Left to right, CFO Randy Boushek, managing partner Dan Nickodemus, chairman of the board Dick Moeller, and CEO Brad Hewitt address the crowd during Thrivent’s  regional members meeting at the Henry Ford Museum on March 13. Photo by David Yonke/Toledo Faith & Values

Left to right, chief financial officer Randy Boushek, managing partner Dan Nickodemus, chairman of the board Dick Moeller, and CEO Brad Hewitt address the crowd during Thrivent’s regional members meeting at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., on March 13. Photo by David Yonke/Toledo Faith & Values


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

DEARBORN, Mich. (RNS) For the first time in its long history, Thrivent Financial is not just for Lutherans. The 111-year-old financial services firm began taking applications this month from all Christians.

“We feel like we’re being called to serve more people,” said Dick Moeller, chairman of the board.

The change from “Thrivent Financial for Lutherans” to just “Thrivent Financial” was not a simple response to declining membership in the Lutheran church, Moeller said, although that factor was discussed during the lengthy transition talks.

It’s more about having a long-term strategy to share the company’s Christian business principles with more people, he said.

“It will open many, many new doors for us in terms of our ability to expand and help our members and communities,” he said.

The U.S. has three main Lutheran denominations, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The ELCA, the largest of the three with 3.9 million members in the U.S., reported a drop in weekly attendance of 26 percent from 2003 to 2011.

CEO Brad Hewitt told the 1,600 members at the regional meeting at the Henry Ford Museum that while Thrivent traces its corporate roots to the turn of the 20th century, its history goes back to the 16th century and the founder of Protestant Christianity, Martin Luther.

Luther drafted a document in 1523 called the “Fraternal Agreement on the Common Chest of the Entire Assembly at Leisnig,” which established rules about pooling resources to help people in need.

“The phrase he used consistently was, ‘This is done for the honor of God and the love of fellow Christians,’” Hewitt said, adding that Thrivent was formed by Lutheran immigrants for the same basic purpose.

The new Thrivent Financial logo. Photo courtesy of Thrivent Financial

The new Thrivent Financial logo. Photo courtesy of Thrivent Financial


This image is available for Web publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Moeller said the company chose to use the Apostles’ Creed — a statement of Christian belief dating back to the 4th century — as the determining factor in whether a person is eligible to join Thrivent.

“As a fraternal society we have an application process. People have to apply. And as part of that they attest to believing in the Apostles’ Creed,” he said.

He and Marie Uhrich, senior vice president of communications, said that, in meeting with members over the last 18 months as the changes were proposed, many told them they wanted their relatives who were Christians but not Lutherans to be able to benefit from Thrivent’s insurance policies and financial services.

Randy Boushek, chief financial officer, said Thrivent’s core values as a company contribute “indirectly, but not insignificantly” to Thrivent’s financial success with less fraud, litigation and other costs often associated with major corporations.

In another example of its financial practices, Hewitt’s compensation in 2012 was 1/25th that of the $92 million paid to Jim Cracchio, CEO of the slightly larger Minneapolis firm Ameriprise Financial, according to a recent report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. In 2012, Hewitt earned a base salary of just over $808,000. His bonus and other incentive compensation was $1.54 million.

Thrivent’s shareholders are its members, Boushek said. Anyone who has a life insurance policy or an investment with the company is an owner. “(That) means that we can and do manage our business for long-term success, not short-term results,” he said.

It also means Thrivent, which ranks 325th on the Fortune 500 list with $90.4 billion in assets under management, has been able to stash away a “big rainy-day fund” of $7 billion.

“Wall Street doesn’t like rainy-day funds because it tends to be a drag on earnings,” Boushek said, but Thrivent’s surplus helped it grow during the depths of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

“When other companies were selling assets at distressed prices to raise cash, we were buying,” he said.

Hewitt said Thrivent “changed our brand … so that we could welcome more Christians into our organization. We are not just for Lutherans anymore, but we are an organization of Christians.”

(David Yonke is the editor of Toledo Faith & Values.)

YS/AMB END YONKE

8 Comments

  1. No surprise. Once more the importance of money outweighs the importance of theological or ethical behavior. This was noticed before now when Thrivent provided funding for Planned Parenthood with no restrictions, essentially supporting the abortion industry.

      • @ Larry. Hardly. The ELCA is pro-choice certainly as they are also quite dismissive of the authority of scripture cherry picking what they like and rationalizing away what challenges their human ethics. The ELCA is certainly not the total population of all Lutherans. There is also the Pro-life LCMS and Wisconsin Synod. It would be hubris for the ELCA to claim to speak for all Lutherans.

        One could argue that the ELCA of today is hardly congruent with the Lutheran church of the reformation. In many circles the questions are raised of just how “Lutheran” the ELCA continues to be.

        • Scripture cherry-picking is done by EVERY Christian sect whether you want to believe that or not. Its the nature of the faith. Its only Fundamentalists who have this delusion that they are following every last word to the letter as God commands it. They are delusional about a lot of things.

          The Lutheran sects do not believe in banning abortion. They range between allowing it in certain circumstances to allowing it under any circumstances. That puts them in the pro-choice sphere.

          The majority of the nation, which includes the majority of Christians (and Lutherans, one of the largest mainstream protestant sects) are pro-choice to some degree. If we were talking about some other sect, you would have a point. But it does not apply here.

          • George F Mohn

            At least one Lutheran “sect” does believe in banning abortion. The official position of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod is that abortion is a sin (except to avoid the death of the mother). Faithful members ARE encouraged to have it banned legally.

            “Q: What is the Missouri Synod’s view of abortion?
            A: The LCMS believes that abortion is contrary to God’s Word and ‘is not a moral option, except as a tragically unavoidable byproduct of medical procedures necessary to prevent the death of another human being, viz., the mother’ (1979 Res. 3-02A).”
            http://www.lcmsdotorg/faqs/lcmsviews#abortion

            “[Q:] If abortion is legal in the United States, how can the church oppose it?
            [A:] Just because something happens to be legal does not make it moral, ethical or right. Abortion is perhaps one of the most dramatic examples of a situation where something is legal, but is very much a sin against God. Since 1973, abortions have been legal in the United States. Abortion remains a sin against God, whether or not it is legal in our society; therefore, we must “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). THE CHURCH NEEDS TO INFORM ITS MEMBERS THAT ABORTION IS SINFUL AND THEN ENCOURAGE THEM, AS CHRISTIAN CITIZENS, TO USE AVAILABLE LEGAL MEANS TO CHANGE THE LAW[emphasis added]. Christians do not resort to illegal activities to change our nation’s laws.
            . . . .
            [Q:] Isn’t abortion acceptable in the case of rape or incest?
            [A:] While the emotional arguments for abortion in these situations might seem compelling, the fact of the matter is that it is wrong to take the life of one innocent victim (the unborn child), and further burden the life of the other victim of these horrible situations, the mother. It is indeed a strange logic that would have us kill an innocent unborn baby for the crime of his father.”
            Dr.A.L.Barry
            President
            The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
            http://lcms.org/Documentdotfdoc?src=lcm&id=1101

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