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Lutheranism by region

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Lutheranism by region

Lutheranism by country in 2013
  More than 10 million
  More than 5 million
  More than 1 million
  More than 500 thousand
  More than 100 thousand

Lutheranism is present throughout various regions of the world. With an estimated 72.3 million adherents, it constitutes one of the largest Protestant denominations.[1]


  • Africa 1
  • Asia 2
  • Europe 3
    • Germany 3.1
    • Nordic countries 3.2
    • Other parts of Europe 3.3
    • Union Lutheran-Reformed Churches 3.4
  • North America 4
  • Oceania/Australia 5
  • South America 6
  • Statistics 7
    • By continent 7.1
    • Countries with more than 1 million Lutherans 7.2
  • See also 8
  • Footnotes 9
  • External links 10


Namibia has the highest proportion of Lutherans of any country in Africa, at about 50% of the country's population. Indeed, it is the only country outside Europe to have a Lutheran majority. Other African countries with significant Lutheran populations include Eritrea, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and Tanzania.

  • Africa - The Lutheran World Federation
  • Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa
  • Lutheran Communion in Western Africa
  • Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa[2]
  • Lutherans in Africa[3]


The largest national Lutheran community in Asia is found in Indonesia. According to the Lutheran World Federation list of member churches,[4] thirteen Indonesian Lutheran churches or synods (the latest one added in 2014) associated with the LWF claim more than 6 million members. The largest of these is the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan which comprises almost 4.2 million members. Lutherans in India number more than 3.5 million, the largest being the 2.5-million-member Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church. Smaller Lutheran communities exist elsewhere, including Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia, Myanmar and Japan.

  • Asia - The Lutheran World Federation
  • Asia Lutheran Communion


Membership and attendance of services in Lutheran churches, as for all of the large, state-affiliated European churches are low and decreasing. Church attendance on Sundays is no longer the norm. Often, people attend religious services only for baptisms, confirmations, weddings, funerals, and possibly at Christmas and Easter. Traditionally, the Lutheran youth would receive preparatory confirmation classes for 1 to 2 years around age 14, to introduce them to Christian doctrines. A large confirmation service is held once the series is completed. In some areas confirmation is now delayed until the end of the high school.

Except in Northern Europe (see below), Germany and Austria, very few seminaries are state-supported. The training for students in theology embraces a wide range of theologies including modern and contemporary movements in biblical criticism and theology. Due to agreements like the Leuenberg Agreement (1973), most Lutheran churches in Europe have church fellowship with other churches arising from the Reformation, such as the Reformed and Methodist churches.


Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Berlin

The Lutheran faith was first established in some states of the Holy Roman Empire now located within Germany. After the Thirty Years' War ended in 1648, the Lutheran, Reformed and Catholic churches were recognised as independent churches. The ruler of each principality was given the right to choose one of these three denominations to become the state church of his principality (Cuius regio, eius religio). Some German states (especially in the north and east) became Lutheran (e.g. Brunswick, Hanover, Oldenburg, Saxony, Baden), some became Reformed (Bentheim, Bremen, Lippe), while others remained Catholic (e.g. Bavaria and areas along the Rhine). Some states saw unions of Reformed and Lutherans to a united confession, such as Anhalt (1820 in Anhalt-Bernburg, 1827 in Anhalt-Dessau, and 1880 in Anhalt-Köthen), Baden (1821), Nassau (1817) and the Bavarian Palatinate (1848), while Prussia introduced an administrative-only Union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in 1817, followed by the also administrative-only Hanau Union of churches in Hesse-Cassel (1818) and a united administration for Lutheran, Reformed and Protestant union congregations in Hesse-Darmstadt (1832) and in Bremen (1877).

The church tax, a surcharge on their normal income tax collected by the states of Germany and passed on to the respective religious body.

Modern mobility and increased secularisation have, however, been instrumental in shifting the traditional demographic situation, as did the movements of several million German refugees from either areas lost to Poland and the Soviet Union, or from abroad, after World War II. Since World War II, the Lutheran, Reformed and United Protestant regional churches have been members of the umbrella Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). Approximately 40% of German Protestants are members of regional church bodies forming the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany (VELKD), a unit of the EKD comprising all Lutheran regional church bodies in Germany, except of Oldenburg and Württemberg, however, which are only associated. The majority of parishioners belonging to administratively united Protestant church bodies in Germany are also members of parishes which are confessionally Lutheran, however, their membership registries do not differentiate between Lutherans and parishioners of Reformed or united Protestant confession.

