The ten largest Lutheran church bodies

James Kushiner at the Touchstone blog quotes an article about how the Lutheran church of Tanzania is standing up in the Lutheran World Federation to oppose the normalization of homosexuality, resolving to reject all aid from the Western Lutherans who accept gay marriage.  Kushiner then marvels at the comment in the news story that Tanzania has the world’s second largest Lutheran church.  He then a little research, finding these to be the top ten (in millions):

1.  Church of Sweden 6.75

2.  Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania 5.3

3.  Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus 5.3

4.  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 4.6 number on rolls; only 2.7 mil. have taken communion in the past two years

5.  Church of Denmark 4.56.  Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland 4.5

7.  Protestant Christian Batak Church, Indonesia 4.2

8.  Church of Norway 4.0

9.  Malagasy Lutheran Church 3.0

10.  Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, Germany 3.0

via Touchstone Magazine – Mere Comments: Tanzania Lutherans Flex, Wont Bend.

What can we learn from this list?   For example, I find it interesting that #2, 3, 7, & 9 are in countries with strong Muslim populations.  Far from being “a German church,” Lutheranism is more like an African church.  As Kushiner says, there are likely more Lutherans worshipping in Africa on any given Sunday than in Europe and the United States put together. Especially considering that the European state churches pretty much list all of their citizens as members, even though they hardly ever attend.

Does anyone have any reliable numbers as to the total number of Lutherans in the world?  I had heard that Lutheranism is the largest Protestant tradition, with some 100,000,000 adherents.  Then I heard that Anglicanism was, citing about as many.  But the actual numbers I have dug up seem to be way out of date, especially given the growth of the church in Africa.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I’ve heard a number coming from somewhere (Barrett?) that there was about 70 million Lutherans in the world.

    Veith, you mentioned that the Tanzanians are standing up against revisionist agenda in the LWF. This is also happening in other parts of Africa, e.g. Kenya. I think it the LWF is heading toward a big divisive crisis, where the Anglicans already are. And the borders are going to follow the same pattern: American and European liberal churches will decline slowly, African and Asian churches growing rapidly.

    This might go a bit into church politics – forgive me that – but there might be a chance for a reorganizing of the Lutheran churches. Maybe the American, African, Asian and European confessionals could find themselves forming something common?

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    I’ve heard a number coming from somewhere (Barrett?) that there was about 70 million Lutherans in the world.

    Veith, you mentioned that the Tanzanians are standing up against revisionist agenda in the LWF. This is also happening in other parts of Africa, e.g. Kenya. I think it the LWF is heading toward a big divisive crisis, where the Anglicans already are. And the borders are going to follow the same pattern: American and European liberal churches will decline slowly, African and Asian churches growing rapidly.

    This might go a bit into church politics – forgive me that – but there might be a chance for a reorganizing of the Lutheran churches. Maybe the American, African, Asian and European confessionals could find themselves forming something common?

