Photo essay: Our Stake in Spain

Plaza Mayor in the center of Valladolid, Spain, is where a group of Lutherans were burned at the stake as heretics in 1558.

Story by Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen, photos by Erik M. Lunsford

Lutherans once again proclaiming their faith

Just 42 years after Martin Luther ignited the Reformation with the blow of his hammer, dozens of Lutherans were martyred by burning at the stake in the Plaza Mayor at Valladolid, in Seville and other cities in Spain. They died confessing the pure Gospel of Christ as the only Savior from sin, death and the devil. These faithful souls were victims of the Spanish Inquisition, which succeeded in snuffing out all traces of Luther’s “heretical” teachings in Spain.

Missionary Rev. David Warner prepares the Sacrament for the Saturday afternoon Divine Service at a rented church building in Madrid.

Today, as the world marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, 77 Lutherans shepherded by two missionaries, a pastor and vicar are once again boldly confessing the Gospel in Spain. They do so in the long shadows cast by the ever-present Roman Catholic state church — with its enormous gilded cathedrals featuring high altars and statues of saints, where prayers to and for the dead are regularly spoken and Mary, not Jesus, is the center of faith.  Weakened in power by a culture that is increasingly secular, these grand sanctuaries are more likely to be filled with tourists armed with cameras and selfie sticks.

Through God’s gracious blessing of the gifts and support given by LCMS members, two LCMS missionary pastors — Rev. David Warner and Rev. Adam Lehman — serve in Spain, building on work begun over a decade ago in a partnership between the Synod and Argentinian Lutherans.

They are strategically staking a claim for the Gospel in three key cities — Madrid, Seville and Cartagena — even as they regularly bring Christ’s Word and Sacraments to the faithful who are scattered across the country.

In each of these cities is a core group of faithful Lutherans who gather for worship in rented facilities. These locations serve as the main stake from which the faithful Spanish Lutherans will reach out with Christ and His saving Word in this historic and beautiful land.

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Deaconess Pamela J. Nielsen ( is associate executive director of LCMS Communications.

Erik M. Lunsford ( is managing photojournalist for LCMS Communications.

Posted February 1, 2017


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