National Lutheran News

Thrivent members vote to extend fraternal eligibility

Thrivent Financial for Lutherans announced June 7 that its membership approved an extension of its “common bond,” which will allow the 111-year-old fraternal benefit society to serve Christians beyond the Lutheran communities. Seventy-two percent of Thrivent members who cast their votes during the March 1-April 30 timeframe voted in favor of revising the organization’s articles of incorporation.

Timothy Schwan

Strategic discussions about such a change had taken place for a number of years, even before the merger of Lutheran Brotherhood and Aid Association for Lutherans in 2002, according to Timothy Schwan, vice president of church and community engagement for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. More serious discussions began over a year ago.

In May 2012, the Thrivent board unanimously voted in favor of amending the Articles of Incorporation to extend the common bond and to submit the proposed amendment to a benefit member vote for approval.

Nearly 425,000 members participated in this historic vote. “The number we feel best about is that 21 percent of our members voted,” explained Schwan to Metro Lutheran. Twice the number of a normal member vote, this support demonstrates the members’ investment, offered Schwan.

A continued commitment to Lutherans

Brad Hewitt, president and CEO of Thrivent, said of the vote: “One of the unique aspects of Thrivent is that our benefit members are our owners, so they get to make these important decisions. We are certainly excited about the possibilities of serving more Christians. However, we are looking at this from a long-term perspective and changes will be gradual.

“Over the short- and the long-term, one thing remains the same though: Our commitment to serving Lutherans and strengthening the Lutheran community remains as strong as ever. We value our Lutheran members and our heritage and that will never change, even as we move forward in a new chapter for the organization.”

According to Schwan there will be little immediate change because of the vote, as Thrivent develops an infrastructure that is more welcoming of other Christians. The only significant immediate change will be the intentionality of outreach and welcome to new potential members. And, contrary to some media reports, the name will not change, he stressed.

The vote was conducted, and certified, by Election America, a third-party election services company.

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