Membership in Lutheran churches worldwide increased by 3.57 million in 2004, according to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which puts that membership total at 69,527,817.
Statistics provided by the LWF show growth of 5.4 percent for all Lutheran churches, from the 65,957,685 recorded by the end of 2003.
“The latest increase is largely due to overall growth in a number of the African churches, which recorded an increase of a total 1.1 million members …,” according to the LWF news release announcing the statistics.
The LWF gives African churches a total of 14,133,572 members for 2004 — a rise of 8.2 percent from the year before.
The LWF also claims Lutheran growth — and a 7.3 percent increase in the membership of European Lutheran churches — because an LWF-member Lutheran church in the Netherlands merged with two Reformed church bodies. The resulting church body, known as the Protestant Church in the Netherlands, is a member of both the LWF and of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
In Asia, according to the LWF, Lutheran membership increased by slightly less than one percent, for a total of 7,391,102.
LWF reported a .6 percent decrease in membership among Lutheran churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. The 2004 total there is 1,116,913.
For North America, LWR reported that membership in Lutheran churches fell by about 2.2 percent, to 8,250,658. That includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), which recorded 4,984,925 members — a 2.25 decrease from the year before — and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.
Although saying that it was reporting 2004 membership figures for Lutherans worldwide, the LWF used the 2003 membership figures for the Missouri Synod — 2,488,936 — reported in the November 2004 Reporter.
The LWF lists 135 churches, including the ELCA, as “full” members. The LCMS is the largest church body among those worldwide that are not LWF members.
Posted Feb. 25, 2005