Global Increase in LWF Churches’ Membership Pushes Total to Over 68.3 Million

Africa’s Lutheran churches saw their total membership increase over the past year by just under two million, boosting the total membership of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches worldwide to over 68.3 million. Lutheran churches in Asia registered an increase overall, while slight decreases were again recorded in other world regions.

According to the latest LWF statistics, membership in the organization’s 140 churches, 10 recognized congregations, and one recognized council in 78 countries worldwide rose by a total of 1,640,700, to reach 68,322,299, an increase of 2.5 percent over the previous year. In 2006, LWF member churches had some 66.7 million members worldwide, up from 66.2 million in 2005.

Over the past year, the total membership of all Lutheran churches worldwide rose by 1,623,024 to approximately 71.8 million (71,823,423), an increase of 2.3 percent. In 2006, all Lutheran churches  worldwide counted some 70.2 million members, up from 69.8 million in 2005. The number of Lutherans in non-LWF member churches fell by 17,676, or 0.5 percent, to reach 3,501,124.

Ethiopia Has World’s Second Largest Lutheran Church

Over the past year, LWF church membership in Africa rose by 1,926,407 or 12.7 percent to reach a total of 17,129,230. The membership of non-LWF Lutheran churches in Africa remained unchanged at 56,069.

With an increase of 368,861 members, or 8.2 percent, to 4,869,157, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, the largest LWF member church on the continent, now becomes the second largest worldwide. The Church of Sweden remains the world’s biggest Lutheran church with 6.9 million members.

Among African churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, the continent’s second largest Lutheran church, recorded the highest membership increase—32.4 percent—with an additional 1,132,480 new members to reach a total of 4,632,480, making it the fourth largest Lutheran church in the world. The ELCT attributes its growth to “effective evangelism in [its] dioceses over the past two years … and a realistic authentication of statistics.” The Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria saw its membership rise by 380,630, or 27.9 percent, to 1,745,050. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana also grew a substantial 25.1 percent, with membership up 5,521 to reach 27,521. Membership in the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church was up by 8,000, or 22.2 percent, to 44,000. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi reported members, for an increase of 10,000 or 20 percent.

Other churches on the continent recording an over 10 percent increase included the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Angola, Kenya and Cameroon.

While no statistical changes were reported by the 3-million member Malagasy Lutheran Church, the third largest Lutheran church in Africa, a 12.4 percent decrease in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Mozambique put its total at 6,482.

Asia: Over 100,000 New Members

The total number of Lutherans in Asia rose 101,439 in 2007, an increase of 1.22 percent. Of a total 8,415,776 Lutherans in Asia, 8,275,418 belonged to LWF member churches, which corresponds to a 1.24 percent increase or 101,258 members.

Membership in Asia’s largest Lutheran church, the Protestant Christian Batak Church (Indonesia) remained steady at 3.75 million.

In terms of absolute figures, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea registered the highest growth in the region with 85,000 new members or 10.4 percent increase, to count 900,000
members. The United Protestant Church (Indonesia) recorded 1,150 additional members, or 11.5 percent, to reach 11,150. A more than 6 percent increase was recorded by the Bangladesh Lutheran Church and the Simalungun Protestant Christian Church (Indonesia).

Decreases were registered by the Lutheran Church in Singapore, Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (India) and the Hong Kong and Macau Lutheran Church.

Europe: Membership Nearly 300,000 Down

Over the past year, the total membership of Lutheran churches in Europe fell again by 292,117, or 0.78 percent, to reach 37,177,468. Membership in LWF member churches went down by 292,031, also 0.78 percent, to 37,137,374.

Membership in the world’s largest Lutheran church, the Church of Sweden, remained nearly unchanged over the course of 2007, with a slight drop of 0.03 percent to reach 6,893,901. The fifth largest LWF member church worldwide, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, saw its membership drop by 22,983, or 0.5 percent, to 4,533,629. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, the sixth largest LWF member church, recorded a decrease of 13,274, or 0.3 percent, to 4,493,168. The Church of Norway had 67,531 fewer members, or 1.71 percent, to reach 3,871,513.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria in Russia recorded a 25 percent membership increase or 3,000 new members to reach 15,000, while the Lutheran Church in Great Britain grew by 18.6
percent (440 members) to 2,810. The Evangelical Lutheran Church – Synod of France and Belgium, a non-LWF church, recorded the highest percentage increase in Europe by a two-thirds’ rise (400 members) to 1,000. The Protestant Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine (France) increased by 10,000 members, or 4.8 percent, to 220,000.

