Some differences between the ELCA and the Missouri Synod are their understandings of biblical interpretation, the role of women in ministry, and sacramental belief and practice. While both denominations share a Lutheran heritage, these differences have led to increased division between them.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church have never been a united body, as the LCMS was never part of the organizations that merged to form the ELCA. The differences between the two bodies began to emerge in the 1970s, with both churches responding differently to radical changes taking place in society at that time.
While both churches share common creeds and confessions, they differ in their understanding of biblical interpretation. The ELCA embraces historical-critical scholarship of the Bible which leads to a variety of interpretations the ELCA permits. The LCMS is more skeptical of certain forms of critical scholarship, believing them to undermine biblical authority.
In the early 1970s, the ELCA began the process of ordaining women to pastoral leadership. Today, there are women serving in ordained ministry at all levels in the ELCA, while the LCMS believes the Bible only permits men to serve as pastors.
The LCMS only permits members-in-good-standing of LCMS parishes to receive Communion in its services. The ELCA permits any baptized Christian to receive in an ELCA church and has full-communion agreements with a number of other Protestant denominations.