Funding Frenzy

Who knew Lutherans were so exciting?  (trick question – Lutherans aren’t very exciting, as a rule)

Yet another controversy is exploding across the vast (mostly frozen) Lutheran landscape, this time involving Thrivent Financial, the formerly fraternal investment and insurance company that resulted from the merger of two smaller Lutheran fraternal organizations a few years back.  Last spring members voted to open up Thrivent to non-Lutherans.  Undoubtedly the change will allow Thrivent to grow.  But at what cost?
Apparently, part of the cost could be in funding abortions.  This great article summarizes the situation.  In the upper Midwest, a Planned Parenthood branch has been listed by Thrivent as an organization eligible for Thrivent members to direct funding to.  Thrivent allocates a certain amount of money back to their shareholders each year, which the shareholders can direct to various ministries and other causes in their local communities.  You can direct dollars back to your congregation or other organizations in the area.  And now one of those organizations, at least in the upper Midwest, is Planned Parenthood, the leading provider of abortions in the United States.     
This is troubling, obviously, as many, many Lutherans are against abortion.  According to Thrivent’s bylaws and the article quoted above, any organization eligible for Thrivent funding has to meet certain criteria, and the fact that an organization is officially listed means that it has already met the criteria.  Even though no monies appear to have been directed to Planned Parenthood yet, the key word is ‘yet’.  There’s nothing to stop a member from doing so at this point.  Thrivent has already approved it in principle.  
The larger issue is that there is not a “Biblical Standard” as part of the criteria for approval of an organization.  Not that this would be foolproof, given the broad diversity of opinion about what a “Biblical Standard” might mean, but it’s rather jarring to have it not even part of the consideration.  
Rumors are that this disclosure has begun to cost Thrivent members, as Lutherans firmly opposed to abortion begin moving their investments out of Thrivent’s hands.  Whether there is another organization able to handle their funds in a way that is consistent with their Christian faith is a difficult matter to discern at this point.  I don’t think that really matters.  I think that what matters is that Thrivent hear loud and clear that their decision last spring to pursue a larger base of clients is going to cost them some of their existing and, in many cases I’m sure, oldest and most faithful clients.  
I also have no doubt that there will be no reversal of the decision to exclude any form of “Biblical Standard” for organizations.  The die has been cast, so to speak.    For many members, the hassle of rearranging their investments and insurance policies will ensure that they stay with Thrivent.  Thrivent will ride out the initial firestorm (which, in the big picture is going to be fairly small) with the assumption that they will gain more members than they will lose.
Unfortunately, they’re probably right.  

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