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Lutherans worldwide approach 66 millioncomment (0)

March 25, 2004


GENEVA — The number of Lutherans worldwide grew slightly in the past two years to 65.9 million at the end of 2003, up 0.9 percent from the 65.3 million Lutherans counted at the end of 2001.

The figures, released by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), saw a continuation of explosive growth in Africa. However, there was a decline in Lutheranism’s birthplace in Europe as well as in North America.

Of the nearly 66 million Lutherans around the world, 62.3 million belong to churches in the LWF. The largest Lutheran church in the United States, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is an LWF member, while the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is not.

The growth was highest in Africa, which reported 13 million Lutherans, an increase of 1.1 million new members. Membership growth was largest in Lutheran churches in Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and Nigeria. Africa’s largest LWF-member church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, had 4 million members.

In Europe, membership fell by about 640,000 for a total of 36 million. The LWF’s largest member church, the Church of Sweden, counted 7.14 million, a drop of about 255,000 members. In Germany, the birthplace of founder Martin Luther, there are 13.2 million Lutherans, a drop of about 385,445.

Lutheran populations in Asia grew by 2.5 percent, and membership was stable in Latin America at 1.1 million.

In North America, the ELCA counted almost 5.1 million members, a loss of about 26,000. The St. Louis-based Missouri Synod registered 2.5 million, a loss of nearly 60,000.

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