Survey Shows 70.5 Million Members in LWF-Affiliated Churches

Women's choir during Sunday worship at The Indonesian Christian Church in Medan, Northern Sumatra. © LWF/Anto Akkara
Women's choir during Sunday worship at The Indonesian Christian Church in Medan, Northern Sumatra. © LWF/Anto Akkara

Slight Increase Globally with Growth in Africa and Asia

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches continued to show slight growth globally in 2011, according to statistics gathered by the LWF Communion Office.

The 145 churches belonging to the LWF, ten recognized congregations and one recognized council in 79 countries had a combined total of 70,514,046 members, an increase of 205,752 or 0.3 percent over the previous year.

LWF churches in Africa and Asia mainly contributed to the growth, with Africa adding 658,752 new members (3.4 percent), and Asia 217,905 (2.5 percent), according to the 2011 annual statistical survey conducted by the LWF Office for Communication Services.

Churches in the North America, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean regions experienced decreases in membership. North America membership declined by 274,265 (5.8 percent), while in Europe membership dropped by 396,133 (around one percent) and in Latin America and the Caribbean the decrease was 507 members, 0.06 percent.

In 2011, membership of churches in the wider Lutheran family, which includes non-LWF churches, rose by 196,667 to reach 74,192,243, representing an average increase of 0.3 percent according to the LWF survey.

Fifteen LWF member churches registered more than 1 million members. Among the largest churches are the Church of Sweden (6.5 million); Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (5.84 million); Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (5.82 million); Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (nearly 4.5 million); Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland (over 4.3 million); Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (over 4.2 million); Protestant Christian Batak Church [Indonesia] (4.1 million); Church of Norway (over 3.8 million); and Malagasy Lutheran Church [Madagascar] (3 million); and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover [Germany] (2.9 million).

Germany continues to be the country with the highest numbers of members affiliated to Lutheran churches with 12.5 million, followed by the United States with 7.1 million and Sweden with 6.5 million. Ethiopia and Tanzania each have some 5.8 million Lutherans.

Africa

In Africa, membership in the 31 churches belonging to the LWF grew in 2011 to reach 19,867,743 members. The number of non-LWF Lutheran members on the continent declined by 14,867 members to 184,830, or 7.4 percent.

Among the LWF member churches in Africa showing growth were two smaller churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central African Republic, which recorded a 94 percent increase for its current 107,000 members. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi noted a 25 percent increase, giving it 100,000 members.

Asia

The 52 LWF member churches in Asia reported an increase, to reach a total of 9,020,850 members. Membership outside the LWF-affiliated churches grew by 7,448 (3.9 percent) to 198,552 members.

The Christian Protestant Church in Indonesia recorded 587,985 members in 2011, a 63.4 percent increase, while the Protestant Christian Church in Mentawai grew by 28.5 percent to 50,000 members. Indonesia retains a strong Lutheran presence with more than 5.8 million Lutherans in the 12 LWF member churches.

Europe

While Europe is home to almost half of the world’s Lutherans, the 43 LWF member churches there recorded 396,133 fewer members in the past year, around one percent, to reach 36.3 million members. Membership in churches that are not affiliated to the LWF in Europe declined to count 78,934.

The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad (in Germany) added 830 members, a growth of 3.3 percent, bringing its total to 25,850 members. The Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein recorded an additional 150 members, an increase of 2.2 percent to reach a total of 7,040 members. A 6.7 percent decline or 5,000 members in the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland brought the membership to 70,000.

The countries with the highest number of Lutherans on the continent continued to show a decline in Lutheran membership. Germany’s 14 LWF member churches declined by 124,437, nearly one percent, while Church of Sweden recorded a drop of 111,023 members, or 1.6 percent.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Membership in the 16 churches belonging to the LWF in Latin America and the Caribbean declined slightly in 2011, reporting 507 fewer members and a current membership of 846,432. Non-LWF Lutheran churches recorded a loss of 820 members.

The region’s largest Lutheran church, the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, counted 717,127, a slight increase from the previous year.

North America

The three LWF member churches in North America posted a membership decrease of 274,265, or 5.8 percent, to 4,425,635 members.

The region’s largest Lutheran church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, lost 270,349 members, or 5.95 percent, down to 4,272,688 members. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada declined by 3,916, or 2.6 percent, bringing its current membership to 144,947 members.

The LWF membership statistics are based on information received by late February 2012 from the LWF member churches, recognized churches and congregations and council that are affiliated to the LWF, as well as from other Lutheran bodies.

Figures recorded for the preceding year were used for churches that did not indicate if there were any changes. In the future, this survey will be conducted every two years.

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