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    I believe the latest (2009) official figure from the LWF is 73.8 million, which figure apparently includes membership of non-LWF church bodies (LWF 70 million, non-LWF 3.8 million).
    The trouble with this figure is, as your cited author points out, that it includes millions and millions of Europeans who never darken the doorstep of a church. It can be quite a difficult procedure to officially “opt-out” of church membership in many northern European countries, since it involves being released from the obligation to pay the taxes which support state churches.
    Also, a couple of the large non-European church bodies listed in the top ten have a background in “united” Protestant missions and their Lutheran confessional consciousness is, I think it is fair to say, weak, even though they may be very vibrant and growing churches.
    In Australia we have had some contact with the Batak church in Indonesia, which includes training some of their men to return to be teachers of theology in Indonesia. I think their time in Australia has increased their knowledge and understanding of Lutheran doctrine, which they then take back and contextualise in their church.
    So, overall, I think the situation is not as bright as the official figures indicate, but there are signs of hope for a genuine Lutheran renewal through what is happening in the 3rd world, such as the Tanzanian example you cite.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    I believe the latest (2009) official figure from the LWF is 73.8 million, which figure apparently includes membership of non-LWF church bodies (LWF 70 million, non-LWF 3.8 million).
    The trouble with this figure is, as your cited author points out, that it includes millions and millions of Europeans who never darken the doorstep of a church. It can be quite a difficult procedure to officially “opt-out” of church membership in many northern European countries, since it involves being released from the obligation to pay the taxes which support state churches.
    Also, a couple of the large non-European church bodies listed in the top ten have a background in “united” Protestant missions and their Lutheran confessional consciousness is, I think it is fair to say, weak, even though they may be very vibrant and growing churches.
    In Australia we have had some contact with the Batak church in Indonesia, which includes training some of their men to return to be teachers of theology in Indonesia. I think their time in Australia has increased their knowledge and understanding of Lutheran doctrine, which they then take back and contextualise in their church.
    So, overall, I think the situation is not as bright as the official figures indicate, but there are signs of hope for a genuine Lutheran renewal through what is happening in the 3rd world, such as the Tanzanian example you cite.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I found it interesting that these numbers show how many have communed in the last two years for the ELCA, but those numbers are no where for the European Churches. My guess is that if they went by how many communed, the numbers might plummet for many of these churches and the the whole scheme would rearrange itself.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I found it interesting that these numbers show how many have communed in the last two years for the ELCA, but those numbers are no where for the European Churches. My guess is that if they went by how many communed, the numbers might plummet for many of these churches and the the whole scheme would rearrange itself.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I would also venture to say the LCMS might actually make it on there.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I would also venture to say the LCMS might actually make it on there.

  • S Bauer

    As Kushiner says, there are likely more Lutherans worshipping in Africa on any given Sunday than in Europe and the United States put together.
    ********************
    I think it would be interesting to investigate the worship practices of these African Lutherans to determine how liturgical they are (and how strict or loose a definition of “liturgical” one would have to use to classify them as such). Beyond that, if their worship is liturgical (as I suspect most would be in some sense of the word, at least), then what kind of instruments and styles of music do they employ.

  • S Bauer

    As Kushiner says, there are likely more Lutherans worshipping in Africa on any given Sunday than in Europe and the United States put together.
    ********************
    I think it would be interesting to investigate the worship practices of these African Lutherans to determine how liturgical they are (and how strict or loose a definition of “liturgical” one would have to use to classify them as such). Beyond that, if their worship is liturgical (as I suspect most would be in some sense of the word, at least), then what kind of instruments and styles of music do they employ.

  • WebMonk

    And how closely to they adhere to the BOC, how closely they follow closed/open communion, infant/believers baptism, etc, etc, etc.

    There are a lot of things that are very different about the Western vs Eastern vs African vs South American bodies of Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, etc. I assume the same is true of the Lutheran denominations too.

  • WebMonk

    And how closely to they adhere to the BOC, how closely they follow closed/open communion, infant/believers baptism, etc, etc, etc.

    There are a lot of things that are very different about the Western vs Eastern vs African vs South American bodies of Catholic, Baptist, Anglican, etc. I assume the same is true of the Lutheran denominations too.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Webmonk,
    Just remembering a couple years of my childhood in Botswana, and many conversations I have had over the years with others that have had actual experience with Lutherans in Africa.
    To tell you the truth most Lutherans in Africa are, well, Lutherans. Often they are more hardcore on the BOC than even most in the LCMS. Though at times they employ different instruments, they are also a liturgical bunch. We could learn quite a bit from them in regards to what it means to hold something sacred and have reverence for it.
    Of course, the Lutheran Church in the Sudan, which was Presbyterian but converted in mass with their former Bishop, who read the Book of Concord on a plane flight and saw that it answered his theological problems, is still in the process of changing practice, but has recently adopted a Lutheran agenda for worship. Takes a while for things like that to get translated.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Webmonk,
    Just remembering a couple years of my childhood in Botswana, and many conversations I have had over the years with others that have had actual experience with Lutherans in Africa.
    To tell you the truth most Lutherans in Africa are, well, Lutherans. Often they are more hardcore on the BOC than even most in the LCMS. Though at times they employ different instruments, they are also a liturgical bunch. We could learn quite a bit from them in regards to what it means to hold something sacred and have reverence for it.
    Of course, the Lutheran Church in the Sudan, which was Presbyterian but converted in mass with their former Bishop, who read the Book of Concord on a plane flight and saw that it answered his theological problems, is still in the process of changing practice, but has recently adopted a Lutheran agenda for worship. Takes a while for things like that to get translated.

