The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


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Global contexts challenge Lutheran theology

Talk about a polar shift: Between 1988 and 2008, the number of Lutherans in Africa, Asia and Latin America much more than doubled, to 26.7 million, while Lutheran membership in Europe and North America declined by about 7 percent, to 41.8 million. Which means that now more than one out of every three Lutherans on the planet is from what's known as the Global South.

"We are a multicultural communion. In spite of distance, space and time, we are truly one," said Ishmael Noko, a pastor from Zimbabwe who since 1994 has served as general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, which represents 68.5 million Lutherans in 79 countries. "The opportunity for sharing our life experiences on common bonds is remarkable."

The challenges in such an opportunity are great, given the different contexts in which these Lutherans live. While the ELCA will continue to grapple with its approval of a human sexuality statement, for instance, "some churches in the Global South ask why they now should have to talk about what churches in the Global North consider important when previously [the northern groups] haven't wanted to address concerns of those in the Global South," said Karen L. Bloomquist, an ELCA pastor who has directed the LWF Department for Theology and Studies for 10 years.

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