LCMS Contracepting itself out of business

In the March 2006 issue of The Reporter, the official periodical of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, asks "Where Are All the Children". What follows are some states dug up by a friend of mine, the Rev. Sem. Scott Adle, at CHI and the letter I sent to the Reporter's editor.

Baptised Children--32,851
Juniors Confirmed--25,325
Adults Confirmed--19,153

Baptised Children--82,248
Juniors Confirmed--52,445
Adults Confirmed and Baptised--32,000

Dear Editor,

In your March issue Dr. Judith Christian asks where all the children are. A brief look at statistics available at CHI can tell you: they were never born.

In 2004 the LCMS had 2.46 million baptized members. Likewise in 1961 the LCMS had 2.46 million members. But in 1961 our people were reproducing above the replacement fertility rate: we had 82,248 infant baptisms that year. In 2004, with the same number of overall membership we had declined 60% to just 32,851 infant baptisms.

In short, our church body has been complicit in its own demise by not emphasizing God's plan for procreation in marriage. We're contracepting ourselves out of business. All the evangelism programs in the world can't make up for that: ask the Shakers if you don't believe me.

In Christ,

Pr. H. R. Curtis
Trinity Lutheran Church, Worden, IL
Zion Lutheran Church, Carpenter, IL


Pastor H.R. Curtis said...

Wow, please ignore all my typos. What a slacker. . .


Pr. David Rufner said...

Heath, thanks for the spade work you have done on this topic. I have suspected this to be so for sometime but had never seen the numbers.

Anonymous said...

In 1961 (still part of the post-WWII baby boom) the national birth rate in the U.S. was 23.3 births per 1000. From the numbers you supplied, the birth rate for the LCMS in 1961 was 33.37 per 1000. A good 10 points above the national average! This is, of course, assuming the number of baptisms equals the number of births.

In 2004 the national birth rate for the U.S. was 14.14 per 1000. Again, using your figures, the LCMS birth rate was 13.33 per 1000. A little below average!! Again this assumes births equal baptisms.

Given the significantly higher birth rate for LCMS members in 1961, the rate of decline in births to LCMS members is more than double the birth rate decline nationally. (But I think my math is a little shaky here.)

Is birth control completely to blame or are there other factors at work here?

And it is sad that there has been 0-growth in 44+ years.

God's blessings to you,
Sue B.

Anonymous said...

How does age fit into the picture? If a greater percentage of LCMS members are past child-bearing age now than in 1961, does the argument still hold?

Pastor H.R. Curtis said...


Thanks for the numbers - I think they reinforce the point I was trying to make: the birth rate in the LCMS has declined drastically and artificially.

I do think infant baptisms can roughly be equated to live births - at least the correlation would be great indeed and rather constant through time.

Anonymous #2 certainly does have a point - an aging denomination's birth rate would be expected to be lower. But why is the denomination olders on average? Because there are no babies growing in to young folk.

As for "zero growth" in 44 years - that is a deceptive stat as shown in this article by Rev. Todd Peperkorn: http://www.consensuslutheran.org/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=349&mode=thread&order=0

What Peperkorn shows is that much of the decline in Missouri has been due to doctrinal issues (like losing 100,000 memebers after Seminex). Furthermore, outreach continues apace as it has for decades. So what's the difference? I think all signs point to contraception.

More detailed statistical analysis by a real statistician is called for here - but the anecdotal evidence all points in one direction: American protestants are headed the way of the Shakers, and we're among the worst.

In Christ,
+Pr. HRC

saveAdemocrat.com said...

What is the church position on abortion? Have you heard of the 'Roe Effect'? It might be your church's problem. We should fight for the life of God's creation. Is your church indifferent to life in the womb? If it is you will continue at your no growth rate.

from a former LCMS member
Frank Johnson

rmgc said...


The LCMS is strongly and completely pro-life. We condemn abortion as murder.

Yes, James Taranto's "Roe Effect" is an intriguing concept. For those who don't know him, you can read his stuff at opinionjournal.com.

In Christ,

περιμήκετος said...

Pastor Curtis,
Here is the link to the article: