Thrivent is the made up name for the merger of two Lutheran institutions: The Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood. These were “fraternal” organizations that sold life insurance, IRAs, and other financial services exclusively to Lutherans. (There are equivalent groups for Catholics and, I believe, other churches.) In return, the AAL and LB funded programs for congregations, did matching fund donations for various charities and ministries, and became staples of the Lutheran sub-culture. (Every congregation had a chapter with annual meetings and fun activities. Church dinners and pot-lucks nearly always had AAL or LB napkins and paper cups.)
A few years ago, the two competing organizations merged and gradually started going more corporate. This past year, Thrivent members voted to drop its exclusively Lutheran identity, offering its services to all Christians. That was controversial, but it passed. Recently, the word got out that Planned Parenthood is one of the charities that Thrivent is willing to support for a major philanthropic program . That sparked a furor among members of the pro-life Lutheran denominations (LCMS, WELS, ELS, and some smaller associations and independent congregations), though the fraternals have always been pan-Lutheran, with ELCA members as well, and Thrivent now must cater to “all Christians.” But, being responsive to its constituents, Thrivent has just announced that it will no longer be willing to funnel money to Planned Parenthood. But it has also suspended funding for pro-life organizations as well!From Jeremy Weber, Thrivent Suspends All Pro-Life and Pro-Choice Groups from Lutheran Charity Program | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com:
Today a major Christian financial services organization temporarily suspended all pro-life and pro-choice groups from a member-driven charity program that has donated $120 million since 2010.
Thrivent Financial for Lutherans announced today that, in the wake of outcry over one of its 1,300 local chapters approving a Planned Parenthood affiliate for eligibility in its Thrivent Choice program, the 2.5-million-member ministry is “temporarily suspending all pro-choice and pro-life organizations [from the program], placing a temporary hold on the addition and removal of nonprofit organizations from the program, and conducting a comprehensive program review.”
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) had protested the inclusion of Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, stating:
[We are] deeply concerned by the news that Thrivent Financial has recognized [a] Planned Parenthood [affiliate] as a potential recipient of funding through its Thrivent Choice Dollars grant program. The LCMS always has been, and will continue to be, clear and faithful in its proclamation of the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death. We are currently in conversation with Thrivent Financial and pray for a God-pleasing resolution to this matter so that the pro-life witness of individual Lutherans and the LCMS will not be compromised.
Thrivent noted that the nominating chapter had agreed to withdraw the Planned Parenthood affiliate from the charity program, which it said more than 270,000 members have used to direct some $47 million—”91% of it to Christian congregations, schools, camps/outdoor ministries, and social ministries.”
On Twitter, Thrivent noted that members voted in 2012 to have the ability to add eligible groups to the donation program at the local not corporate level. Responding to pro-life critics regarding the Planned Parenthood affiliate, it also tweeted, “For what it’s worth, to date, no funds have ever been directed to that organization.”
“While our membership holds diverse points of view on faith and social issues,” said Thrivent, “we share a common purpose to be wise with money and live generously.”