  • kerner

    WebMonk:

    I don’t know any of this for a fact, but even if African/Asian Lutherans practice infant Baptism, as a matter of practice there is probably a lot more adult/believer’s baptism going on because there are probably a lot more adult converts to Christianity.

    I really hope, like Snafu @1, that confessional Lutheran bodies establish fellowship throughout the world.

  • kerner

    WebMonk:

    I don’t know any of this for a fact, but even if African/Asian Lutherans practice infant Baptism, as a matter of practice there is probably a lot more adult/believer’s baptism going on because there are probably a lot more adult converts to Christianity.

    I really hope, like Snafu @1, that confessional Lutheran bodies establish fellowship throughout the world.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “This might go a bit into church politics – forgive me that – but there might be a chance for a reorganizing of the Lutheran churches. Maybe the American, African, Asian and European confessionals could find themselves forming something common?”
    Snafu,
    In the past there have been attempts more or less successful with that sort of thing. Of course, getting confessionals to get along can be a bit of a challenge at times to. There is of course the ILC, but then I don’t know how well that is functioning right now. A publishing organ that just let us know what was happening in the different church bodies, something a kin to what “Der Lutheraner” used to be in Walther’s heyday, would be beneficial for this. Now we have “The Lutheran Witness,” but often that seems to know nothing but of the powers that be in our own Synod.
    There are people in the LCMS that think the LCMS is the only Confessional Lutheran church body in the world. Mind boggling.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    “This might go a bit into church politics – forgive me that – but there might be a chance for a reorganizing of the Lutheran churches. Maybe the American, African, Asian and European confessionals could find themselves forming something common?”
    Snafu,
    In the past there have been attempts more or less successful with that sort of thing. Of course, getting confessionals to get along can be a bit of a challenge at times to. There is of course the ILC, but then I don’t know how well that is functioning right now. A publishing organ that just let us know what was happening in the different church bodies, something a kin to what “Der Lutheraner” used to be in Walther’s heyday, would be beneficial for this. Now we have “The Lutheran Witness,” but often that seems to know nothing but of the powers that be in our own Synod.
    There are people in the LCMS that think the LCMS is the only Confessional Lutheran church body in the world. Mind boggling.

  • S Bauer

    From what I have read and from reports I have heard, I also am of the opinion that Lutherans in Africa are quite liturgical and have much we could learn from. What I wonder about is how strict we have to be about the bounds of “liturgicality” (!) – how exdactly does their liturgy compare to ours. Are they almost the same or are their variations? In what do those variations exist? What are the similarities/differences between the music in their liturgy to ours? How does their hymnody compare to ours in terms of music and content? Answers to these sorts of questions could help us a lot.

  • S Bauer

    From what I have read and from reports I have heard, I also am of the opinion that Lutherans in Africa are quite liturgical and have much we could learn from. What I wonder about is how strict we have to be about the bounds of “liturgicality” (!) – how exdactly does their liturgy compare to ours. Are they almost the same or are their variations? In what do those variations exist? What are the similarities/differences between the music in their liturgy to ours? How does their hymnody compare to ours in terms of music and content? Answers to these sorts of questions could help us a lot.

  • S Bauer

    Sheesh. Sorry for all the typos…what a mess. For the worst, please read “In what do those variations consist?”

  • S Bauer

    Sheesh. Sorry for all the typos…what a mess. For the worst, please read “In what do those variations consist?”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    S Bauer,
    how exactly would that be helpful to us?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    S Bauer,
    how exactly would that be helpful to us?

