This month marks the fifth anniversary of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions to open our roster to partnered gays and lesbians and the blessing of same-sex relationships. After much controversy, membership and financial declines, impassioned exchanges on both sides of the issues—not to mention simple old-fashioned hand-wringing — let’s take a walk on the positive side.
The ELCA is still some 9,500 congregations with 3.95 million members. In the most recent year for which statistics are available (2012), we had 7,472 more baptisms than deaths, hopefully deflating comments about a dying church. Regular giving by members totaled nearly $1.8 billion while total receipts reached $2.45 billion. The total value of congregational properties and assets was $19.7 billion, with total indebtedness of $1.8 billion, or a respectable and very manageable 9.1 percent. And 64.18 percent of our congregations had no debt at all.
The church’s Mission Investment Fund, which uses investments from members to fund building and renovation loans to congregations and ministries, saw its total assets rise 3 percent to $663 million. And the Endowment Fund Pooled Trust, Fund A, an investment vehicle available to any ELCA congregation, synod or related entity, recently noted that its assets surpassed $500 million.
Last year the Churchwide Assembly took the confident step of authorizing Always Being Made New: The Campaign for the ELCA. This $198 million campaign represents a 64 percent increase in designated funding for congregational, leadership, hunger and poverty, and global church ministries over five years.
The list goes on, but you get the point. Things are happening in our church that regularly and routinely point to our health as an institution and our engagement with the world.
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© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers