National Lutheran News

Thrivent seeks members’ opinion on expanding base

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, the largest fraternal organization in the U.S., was born out of two existing mutual insurance organizations, Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL, founded in Wisconsin in 1902) and Lutheran Brotherhood (LB, founded in Minnesota in 1917). In 2001, AAL and LB merged to form Thrivent Financial.

A century ago, life insurance was an unfamiliar and unaffordable concept for many. According to Thrivent’s website, “Fraternal benefit societies were formed so people with a common bond — typically religious, ethnic, or occupational — could help one another when tragedy struck.”

Building on its Lutheran foundation and tradition of reaching out and helping others, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans is now asking its benefit members to vote on extending its common bond to serve more Christians. On March 1, benefit members began voting about changing the Articles of Incorporation that would officially welcome more Christians to membership in the fraternal benefit society; voting will continue through April 30.

“This is one of the most important decisions in Thrivent Financial’s history and we want our members to know about this opportunity and have their voices heard by voting,” said Brad Hewitt, president and CEO of Thrivent Financial. “Thrivent Financial benefit members are our owners and they help determine the direction of the organization.”

Benefit members have been debating this vote on social media, such as Facebook. While many are excited about the opportunity to invite others to join this Lutheran-heritage organization, others are concerned about the loss of Lutheran identity.

“Thrivent … best honors its Lutheran heritage by continuing to grow its membership among Lutherans and strengthen those Christian communities that its members support,” offered Laurie Wilkinson, Thrivent’s director of church relations. “The vast majority of Thrivent members are Lutheran. If our members approve extending our common bond, we will continue to serve Lutheran members and their communities. We are not moving away from Lutherans.”

What is faithful to the Lutheran identity?

Thrivent Financial has been formally considering the extension for more than a year, conducting member research to determine how members felt about the matter. The Thrivent Board unanimously voted in favor of amending the Articles to extend the common bond, and are now asking benefit members for approval.

“If Thrivent Financial’s common bond is extended, we believe other Christians who want to join our organization would be attracted to our mission of strengthening Christian communities by helping members to be wise with money and to live generously,” explained Wilkinson.

The common bond extension will pass if a majority of the benefit members who vote approve the move.

Thrivent members can cast their vote via paper ballot, online, or by telephone. To vote, Thrivent members should contact their local financial representative or go to www.thrivent.com/vote.

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