LCMS responds to Thrivent’s Choice Dollars statement

By Paula Schlueter Ross

Acknowledging that the eligibility of a Planned Parenthood affiliate to receive funding from its Thrivent Choice® program was “controversial,” Thrivent Financial for Lutherans decided Dec. 19 to “remove [Planned Parenthood] from the Thrivent Choice program, effective immediately.” Thrivent said the Planned Parenthood eligibility was “approved by one of our local chapters.”

The fraternal-benefits organization also is “temporarily suspending all pro-choice and pro-life organizations from the Thrivent Choice program, placing a temporary hold on the addition and removal of nonprofit organizations from the program, and conducting a comprehensive program review,” according to a Dec. 20 statement from Thrivent.

To see a list of more than 50 suspended organizations, click here.

“Thrivent Financial is a membership organization of Christians with more than 2 million members in more than 1,300 local chapters nationwide,” says the statement. “While our membership holds diverse points of view on faith and social issues, we share a common purpose to be wise with money and live generously.

“We listen to concerns from all of our members, and we are listening now.”

Thrivent has received “a significant amount of feedback,” according to a spokesman, since Facebook and Twitter users learned, and shared, that the fraternal organization had recognized Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota — an abortion provider — as a potential recipient of Choice Dollars funds.

In the Choice program, Thrivent members can help direct funds to thousands of nonprofit organizations, including Lutheran congregations.

Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life and Health Ministries, issued a statement Dec. 19 that shared their concern over the Thrivent-Planned Parenthood tie, since the Synod “always has been, and will continue to be, clear and faithful in its proclamation of the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death” and “will not be compromised” in that belief. Many LCMS congregation members also are Thrivent members.

Planned Parenthood has not received any Thrivent Choice Dollars, as of Dec. 20, according to Thrivent.

According to the Thrivent statement, more than 270,000 Thrivent members have used the Choice program to direct some $47 million — 91 percent of it to Christian congregations, schools, camps/outdoor ministries and social ministries.

Thrivent says it “will seek input from our members, chapter leaders and others in the communities we serve with the goal of designing and delivering a program that continues to support the priorities of our members and our common purpose.”

A “Member Feedback” form appears on the Web page with the Thrivent statement (click here).

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod responded to the Thrivent statement with a second statement, emailed Dec. 20 to the church body’s congregations, schools and church workers.

That LCMS statement:

“With the recent Thrivent announcement to reconsider their Choice Dollars Program, the LCMS is encouraged to learn that Thrivent is beginning to recognize the serious concern its members have when their Choice Dollars are stewarded toward organizations such as Planned Parenthood that directly support the abortion industry and the killing of unborn children.

” ‘We are very happy that Thrivent was willing to reconsider this issue. However, the LCMS and every one of its entities and congregations are both pro-life and nonprofit, so we certainly hope that Thrivent will continue to support such pro-life, nonprofit organizations,’ said the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. LCMS members are urged to express their concerns directly to Thrivent Financial during this time of re-evaluation of the Choice Dollars Program.”

Also addressing the Thrivent Choice issue is the Waukesha, Wis.-based Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), which published its own statement Dec. 19 (click here).

According to that statement, WELS leaders “promptly contacted Thrivent to express concern and opposition after learning of this [Planned Parenthood] option, which is in direct conflict with God’s message on the sanctity of life.”

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30 Responses to LCMS responds to Thrivent’s Choice Dollars statement

  1. Sharon Rolston December 20, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

    Thank you Thrivent for removing Planned Parenthood. We need to support organizations that support life.

  2. Ron Hubers December 20, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    Here’s my concern: Why are pro-life groups being excluded and why was Planned Parenthood considered in the first place? PLEASE stop being politically correct, and PLEASE START following Christ’s teachings!

    You have just solidified my reasoning for delaying investing with Thrivent.

    • David Gillis December 24, 2013 at 9:30 am #

      I agree 100% with Mr. Hubers. Isn’t it time we all stop attempting to be “politically- correct” and concentrate on being “biblically-correct”? As a volunteer at a local pregnancy care center supported and endorsed by 38 area churches, I wonder why you would exclude that anti-abortion effort. It seems that’s being “politically-correct” as well. Isn’t it time we all stood-up for what’s right?

  3. Steve Sheward December 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm #

    Good that they caught it. I suppose they have suspended the pro-life organizations to make sure they are exclusively pro-life…?
    Also, is there a way for us to know what other programs are part of the Choice Dollars system? Could there be other things the LCMS church would object to?

  4. LaMarr Blecker December 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    The operative words in the Thrivent statement are “temporarily suspending.” Sorry, the LCMS statement is woefully inadequate in view of Matt. 6: 19-29, 24.