  • http://www.lsfpgh.com/about-bo-giertz Eric R. Andrae

    Will Schumacher had an article about this a couple of years ago – it appeared in both Logia and Concordia Journal:
    http://ugandaconnection.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/how-many-lutherans/

  • http://www.lsfpgh.com/about-bo-giertz Eric R. Andrae

    Will Schumacher had an article about this a couple of years ago – it appeared in both Logia and Concordia Journal:
    http://ugandaconnection.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/how-many-lutherans/

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  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    Lies, damned lies, statistics…

    The ELCA’s membership/active ratio looks quite good compared to the Scandinavian churches. Active church attendance in Finland is somewhere around 3% membership. In Sweden, it’s a bit less, in Norway a bit more. Most people are members but only turn up at church for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals (including their own). 3% of 4.5 million is not that impressive. Moreover, they, like the ELCA are haemorrhaging members left, right and centre (in both Finland and Sweden, it was announced last year as a piece of good news that the rate of decline had slowed slightly, with only 50,000 members leaving), whereas the Southern churches are growing at a rapid rate. At one point, the Batak Church in Indonesia was the world’s fastest growing church body.

    And by the way, the Anglican figures are equally rotten, since in England and Wales, the official number (27 million, I think) is taken from the census, where Church of England is what most people tick if they don’t want to be ‘no religion’. Again, active membership is probably around 3 million.

    So much for official statistics.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    Lies, damned lies, statistics…

    The ELCA’s membership/active ratio looks quite good compared to the Scandinavian churches. Active church attendance in Finland is somewhere around 3% membership. In Sweden, it’s a bit less, in Norway a bit more. Most people are members but only turn up at church for baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals (including their own). 3% of 4.5 million is not that impressive. Moreover, they, like the ELCA are haemorrhaging members left, right and centre (in both Finland and Sweden, it was announced last year as a piece of good news that the rate of decline had slowed slightly, with only 50,000 members leaving), whereas the Southern churches are growing at a rapid rate. At one point, the Batak Church in Indonesia was the world’s fastest growing church body.

    And by the way, the Anglican figures are equally rotten, since in England and Wales, the official number (27 million, I think) is taken from the census, where Church of England is what most people tick if they don’t want to be ‘no religion’. Again, active membership is probably around 3 million.

    So much for official statistics.

  • Michael Schutz

    S Bauer, I’m a Lutheran church musician in Canada (LCC), have was in LCMS for 4 years. We had done some connections with African churches, and from what I saw they had very culturally-appropriate music. I don’t know about their liturgies, but I saw some video/pics of their worship services, and it looked very “African” to me, in the sense that it seemed consistent with what (admittedly little) I know of African culture – hand drums to establish and keep the beat, not much other accompaniment since tru “folk” singing is so much more a part of their culture than ours.

    All that being said, I know that’s only a glimpse into it. It’s also anecdotal and I don’t know how representative it is of the larger African Lutheran church. But I’d echo Bror Erickson in wondering how knowing that would be helpful to us as North Americans. I for one was joyful that their worship seemed very culturally appropriate to them. I wouldn’t want to see that style of music in my church, because we’d be terrible at it and would do our African friends a great disservice by trying to do it. :)

  • Michael Schutz

    S Bauer, I’m a Lutheran church musician in Canada (LCC), have was in LCMS for 4 years. We had done some connections with African churches, and from what I saw they had very culturally-appropriate music. I don’t know about their liturgies, but I saw some video/pics of their worship services, and it looked very “African” to me, in the sense that it seemed consistent with what (admittedly little) I know of African culture – hand drums to establish and keep the beat, not much other accompaniment since tru “folk” singing is so much more a part of their culture than ours.

