More than 74 million members in LWF’s 145 churches

Songs of praise during a worship service in Asia. Photo: LWF/C.Kästner

GENEVA, 30August 2016 (LWI) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) churches around the world currently bring together more than 74 million members. This represents an increase of 2.1 million since 2013, with membership generally growing significantly in the global South while declining in the North.

The survey of membership statistics among the 145 LWF churches around the world found that for the first time, the largest churches in the Lutheran communion are in the global South: Ethiopia and Tanzania.

The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus is the largest with nearly 7.9 million members, up by 24 percent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania follows with 6.5 million members, a 12 percent increase, and Church of Sweden has 6.3 million members, a slight decline from the previous years.

Regional trends

Overall there was an 11 percent increase in Africa, bringing the total numbers in the 31 LWF member churches there to slightly over 23 million.

However, not all parts of the global South saw increases, with Latin America and the Caribbean showing a seven percent decline to 784,215 members.

The 54 churches in Asia recorded an overall increase of nearly 10 percent, bringing the total in the region to 11.8 million members.

North America’s two member churches marked an average decline of 4.9 percent, bringing the total membership to 3.9 million.

In Europe there was a decline of 3.8 percent to 34.7 million members in the region’s 41 member churches.

In the Nordic countries of Europe a 1.8 percent drop in the six churches there pushed the total to 18.8 million members, still the highest in Europe.

The 19 churches in Central Western Europe recorded a 3.8 percent decline in members, bringing the total membership to 14.7 million. A 5.9 percent decline in Central Eastern Europe brought the total among the 16 churches there to around 1.2 million members.

LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge said the growth or decrease of membership come with their own sets of tasks, noting, that the “LWF remains the space for joint reflection and learning, for mutual support and encouragement in mission.”

Junge referred to a global consultation on mission to be held in Geneva this November as an opportunity to reflect on contemporary challenges as churches engage in God’s mission.

“As we approach the 500th anniversary of the launch of the Reformation in 2017 we rejoice over the on-going power of the Word of God and its message of salvation by grace through faith alone. It is a joy that this message is being heard and received by more people” he added.

In addition to the 145 member churches, the LWF communion also relates to 10 recognized congregations and churches, as well as two recognized councils, in 98 countries, across seven geographical regions and a diverse array of contexts.

  Visit LWF Member Churches Listings