  5. John Foster December 20, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

    Had I tumbled to the fact that Planned Parenthood was on the list, I would have been in the process of moving my funds from Thrivent as quickly as possible thereafter. I have been concerned before with the direction Thrivent had been moving, an indication to me that the ELCA had been exerting more and more influence upon Thrivents leadership. Perhaps it is time to go the other way and have LCMS create its’ own financial group, separate of outside influences as it once was.

    My wife and I are heavily (for us) invested in Thrivent. I pray they begin to find their way again and start paying attention to what inroads the progressive left is making into religious thought and function.

  6. Ann W December 20, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    Thanks so much for doing this. I work with Thrivent purposefully because I know Thrivent operates with the same biblical standards. I dread the thought of moving my financial vehicles to another company. Keep up the good work.

  7. Richard Harmon December 20, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    No matter what they do, whatever medical procedures they are involved with, It has been proven that (at least at the national level) Planned Parenthood is not operating in a proper financially responsible manner. Funds have been grossly mishandled! No organization should be handing money to wasteful operations! Any operation with a religious operating basis must be especially careful to avoid any potential financial impropriety!

  8. Linda Bettis December 21, 2013 at 6:07 am #

    As stated in my post on the Thrivent site, none of my Choice Dollars will go to Planned Parenthood or any pro choice organization. And I will not support any organization that participates in such a program.

  9. Heidi Paul December 21, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Thank you, Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and the LCMS, for standing firm and unwavering on the issue of the sanctity of life and speaking up for our conscience and the unborn.

    Now, why Thrivent is suspending pro-life organizations is beyond me. I pray that this suspension will be suspended soon!

  10. Bonnie Betley December 21, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    I do not want any of my Thrivent Choice dollars being distributed to Planned Parenthood or any other organizations that filter funds to organizations that participate in the death and mutalation of unborn children!!! If we treated the disgraceful act of killing unborn children. Let’s filter more money to help these moms that find themselves in helpless situations . May our Lord have mercy for these children and their moms.

  11. Jason December 21, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    Thank you for this update. Sadly, it seems as though Thrivent Financial for Christians is seeking to remove itself as an organization from controversy by not supporting either of these types of organizations, be that Pro-Choice or Pro-Life. To be fair, there are pros and cons of each organization. Many pro-choice organization offer other health services, such as cancer screenings, directed towards women. And while pro-life centers serve as a place for us to reach out to women in crisis, their outreach services often focus of abstinence only. This is a message that is appropriate for Christians with the backing of their faith who know that they are new creations in Christ and no longer bound to sin, but I don’t think it is reasonable to expect that the un-churched can muster the willpower to overcome temptation in this way. A more holistic approach is needed to reach out to the un-churched. Thrivent will probably defer to a vote from their board or their membership to determine if they should continue to support either of these organizations so as to not upset the membership who may lean one way or the other. This is how a business would run, but it is not how a fraternal organization should be run, especially not one rooted in the Lutheran tradition. When I got myself up to my eyeballs in debt, I turned to Thrivent for help (e.g., financial counseling, debt consolidation loan, etc.). But, I got no help from them and I’ll always remember that about Thrivent Financial for Christians.

  12. Cynthia R December 21, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Now if we would all get just as irritated about our taxes going towards abortions per our present administration. I could go on…

  13. Larry Cudmore December 21, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    It is disappointing that you now stop supporting pro life organizations. Just listen to this…”Thrivent is not pro life.” A sad day.

  14. Cliff P December 21, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

    This is certainly as issue we must take a strong stand on and not sink further into the abyss. How far are we going to sink before we speak out on all these compromises, and say enough is enough?

    Luther may be ready to return from the grave to straighten out the nonsense that is going on down here!

  15. Normann December 22, 2013 at 9:26 am #

    The point of the ‘choice dollars’ program is that YOU CHOOSE. Planned Parenthood provides many other services other than the services that you may not agree with.

    Since Thrivent partners with other Christian organizations that may or may not share the same views, it is completely understandable that Planned Parenthood was included. By using the bully pulpit, the LCMS has only delayed funds that could have been directed to crisis pregnancy centers.

    This seems to be another example of how the current environment in the LCMS is becoming more and more toxic and polarized. Gospel should come first. We will not change hearts by attempting to regulate organizations that bridge gaps between our denomination and others. We will only continue to isolate ourselves and fail in our obligation to share the Gospel.

    • Cliff P. December 23, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      Norman, I fail to see the logic in your reasoning. Yes it is good to reach out to other groups and organizations, but to put your imprimatur on PP makes no sense whatsoever. They are known for an atrocity against humans that reeks to the high heavens!

      Good on the LCMS to take a stand on this issue and prevent a further slide into the abyss.

    • Les December 30, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

      The Gospel without law is completely non-biblical and worthless. It does however help anyone living in sin feel OK about their choices (a wholly dangerous place to be). We are warned about leading others into sin. Not standing up for the unborn in this and any case is as good as leading others into sin. Despite what the world says, it is possible to love and be loving while being uncompromising in one’s faith.

