LSM-USA was founded in 1969. Two former Lutheran college organizations, the Lutheran Student Association of America (LSAA, founded in 1922) and Gamma Delta(founded in 1928) merged to create LSM-USA in 1969 while gathered in convention in Boulder, Colorado. LSM-USA assumed LSAA’s position in the World Student Christian Federation upon its formation.
Since its inception, LSM-USA has maintained the idea of being a pan-Lutheran organization. Until 1985, LSM-USA was supported and sponsored by the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC), and the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod(LCMS). In 1985, LCMS officially withdrew its support for LSM-USA, citing doctrinal differences, primarily LSM-USA’s decision to declare itself a Reconciling in Christorganization. The LCMS then formed its own exclusive organization, the Lutheran Student Fellowship.
In 1988, ALC, LCA, and AELC merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), thus reducing the number of official Lutheran churches sponsoring LSM-USA to one. However, LSM-USA still continues to be open to all Lutherans, and tries to remain engaged with all expressions of the Lutheran Church in the United States.
In 1984, the organization Lutherans Concerned/North America (LC/NA) began what is known as the Reconciling in Christ movement. This movement seeks Lutheran bodies that are willing to declare themselves accepting and affirming of all members of the body of Christ, regardless of ethnicity, age, or sexuality. LSM-USA became the first Lutheran organization to declare itself Reconciling in Christ. This decision led in large part to the aforementioned decision by the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod to withdraw support.
In 2004, LSM-USA entered into a full ministry partnership with Lutheran Youth Encounter. This partnership provides outreach opportunities for both organizations within each other’s events. While both organizations had recently experienced difficulty in working with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod national youth ministry office due to doctrinal differences, this partnership was seen as a positive step not only for the organizations involved, but for the ministry of the Lutheran church as a whole.
In 2007, LSM-USA began formal discussion of entering into a full-partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). In 2009, the Legislative Assembly voted to pursue a formal partnership with the ELCA, so long as it retained its student-led structure and its Reconciling in Christ status. Additionally, at the 2008-2009 gathering, the assembly moved to change the Secretary of International and Multicultural Concerns position into a new position called the Advocate for Diversity and Service Learning.