Is Trump a Lutheran by Faith

The popular Protestant churches in the United States are under stress. More conservative members migrate to evangelicals. Divisions threaten.

After the shooting by the police at the black Jacob Blake in Kenosha, the Lutherans took the initiative: They invited to an intercession service in the politically divided city in the US state of Wisconsin.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America saw it as its mission to bring people from all walks of life together.

"A poison that harms us all"

But Bishop Paul Erickson of the Greater Milwaukee Synod also took a clear position. "Racism is a poison that harms us all," Erickson preached to the 200 listeners who came to Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha on September 2nd with a mask and physical distance to pray for Blake, his family and the city.

What is remarkable about the initiative of the second largest Protestant "mainline" church is that 94 percent of the approximately 3.5 million members are white. Bishop Elizabeth Eaton puts the commitment into a historical perspective. She hopes that the Lutherans have thus set a sign of social justice after long phases "in which we have done nothing".

The traditional Protestant churches in the United States have seen significant changes in recent years. This has a lot to do with the migration of members to evangelical churches or withdrawals. Lutherans, Reformed, Presbyterians, Methodists, episcopals and black AME churches together make up only 15 percent of US society today - ten percent less than evangelicals.

Lines of conflict across the communities

Because they are people's churches, the lines of conflict, as with American Catholics, often run directly through the congregations. Above all in the long-running American culture struggles such as the marriage of same-sex couples, the ordination of clerics with different sexual orientations and abortion.

The United Methodist, the largest "mainline" church in the USA with seven million members, will therefore split up next year. She failed to bridge her disagreements on issues of sexuality. As with the Episcopal Church before, it is the more conservative members who are pulling out.

John Dorhauer, who chairs the 800,000 Reformed United Church of Christ, says his church is committed to welcoming people with different worldviews. "Our pastors need to create a framework in which everyone can freely express themselves in prayer."

In fact, most Protestant popular churches also have very different political attitudes - that is, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. The prime example so far has been the Methodists, who include politicians as diverse as Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush. With the emigration of more conservative members to the congregations of the free churches, the center has shifted further to the left here as well.

It is rare that pastors give political sermons. The parishes of the people's churches distinguish themselves more through active charity, social services and neutral political activities such as registering voters. "These Protestants are often more level-headed in their public rhetoric," says Chairman of the Conference of Methodist Bishops, Kenneth Carter.

United for moral "principles and values"

All the national churches have clearly positioned themselves on one point: in the struggle to end discrimination based on skin color, religion and origin. Just like after the forcible evacuation of "Lafayette Square" in front of the White House, when President Donald Trump moved in front of St. John's Episcopal Church to be photographed with a Bible.

"He did not come to pray, but to pursue partisan politics," said the first black chairman of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Michael Curry, against the abuse of a church belonging to his denomination as a backdrop. "We do not support or oppose any particular candidate," says Curry. "But we defend our moral principles and values, which are the key to our beliefs."