Lutheran Membership Swells

Lutheran Church membership worldwide has grown by more than 1.4 million, to reach a total of 65.4 million (65,387,677) by 2001, representing an increase of some 2.2 percent.

In 2000, global membership fell just short of 64 million mark, and in 1999 there were 63.1 million members.

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, according to the latest statistics published by LWF.

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 percent 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. 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.

Of any country, Germany has by far the most Lutherans. The overall 2001 total was 13,649,314, a decrease of about 222,226. 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.

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 Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), with 188,654 members, showed a loss of almost 3,000. 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.