Africans help boost Lutheran World Federation membership to 65.9 million

The Lutheran World Federation announced member churches have 65.9 million members as of 2004, a one-year increase of 5.8 percent, thanks largely to a 1.1 million gain in Africa and a merger between a Lutheran church in the Netherlands and two large Reformed churches.

With a total of 500,000 new members, the Malagasy Lutheran Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania each reported having 3 million members. Africa's largest Lutheran denomination is Ethiopia's Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, with 4.2 million members, an increase of 131,000.

On the other hand, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa lost nearly 180,000 members, a 23 percent drop.

Counting churches outside the federation, world Lutheran membership increased 3.6 million, to 69.5 million.

Germany remains the nation with the largest number of Lutherans, 13.1 million, representing a one-year decline of 160,000. There was a 2.2 percent loss in North America, to 8.3 million.