Besides the regional Protestant church bodies in Germany, there also exists the national Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church (SELK), which formed from those opposed to the forced Union with Reformed churches in Prussia and elsewhere. The SELK is a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The SELK is separate from the regional church bodies and has 35,642 baptised members as of 2008. The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church (CELC), primarily located in the lands of the former East Germany, has 1,470 baptised members. The German parishioners of the Moravian Church, which is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, are also confessionally counting as Lutherans.

Nordic countries

Lutheranism is the established church in most of the Nordic countries including Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland. In these countries, where most people are Lutheran, the churches are supported by taxes, either indirectly through the general taxes paid by most citizens or directly in the form of a church tax.

In Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden citizens who are members of organized religious societies contribute this church tax to their respective religious societies.. However in Norway there is no direct church tax of any kind, the state church is supported over through the national budget.[5] As of May 21, 2012, The Church of Norway is no longer a state church. However, The Church of Norway is not a separate legal entity from the government, the church is regulated by a special church law unlike other religions and the Norwegian King is required to be a member of the Church of Norway.

The typical church tax, an income tax of about 1 to 2%, is collected only from the members of the church or other religious society, but the church also gets its share from other taxes such as the municipal corporation tax in some regions. Priests are educated at the Faculties of Theology of the state universities or private colleges.[6]

Many major seaports contain the outposts of the respective Nordic Lutheran churches (e.g. the Norwegian Sjømannskirken and Finnish Seamen's Mission) to provide aid, social opportunities, and pastoral care for expatriate pensioners, tourists and visiting seamen in their own language.[7] There are several Scandinavian churches in London and other cities internationally.

Other parts of Europe

Jesus Church (Cieszyn), an important Lutheran church in Poland
Lutheran church in Skalica, Slovakia

Lutheranism is also prominent in Estonia and Latvia.

There are smaller Lutheran denominations in other parts of Europe. Examples include the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England (ELCE) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France and Belgium (ELC-SFB), both of which are International Lutheran Council (ILC) members. The Protestant Church of Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine, Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Hungary, the Lutheran Church in Ireland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Italy, the Evangelical Church of Augsburg Confession in Poland, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Slovakia, the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Romania, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States, and the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Czech Republic are, among others, members of the Lutheran World Federation.

Union Lutheran-Reformed Churches

Other Lutheran church bodies in Europe, affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), have been merging with other Protestant churches in Europe. On 25 May 2007, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France (EELF) and the Reformed Church of France (ERF) agreed to start discussions that will lead to the creation of a United Protestant Church of France by 2013.[8] Another example is the Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its merger with two Reformed churches, creating the Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN). The PKN is a member of both the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Lutheran World Federation.

In 1993, the Lutheran Churches of the Nordic and Baltic states entered into a full communion agreement with the Anglican Churches of Europe and the British Isles, to form the Porvoo Communion. The North American Lutheran and Anglican churches in full communion with each other are also in full communion with the Porvoo Communion. As Anglicans are in full communion with the Old Catholic Churches of the Utrecht Union, that Union began negotiations in 2005 with the Church of Sweden on entering into a full communion agreement with the Lutherans.

North America

Lutherans of the United States
 Lutheranism portal
North Dakota, shown in yellow, is the only state in which a plurality of the population is Lutheran.

Pennsylvania Ministerium, the first Lutheran North American church body, founded in 1742 by Henry Muhlenberg.

The Lutheran World Federation includes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). The ELCA is in full communion with the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church. The ELCIC is in full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada.

The International Lutheran Council includes the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Lutheran Church - Canada (LCC), and the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC).

The Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) includes the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS).

The national "church bodies" serve their united local congregations and entities with colleges and seminaries for their professional church workers and missionaries, resources for starting new missions, ecclesiastical supervision, and Sunday School and liturgical materials through "official" publishing companies, e.g. Augsburg-Fortress Press, Concordia Publishing House, and Northwestern Publishing House.

There are at least 20 smaller Lutheran denominations in North America, with many of them being cultural or doctrinal offshoots of the main three. Some are confessional, while others are Piestic-oriented.


