*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 13th of June 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

It’s a special mailbag Sunday!

Today we have a question from a long-time listener- Bob Lee.

I enjoy listening to the CHA each morning as I get ready for the day. Is there a historical reason why Lutheranism is such a European/white denomination? Why didn’t it spread to other parts of the world, cultures, ethnicities? Or am I just unaware of the non-white Lutheran branches?

I was first reminded of the famous quote from Martin Luther King Jr who said:

“We must face the fact that in America, the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation”

I went to the latest Pew Research on racial diversity in church bodies and ooh boy. I looked up the whitest church bodies and found that the 2 whitest denominations in all of America are both Lutheran. The LCMS is 95% white and the ELCA is 96% white. Lutherans in America are white for a number of reasons, let me suggest a few:

Many Saxon Lutherans came to America up the Mississippi and settled apart from others. Many came in response to what they saw as “unionism” with the Reformed and thus came to America, not for religious diversity, but uniformity amongst themselves.

Lutheran churches also seem to be white on account of the same thing which can threaten any church: being comfortable with people who look like you. Now, I don’t suggest that this is necessarily intentional. I’d be interested in the demographics of the local schools and see how that matches the local church’s demographic.

BUT, I’m burying the actual lede. American Lutherans make up a small fraction of the worldwide Lutheran Church. (Now, I get people will squabble over which numbers I look at based on their definition of what a ‘real’ Lutheran is.)

The International Lutheran Confederation represents around 5 million Lutherans worldwide and the Lutheran World Federation represents almost 78 million. Both are global, on every continent. Let’s break down the Lutheran world population:

There are bout 3.6 million North American Lutherans in the LWF. You might get up to 6 or 7 million total if you count all of them.

That would be half of the number of Lutherans in Asia at around 12 million in the LWF alone. And while that is 3 million less than continental Europe at about 15 million nothing gets close to the 28 million Lutherans in Africa in the LWF alone.

Here’s a fair guess at the Lutheran world situation: for every 1 white North American Lutheran there might be as many as 40 other Lutherans in Asia and Africa (and I’m going to assume most are not white).

There are lots of places to go from here, but hopefully answering Bob’s question will give you something to think about, whatever church body you belong to. And my best answer to these kinds of questions is answered with:

The last word for today, which comes that wild apocalyptic poetic fever dream that just happens to contain some of the Bible’s greatest promises, is from the book of Revelation:

After this, I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of June 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man who once wrestled under the name of “the Bearded Bruiser” in the Lutheran World Federation, he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.