Canada: Lutherans face looming crisis with hope

By Bruce Myers
Posted Jul 5, 2013
Bishop Susan Johnson addresses the delegates at the 14th Biennial National Convention in Ottawa. Photo: Simon Chambers

Bishop Susan Johnson addresses the delegates at the 14th Biennial National Convention in Ottawa. Photo: Simon Chambers

[Anglican Journal] Lutheran delegates were shown a sobering portrait of their church’s present and future prospects during the first business session of the ELCIC’s National Convention.

In her opening address, National Bishop Susan Johnson shared the results of a financial and demographic study of the denomination commissioned by the ELCIC’s Conference of Bishops.

It shows that 54 congregations have closed since the ELCIC was established in 1986, and that individual membership has dropped from more than 262,000 to about 139,000 during the same time period. Future projections are equally grim. The study suggests a further 64 ELCIC congregations will close by 2020.

An aging membership explains part of the drop in numbers. An especially sharp decline came following the ELCIC’s decision in 2011 to authorize congregations to offer same-sex marriages.

The projected drop in membership would have financially catastrophic consequences for an already cash-strapped denomination, with annual revenues to the national church estimated to plunge by $400,000 by 2020.

Johnson described the demographic and financial projections as “a worst-case scenario” that could result in major cuts to national staff, programming and global partnerships, and even curtailing the full communion relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada.

At the same time, the national bishop struck a hopeful tone, suggesting the ELCIC’s membership and money crisis could also be a moment of opportunity for Canada’s Lutherans to “define what our core mission is and how we can best accomplish it.”

“We need to be open to the creative power of the Holy Spirit,” Johnson told delegates. “God is calling us, and indeed all the churches in North America and much of Europe, to a new thing. What’s hard is that we don’t know what that new thing is going to be.”

Nevertheless, Johnson offered some suggestions as to what that “new thing” might look like in the ELCIC. They include creating more flexible models of local ministry, deepening partnerships and reducing the size of some national church structures.


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Comments (5)

  1. The Rev. Fred Fenton says:

    Although we have far greater resources, the EC also is in decline, with aging clergy and membership. We need to find creative new approaches before we face a crisis like the ELCIC is experiencing. This is a time for research and development.

  2. All the Lutheran denominations face a demographic crisis that is unyielding in nature. Many of the younger members either drop religion or go with what their partner desires and this will not change. I don’t think there is anything new with regards to research and development that will help.

  3. John L. Romjue says:

    ELCA is losing congregations and members at a catastrophic rate for the same reason as ELCIC. Maybe time for both to honor the Scriptures on the subject of marriage, and to focus again on the message of the Cross? What would Martin Luther think?

    1. Mark Sadler says:

      I agree sir. The EL is quickly becoming another abomination of the Christian faith and history as it continues to cast aside core doctrines.

  4. Mark Sadler says:

    I agree with John Romjue, the decline is at least in part the result of casting aside foundational components of Biblical theology for the sake of appealing to the nonbeliever. The result is offering less than the full measure of the Christian Gospel and anything short of 100% dishonors God, the faith, and denies salvation.

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