Information about faculty members and staff

The Rev. Dr. Maria E. Erling

The Rev. Dr. Maria E. Erling

Professor of Modern Church History and Global Missions and Director of Teaching Parish
Phone: 717.339.1306

Personal Website:


The Rev. Dr. Maria E. Erling is the professor of Modern Church History and Global Missions at Gettysburg Seminary with a special focus on American Lutheranism and the various ways that mission has been understood in the history of the church.

Before coming to the Seminary in 1999, Dr. Erling served parishes in New England: Trinity Lutheran Church, Worcester, MA and Christ the King, Nashua, NH, and served as a specialist for urban congregations in the New England Synod, Lutheran Church in America. She also chaired its ecumenical affairs committee from 1991-1999. Her ecumenical involvement currently includes service as an ELCA representative on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches of Christ, and as delegate to the 2010 assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in Stuttgart. Parish ministry continues to be a focus for her as she directs the seminary's Teaching Parish program.

As a part of her ongoing interest in the development of American Lutheranism, Erling and co-author Mark Granquist wrote The Augustana Story: Shaping North American Lutheranism, published by Augsburg Fortress in 2008. The fascinating history of American Lutheranism, with its many mergers of separate ethnic churches, and its complex engagement with contemporary American culture, gives her plenty of material to work with as she teaches seminarians how to understand, appreciate, and extend theological and denominational traditions to meet new challenges. All Mainline churches share the challenge of adapting to contemporary society, and the ongoing adjustments in Protestantism have also been an important aspect of Dr. Erling's research and publishing interests.

Dr. Erling co-edited and contributed to The Role of the Bishop: Changing Models for a Global Church, Lutheran University Press (2001). She also wrote chapters for Lutherans Today: American Lutheran Identity in the 21st Century (Eerdmans, 2003), Witness at the Crossroads (2001) and The Augustana Heritage: Recollections, Perspectives, and Prospects (1998). Erling has contributed to two Lilly Endowment projects to study the changes in Mainline Protestantism in North America, and has delved into the mystery of the demise of the Luther League, the hidden markers of Lutheran Spirituality, and the improbable strength of Lutheranism as a denomination.

Dr. Erling has become known around campus for hosting an annual fish night and for bringing the noble sport of croquet to the campus for the first time since the storied days of A.R. Wentz, ecumenical pioneer, competitive athlete, and Lutheran Historian. She lives in Gettysburg with her husband John Spangler, who serves on the seminary staff. They have two grown daughters, Marta and Johanna.

B.A., Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, 1978
M.Div., Yale University Divinity School, New Haven, CT 1981
Th.D., Harvard University Divinity School, Cambridge, MA, 1996

Publications: The Augustana Story: Shaping North American Lutheranism, Augsburg Fortress, 2008

Other Links Augustana Heritage - A History project