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.”)