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Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia

Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia
Classification Protestant
Orientation Lutheranism
Polity Episcopal
Primate Archbishop of Riga
Associations Lutheran World Federation,
World Council of Churches,
Conference of European Churches,
Porvoo Communion (observer)
Region Latvia
Origin 1517
Separated from Roman Catholic Church
Congregations 293
Members 250,000
Official website

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (Latvian: Latvijas evaņģēliski luteriskā baznīca, or LELB) is a Lutheran Protestant church in Latvia. Latvia's Lutheran heritage dates back to the Reformation. Both the Nazi and communist regimes persecuted the church harshly before religious freedom returned to Latvia in 1988.


  • History 1
  • Structure 2
  • Archbishop of Riga 3
    • List of Archbishops of Riga 3.1
  • Statistics 4
  • Affiliations 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia sees itself as being in a continuous tradition of Christian life since the earliest recorded Christian missionary work in the area, in the 12th century.[1] Latvia was highly influenced by the Reformation and the style of Lutheran church which emerged followed the more Protestant German-type Lutheranism, rather than the episcopal or Nordic-type Lutheranism that emerged in Sweden, Denmark, Estonia and Finland. However, following the establishment of the Republic of Latvia (1918) the church moved towards a more historical catholic polity, and accepted consecration of bishops by the Church of Sweden. Along with the Church of Sweden, the ELCL now claims full apostolic succession. In 1975 the church decided to ordain women as pastors, but since 1993, under the leadership of Archbishop Jānis Vanags, it no longer does so.

A plaque marking Lutheran church property at Rīgas Doms (Riga Lutheran cathedral), Herdera laukums 6.

Since the fall of communism, the church has experienced massive growth and expansion. A special Synod in April 1989, following the return to post-communist independence, established a network of revived congregations, and put in place an almost entirely new leadership.[2]


The Church is episcopal and synodical. This means that it is led by a Council of Bishops and governed by a Synod composed of clergy and laity. The Synod elects a Consistory which has a smaller membership and meets more frequently, to carry on the work of Synod between its formal meetings.[3]

The Church is composed of three dioceses:

  • The Archdiocese of Rīga, led by the Archbishop of Riga, assisted since 10 April 2010 by a suffragan bishop
  • The Diocese of Liepāja, led by the Bishop of Liepāja
  • The Diocese of Daugavpils, led by the Bishop of Daugavpils.

Within each diocese there are, in addition to the bishop, a number of senior clergy known as Deans. One is Dean of the Cathedral, and the others serve as Area Deans supervising clergy within a defined district. The church does not have the historic three-fold ministry of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. In the place of Deacon is the ministry of Evangelist who work in programmes of social care and outreach.

Archbishop of Riga

The Archbishop serves as the president of the Council of Bishops, the Synod, and the Consistory. Following the death of Archbishop Kārlis Gailītis in 1992, a special Synod was convened in 1993 to elect a new Archbishop of Riga. Archbishop Jānis Vanags was elected and duly consecrated on 29 August 1993, by the Archbishop of Uppsala, Primate of the Lutheran Church of Sweden. Like all Bishops of the ELCL he will serve until he dies, or chooses to retire.

List of Archbishops of Riga

The medieval Archbishops are listed at Archbishopric of Riga. The following is a list of office holders since the restoration of the office.[4]


The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia reports that there are 136 pastors and 86 evangelists serving its 300 congregations. In 2013, the estimated baptized membership was 250,000.[5] In comparison, the independent Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad has 25,020 baptized members.[6]


The ELCL is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches.

It holds full observer status in the Porvoo Communion, which unites episcopal Lutheran churches and Anglican churches in northern Europe.

ELCL is in full fellowship with the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS). The ELCL is not in full church fellowship with those LWF member church bodies who practise ordinations and marriages of homosexuals, looking on LWF more as a forum of discussions for Lutherans.


  1. ^ See the church's own history pages.
  2. ^ See the report of the World Council of Churches.
  3. ^ See details here.
  4. ^ See the Archbishops' page of the official website of Riga Cathedral.
  5. ^ The Lutheran World Federation – 2013 Membership Figures Lutheran World
  6. ^

External links

  • Official website
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