Lutheran vs. Anglican: What’s the Difference?

Lutheranism and Anglicanism are two prominent Christian denominations with rich histories and global followings.

While both emerged as reforms to Roman Catholicism, they have distinct origins, beliefs, and practices that set them apart.

This article aims to compare Lutheranism and Anglicanism, exploring their key differences and similarities.

From their founding figures to their views on sacraments and social issues, we’ll examine the unique characteristics that define each denomination.

Anglican cross
Is Lutheranism or Anglicanism larger? See below

Comparing Lutheranism and Anglicanism: An Overview

The term “Lutheran” is derived from Martin Luther, the German theologian who initiated the Protestant Reformation. “Anglicanism” comes from the Latin word “Anglicana,” meaning “English.”

SizeApprox. 80 million worldwideApprox. 85 million worldwide
Date Started15171534
FounderMartin LutherKing Henry VIII
Key BeliefsJustification by faith alone, Priesthood of all believers, two sacraments: Baptism and Holy CommunionVia Media (Middle Way) between Catholicism and Protestantism, Apostolic Succession, importance of liturgy
Key PracticesWorship services, baptism, holy communionWorship services, baptism, communion, confirmation
DivisionsELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America); LCMS (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod); WELS (Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod)Church of England; Episcopal Church (USA); Anglican Church of Canada
Central LocationNo central location; strong presence in Germany and ScandinaviaCanterbury, England
Sacred TextsBible (Old and New Testaments)Bible (Old and New Testaments), Book of Common Prayer

Why is Anglicanism called “The Middle Way”?

Anglicanism is often called “The Middle Way” because it seeks to strike a balance between Protestantism and Catholicism.

It incorporates elements of both traditions, such as the Protestant emphasis on the Bible and the Catholic focus on liturgy and sacraments, aiming for a moderate, comprehensive approach.

Anglican church
Do Lutherans and Anglicans believe in the Trinity? See below

Lutheran and Anglican Beliefs: Similarities and Differences

Lutherans and Anglicans have many overlapping beliefs, including the Trinity. Their views on communion and baptism differ. See the comparison charts below for more information.

GodOne God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy SpiritOne God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The UniverseCreated by God; fallen due to sinCreated by God; fallen due to sin
Ultimate RealityGod is the ultimate reality; omnipotent, omniscientGod is the ultimate reality; omnipotent, omniscient
Human BeingsCreated in God’s image; fallen due to original sinCreated in God’s image; fallen due to original sin
Problem with the WorldSin and separation from GodSin and separation from God
The Solution to the ProblemSalvation through faith in Jesus ChristSalvation through faith in Jesus Christ and good works
The AfterlifeHeaven for believers; eternal separation from God for non-believersHeaven for believers; eternal separation from God for non-believers
What do Lutherans and Anglicans believe about communion? See below

Examining Lutheran Anglican Practices

Worship ServicesLiturgical, but varies by synodHighly liturgical, follows Book of Common Prayer
SacramentsBaptism and Holy CommunionBaptism, Holy Communion, and Confirmation
PrayerPersonal and communal; no set prayer bookBook of Common Prayer often used
ClergyPastors; some synods ordain womenPriests, bishops; some branches ordain women
Church GovernanceSynodical or congregationalEpiscopal (bishops have authority)
Bible StudyEncouraged; various study groupsEncouraged; often part of church activities
FastingOptional; some observe LentOptional; some observe Lent and Advent
MusicHymns; contemporary music in some churchesTraditional hymns; choral music common
Social OutreachVarious charitable and social justice programsVarious charitable and social justice programs

Lutheran and Anglican beliefs about communion

The Real Presence view holds that Christ is truly present in the elements of bread and wine during Communion, though not physically.

The symbolic view sees the bread and wine as mere symbols that represent Christ’s body and blood, without believing that He is actually present in them.

Nature of ElementsReal Presence: Christ is truly present alongside the bread and wineReal Presence or Symbolic: Views vary, but Christ is generally believed to be truly present
Who Can ParticipateBaptized believers; varies by synodBaptized believers; some churches also require confirmation
FrequencyVaries; often weekly or monthlyVaries; often weekly in many churches
Form of BreadUsually unleavened; varies by churchUsually unleavened; varies by church
Use of Wine or Grape JuiceWine is common; some churches offer grape juiceWine is common; some churches offer grape juice
AdministrationBy ordained clergy and sometimes lay ministersBy ordained clergy
Liturgical SettingPart of regular worship service; liturgy variesPart of the Eucharistic service; follows Book of Common Prayer
Role in SalvationMeans of grace; strengthens faithMeans of grace; varies by theological stance

Lutheran and Anglican beliefs about baptism

Mode of BaptismSprinkling, pouring, or immersionSprinkling, pouring, or immersion
Age of CandidatesInfants and adultsInfants and adults
Who Can BaptizeOrdained clergyOrdained clergy
FormulaTrinitarian: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”Trinitarian: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”
Necessity for SalvationMeans of grace; essential for salvationGenerally considered a means of grace; varies by theological stance
Role of FaithFaith receives the benefits of BaptismFaith and Baptism together are important
ConfirmationNot a separate sacrament; varies by synodSeparate sacrament, usually performed later in life
Sponsors/GodparentsCommonly usedCommonly used
Liturgical SettingPart of regular worship servicePart of regular worship service or special service
Recognition by Other DenominationsGenerally recognized by other Christian denominationsGenerally recognized by other Christian denominations

10 Key Events in Lutheran and Anglican History

Lutheran HistoryAnglican History
11517: Martin Luther posts the 95 Theses1534: Act of Supremacy establishes Church of England
21521: Diet of Worms1549: First Book of Common Prayer published
31530: Augsburg Confession presented1559: Elizabethan Religious Settlement
41546: Death of Martin Luther1604: King James Version of the Bible published
51580: Book of Concord published1662: Revised Book of Common Prayer published
61618-1648: Thirty Years’ War1789: Episcopal Church in the U.S. established
71703: Birth of J.S. Bach, Lutheran composer1867: First Lambeth Conference
81817: 300th Anniversary; Prussian Union1888: Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral adopted
91947: Lutheran World Federation established1960s: Anglican Communion expands ordination of women
101999: Joint Declaration on Justification signed2003: Gene Robinson, openly gay bishop, consecrated

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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