With church membership slowly declining, one Lutheran-owned and -operated insurance company will begin offering its policies to all Christians.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans announced recently that members overwhelmingly approved a measure to extend the organization's "common bond from Lutheran to Christian." Of Thrivent's 2.5 million members, 425,000 weighed in–nearly double the expected number of voters–and 72 percent of those voted in favor of the expansion.
Changes will be gradual–more like "a 50-year, (than) a five-year, plan," president Brad Hewitt told Milwaukee's Journal-Sentinel.
In the short term, though, Thrivent, which will not drop the term "Lutheran" from its official name, says "Christian friends and family of Thrivent Financial members who may not be Lutheran will feel more welcome to join the organization" by 2014.
Thrivent has been selling insurance only to Lutherans for 111 years. Considered a fraternal benefit society, the Star-Tribune reports that the "Fortune 500 firm has wrestled with whether to extend its reach beyond the Lutheran faith, amid declining loyalty to church denominations. The number of practicing Lutherans is shrinking as younger generations consider other faiths."
Since 1987, membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has fallen from nearly 5.3 million members to just over 4 million. In past three years, membership decreased by nearly five percent each year. The smaller Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has 2.3 million members but lost nearly 1.5 percent from 2011 to 2012.