    All that being said, I know that’s only a glimpse into it. It’s also anecdotal and I don’t know how representative it is of the larger African Lutheran church. But I’d echo Bror Erickson in wondering how knowing that would be helpful to us as North Americans. I for one was joyful that their worship seemed very culturally appropriate to them. I wouldn’t want to see that style of music in my church, because we’d be terrible at it and would do our African friends a great disservice by trying to do it. :)

  • Michael Schutz

    Sorry for the poor grammar…the 2nd sentence should have started “We had made some connections…”

  • Michael Schutz

    Sorry for the poor grammar…the 2nd sentence should have started “We had made some connections…”

  • S Bauer

    Helpful in terms of our own disagreements over what is appropriate for Lutheran worship.

    I hope I can express my thoughts with care and consideration and without getting my head bitten off. I am trying to determine exactly what people mean by terms life “liturgical” and “culturally appropriate” because these terms are used by a large number of people with a wide range of meaning.

    Perhaps a little “thought experiment” will be helpful.

    Let’s assume that the words of the African Lutheran liturgy and hymns are as doctrinally sound as our own.

    1. This is admittedly quite hypothetical – but that’s what a thought experiment is supposed to be, right? Suppose an African Lutheran congregation was suddenly picked up from the African continent and dropped down on our soil, would its worship still be “culturally appropriate”? Appropriate in relation to what or whom – to the culture around it or the culture of the people in the congregation? Would it still be Lutheran?

    2. Suppose an African-American Lutheran congregation with centuries-old roots in Black American culture used the music and instruments of Lutheran congregations in Africa. This scenario is NOT hypothetical. Would it still be “culturally appropriate”? Would it still be Lutheran?

    3. Suppose there were a congregation of white Lutherans (or an ethnically diverse Lutheran congregation) who were at home in the music and instrumentation of the African church and they were good at it. If they worshiped in that style, would that worship be more, less, or the same in “cultural appropriateness” than a worship service utilizing what is more traditional in the Western church. Would the worship be more, less, or the same in its “Lutheran-ness”?

  • S Bauer

    Helpful in terms of our own disagreements over what is appropriate for Lutheran worship.

    I hope I can express my thoughts with care and consideration and without getting my head bitten off. I am trying to determine exactly what people mean by terms life “liturgical” and “culturally appropriate” because these terms are used by a large number of people with a wide range of meaning.

    Perhaps a little “thought experiment” will be helpful.

    Let’s assume that the words of the African Lutheran liturgy and hymns are as doctrinally sound as our own.

    1. This is admittedly quite hypothetical – but that’s what a thought experiment is supposed to be, right? Suppose an African Lutheran congregation was suddenly picked up from the African continent and dropped down on our soil, would its worship still be “culturally appropriate”? Appropriate in relation to what or whom – to the culture around it or the culture of the people in the congregation? Would it still be Lutheran?

    2. Suppose an African-American Lutheran congregation with centuries-old roots in Black American culture used the music and instruments of Lutheran congregations in Africa. This scenario is NOT hypothetical. Would it still be “culturally appropriate”? Would it still be Lutheran?

    3. Suppose there were a congregation of white Lutherans (or an ethnically diverse Lutheran congregation) who were at home in the music and instrumentation of the African church and they were good at it. If they worshiped in that style, would that worship be more, less, or the same in “cultural appropriateness” than a worship service utilizing what is more traditional in the Western church. Would the worship be more, less, or the same in its “Lutheran-ness”?

  • William Weinrich

    I think the notion of “culturally appropriate” can be meaningful. However, given the assumption that the doctrine is right, what about music as “doctrinally appropriate”. That is, what emotive effect is the music intended to evoke? In Lent praise music seems, well, not doctrinally appropriate.
    William Weinrich

  • William Weinrich

    I think the notion of “culturally appropriate” can be meaningful. However, given the assumption that the doctrine is right, what about music as “doctrinally appropriate”. That is, what emotive effect is the music intended to evoke? In Lent praise music seems, well, not doctrinally appropriate.
    William Weinrich