According to the most recent national census, approximately 1.3% of the Australian population call themselves Lutherans.[10] Most Lutherans in Australia are members of congregations that form the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA). At present the Lutheran Church of Australia has elected only to be an associate member of the two large worldwide Lutheran fellowships, the LWF and ILC.

More conservative groups of Australian Lutherans exist as the Evangelical Lutheran Congregations of the Reformation (ELCR) and the Australian Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Most Lutherans in Australia live in rural areas, although this is changing. The very earliest Lutherans came to Australia under August Kavel in 1839, as a result of the Prussian Union. Later immigrants show much more diversity, which resulted in many splits and the formation of many small Lutheran synods throughout Australia. Lutherans are most prominent in South Australia, Queensland and Victoria. After many years of discussion in 1966 the two main synods and therefore most Lutheran congregations joined together to form the Lutheran Church of Australia.

St Paul's Lutheran Church, Upper Moutere

The Lutheran Church has been in New Zealand since the Upper Moutere area, near Nelson, was settled mainly by Lutheran migrants from Germany, from about 1843. Lutheran missionaries accompanied them, sponsored by the North German Mission Society. Pastor Johann Wohlers soon left to work among Māori on Ruapuke Island, near Stewart Island. Pastor Johann Riemenschneider moved to Taranaki and set up the first North Island Lutheran mission. Pastor Johannes Heine remained in Nelson, where 4% of the population was Lutheran in 1861. Lutherans also arrived from Scandinavia in the 1870s and settled in the Manawatu, and in northern Wairarapa and southern Hawke’s Bay. By 1900 New Zealand Lutherans numbered 450. During the First World War membership of the Lutheran Church dropped because use of the German language was banned and many German migrants were interned. St Paul’s Church in Christchurch was confiscated, and in 1918 its bells were melted for scrap metal. St John’s Church in Halcombe, Manawatū, was burned down. Church numbers rose again after the Second World War with an influx of European migrants. In 2006 there were about 4,500 New Zealand Lutherans.

Papua New Guinea also has a sizeable Lutheran community. According to recent census information, Lutherans form about 16% of the country's population.

South America

There is a sizeable Lutheran community in Brazil, especially in the southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina.The community is the second largest in the Americas and the largest in Latin America. Almost 85%[11] of all Lutherans in Latin America and the Caribbean live in Brazil. The religion was brought by German immigrants in the 18th and 19th centuries. The population of most cities founded by Germans, such as Novo Hamburgo, São Leopoldo, Joinville and Blumenau, include both Lutherans and Catholics.

In Argentina, Lutheranism is represented by the Danish, Swedish and Norwegian churches, which are located in Buenos Aires, next to the port area, where they were established mainly to serve the needs of the seamen who arrived to the city. A small Danish community, with their own Lutheran church and school, lives in the city of Tres Arroyos, about 400 km South from Buenos Aires.


By continent

Continent Lutherans[1]
Europe 35,853,001
Africa 20,752,232
Asia 10,740,035
North America 4,078,950
Latin America & the Caribbean 844,111
Total 72,268,329

Countries with more than 1 million Lutherans

Country Lutherans[1]
 Germany 12,202,382
 Sweden 6,500,000
 Ethiopia 6,355,838
 Tanzania 5,825,312
 Indonesia 5,812,489
 Denmark 4,430,643
 Finland 4,146,056
 United States 3,950,924
 Norway 3,847,098
 India 3,538,912
 Madagascar 3,000,000
 Nigeria 2,348,000
 Netherlands 2,085,843
 Namibia 1,131,664
 Papua New Guinea 1,049,455

See also


  1. ^ a b c Lutheran World Federation 2013 Statistics
  2. ^ Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa
  3. ^ Lutherans in Africa
  4. ^ LWF membership represents over 72 million Christians in the Lutheran tradition in 79 countries across the globe.
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ The Faculty of Theology
  7. ^ Sjømannskirken, Norwegian Church
  8. ^ French Lutherans and Reformed Agree to Unity Process
  9. ^ . Wilmington, DE: New Sweden Center, 1999The Eight Old Swedes' Churches of New SwedenWilliams, Rev. Dr. Kim-Eric
  10. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics
  11. ^ The Lutheran World Federation 2009 Membership Figures

External links

Listing of international churches by region

  • Worldwide Lutheran churches & ministries listed by region
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