According to recent figures released by the LWF (Lutheran World Federation), the number of Lutherans associated with this body rose by some 1.7 million in the last 12months. The numerical increase was most notable in Africa, where its significance is such that it easily compenstates for losses in the USA, Latin American and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, the Ecumenical News International report printed below notes that membership of non-LWF church bodies also rose by around 200 000.
According to LWF figures, the second largest Lutheran church body in the world is the Lutheran Church in Tanzania, while the largest is the Church of Sweden. But since people actually go to church in Tanzania, in contrast to Sweden, your humble scribe suggests that the church in Tanzania is actually now de facto by far the largest Lutheran church body in the world.
While Australia does not figure in the report quoted, I can happily report that according to the last Australian national census figures, there has been an increase in Lutherans here of 0.3%. I have no hard evidence to support the following, but I'm inclined to think that this modest increase here can be attributed to African refugee converts.
Here is the ENI report:
Geneva (ENI). For the first time, the total number of members in churches belonging to the Lutheran World Federation has risen to just over 70 million increasing by 1.6 million from the preceding year.
On its Web site, the Geneva-based grouping says that in 2009 membership of LWF churches in Africa and Asia increased, while churches in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as in North America, experienced a slight decline.
In a statement, the communications' office of the federation said that the total number of members in churches affiliated to the federation in 2009 stood at 70 053 316.
In 2008, LWF-affiliated churches had around 68.5 million members worldwide, up from 68.3 million in 2007.
The total membership of Lutheran churches worldwide rose in 2009 by 1 784 556 to just under 73.8 million, representing an increase of 2.5 percent. In 2008, all Lutheran churches worldwide counted some 72 million members, compared to 71.8 million in 2007.
The number of Lutherans belonging to non-LWF Lutheran churches rose by 195 331 to reach 3 704 810, an increase of 5.6 percent.
Membership in churches belonging to the LWF in Africa in 2009 rose by 1 233 413, or 7.1 percent, to a total of 18.52 million. The membership of non-LWF Lutheran churches on the African continent was 196 989.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania is now the largest LWF member church in Africa, with an increase of around 670 247 members, or 14.5 percent, recorded in 2009. This brings the church's current total to 5 302 727, and makes it the second largest Lutheran church in the world after the Church of Sweden, which has 6.75 million members.
The third largest LWF member church is the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, whose figures increased by 267 336, or 5.3 percent, to 5 279 822. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia added 70 000 new members for a total of 420 000, an increase of 20 percent, in a country with 2.1 million people.
The total number of Lutherans in Asia rose by 200 955 in 2009 to 8.75 million representing an increase of 2.35 percent. Lutheran churches in Asia that do not belong to the LWF reported 189 653 new members, corresponding to an increase of 6732 or 3.68 percent.
Asia's biggest Lutheran church, the Protestant Christian Batak Church in Indonesia, reported 4 178 256 members in 2009, an increase of 178 256, or about 4.5 percent.
In Europe, the total membership of LWF member churches increased slightly by 250 062, or approximately 0.7 percent, to a current total of 37.16 million.
Membership in the world's largest Lutheran church, the Church of Sweden, declined further in the course of 2009, falling by 68 209, or 1.0 percent, to 6 751 952. The fifth largest LWF member church worldwide, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, experienced a relatively small decline of 2468 members, or 0.05 percent, to 4 492 121.
The Lutheran Council of Great Britain said it had an increase of 43 700, or 33.5 percent, additional members for a total of 174 300.
The total number of Lutheran Christians in Germany in 2009 was 12.9 million, who do not belong to one single church but to a series of regional churches. Still, Germany continues to be the country with the largest number of Lutherans in the world.
The total membership in LWF member churches in Latin America and the Caribbean decreased by 198 to a total of 837 692. Membership in non-LWF churches in the region counted 285 331, a decline of 49.
Like most Lutheran churches in Latin America and the Caribbean, the region's largest Lutheran church, the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, reported no change in its total membership, which remains at 717 000.
In North America in 2009, there were nearly 100 000 fewer members in LWF churches. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the LWF's fourth largest member church, had 4 623 301 members, a decrease of 86 653, or 1.8 percent.
The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (USA and Canada), not an LWF member, reported 2.4 million members for 2009, an increase of 16 916, or 0.7 percent.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada reported a decline of 8354, or 5.2 percent, and recorded 152 788 members.
• Full details of LWF statistics: www.lutheranworld.org/LWF_Documents/LWF-Statistics-2009.pdf.