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ANDHRA EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH (AELC)

The Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC) traces its beginnings from the missionary efforts of the first Lutheran missionary to Guntur, C. F. Heyer, in 1842. "Father" Heyer was deployed by the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, the oldest synod in North America. Work started by the North German Missionary Society in 1845 was turned over to the American Lutherans in 1850. As the work spread, Guntur became the center for general and higher education, and Rajahmundry, an old Telugu center of learning and culture, became the center for theological education. The Bible training school set up there in 1885 later became Luthergiri Seminary.

The AELC was constituted in 1927. Prior to this it was a mission of the United Lutheran Church in America (now part of the ELCA). With more than 400,000 members, the AELC is considered the third largest Lutheran church in Asia. It has been a member of the LWF since 1950. It is served by 250 ordained pastors and a large number of workers in areas of evangelism, education, health, and other diaconic ministries. 

AELC's work is mainly in the state of Andhra Pradesh, a Telugu-speaking region. Evangelism is carried out through film, radio, and personal work. Bible women are effective in gaining access to Hindu and Muslim homes. The AELC runs 500 Sunday schools. Over 30,000 women regularly study the Bible and promote the Christian faith. Five ashrams give people of various castes and ethnic backgrounds opportunities to live and study together.

The church operates a college of education, 19 secondary schools, a school of law, and cooperates in running an interdenominational college. For vocational training, it operates an agricultural school, a sewing school, two industrial schools for boys and girls, and a Bible school.

The Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church once had eight hospitals, products of the work of pioneer missionary Dr. Anna S. Kugler of Philadelphia. Beginning in 1883, her work attracted many influential Indian women and men. In recent years, many of the hospitals have been turned over to the government, but the AELC continues to operate two. The AELC works with people suffering from leprosy, and includes health education in its community development work. The Christian Medical College and Hospital in the city of Vellore is a major center for healing and teaching.

Two important theological schools are located in AELC territory. The United Theological College in Bangalore, founded in 1910, is the main Protestant institution for graduate theological studies. It has one of the best theological libraries in Asia. The Gurukul Lutheran Theological College and Research Center in Madras relates to all Lutheran churches in India. It has a strong program relating to issues of urbanization and an accredited women's study program.

The AELC is one of ten members of the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India. The UELCI is a member of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia. The UELCI carries out mission development in India, and has also become a member of the United Mission to Nepal.

Source: http://www.elca.org/dgm/country_packet/packets/asia-oceania/india/aelc.html

 

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