DEARBORN, Mich. (RNS) For the first time in its long history, Thrivent Financial is not just for Lutherans. The 111-year-old financial services firm began taking applications this month from all Christians.
“We feel like we’re being called to serve more people,” said Dick Moeller, chairman of the board.
The change from “Thrivent Financial for Lutherans” to just “Thrivent Financial” was not a simple response to declining membership in the Lutheran church, Moeller said, although that factor was discussed during the lengthy transition talks.
It’s more about having a long-term strategy to share the company’s Christian business principles with more people, he said.
“It will open many, many new doors for us in terms of our ability to expand and help our members and communities,” he said.
The U.S. has three main Lutheran denominations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The ELCA, the largest of the three with 3.9 million members in the U.S., reported a drop in weekly attendance of 26 percent from 2003 to 2011.
CEO Brad Hewitt told the 1,600 members at the regional meeting at the Henry Ford Museum that while Thrivent traces its corporate roots to the turn of the 20th century, its history goes back to the 16th century and the founder of Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther.
Luther drafted a document in 1523 called the “Fraternal Agreement on the Common Chest of the Entire Assembly at Leisnig,” which established rules about pooling resources to help people in need.
“The phrase he used consistently was, ‘This is done for the honor of God and the love of fellow Christians,’” Hewitt said, adding that Thrivent was formed by Lutheran immigrants for the same basic purpose.
Moeller said the company chose to use the Apostles’ Creed—a statement of Christian belief dating back to the fourth century—as the determining factor in whether a person is eligible to join Thrivent.