By Paula Schlueter Ross
The LCMS issued a statement Dec. 19 to all Synod congregations, schools and professional church workers relating to Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and its Choice Dollars® program.
In the program, Thrivent members can help direct funds to thousands of nonprofit organizations, including Lutheran congregations. After learning that Thrivent had recognized Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota — an abortion provider — as a potential recipient of Choice Dollars® funds, LCMS leaders decided to express their concern over that Thrivent-Planned Parenthood relationship.
Following is the LCMS statement, signed by Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries:
“The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is deeply concerned by the news that Thrivent Financial has recognized Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota as a potential recipient of funding through its Thrivent Choice Dollars grant program. The LCMS always has been, and will continue to be, clear and faithful in its proclamation of the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death. We are currently in conversation with Thrivent Financial and pray for a God-pleasing resolution to this matter so that the pro-life witness of individual Lutherans and the LCMS will not be compromised.”
Many LCMS congregation members are among the 2.5 million members of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a Minneapolis-based, Fortune 500 fraternal-benefits organization with more than $80 billion in assets derived primarily from Lutherans over the past 100 years. Thrivent members voted this year to open the organization’s membership to all Christians.
“The LCMS is unabashedly pro-life and we will continue to be, and would never ask our people to compromise their witness for life,” Karner told Reporter.
The LCMS recognizes the sanctity of human life from conception until natural death and opposes all forms of abortion, including drugs used to kill unborn babies.
Karner said she became aware of the Thrivent-Planned Parenthood relationship on social-media feeds such as Facebook and Twitter, which “allowed the issue to gain traction with the public very quickly.”
At this writing, Thrivent’s leaders, she said, “are currently working on a solution that will consider all of the feedback that they have received from the LCMS and individual, concerned, pro-life Lutherans.”
She and Harrison decided to release their statement “to let [LCMS] members know that our Synod leadership is keenly aware of this troubling turn of events and that we are in contact with Thrivent. We understand that they are working on a way to rectify the situation that will satisfy pro-life Lutherans.”
Sanctity of all human life “is not a matter that we take lightly,” Karner said of the Synod and its leaders. “The biblical understanding of the intrinsic value of human life was played out for us in Bethlehem, where a little child was born from a mother who experienced an unexpected pregnancy.
“That same little child later suffered, died and rose again to show His love for all humankind, no matter what age or stage of development, from conception until natural death,” she said. “We are all vulnerable and in need of God’s saving grace. This is the message that the LCMS will continue to share, and this is the message that we hope will be upheld by any organization with which we work alongside.”