According to the most recent statistics published by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Lutheran Church membership worldwide has grown by more than 1.4 million, to reach a total of 65.4 million (65,387,677) in 2001, representing an increase of some 2.2 percent. In 2000, global membership fell just short of 64 million, and in 1999 there were 63.1 million members.
Lutheran World Information – 7 August 2002 – Membership of the 133 member churches, eleven recognized congregations and one recognized council of the LWF totaled 61.7 million (61,704,551) in 2001. There were about 60.2 million members in 2000. Last year, the number of LWF member churches increased from 131 to 133, of which 130 are full members and three are associate members. The number of Lutherans belonging to non-LWF-member churches decreased by about 92,000, down to 3,683,126.
The largest 2000-2001 increase was in Africa. The continent now has 1,368,489 more members, reaching a total of 11,953,068. The Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria showed the sharpest increase globally, growing by some 62 percent to reach 1,167,023 members. Two more churches saw 50 percent increases—the Malagasy Lutheran Church, with 2,250,000 members, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN) with 300,000. Double-digit percent increases were also reported by the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church with 30,000 members, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi with 25,000 and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe with 110,000. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia (ELCIN) increased by 9% to a 580,000 total.
The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) is still the biggest African Lutheran church, with an unchanged membership of around 3.36 million. The second largest is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania with about 2.5 million.
In Europe, overall Lutheran membership decreased by 305,118, down to 36,642,084. LWF member churches lost 213,268, down to 36,602,324. Membership of the largest Lutheran church in the world—the Church of Sweden—remained unchanged at 7,399,915, while that of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the third largest in the world, increased slightly to 4,606,543. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark has 4,532,635 members, having lost some 3,800. Membership of the Church of Norway remains unchanged at 3.8 million.
The Evangelical Church in Croatia had 4,500 members last year, 3,000 less than in 2000. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hungary, with 301,925 members, registered a 30 percent loss. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, after losing almost 15 percent, now has 15,000 members. The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Slovak Republic has 372,858, an increase of roughly 13 percent.
Of any country, Germany has by far the most Lutherans. The overall 2001 total was 13,649,314, a decrease of about 222,226. The North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church reported 2,233,740 members, a loss of about 120,000. Membership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony decreased by 57,000 to a 937,000 total, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Thuringia by about 20,000 to 514,580, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick by 10,000 to 440,000, of the Evangelical Church of Pomerania by nearly 9,000 to 129,283, and of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg by 5,000 to 230,000. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schaumburg-Lippe showed a slight loss, 1,000, down to 66,000.
In Asia, the number of Lutherans increased by over five percent in 2001. Of the 7,146,011 total of Lutheran church members there, 7,025,779 belong to LWF member churches. Membership of the Gossner Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chotanagpur and Assam, India, climbed by about 20,000 to 380,135. The South Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church – Telugu, India, grew by almost 50 percent, and now has 45,500 members. The Nias Protestant Christian Church, which joined the LWF only last year, had 333,657 members, an increase of some 6,000. The Pakpak Dairi Christian Protestant Church, in Indonesia, slightly increased its membership to 30,490. Decreases in membership were reported by the Lutheran Church in Australia, with about 85,000, a loss of 9,000, and the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore with 6,000 members, about a 25 percent loss.
The North American Lutheran churches lost almost 24,000 members in 2001. Of a total of 8,519,967 Lutherans, 5,331,573 belonged to LWF member churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the second largest LWF member church, had 5,125,919 members, representing an almost 24,000-member loss. The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, USA and Canada, which is not an LWF member, registered an unchanged membership figure of 2.6 million. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), with 188,654 members, showed a loss of almost 3,000. Membership figures for the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad, in Canada, and the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Diaspora, in the USA, remained unchanged at 12,000 and 5,000 respectively. The Association of Free Lutheran Congregations, in the USA, which keeps in loose contact with the LWF, increased by more than 10% to a 36,400 total.
In Latin America, the Lutheran Churches showed a slight increase of about 3,400 members, reaching a total of 1,126,547, of which 848,058 belong to LWF member churches. Membership of these churches remained mostly stable, except for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil, which keeps in loose contact with the LWF and grew by around 2,000 members to reach 219,888.
These statistics were reported, via an OCS survey, by LWF member churches, congregations and one council recognized by the LWF, and other Lutheran churches or organizations in infrequent contact with the Federation. For churches that reported no statistical information by December 2001, the preceding year’s figures were recorded.
Source: Lutheran World Federation. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 133 member churches in 73 countries, representing 61.7 million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide.