About Us


Congregation participating in a groundbreaking event Gloria Dei Lutheran Church rejoices in Jesus as Lord. We are a Christian family called to: Share God’s Word; invite, welcome, and serve all people; and nurture personal faith and spiritual growth.

What We Believe


Written by the ELCA
Lutherans are Christians who accept the teachings of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546). Luther was a German theologian who realized that there were significant differences between what he read in the Bible and the practices of the Roman Catholic Church at that time. On October 31, 1517, he posted a challenge on the door of Wittenberg University, titled “95 Theses” (to debate 95 theological issues). His hope was that the church would reform its practice and preaching to be more consistent with the Word of God as contained in the Bible.


What started as an academic debate escalated into a distinct separation between the Roman Catholic Church of the time and those who accepted Luther’s suggested reforms. "Lutheran" became the name of the group that agreed with Luther’s convictions.

Hands holding a bible in pew

Today, nearly five centuries later, Lutherans still celebrate the Reformation on October 31 and still hold to the basic principles of Luther’s theological teachings, such as Grace alone, faith alone, Scripture alone. These comprise the very essence of Lutheranism:

  • We are saved by the grace of God alone -- not by anything we do;
  • Our salvation is through faith alone -- a confident trust in God, who in Christ promises us forgiveness, life and salvation; and
  • The Bible is the norm for faith and life -- the true standard by which teachings and doctrines are to be judged.


Over the years, different Lutheran church bodies have been established and organized to meet the needs of Lutherans in communities and nations all over the world. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the largest Lutheran group in North America, founded in 1988 when three North American Lutheran church bodies united: The American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches and the Lutheran Church in America. Learn more about the History of the ELCA.

Lutherans are part of a reforming movement within the whole Christian church; as a part of practicing their faith, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessors have engaged in ecumenical dialogue with other church bodies for decades. In fact, the ELCA has entered into cooperative "full communion" agreements (sharing common convictions about theology, mission and worship) with several other Protestant denominations, including:

  • The Moravian Church
  • The Episcopal Church
  • The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
  • The Reformed Church in America
  • The United Church of Christ
  • The United Methodist Church


Pulpit in Gloria DeiThe ELCA has an ongoing dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1999, representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. This represented a historic consensus on key issues of faith and called for further dialogue and study together.

Lutheranism is a faith tradition that is open to all, regardless of background.

The ELCA alone is about four million members strong, with nearly 10,000 congregations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

For much more information, please visit the website of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at www.elca.org.

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History of Gloria Dei

In 1959, God called the people of three Lutheran congregations in the Hilltop area of Tacoma to establish a new home. Messiah Lutheran Church and Our Savior's Lutheran Church, joined five years later by Olivet Lutheran Church, came together and founded Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, so named for the Glory of God.

Messiah Lutheran Church was established in 1885 as the First Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tacoma. Our Savior's Lutheran Church was founded in 1891. Olivet Lutheran Church began as small gatherings in private homes, and in 1902 became the Norwegian Lutheran Free Church.

The site of the new church was chosen in 1961, and through an extensive Building Fund Crusade was built at South 19th and Warner Streets for $225,000. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in May of 1962.

Outside wall of churchThe first service in the new sanctuary was held on January 27, 1963 and led by Pastor Alfred Karlstad. The Dedication Service was held on March 10, 1963. The church became free and clear financially with a Day of Jubilee mortgage burning in 1978. A remodeling program called Building on Blessings provided new looks for the narthex and sanctuary in 1993, completely paid for with donated funds.

Our church home is more than a building. It is a place to nurture healthy relationships - to share, learn, pray, worship, celebrate, grieve, and serve with others. Over the years many community organizations, the Tacoma Waldorf School, and other congregations have utilized our facility for their meetings, worship services, classes, and social gatherings. We continue to serve the public good through a variety of associations and community groups.

Established primarily to be a location for worship, Gloria Dei continues today to be a place where believers in and followers of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ come and go, always striving to live up to their name, Gloria Dei - Glory to God. As a place where many have followed Christ in faithful worship and service, to God and for them we give our heartfelt gratitude and thanks.

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PRESIDENT Richard Renzema
SECRETARY Stu Schwartz
TREASURER Terry Larson

Committee Chairs:

EDUCATION Gaila Gililand
FELLOWSHIP Karen Lundquist

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