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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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June 8, 2006

Making a case for a subscription

When congregations drop their every-member subscription plans to The Lutheran, two reasons dominate. Most often churches site budget considerations. A close second goes to concerns over a single topic or issue that the congregation thinks has been covered unfairly.

After attending a number of synod assemblies this year and listening to attendees, a third item can be added to this short list. More on that in a bit after addressing the first two.

Money is a concern for everyone. Congregations constantly look for ways to make ends meet, and the magazine becomes a tempting target. Services will still be held, children confirmed, couples married and so on without the magazine. What gets lost without it, however, is a tangible tie to the ELCA and the greater church.

The mission of The Lutheran is to keep members informed, from congregation life to the ELCA and issues across the globe, so members can make informed decisions. We can’t do that if the magazine isn’t entering a significant number of member households. So, we’ve developed a variety of subscriptions plans to accommodate nearly every financial situation.

For example, congregations not currently on a subscription plan can enroll for as few as 50 magazines and still receive the congregational rate. That would cost only $400 a year. And for those churches that can’t afford even that, we’ll assist in setting up individual subscriptions with those interested.

The single-issue is more perplexing. Readers lock in on purported biases of the magazine, say in the coverage of sexuality issues, and seek to get their congregations to drop its subscription. In fact, The Lutheran has perceived strengths and weaknesses that vary from reader to reader. People usually stay with a magazine (or congregation for that matter) based on its overall ability to meet needs. One or more areas may come up short, but it is the whole that counts.

It is my sincere hope that The Lutheran is never dropped over one subject. If that were true throughout the ELCA, there would not be a magazine.

The newcomer to this list is what I call the “splendid isolation” congregation. What happens beyond its walls means little or nothing. Life begins and ends with the congregation, and rest of the religious world is just so much noise. This applies not just to the stereotypical small, rural congregation. Large congregations can ignore the magazine as well, preferring to keep their vineyard just the way they’ve cultivated it, unpolluted by outside influences.

My point is simply this: Whether wealthy or poor, liberal or conservative, big or small church, we’re all members of the same priesthood of all believers. We have responsibilities and duties to each other and the world. And we shall be at our best when our actions are based on information and knowledge.

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