LCMS responds to Thrivent’s ‘pro-abortion’ funding

By Paula Schlueter Ross

With the revelation that Thrivent Financial for Lutherans has provided funding to at least four Planned Parenthood affiliates as well as to the NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of the President has issued a statement of concern. (Click here to read the statement, “Thrivent Funding of Pro-Abortion Organizations: LCMS Concerns.”)

According to the Jan. 15 statement, “Today’s news indicates that Thrivent not only has suspended funding for pro-life, nonprofit organizations serving women and children in need, but now also directly supports organizations providing abortion services and pro-abortion advocacy.”

On Dec. 19, after learning that a Planned Parenthood affiliate was eligible to receive funding through its Choice Dollars program, Thrivent “temporarily suspended” one pro-choice and more than 50 pro-life organizations from receiving Choice Dollars funding while it conducts “a comprehensive review” of the program.

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

The latest news relates to a different funding program known as “Gift Multiplier” that’s available to Thrivent employees through the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation.

Concerns about the Gift Multiplier program were brought to light by the Rev. Michael Schuermann, senior pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Sherman, Ill., who told Reporter he “was contacted by some people associated with Thrivent who were familiar with the fact that this was going on.” (Schuermann also helped disclose in December Thrivent’s link to Planned Parenthood through its Choice program.)

The informants shared documentation of the Gift Multiplier funding that Schuermann posted to his website, daringlutheran.net.

The documentation lists five Planned Parenthood affiliates in Columbus, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; Milwaukee; New York; and St. Paul, Minn., as well as the NARAL Foundation in St. Paul as Thrivent Gift Multiplier charities.

After Schuermann posted the information online and alerted LCMS leaders to the news Jan. 15, it was picked up and shared by other websites as well as numerous Facebook and Twitter users.

Schuermann said it’s “disappointing,” “sad” and “frustrating to see Thrivent — an organization that puts itself forward as Christian and Lutheran — engaging [with] and giving money to organizations that really, as Christians, we just cannot support.”

Many LCMS congregation members are among the 2.5 million members of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a Minneapolis-based, Fortune 500 fraternal-benefits organization with more than $75 billion in assets derived primarily from Lutherans over the past 100 years. Thrivent members voted last year to open the organization’s membership to all Christians, which took place in June.

According to its website, Thrivent is “faith-based” and its “common bond” is Christianity.

Thrivent also issued a statement Jan. 15: “The Thrivent Gift Matching Program provides matching funds for contributions made by corporate employees and members of our field organization to nonprofit organizations. We are aware of the issue that has been raised, and we will address it as we review this program.”

A Thrivent spokesman told Reporter Jan. 15 that “the ‘hold’ on all pro-choice and pro-life organizations from the Thrivent Choice program remains in effect as we continue to conduct a comprehensive program review.”

Maggie Karner, director of LCMS Life Ministries, said all of the suspended pro-life organizations “already do wonderful mercy work, with limited resources, to serve women, children and families in need. They include LCMS Recognized Service Organizations, maternity homes, pregnancy resource centers, pro-life educational organizations, ultrasound services for pregnant women and organizations providing free resources.”

The Rev. Dr. James Lamb, executive director of the national pro-life organization Lutherans For Life (LFL), noted that “Thrivent claims to be ‘neutral’ on ‘controversial issues’ and yet they have once again closed the door to Lutherans For Life and other life-affirming ministries to receive Choice Dollars.

“LFL will lose nearly $2,000 monthly in contributions because of this decision,” Lamb said. “Now we learn that they continue to fund pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL through their financial Gift Multiplier program. There is no neutrality in this. It is simply theologically impossible to claim to be ‘Christian’ and ‘faith-based’ and at the same time support the intentional killing of unborn children created by God and for whom Jesus died.”

According to the recent LCMS statement, the Synod “is in conversation with Thrivent regarding this matter and hopes it can be resolved in a way that upholds the sacred value of human life. We encourage Thrivent to clear up confusion with its members by unequivocally stating that it supports pro-life and pro-family values.

“We urge them to follow those words with action by restoring funding to the pro-life organizations that lost funding in December and by developing a policy that denies all funding for Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice Minnesota Foundation.”

The statement also encourages Thrivent members to “voice their concerns and opinions directly to Thrivent,” and provides contact information to help them do just that.

Schuermann, who does not own Thrivent products himself, said he’s heartened to see that Thrivent leaders “are reacting, they are listening” and is “hopeful that they’ll see the error of this course of action and correct it so that people in good conscience can continue to use them as an investment and insurance provider.”

