Apostolic Lutheran Church of America, American Evangelical Lutheran Church, American Lutheran Church
The Old Apostolic Lutheran Church of America (OALC) is a Firstborn Laestadian church in North America. Firstborn Laestadians are a subgroup within Laestadianism. The Old Apostolic Lutheran Church was born in the 1890s. In the Nordic Firstborn Laestadian revival the movement works inside the Lutheran Folk Church, which is the official state Church of Sweden. In 2013 Sweden recognized the Laestadian movement and has allowed them to hold their own services in the State Churches. In America it is an independent church and has no interrelationship with the Lutheran Folk Church of Sweden.
The OALC believes in the Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and referred to as the Triune God. It confesses the Holy Bible, consisting of the Old and New testaments, as the only unchangeable Word of God for salvation and the standard by which all doctrines of salvation should be examined. The OALC accepts the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed and the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and original doctrine of Martin Luther, Lars Levi Laestadius, and the elders of this church in Swedish Lapland in this era (known as the Church of Firstborn).
The Old Apostolic Lutheran Church has approximately 15,000 members and is the largest Laestadian/Apostolic Lutheran (as they are called in America) church in America. In the beginning, it was a small group near the turn of 19th and 20th century, when the Laestadian movement in America was splintered, giving rise to the "New Apostolic Lutheran Church" and the "Old Apostolic Lutheran Church." Originally, the OALC had only a few church buildings and services were usually held in homes. During the twentieth and twenty-first centuries the Old Apostolic Lutherans have become a rapidly growing church. The main reasons for its growth are the belief in, and creation of, large families. The church also grows from marriages to people of other faiths, who then IF by the Grace of God are given the grace to believe, become Old Apostolic Lutherans. The Old Apostolic Lutheran Church of America is the American parent, nationwide ecclesiastical association, which has member congregations in the following states: Washington, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Carolina, Delaware, Wyoming, Montana and Wisconsin. The most significant membership is in southwest area of the state of Washington, with approximately 6,000 members. Other large congregations are located in Lake Norden, SD (2000) Hancock, Michigan (800); Minneapolis, Minnesota (1200); and Detroit, Michigan (800). The OALC also has congregations in Canada and in Alaska. In the Battle Ground area of Washington, churches now exist in Brush Prairie, Lewisville, Heisson, and Woodland. A future church is being planned for Yacolt. This large number of Old Apostolic Lutherans is concentrated in the central and northern sections of Clark County, Washington. The OALC has a growing number of church facilities in the United States and in Canada. In the Columbian's interview Dale Schlecht, who is the preacher at the Clark County church, said there is no way to ascertain the exact number of members, because the church does not keep a roster of membership.
Old Apostolic Lutherans - as all Firstborn Laestadians - greet each other with the phrase; "God's peace!" This is a shorter form of the greeting "May God's Peace be With You." This is believed to be the highest greeting that one OALC member can offer to another.
The Old Apostolic Lutheran Church of America is an independent church, but from the beginning it has had close ties to Scandinavian countries and Finland. It is a sister organization to the Firstborn Laestadians of Finland and Scandinavian countries. The Global Firstborn Laestadian movement in America, Finland, Denmark and Norway is under the care and supervision of the Elders of Swedish Lapland. The Firstborn Laestadian movement in Swedish Lapland is understood and accepted as the mother congregation to which all the American congregations look for guidance. Being under the supervision of the elders of Swedish Lapland keeps the church in both outward unity and spiritual unity.
Ministers and activities
The Old Apostolic Lutheran Church had thirty-eight preachers in the beginning of 2000's. The OALC is lay oriented and has a layman approach to the ministry, meaning the preachers are not paid by the church and the preachers do not have a theological education or ordination. However, they do have a procedure for training their preachers. New Preachers are selected by the congregation and the existing Preachers. Preachers are expected to work full-time to support their families while also maintaining their preachers' responsibilities to the congregation. Each local congregation has many preachers and no one preacher preaches every Sunday; rather they take turns preaching. Once a person is chosen as a preacher, they generally serve for the rest of their lives. Some preachers are put on missionary work and they are called as missionary men or missionary preachers. Missionary men travel on missions and hold meetings in United States and Canada. Communion service is held once in every month, the first Sunday, which is designated as Communion Sunday. Sunday School is also held. In the OALC lay preachers function as pastors, they preach in services and administer Baptism and Communion. Preachers distribute communion, but if they don't have enough preachers, then male parishioners may help. Preachers also officiate at funeral services, but only those preachers who have license from the state conduct weddings.
The OALC was the first Laestadian church which had English-speaking preachers. This began in 1899. The prevalent language is English, although sermons have been translated from Finnish into English to some degree. They still read Laestadius' sermons in their services. OALC activities are traditional Laestadian. OALC traditionally holds special Christmas and Midsummer services, as in Scandinavia. The Christmas services alternate among Minneapolis, Detroit, and Brush Prairie. In Alaska they also hold mission services.
The church does not publish its own periodical, but Rauhan Side [Bond of Peace] is read to some degree, although it is in Finnish and published in Finland and only with a short English summary of the main articles. Several books of Laestadius sermons have been translated and published, as well as his book Ens Ropandes röst I öknen [The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness]. O.A.L.C.'s preacher Henrik Koller (1859–1935) published own periodical Sion’s News from 1891 to 1896. The OALC has published Luther's Small Catechism for younger children and Bible History for teenagers. It has published its own hymnal and altar book. The OALC has published The Fathers Voice vol. I-III (1969-1989), which are English translations of the Swedish periodical Fadersrösten, edited by Firstborn Laestadian preacher Sam Wettainen. The King James Version (KJV) is Bible translation that is used in the OALC.