Lutheran Numbers Grow Worldwide, Shrink in Global North

The number of Lutherans worldwide rose by nearly a quarter million members, largely through the sharp growth of Christians in Africa.

According to data collected by the Lutheran World Federation, whose members account for more than 94 percent of all Lutherans, the total number of Lutherans rose to 69.8 million around the world, marking an increase of nearly 230,000 since 2004.

However, when separated geographically, statistics reveal a sharp decline of Lutheran adherents in much of Europe and North America.

Membership in Lutheran churches in Europe dropped by nearly 600,000 last year, bringing the total figure down to about 38 million. The Church of Sweden, the largest Lutheran church in the world, accounted for the loss of more than 200,000 members. And in Germany, the home of Lutheranism, more than 160,000 Lutherans left the denomination.

Small increases were noted in some places such as in France and Romania, but the growth was not enough to offset the waves of Lutheran Christians taking leave in Europe.

North America also suffered membership loss, down 96,000 to about 8.2 million. The Evangelical Lutheran in Church in America accounted for about half of that loss.

Despite such huge decreases in the Global North, Lutheran churches in the Global South welcomed nearly a million new more members.

In Africa alone, 904,500 new members pushed the total membership in Lutheran churches there to 15 million. Africa’s highest percentage increase was recorded in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Congo – a non-LWF member church – that grew 44 percent.

In Asia, the number of Lutherans increased by 25,890 in the past year. The Taiwanese Lutheran Church accounted for half the growth – it increased by 46.5 percent with a new total of 12,029 members.

In Latin America, Lutherans clocked-in at nearly the same amount as last year. There was a total of 4,966 loss compared to the year before, brining the new total to 1,111,948, members, according to the LWF.