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Bror #9: “A publishing organ that just let us know what was happening in the different church bodies.”
    Something like that for starters. It would have to be in the web, I suppose. I know that LHF, Luther Foundation (in Finland), CTS, all have some connections and we’ve had visitors from the US, Latvia, Kenya etc., but a regular channel for news from Lutherans abroad would do us all good. Raising awareness is something that should be done first before formal inter-Lutheran approaches, many people here don’t know much about the LCMS (or other confessionals) either.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Bror #9: “A publishing organ that just let us know what was happening in the different church bodies.”
    Something like that for starters. It would have to be in the web, I suppose. I know that LHF, Luther Foundation (in Finland), CTS, all have some connections and we’ve had visitors from the US, Latvia, Kenya etc., but a regular channel for news from Lutherans abroad would do us all good. Raising awareness is something that should be done first before formal inter-Lutheran approaches, many people here don’t know much about the LCMS (or other confessionals) either.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    On the question of pan-Lutheran connections, Westfield House organised a symposium three years ago with this specific goal in mind. There is a brief summary of the symposium here. A follow-up is currently in planning stages.

  • http://simonpotamos.wordpress.com Tapani Simojoki

    On the question of pan-Lutheran connections, Westfield House organised a symposium three years ago with this specific goal in mind. There is a brief summary of the symposium here. A follow-up is currently in planning stages.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Great! Let’s not forget the British Lutherans, small in number but active in networking, as it seems.

  • http://snafman.blogspot.com Snafu

    Great! Let’s not forget the British Lutherans, small in number but active in networking, as it seems.

  • Purple Koolaid

    Could someone please explain to me why a church body is considered Lutheran if they think it is ok to vacuum a baby out of his mother’s womb?
    This view of Lutheranism totally discredits any confessional progress, ime. Real Lutherans ought not partner w/ any group that believes the murder of baby boys and girls is fine.

    These babies are our neighbor and we should love them as ourselves. I have utmost respect for you Dr. Veith (and have purchased many of your books and told countless friends about your blog), but on this, you are wrong. If you can persuade me that murder of baby boys and girls should be overlooked, all in the name of a total Lutheran count, I will change my position.

    I cannot rest while these babies are murdered and you consider them “Lutheran”. This is shocking.

  • Purple Koolaid

    Could someone please explain to me why a church body is considered Lutheran if they think it is ok to vacuum a baby out of his mother’s womb?
    This view of Lutheranism totally discredits any confessional progress, ime. Real Lutherans ought not partner w/ any group that believes the murder of baby boys and girls is fine.

    These babies are our neighbor and we should love them as ourselves. I have utmost respect for you Dr. Veith (and have purchased many of your books and told countless friends about your blog), but on this, you are wrong. If you can persuade me that murder of baby boys and girls should be overlooked, all in the name of a total Lutheran count, I will change my position.

    I cannot rest while these babies are murdered and you consider them “Lutheran”. This is shocking.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Purple Koolaid,
    I don’t think confessionals are really counting them, but questioning them. No confessional Lutheran really believes that an institution doing such things is Lutheran. Though you have to be somewhat careful, because you just might find a Lutheran belonging to the organization in question by some twist of fate.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Purple Koolaid,
    I don’t think confessionals are really counting them, but questioning them. No confessional Lutheran really believes that an institution doing such things is Lutheran. Though you have to be somewhat careful, because you just might find a Lutheran belonging to the organization in question by some twist of fate.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Tapani,
    That looks like a symposium worth attending. Keep me posted please on the follow up.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Tapani,
    That looks like a symposium worth attending. Keep me posted please on the follow up.

  • Michael Schutz

    (I know we’re straying quite a bit from the topic at hand, so I don’t want to de-rail the conversation too much around this specific post. At the same time, this is good stuff to work through, so I will beg apologies from Dr. Veith if this isn’t where we should continue the conversation.)

    Trying to stay somewhat on-topic, I think what we can learn from the list is that the Lutheran church is global. Questions of the accuracy of #s on the books vs. communicants vs. attendance aside, we can learn that “our” Lutheran church in N. America is not and should not be the definitive cultural expression of the Lutheran church on earth.

    Most specifically our discussion has related to music, and if we can continue in that vein for a bit, I think we can hang onto this thin thread of connection to the original post. :)

    S Bauer, I think it’s a great start to the “experiment” to assume doctrinal faithfulness. If you hadn’t suggested it, I would have, so we can focus on the cultural expressions only.

