Lutherans – they’re not just in Germany anymore. In fact you’ll find Lutherans in every corner of the world, on every continent, and in almost every country. There are even areas of the world where Lutheranism has taken a stronger hold than it now has in northern Europe and Scandinavia. Let’s take a tour of the planet and see just where we might find Lutherans, Lutheran congregations, and Lutheran church bodies and entities.
When German and Dutch immigrants, traders and explorers started exploring the large continent to the south of Europe, they brought their Lutheran confession of the Christian faith with them. Of the 922 million inhabitants of Africa, about 40% are some form of Christian, and of that 40%, a little under 4% claim to be Lutheran. While that may seem small, bear in mind that includes the countries of Northern Africa which are almost uniformly Islamic. The concentration of Lutherans can be found in the areas visited by Germans and the Dutch. Tanzania, as one example, boasts over 4 million Lutherans. Namibia boast over a million. Ethiopia, cradle of the ancient and revered Cushite empire, boasts the largest Lutheran church body on the continent. The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus has over 5 million members, or almost 6% of the population of the country. The Lutheran Church of Madagascar, another growing church body, has over 3 million members.
It may also be a surprise to find, only a stone’s throw from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Its spire can be seen in almost any photograph of this holy city. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land has 3,000 members who worship in congregations in Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories (notably Bethlehem) and in Amman, the capital of Jordan.
Asia is an area of vastly differing cultures and traditions, hard for any American or European to truly grasp. Asia includes the vastness of eastern Russia, countries of the former Soviet Union such as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kyrgyzstan, China, Japan, India, and Indonesia. There are tiny city-states like Singapore, vast island nations, and land-locked mountain countries. Here, too, you will find Lutherans, some forming surprisingly strong communions. India, a country known for having a Hindu majority and a Muslim minority, has close to 2 million Lutherans in 11 church bodies organized together as the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches of India. Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, has 5.5 million Lutherans. They therefore represent about the same fraction of the total Indonesia population as Lutherans do in the United States. Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore all have vibrant Lutheran communities as well. So Lutheranism has a strong foothold throughout Asia, from the Middle East all the way to the islands off the coast of Australia.
South American Lutherans
Although South America is often thought of as a “Spanish” continent, German and Dutch settlers also came to live there and brought their Lutheran traditions with them. Brazil, though Portuguese, has two Lutheran church bodies which between them have close to 1 million members. Argentina has three church bodies with close to 60,000 members, and almost every other country in South America has at least some Lutheran presence.
As you can see, the Lutheran confession of the Christian faith is certainly not limited to Europe and North America anymore. In fact the future of the churches of the Augsburg Confession may well be found not in Germany or the United States, but in countries like Tanzania and Madagascar, Indonesia and Brazil. Wherever you go in the world, you are almost certain to find a Lutheran somewhere nearby.