Current picture of ELCA by the numbers

Many of my ELCA peers have wondered about the impact of the churchwide vote on congregations leaving the ELCA. This past June The Lutheran gave a current picture by highlighting some of the numbers. And while numbers don’t tell us everything, they do note some of the changes. Here are some exerpts from the article:

“As of the beginning of April (2012), 915 congregations had taken first votes to leave the ELCA, with 684 passing and 231 failing. On the second vote (required to officially withdraw from the ELCA), 25 failed and 631 passed. Of those, 621 have been officially removed from the ELCA roster.” (bold mine)

Where was the impact?  Minnesota – 70 (6% of all ELCA churches there), Ohio – 53 (9%), Iowa – 53 (11%), Texas – 48 (13%), Pennsylvania – 40 (3%)

“With roughly 200 new starts over the past few years, the ELCA today claims about 9,800  congregations and 4.2 million members.”

What does this mean? Our church is changing…We are not stuck in the present and neither are we stranded by inaction in pining for some idealized past. We look and move forward with confidence like our forebears, placing our trust in the Lord to guide us.”

For more see: Numbers Tell a Tale of Change – Some up, done – always onward by Daniel Lehmann .The Lutheran, June 2012, access at

9 thoughts on “Current picture of ELCA by the numbers

  1. Numbers are always so interesting….I think a more interesting study would be a profile/character study of existing ELCA congregations. I think a lot of people want to know: “What is the ELCA committed to? How does it understand and witness to the gospel, and how does that shape things looking and moving forward?”

    I have a hunch a lot of people are wondering that, both inside and outside the church….something beyond the numbers. Or am I offbase here?

  2. Aaron, I would agree. Numbers tell some things, but not others. A character study would be interesting…and I do think those are the questions people are asking at the core. And that would be a study I’d love to do!

  3. Terri – I’m not one usually in tune with “national” demographics like this. Wow, we ohioans had 53 churches change affiliation. I’m trying to determine what this means. Huh. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I appreciate the way in which The Lutheran gives the numbers as they are without opinion or editorial. It does no good to worry about numbers. They simply are.

  5. My question is; in to what is the ELCA changing: Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist?

    “When the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod became Baptist, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America became Methodist, I became Orthodox.” Jaroslav Pelikan

    • Interesting comparisons. Having the pleasure of attending one class at the Methodist seminary in the area, I feel like there’s definitely a dfiference. The place “feels” different, and any time we’ve talked about sanctification or Eucharist theology, I’ve been able to think, “Yep, I’m definitely not a Methodist.”

      • There is something to be said for the Anglican idea of Lex Orandi Lex Credendi. I’d take a look at the service where you worship. Do they follow the rubrics (The rubrics of the scarlet hymnal make almost everything optional. Not good.) of the hymnal or do they have some other method for the liturgy? How many Wesleyan hymns are you singing in a month, or are in the scarlet hymnal?

        Methodist, Baptist, and Mega Church though have been creeping in to the Lutheran church through the abandonment of solid Lutheran liturgical practice.

      • Because we are a seminary that values experiential training, there is often a great deal of latitude in the worship services. It’s amazing to see how creativity leads both to “Wow!” moments that inspire and “Huh…” moments that show us what doesn’t work. Both are necessary learning processes.

        Our Eucharist service, though, is the stable center of the worship life, and follows the liturgy as laid out in ELW: Gathering Hymn, Apostolic Greeting, Kyrie/Hymn of Praise as liturgically appropriate, Prayer of the Day, First Reading, Psalm, Second Reading, Gospel Acclamation, Gospel Reading, Sermon, Hymn of the Day, Creed (this is the one thing that is occasionally left out, though I don’t think anyone knows why), Prayers of the People, Peace, Offering, Offertory Prayer, Great Thanksgiving, Proper Preface, Sanctus, Eucharistic Prayer+Words of Institution, Invitiation to the Table, Lamb of God, Communion+hymns, Post-Communion Prayer, Announcements, Blessing, Sending Hymn, Dismissal. Both wine and grape juice are offered as well as wheat bread and a gluten-free alternative (a number of our students have severe Ciliac’s Disease), though if we could find a gluten-free bread recipe that didn’t taste like sawdust we’d consider just using that. Albs are worn and the presider wears a chasuble. The choir sings an anthem. The procession includes the cross and 2-4 torchbearers depending on the week and season. Readings come right out of RCL. We have a Paschal Candle and we use it. We’re probably -too- strict on Wednesdays, given that the Anglicans have found a number of different ways to do worship in accord with the Book of Common Prayer (which, unlike Lutherans, they are canonically bound to follow and not change) while we do the exact same pattern every week.

        I personally do not care who the composer of a hymn was provided it has good theology. Wesley wrote a good number of hymns in ELW, but Luther wrote more, and even more hymns are directly credited to the LBW. Just because a song wasn’t written by a Lutheran doesn’t mean it doesn’t express what’s common to orthodox Christian theology. My classmates include Presbyterians, Methodists, community church folks, Baptists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, and few independents. The presence of the Episcopalian seminary on our campus, with whom we share all of our classes, worship, and community, greatly enhances our own worship and community life. While we do use and learn from each other’s traditions, the result is a stronger understanding of what our own traditions are because we’ve had the oppurtunity to see and compare. In the end, we have a lot more in common than we do differences.

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