    “Suppose an African Lutheran congregation was suddenly picked up from the African continent and dropped down on our soil, would its worship still be “culturally appropriate”?
    I would expect not. To me, cultural appropriate-ness deals with things like style of music, dress, etc. So I would not expect an African Lutheran church to be able to “drop in” to Canada and everbody not miss a beat (pardon the pun). In fact, I would celebrate that. Personally, as a white male of European descent (German/English), I wouldn’t presume to be able to lead an African congregation in song if I wasn’t experienced with that music. (But that’s not a racial issue; it’s an issue of culture and ability. In a different example, I wouldn’t want a person who can’t play the organ to lead hymns from our hymnbook on organ, no matter his or her race or how he/she dressed.)

    Appropriate in relation to what or whom – to the culture around it or the culture of the people in the congregation? Both, I would say. (Of course, that assumes that a local congregation is reaching out in the neighbourhood in which it is located, and the culture (and by culture I mean things like dress, music, level of technology, etc.) appropriately reflects the neighbourhood around it as well as the people within it.

    (Disclaimer: I’m also aware of the argument that the church should be “counter-cultural”. That’s a whole other discussion that I’d love to have. My question would be, in what aspects do we wish to be “counter-cultural”? We have to pick some areas, and I think the discussion mainly revolves around which aspects will we pick.)

    Would it still be Lutheran?
    In all 3 of your questions when you ask this, I would answer yes. (Again, that’s assuming doctrinal purity.) I don’t think we can equate “being Lutheran” with any one musical style, manner of dress, level of technology, etc. To me, the question of whether a congregation is “Lutheran” or not depends on their doctrine.

    Maybe that’s the core of this debate: I believe that there can (and should) be different expressions of faithful Lutheran doctrine, according to the different contexts in which we find ourselves. It would disappoint me if every Lutheran congregation on earth used 16th and 17th century hymns played with a pipe organ just as much as it would disappoint me if every Lutheran congregation on earth used only hand drums and sang African folk-songs.

    William Weinrich,
    what about music as “doctrinally appropriate”. That is, what emotive effect is the music intended to evoke? In Lent praise music seems, well, not doctrinally appropriate.Is “out-of-placeness” a doctrinal issue? As an example, is singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” during Lent a doctrinal issue? The song itself isn’t theologically inappropriate. Sure it doesn’t “fit” the season. (Of course, we also need to deal with the fact that Sundays are not part of the season… ;) ) But if a congregation were to do it, could I automatically call that doctrinally inappropriate? If I were to learn they had a good reason to foreshadow the resurrection so explicitly on that particular day, then I’d say no. If it was chosen out of ignorance of the church year then maybe yes. If it was automatically a doctrinal issue, we’d need to say something like, “no Lutheran congregation should ever sing an Easter season hymn during Lent”. Maybe there’d be some who’d believe that, I don’t know. I’d say you should have a great reason if you’re going to choose to do that, but could I automatically say that’s a theological error? I don’t think so.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now, since I’m starying further and further from the original topic. :) Thanks to you all for the opportunity to be sharpened by this dialogue and reflection.

  • Michael Schutz

    (I know we’re straying quite a bit from the topic at hand, so I don’t want to de-rail the conversation too much around this specific post. At the same time, this is good stuff to work through, so I will beg apologies from Dr. Veith if this isn’t where we should continue the conversation.)

    Trying to stay somewhat on-topic, I think what we can learn from the list is that the Lutheran church is global. Questions of the accuracy of #s on the books vs. communicants vs. attendance aside, we can learn that “our” Lutheran church in N. America is not and should not be the definitive cultural expression of the Lutheran church on earth.

    Most specifically our discussion has related to music, and if we can continue in that vein for a bit, I think we can hang onto this thin thread of connection to the original post. :)

    S Bauer, I think it’s a great start to the “experiment” to assume doctrinal faithfulness. If you hadn’t suggested it, I would have, so we can focus on the cultural expressions only.

