Pastor Bjug Harstad founded Parkland Lutheran Church and School. He was called by the Norwegian Synod in 1890 to begin a Lutheran academy in the Pacific Northwest, and Parkland was chosen as the site. The church was organized in 1893 just four years after Washington became a state, and the school was organized one year later in 1894.
In the 1880s there arose a major theological dispute among Norwegian Lutherans in America. Part of the Norwegian Synod broke away, forming its own church body. By the early 1900s there were attempts to reunite, but without resolving the previous doctrinal conflict. Pastor Harstad did not agree with the union effort under these circumstances. When the two bodies merged in 1917, he could not go along. This was the point that he and Pacific Lutheran Academy (now Pacific Lutheran University) separated. Along with a small number of pastors and congregations, Harstad participated in reorganizing the old Norwegian Synod in 1918 on the basis of the “old paths” of the Scriptures. He was elected President of this church body.
The congregation retained the elementary school portion of Pacific Lutheran Academy. Parkland Lutheran School continues to train students in the truths of God’s Word, while preparing them for various vocations in this life. The school also belongs to an association of schools, which supports Evergreen Lutheran High School in Tacoma.
Parkland Lutheran Church is a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) with headquarters in Mankato, MN, on the campus of Bethany Lutheran College. The ELS is also in full doctrinal fellowship with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). For the first half of the 20th century, both the ELS and WELS were united in what was called the Synodical Conference, of which the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS) was also a part. The Synodical Conference was dissolved in the 1960s after the LC-MS changed its fellowship principles.
Today our critics will often cite legalism as a characteristic of our church body and congregation, because we teach that all people have a common sinful nature and are not good enough to get to heaven. We do preach and teach the law of God, the Ten Commandments, in order to drive sinners to repentance. But we also liberally apply the Gospel of forgiveness in our Lord Jesus. By His holy life lived in our place and by His suffering and death in payment for our sin, we are justified by grace for Christ’s sake through faith. In Christ alone we stand righteous before God in heaven.
For a list of those buried in the Parkland Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery through 1999, click here.