He, too, asks Thrivent members to “kindly and lovingly get in touch with Thrivent and just tell them that you don’t agree with [funding pro-abortion groups].”

Said Schuermann: “For now, I’m uncomfortable calling it sinful or unchristian to continue doing business with Thrivent, and I don’t want any Thrivent members to feel that way. But each of us should be letting Thrivent know that what they’re doing is wrong. And it needs to change.”

(See related Reporter Online stories: “Synod issues statement on Thrivent, Planned Parenthood” and “LCMS responds to Thrivent’s Choice Dollars statement.”)

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Reporter Online is the Web version of Reporter, the official newspaper of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

26 Responses to LCMS responds to Thrivent’s ‘pro-abortion’ funding

  1. John January 16, 2014 at 6:48 pm #

    I believe that Thrivent specifically said that they have never actually given money to planned parenthood even though it’s been on the list previous years. They have also stated that these organizations are chosen by LOCAL chapters and not by the parent organization. They did the right thing by removing them. As with suspending funding for those pro-life organizations, I would also confirm they are following my mission before sending money so this same mistake happens again. It sounds like the LCMS is bitter due to LCMS organizations being in that group.

    • Matthew January 17, 2014 at 10:11 am #

      This is nothing to do with being bitter. If you re-look at the article and statement, you will see that this is a different program than that was discussed and debated in December. And there is significant evidence that suggests that in this program, money HAS been given to these groups durectly from Thrivent. Please refrain from making judgements before you know the facts.

      • John January 17, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

        Please see this story which is what brought the initial situation to lite:
        http://www.lifenews.com/2013/12/18/thrivent-would-facilitate-donations-from-lutherans-to-planned-parenthood/

        Thrivent via Twitter: @mschuermann @esgetology For what it’s worth, to date, no funds have ever been directed to that organization. ^anna

        (referring to planned parenthood 4:59 PM – 17 Dec 2013)

        And yes it is the same program: “On Dec. 19, after learning that a Planned Parenthood affiliate was eligible to receive funding through its Choice Dollars program…”

  2. Paul Steiner January 16, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    I’ve been an AAL/Thrivent member my entire 64+ years. I was employed by AAL for almost 15 years. I was not in favor of AAL merging with Lutheran Brotherhood (mainly because of the theological differences between the majority of the members of those two organizations), and I was opposed to the recent change from serving Lutherans to all Christians (ditto). But, having said that, I’m still a member because I don’t think there’s a better company for insurance and investments and it’s charitable giving as a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society. I will definitely tell them how disappointed I am with these developments. The company is simply not the Lutheran Fraternal it started out to be and that’s the fault of the membership through the democratic process. —I will certainly encourage them to immediately return to supporting Lutherans for Life and other pro-life causes and I pray that all other like minded Thrivent members do the same.

  3. The Rev. BT Ball January 16, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    Many thanks to Pastor Schuermann for his work.

  4. Rev Dennis FitzPatrick retired January 16, 2014 at 7:35 pm #

    Ask the prophets if they were to to respond kindly and lovingly to Israel in their sin. No! Nor will I. Either or reps get on board or there are many like me who will respond like a prophet. With anger, name calling and all that goes with our call..

  5. Jeff Licht January 16, 2014 at 8:31 pm #

    Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is a member owned organization. If you are indeed a member of Thrivent, do voice your concerns directly to the leadership and they will listen. But I do have to wonder why my beloved church body gives such an official voice to this Schuermann who is neither a Synodical official (that I know of) nor an actual member of Thrivent Financial. I believe the goal of righting any wrongs would best be served through frank discussions between LCMS officials and Thrivent leadership rather than through social networking tirades. Some seem too intent on throwing the baby out with the bath water (no pun intended) and destroying an organization that still today gives millions of dollars every year in financial support of LCMS churches, schools, our seminaries and other Lutheran supported organizations.

    • Rev. Paul T. McCain January 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm #

      Mr. Licht, given the fact that THRIVENT has now been proven to have not merely permitted support for Planned Parenthood, but actually given money to it and NARAL, I’d like to ask you this.

      How many murders of unborn children will it take for you to be concerned that Thrivent is supporting Planned Parenthood? They were responsible for 300,000 murders of unborn children last year.

      How many more will it take for you to be upset about this situation?

      Thrivent can keep every last dime of anything they have given before I’ll ever want another penny from them, given their support of baby killing organizations.

