadian Lutheran World Relief (CLWR), a co-operative Lutheran service organization, was established in 1946 to provide used goods for overseas shipment. CLWR continues to provide services and programs overseas, and is supported by the members of Lutheran congregations. A number of individuals from the District have entered the foreign mission field over the years—some as missionaries, others as educators, still others in their particular capacity in the mission field. In 2004 LC-C was working in three countries and also supporting projects in sister churches. At the close of 2003 the District had 102 congregations; membership in these congregations was 22,473 baptized and 16,105 communicant members.

Maxine Holm