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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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ELCA membership remains stable

Membership in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America remained largely stable for 1996, according to ELCA Secretary Lowell G. Almen. The current baptized membership of 5,180,910 represents a slight decrease of 9,517 from 1995. The number of congregations decreased by 19--largely because of consolidations and mergers--leaving 10,936 in 1996.

About 1.6 million (30.30 percent) of those baptized members worship each week. Since 1988, average worship attendance has fluctuated slightly between 30 percent and 31 percent.

Baptisms of children (83,799 in 1996) decreased by 1,353 from 1995, but that reflects the slowed birth rate of the population in general, Almen says.

While baptisms of adults decreased 167 from 8,270 in 1995 to 8,103 in 1996, for the second consecutive year the number of members received through affirmations of faith increased by 3,163 to 65,013. And the number of youth confirmed in 1996 increased by more than 1 percent over 1995 (up 736 from 58,515 in 1995) for the seventh year in a row.

For 1996, 2.14 percent of baptized members are African American, Black, Asian, Hispanic or American Indian/Alaska Native people. For 1995 the percentage was 2.09. The actual numbers are:

* African American or Black, 49,707, up 248.

* Asian and Pacific Islander, 21,898, down 109.

* Hispanic, 29,424, up 1,306.

* American Indian/Alaska Native, 7,005, up 93.

* 4,805 members declared their ethnic heritage as "other."

In the year of its birth in 1988, the ELCA counted 98,166 African American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American members. By 1996 that number increased 14.5 percent to 112,839.

"In this age of instant communication, people throughout this church use new technologies to tell others about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the ministries of our church," Almen says. "We now know that 762 congregations or 7 percent have an E-mail address and 2,181 pastors, or 22 percent serving congregations, use E-mail in their ministries."


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