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Not surprisingly, Lutherans heavily concentrated in Upper Midwest

Every decade the federal government takes a census of the American people to get a better understanding of where people are living. Resources are allocated based on this census, and new geopolitical boundaries are established.

The greatest by-county density of Lutherans (represented in orange) is in parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Montana. While the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has the predominance in membership, at least three Minnesota counties have Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as the primary Protestant church affiliation. Graphic provided by www.USReligionCensus.org

Every ten years the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) also takes a census. The group measures the number of “adherents” to a particular religious belief, compiles the data into usable sets, and watches for significant demographic changes in this county-by-county study. The results of the “2010 U.S. Religion Census: Religious Congregations and Membership Study” were released at the Associated Church Press annual meeting in Chicago in early May.

Scott Thumma of Faith Communities Today, another faith-based data-collection organization, said, “The information can make congregations think about the religious ecology of your region, and where you are in that religious ecology.” About 43 percent of religious “adherents” attend church weekly on average, though the data from Catholic dioceses was incomplete, affecting that number somewhat. Dale E. Jones of ASARB explained, “We depend [primarily] on denominations to fill in the gaps in reporting.”

Lots of Lutherans

The 2010 Report is a 726-page book filled with maps and tables that detail the number of congregations of a particular church body by state and county. For instance, according to the study, Minnesota has congregations representing many Lutheran bodies: Apostolic Lutheran (12), Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (85), Church of the Lutheran Confessions (14), Church of the Lutheran Brethren (26), Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1,090), Evangelical Lutheran Synod (30), American Association of Lutheran Churches (8), Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (97), Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (443), North American Lutheran Church (12), and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (146). Lutheran bodies other than these would be included in the “nondenominational category,” which serves as a miscellaneous storage. (The nondenominational numbers increased significantly in this study.)

Metro Lutheran will be analyzing data from the 2010 Report over future months and releasing information about Lutherans in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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