      We will not change hearts at all. It is not our job as Christians, that is the job of the Holy Spirit (thankfully). We are only to love as Christ modeled which always included law. How can one turn from sin if you don’t believe it is sin?

  16. Brian December 22, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Why are so many of you threatening to move your money? To where? Do you think other investment firms even care what you think? Thrivent makes mistakes like each one of us. Who here is perfect? They are at least caring enough to listen. What other firms do you know of who listen?

    To pull your money when your Thrivent choice dollars don’t go to PP doesn’t make any sense. Please think before you post!

  17. Russ December 25, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    My Dad purchased my first AAL product for me 60 years ago when I was 10 years old. I have been a consistent supporter of AAL and Thrivent. My wife and I now own 4 different Thrivent products and have always helped plan, execute, and contribute to many AAL and Thrivent events.

    NO MORE! I will never purchase another Thrivent product, and no Thrivent rep will ever be allowed in our home, and phone calls from Thrivent will be rejected. Pro-life Christians must stand united.

  18. Jonathan Nack December 27, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    Doesn’t anyone find it ironic that a fraternal company that makes its living selling life insurance would be funding one of the largest abortion providers in this country? Aside from the fact that this company promotes itself as one that serves the Christian community and Biblical values, does it make sense to adopt a business model that will decrease the number of potential customers over time?

  19. Rev. William C. Cate December 27, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    There is only one problem with this… When Thrivent says they have “temporarily suspended all pro-life and pro-choice” participants in the Thrivent Choice Dollars program, they are ALL pro-life organizations! Apparently, Planned Parenthood of MN, ND & SD was the ONLY “pro-choice” beneficiary.

    • Russ Davis December 28, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      Sadly this is what happens in our sue-happy society for we know full well if they didn’t say that PP would try to sue their socks off and all too likely get some daft, lawless, fascist judge to find a way to make some insane pro-abortion ruling by which to impose his religious beliefs on Christians, supposedly so they can’t impose theirs on others; no hypocrisy there! If I had a penny for all the chicanery that has resulted from SCOTUS imposing their psychotically deranged, vile antitheist religion on Americans while chanting the bogus Constitution-trashing separationofchurchandstate mantra feces they regularly scoup from the anus! If the Congressional accomplices in this treason weren’t such godless cowards they’d have impeached and jailed these obscenities long ago, though to be fair we’re just as much to blame for not holding their feet to the fire until they’re forced to do what’s right. God save us! Soli Deo gloria!

      • Kathy December 30, 2013 at 1:35 pm #

        Wow.

  20. Mike December 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    The LCMS is a congregtional organization, perhaps we have forgotten why and how our church was organized, basically that means it’s member owned. Our servant leaders have designated a true statement about abortion and asked that we as members follow that truth. however it seems a bit selective that when it comes to the moral issue of homosexuality the servant leadership of the church, re. boy scouts issue, states that each church can make it’s own choice as to how they want to deal with homosexualtiy in their own congregations as it relates to the boy scouts. Strange to have such a strong statement about abortion and yet so wavering on homosexuality, even though scripturally they both are prohibited. Let’s walk carefully here to watch the plank in our own eyes, remember that Thrivent is an organization owned by Lutherans, and so some where in the district where this situation occured we have Lutheran members , who are taught at lutheran churches, by Lutheran pastors, in Lutheran congregations making these requests, it seems to me to be more of a general sadness over the state of Lutheran Christianity that Lutherans would make this determination of their own accord.

    • Russ January 1, 2014 at 8:19 am #

      I agree Mike. I was pleased with the very clear and concise statement by the LCMS concerning Thrivent and Planned Parenthood.

      I was very disappointed in the murky, confusing, and wishy-washy statement the LCMS put out on homosexuals in the Boy Scouts. It was embarrassing that such intelligent leadership of the LCMS could string together so many politically correct words to say something that should have been very easy to write in a very clear and direct manner. It reminded me of a joke by Groucho Marx….”I am a man of principle, and if you don’t like that one, I have others.”

  21. Kim Slowinski December 30, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Our local life-affirming crisis pregnancy center has been blessed in many of our fundraising efforts through the support of Thrivent for Lutherans. We have appreciated their solid pro-life position & Christian worldview. It is with great sadness that this recent decision to suspend support from all pro-life organizations is noted. I certainly hope that the members of Thrivent will reconsider that action.

    I would like to address the misconception that Planned Parenthood provides additional services, such as mammogram screening, that are of great benefit to women. That is entirely false information. Should you question the validity of this allegation I would wholeheartedly encourage you to conduct your own research by telephoning as many Planned Parenthood clinics as possible requesting mammogram screenings at their facility.

  22. John January 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm #

    We need to dissociate LCMS from Thrivent and go back to AAL.
    Thrivent dollars now help ELCA churches that are nonbiblical in doctrine.

    • Tom January 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      AAL no longer exists. It became the ELCA-dominated Thrivent.

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