Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Christ’s love, which he demonstrated by his perfect life and by his suffering and death on the cross, is the foundation for our relationship with God, the focus of our faith, and the motivation for all we do as Christians. In that same love for sinners Christ not only lived and died to set us free from sin and guilt, but he also rose again in victory on the first Easter Sunday, assuring us that his victory is our victory and that his resurrection is our resurrection. Saved by his grace alone, we look forward to his glorious return as we proclaim the good news of what his love has accomplished.


Although each of WELS' more than 1,200 congregations has its own spiritual leader (or pastor), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) also is united together into a worldwide organization that allows congregations to work together on joint ministries, including training pastors, teachers, and staff ministers; sending out missionaries in the United States and the world; and producing materials.

The synod in convention is the legislative body that determines the direction the organization should head to fulfill its mission of making disciples throughout the world, using the gospel in Word and sacrament to win the lost for Christ, and nurturing fellow believers for lives of Christian service. Representatives from each of the synod's 12 districts meet every other year to set the course for upcoming ministry.

The synod president is responsible for carrying out that ministry plan. Two leadership groups help the synod president. The Conference of Presidents funds and communicates that ministry plan as well as makes sure that WELS stays united in its teachings and practices. The Synodical Council is responsible for managing the activities of the synod, including coordinating ministries and determining a budget.

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Center for Mission and Ministry

National Headquarters

At the national headquarters of WELS in Milwaukee, Wis., different boards and commissions coordinate various areas of ministry work. For example, WELS has both a Board for Home Missions and a Board for World Missions to help us reach out with Christ's love in new places around the United States and the world. The Board for Ministerial Education oversees the training of pastors, teachers, and staff ministers. The Congregation and Ministry Support Group helps WELS congregations by conducting workshops and conferences, producing materials, and offering advice. Various other groups support this work in the areas of technology, finance, communication, and gifting. More than 100 people work out of the national office.

Laypeople, pastors, teachers, and staff ministers from around the synod participate in this national work as board or commission members. They meet periodically—either in person or through teleconference—to discuss direction and goals for each area.

Four separately incorporated subsidiaries—WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc.; WELS Foundation; WELS Investment Funds, Inc.; and Northwestern Publishing House—work closely with WELS to provide resources necessary to carry out ministry work. Additionally, WELS Benefit Plans addresses the retirement and health care needs of both called and hired workers.


"As we celebrate [our] past history, we note how the Lord has gathered us together and guided us. We may be a small gathering of believers by the world's standards. Even in comparison with other church bodies, we are small. . . . Yet we share a commitment to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. God gathered us to work together and blessed the faithful efforts of all those who have gone before us. We remain together to work as brothers and sisters in Christ and to proclaim the wonders of God's grace to all the world" (Together in Christ: A History of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, p. 54).


United Rhine Mission Society formed in Germany

German mission society sends John Muehlhaeuser to serve in North America

Muehlhaeuser moves from New York to Wisconsin

First meeting of the new Wisconsin Synod at Granville church with Muehlhaeuser as president

Synod numbers: 17 pastors
16 parish schools 
7 Sunday schools 
3 teachers

John Bading becomes new synod president

Seminary building dedicated in Watertown 
Synod periodical Gemeinde-Blatt appears
Synod severs ties with Germany to become more Lutheran

Minnesota Synod withdraws from General Council and moves to closer ties with Wisconsin Synod

Ohio, Missouri, Norwegian, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota Synods hold first convention of Synodical Conference

J. M. Hoeckendorf's congregation of 125 Lutherans moves to Nebraska

Relocated seminary begins at 13th and Vine in Milwaukee with six students

Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Synods form federation called Evangelical Lutheran Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States

Federation adopts Apache mission effort as its world mission project

English Northwestern Lutheran begins publication

Merger of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and Nebraska all becoming districts of Wisconsin Synod

Merged synod numbers: 127,000 communicants spread throughout 698 congregations

Winnebago Lutheran Academy established

New home for Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary dedicated

Synod enters debt and financial hardship—mission work suffers

Synod elects John Brenner as president

Synod resolves to retire debt

Subscribers to English Northwestern Lutheran outnumber those to German Gemeinde-Blatt
Synod protests LCMS ties with ALC

Synod sends exploratory team to Africa

First synod services in California

Missionary sent to Japan

Missionary team arrives in Zambia

Arizona-California District added to synod

First synod services in Florida

Synod officially becomes Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod

Synod resolves to break with LCMS

South Atlantic District added to synod

North Atlantic District added to synod
South Central District added to synod

Martin Luther College begins in New Ulm and Luther Preparatory Schools begins in Watertown

From Together in Christ: A History of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod © 2000 Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee WI. All rights reserved.

"I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame." ~ Psalm 119:30