  6. Rev. Bruce W Smith January 16, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Please keep reporting on the status of this awful controversy. I do not want to react prematurely. However, if they do not change direction, getting the congregation and my own personal finances untangled from Thrivent is going to be messy.

    Thanks for the updates.

  7. Robert January 16, 2014 at 8:37 pm #

    Thrivent members, who are aware of this situation and who choose not to act, i.e., through encouraging with vigor Thrivent to alter their course on this matter and, failing that, to suspend their membership in the organization, are complicit in the murder of unborn children.

    Further, Synodical officials and clergy, who do not warn their subordinates or members of the grave moral danger of this situation are derelict in their duties and, by extension, likewise complicit.

    It is materially irrelevant whether Rev. Schuermann is uncomfortable or comfortable in calling continued business relations with Thrivent sinful or unchristian.

  8. Pastor Tom Haas January 16, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    This issue is Not one that needs to be studied. If Thrivent continues to support pro choice groups, LCMS needs to get out. In Christ, Pastor Tom

  9. Dennis Gladieux January 17, 2014 at 3:50 am #

    T D Ameritrade . . . . Here I come for sure now. Thank you for forcing my decision.

  10. Tom James January 17, 2014 at 7:32 am #

    Well if Thrivent cannot decide if it wants to support Pro Choice or not I certainly can make a decision.
    I will be looking into cancelling my account that I have had for over 35 years.

  11. Shirley Wolf January 17, 2014 at 9:11 am #

    I have had life insurance, mutual funds ect with thrivent for 45 years because I trusted them. If they do not support pro-life, I have my doubts.

  12. Don Soeken January 17, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    My comments to Thrivent as requested by the Reporter that I send a message to Thrivent.

    I am a LCMS lifetime member. I am also a lifetime member of AAL and now Thrivent. I am opposed to President Harrison of LCMS speaking for me or for Thrivent. His comments do not speak for me or for any Christian who is concerned about low-income woman not receiving help from Planned Parenthood. Jesus would be concerned with the LCMS claiming to speak for HIM against the poor. Therefore I request that Thrivent stand up to this unchristian threat from LCMS and act similar to the Pope who has said that we should stop these fights and focus on helping the poor and those in need of help. I am greatly embarrassed about President Harrison’s jump in logic by asking for the church to ignore poor woman in some misguided purity Gospel.
    Bottom line stand up to this threat by following the Bible in Matthew 25: 34-46 and continue to support the poor and needy woman and their need for health care.

    • John Thomas January 29, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Typical moral ambiguity rampant in Christianity today. They cut off funding to Pro Life groups that provide the services to poor you claim you want. If you cannot oppose abortion get out of LCMS and join the moral relativity crowd in ELCA. Good riddance to you. Planned Parenthood provides abortion services. It makes millions in PROFITS from that obscene act. There is no medical justification for abortion when the CHILD can be taken by C section as early as 22 weeks. Abortion is as morally repugnant as slavery was. This Church body was a leader in the Abolition movement then too.

    • Cindy Holt February 9, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

      “unchristian threat from LCMS”? Do you listen at church? Do you go to church? The LCMS teaches and supports (as all true Christians do) helping the poor and needy, and this includes young women who need our help in any way.
      I am greatly embarrassed that someone who calls themselves a Missouri Synod Lutheran Christian would accept the murder of thousands of babies as long as the murderers also hand out birth control. We can support women’s health organizations without supporting ones that kill babies.

  13. James Crouse January 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm #

    Mr. Soeken,
    I’m sorry to read that you favor abortions being funded with Thrivent Choice or other “benevolence” dollars, yet you claim to be a lifetime member of the LCMS. Have your pastors taught you that it’s O.K. to murder a baby because the mother is poor or because it is inconvenient to bear it and give it up for adoption? Whose catechism have you been reading?
    Please don’t cite the Pope to support your arguments if you claim to be a Lutheran. From what the media have fed us (which admittedly may not be accurate) the new Pope is not even a good Catholic. He’s certainly not an authority on Lutheran doctrine.
    Pastor Harrison is an excellent spokesman for our Church. If you believe so differently, perhaps you might want to explore the Extremely Liberal Church in America (ELCA).

    • Erik January 19, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

      Priceless, ad hominem attacks on the Pope’s Catholoicity and advising members of the LCMS to part ways if they disagree with Matt Harrison on a secular business issue. I’ll be surprised if this isn’t part of a future South Park episode. You can’t make this stuff up.