With 2,330 fewer members, the Lutheran Church in Ireland, an LWF recognized congregation, recorded the highest percentage of membership loss—75 percent—to reach 770. The Evangelical
Lutheran Church in Hungary recorded a significant decrease of 30.1 percent due to a change in the method used to count its membership. It had 213,125 members, down 91,875 from the previous year.

German Churches Count 180,000 Fewer Members

In 2007 the total number of Lutheran Christians in Germany was 12,627,746, reflecting a decrease of 105,245, or 0.83 percent. Germany continues to be the country with the highest number of Lutheran Christians in the world. Lutheran churches there had 12.7 million members in 2006 and 12.9 million members in 2005. The number of Lutherans in LWF member churches there fell by 104,774, also 0.83 percent, to reach 12,590,247.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, the country’s largest Lutheran church, recorded 3,023,897 members, for a decrease of 21,457, or 0.7 percent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria reported 2.6 million members, reflecting a 1.5 percent decrease of 40,724. Membership in the Evangelical Church in Württemberg fell by 18,803, or 0.8 percent, to 2,304,062. A decrease of 0.5 percent or 10,645 fewer members in the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church put the total at 2,099,315.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony recorded 823,487 members, reflecting a decrease of 10,339 or 1.2 percent. A drop in membership was also recorded in the Evangelical Church of Pomerania, Evangelical Lutheran Church of Schaumburg-Lippe, and the Church of Lippe [Lutheran Section], as well as in the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church, a non-LWF church.

Slight membership increases were recorded in the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Thuringia and Mecklenburg, and in the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad.

Membership figures remained unchanged for the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in Baden, Brunswick and Oldenburg, and in the non-LWF member Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Germany.

Slight Decrease in Latin America

The total membership in Lutheran churches in Latin America and the Caribbean fell last year by 14,053, or 1.26 percent to reach 1,104,194. A drop of 2.34 percent among LWF member churches in
the region put the total at 822,074. Non-LWF churches registered 5,633 new members, a 2 percent increase, to reach 282,120.

While most Lutheran churches in Latin America and the Caribbean reported little change in their membership statistics, the region’s largest Lutheran church, the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, registered a 2.3 percent decrease or 16,756 members to reach 703,000. Declining membership was also reported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia and the Argentina-based Evangelical Church of the River Plate. The non-LWF Evangelical Lutheran Church of Brazil reported 230,215 members last year, a rise of 5,692, or 2.5 percent.

The LWF’s recognized congregations in Mexico and Peru noted major changes in their membership figures. Membership in the German-Speaking Evangelical Congregation in Mexico fell by four-fifths, 2,474 fewer members to reach 636, while a 45 percent drop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Peru pushed the total down by 180, to 220 members.

Nearly 100,000 Fewer Lutherans in North America

Total membership in North American Lutheran churches fell by 98,652 or 1.23 percent in 2007. Of a total 7,940,686 Lutherans, 4,958,203 belonged to LWF member churches. The region’s LWF member churches registered a decrease of 75,248 members, or 1.49 percent.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the LWF’s third largest member church, recorded 4,774,203 members in 2007, a decrease of 76,573, or 1.6 percent. Membership in the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Diaspora (USA) remained unchanged at 1,500.

Decreases were also recorded in non-LWF churches—the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (USA and Canada), with 2,417,997 members, for a loss of 22,867 or 0.9 percent, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, down by 1.2 percent, to 396,000.

The non-LWF Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (USA) registered a 10.3 percent increase (4,041) to 43,360 members.

Membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada remained relatively stable in 2007, falling by a mere 0.03 percent to count 174,500, while the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
Abroad (Canada) recorded an increase of just under 21 percent, pushing the total to 8,000.

The LWF membership statistics are based on information received from the LWF member churches, recognized congregations and council, as well as from other Lutheran churches, organizations,
mission bodies and congregations. The figures recorded for the year ending 2007 were used for churches that did not indicate any changes by the end of January 2008.

* A one-page summary of the 2007 LWF membership figures is posted in PDF version on the LWF Web site under:
* Full details can be found under:

The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of over 68.3 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.