ELCA Reports 4.6 Million Members, $2.7 Billion in 2008 Offerings

Baptized members of the nation's largest Lutheran denomination on average gave more in 2008 than in 2007, continuing an upward trend that began in 2000.

"Despite the challenging economic times that began in 2008, ELCA members continue to be faithful stewards of the resources that God has provided," commented David D. Swartling, secretary for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

Notably, however, the number of baptized members in ELCA dropped by 76,069 to 4,633,887 and the number of ELCA congregations dropped by 52 to 10,396 congregations in 2008.

Total receipts for ELCA congregations, as a result, dipped 2.64 percent from the 2007 figure to a little more than $2.7 billion in 2008.

The recently released figures were compiled from the most recently submitted annual reports of ELCA congregations.

Other figures included the average number of people in worship in ELCA congregations, which also declined slightly from the previous year.

An average 1,330,709 people, or 28.71 percent of baptized ELCA members, attended weekly worship in 2008. In 2007, 1,362,120, or 28.92 percent of baptized members, attended weekly worship.

On the rise, meanwhile, was the percent of ELCA baptized members who were identified as people of color or whose primary language is not English. The denomination reported a slight increase in that figure from 3.20 percent in 2007 to 3.35 in 2008.

"It is also worth noting that the number of congregations reporting more than 5 percent multicultural membership has increased by almost 40 percent since 2000," Swartling said, according to a recent ELCA report. "More and more congregations are coming to appreciate their calling to be more intentionally inclusive."

The new figures were release ahead of the denomination's biennial assembly, which will be held next week, Aug. 17-23, at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis.

The theme of this year's General Assembly is "God's work. Our hands."