  14. Carl Vehse January 19, 2014 at 11:01 am #

    The Reporter should have been put in LARGE FONT and CAPITAL LETTERS the statement made by the Rev. Dr. James Lamb, executive director of the national pro-life organization Lutherans For Life (LFL):

    “Thrivent claims to be ‘neutral’ on ‘controversial issues’…

    “Now we learn that they continue to fund pro-abortion groups like Planned Parenthood and NARAL through their financial Gift Multiplier program. There is no neutrality in this. It is simply theologically impossible to claim to be ‘Christian’ and ‘faith-based’ and at the same time support the intentional killing of unborn children created by God and for whom Jesus died.”

    Dr. Lamb’s statement directly applies to THRIVEN’T as an organization and those who support THRIVEN’T giving aid and comfort to murder-by-abortion.

  15. Lisa Havens January 19, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Mr. Soeken,

    Pastor Harrison speaks the truth in love. He does not compromise God’s word for the approval of men. I do not equate abortion with compassion. Women and men often suffer after abortion. The church is there to offer healing and comfort.
    Many organizations give help and guidance to pregnant teens and young women. The church helps the poor.
    Children are created in the image of God, man does not have the right to destroy life.

  16. Carl Vehse January 20, 2014 at 5:44 pm #

    Here’s a Roman Catholic, January 5, 2012, List of Businesses that Support Planned Parent(Murder)hood, which includes Thrivent Financial For Lutherans.

    According to this July 9, 2005, Catholic Community Forum post, one of the corporate supporters of murder-by-abortion in 2005 was Thrivent Financial For Lutherans.

  17. Everett January 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm #

    I am a ProLife ELCA member and 40-year Thrivent shareholder. On this deal I am in Rev Harrison’s camp. Some times you got to take a stand.

    ACA took my 40 plus year health care provider and made me get a new plan. Should have bucked that too. Faith and Works, Paul and James, Not to believe in both would be a shame.

  18. Elizabeth January 23, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    Thrivent is a member owned organization. And as such, members are given the opportunity to support organizations that are near and dear to their heart. That opportunity was expanded in the past several years to include “secular” organizations – not just church affiliated organizations. This becomes a slippery slope for any organization. We cannot all agree on everything – even in our own congregations! While I personally do not support this pro-choice organization, I do know that they provide other beneficial services. As a potential compromise, I would like to maybe see Thrivent work with this organization and put a restriction on how these funds can be used -that none can be used to support abortions or abortion related services. I think we need to look at ways to live harmoniously rather than everything being right or wrong. Does this now mean that we cannot support some not-for-profit medical clinics because they treat homosexuals? Or I can’t support the Boy Scouts because they allow homosexuals scouts? As Christians we are called to be tolerant and accepting and I believe we can hate the sin, yet still love the sinner. Let’s not jump to judgment on Thrivent because they honored a member or employees request that fell within the guidelines of the program. Thrivent corporately did not make that decision. Thrivent needs to hear suggestions from their members about how we can make this work, otherwise the solution may be to shut down the whole program – which would negatively impact a lot of really good organizations.

    • Russ January 24, 2014 at 5:53 am #

      “As Christians we are called to be tolerant”. Does that include being tolerant of Planned Parenthood, an organization that was responsible for the deaths of 327,000 unborn babies last year? How many of those were partial-birth abortions? Really now, are Christians called to be tolerant of Planned Parenthood and it’s major role in the abortion industry?

    • Roger January 25, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

      Yes, a believers in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ it is not for us to judge the thoughts in another person’s heart. We are, however, to call out all Sin for the pure evil that it is, that very thing that condemns each of us to damnation but for the Love of our God and the eternal gift of His son our Lord and Savior.

      We live in a society that wants to end capital punishment as evil, yet condones and facilitates the murder of 55,000,000 children over the last forty years. The hypocrisy of that is beyond understanding, but then so much of our society falls into that arena. It is utter madness, a pure reflection of Sin.

      If Thrivent for Lutherans gives monies to organizations that condone murder, they are in grave error and must be corrected or brought down. If members of Thrivent are directing monies to such organizations, then they need to take a look into their own heart, seriously. The wages of sin is death.

      Our church body is right and just to speak out, and to speak out with the full authority of Holy Scripture. Each of us who hold to that teaching must be about doing the same, condemning the sin and bringing the sinner into the company of saints saved by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His actions forgave all sins for all time, why would we not want to follow?

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