    “Suppose an African Lutheran congregation was suddenly picked up from the African continent and dropped down on our soil, would its worship still be “culturally appropriate”?
    I would expect not. To me, cultural appropriate-ness deals with things like style of music, dress, etc. So I would not expect an African Lutheran church to be able to “drop in” to Canada and everbody not miss a beat (pardon the pun). In fact, I would celebrate that. Personally, as a white male of European descent (German/English), I wouldn’t presume to be able to lead an African congregation in song if I wasn’t experienced with that music. (But that’s not a racial issue; it’s an issue of culture and ability. In a different example, I wouldn’t want a person who can’t play the organ to lead hymns from our hymnbook on organ, no matter his or her race or how he/she dressed.)

    Appropriate in relation to what or whom – to the culture around it or the culture of the people in the congregation? Both, I would say. (Of course, that assumes that a local congregation is reaching out in the neighbourhood in which it is located, and the culture (and by culture I mean things like dress, music, level of technology, etc.) appropriately reflects the neighbourhood around it as well as the people within it.

    (Disclaimer: I’m also aware of the argument that the church should be “counter-cultural”. That’s a whole other discussion that I’d love to have. My question would be, in what aspects do we wish to be “counter-cultural”? We have to pick some areas, and I think the discussion mainly revolves around which aspects will we pick.)

    Would it still be Lutheran?
    In all 3 of your questions when you ask this, I would answer yes. (Again, that’s assuming doctrinal purity.) I don’t think we can equate “being Lutheran” with any one musical style, manner of dress, level of technology, etc. To me, the question of whether a congregation is “Lutheran” or not depends on their doctrine.

    Maybe that’s the core of this debate: I believe that there can (and should) be different expressions of faithful Lutheran doctrine, according to the different contexts in which we find ourselves. It would disappoint me if every Lutheran congregation on earth used 16th and 17th century hymns played with a pipe organ just as much as it would disappoint me if every Lutheran congregation on earth used only hand drums and sang African folk-songs.

    William Weinrich,
    what about music as “doctrinally appropriate”. That is, what emotive effect is the music intended to evoke? In Lent praise music seems, well, not doctrinally appropriate.Is “out-of-placeness” a doctrinal issue? As an example, is singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” during Lent a doctrinal issue? The song itself isn’t theologically inappropriate. Sure it doesn’t “fit” the season. (Of course, we also need to deal with the fact that Sundays are not part of the season… ;) ) But if a congregation were to do it, could I automatically call that doctrinally inappropriate? If I were to learn they had a good reason to foreshadow the resurrection so explicitly on that particular day, then I’d say no. If it was chosen out of ignorance of the church year then maybe yes. If it was automatically a doctrinal issue, we’d need to say something like, “no Lutheran congregation should ever sing an Easter season hymn during Lent”. Maybe there’d be some who’d believe that, I don’t know. I’d say you should have a great reason if you’re going to choose to do that, but could I automatically say that’s a theological error? I don’t think so.

    Anyway, I’ll leave it there for now, since I’m starying further and further from the original topic. :) Thanks to you all for the opportunity to be sharpened by this dialogue and reflection.

  • dgale

    LCMS point of view is more traditional,, I should be able to go to any church,, be able to understand what is going on,( visited Chilean, (German language and countries language)Brazilian and Korean churches), music we are supposed to use our hymnal,, ( I prefer the traditional hymns..) some churches have tried to move to a more progressive style,,

  • dgale

    LCMS point of view is more traditional,, I should be able to go to any church,, be able to understand what is going on,( visited Chilean, (German language and countries language)Brazilian and Korean churches), music we are supposed to use our hymnal,, ( I prefer the traditional hymns..) some churches have tried to move to a more progressive style,,

  • dgale

    oh I forgot,, wouldn’t the Lutheran churchs in India be on there? in the top ten

  • dgale

    oh I forgot,, wouldn’t the Lutheran churchs in India be on there? in the top ten


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