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.”