Thrivent: Repent or Take Off the Fleece

logo_thrivent_home

Last week a financial representative from Thrivent stopped by my house. The purpose of his visit was 2-fold: to drop off some materials advertising an upcoming seminar he wanted me to promote in my congregations, and also to respond to some concerns he’d heard that I had with Thrivent via one of my members.

I appreciated his visit and also the fact that he did not try to justify Thrivent’s decision to remain “neutral” on the issues of abortion and homosexuality (you can find Thrivent’s neutrality policy here: https://service.thrivent.com/forms/thriventchoice/neutrality.html. In fact, he even expressed his own disappointment in Thrivent’s neutrality policy, himself being an LCMS Lutheran.

However, the rep encouraged me to continue to promote Thrivent in the congregations I serve despite all of this, thus, the posters and bulletin inserts he left with me. His reasoning was this: even though Thrivent isn’t perfect, at least they aren’t as bad as everyone else. He expressed his frustration that the LCMS publically expressed their concerns with Thrivent (http://blogs.lcms.org/2014/lcms-initial-reaction-to-thrivents-financial-neutrality-policy) while continuing to do business with MetLife, who administers the Concordia Retirement Savings plan (http://www.concordiaplans.org/detailpage.aspx?ID=437), despite their “long history of commitment to the LGBT community” (https://www.metlife.com/lgbt/index.html). The rep’s logic was this: even though Thrivent won’t take a position either way on issues of sexual orientation, at least they aren’t active in supporting the LGBT community.

Should the LCMS utilize the services of MetLife, despite their support of the LGBT community? I don’t know. The Bible is clear that much of what the LGBT community advocates is sexual sin, and this is something Christians and churches ought not promote. I’m inclined to think that the only way we can avoid working with those who promote sin is to retreat from the world—and Christians are certainly not called to that. At least MetLife doesn’t claim to be a Christian organization.

And that’s the heart of the problem with Thrivent. If they can’t take a biblical stand on clearly biblical issues like abortion and sexual orientation, they should quit pretending to be a Christian organization. The “About Us” page of Thrivent’s website says, “Thrivent Financial is a financial services organization that helps Christians be wise with money and live generously,” (https://www.thrivent.com/aboutus/index.html), and their current tagline is “connecting faith and finances for good.”

If their goal is to connect faith and finances, shouldn’t Thrivent support pro-life organizations? Do they consider it “unwise” to support life? Can one remain truly remain neutral when it comes to taking a stand on the fifth and sixth commandments? Jesus says, “Whoever is not with me is against me and whoever does not gather with me scatters,” (Luke 11:23). Love for the things of the world (1 John 2:15—16) and the desire for the approval of man (Galatians 1:10) seems to be driving this “neutrality” decision, not a commitment to faithful Christian stewardship.   

To be fair, there are many within Thrivent who are disappointed with Thrivent’s new “neutrality” policy. But that’s not enough. Christians (and Christian organizations) cannot be neutral when it comes to confessing the truth of God’s Word. You’re either with Jesus or you’re against Him. And, for my part, If I’m going to do business with a wolf, I’d rather it not come to me in sheep’s clothing. So Thrivent, here’s a simple plea: repent, re-commit yourself to Christian values, or please take off the fleece. 

Epilogue: As for the materials the rep left for me on the upcoming seminar, I’m thinking about adopting my own “neutrality policy” when it comes to promoting financial service organizations in my congregations.


Comments

Thrivent: Repent or Take Off the Fleece — 30 Comments

  1. I think another noteworthy perspective on this is that the idea is still out there that Thrivent is Lutheran. And as long as that idea is out there, Lutherans will be poisoned by the ELCA religion promoted by Thrivent, expressed in Thrivent’s publications as well as in the newly established “neutrality policy” (which is the word Thrivent has chosen to use for its policy of hostility toward the unborn, or at least toward those who speak up for them, as a reaction to a great number of Thrivent’s members having had the insolence to do so).

    It is evident, for example, that there are LCMS-members who are actually convinced that because Thrivent is supposedly Lutheran, and because Thrivent has also contributed to some good things over the years, it is wrong for Lutherans to express disagreement with Thrivent’s so-called “neutrality” policy, or to disagree with it to begin with, by considering support for the slaughter of the unborn problematic, and by considering it a serious matter.

    If anybody is interested, one can see this attitude clearly expressed in a few comments (mostly made by Thrivent-employees or their close relatives) to the “LCMS initial reaction to Thrivent’s ‘Financial Neutrality Policy’” posting on the synodical web site.

    (it is a little tricky to find the posting “LCMS initial reaction to Thrivent’s ‘Financial Neutrality Policy’”, since it has not been feature on the home page for quite a while – but if one types “thrivent” into the search engine of the home page it should show up on the list of postings).

  2. Exactly. If you want to be called Lutheran, you can’t be neutral. LCMS should have done something about the metlife situation before Obamacare took effect.

  3. Who administers the Catholic’s insurance plans etc? Anyway, money talks. Why can’t Concordia just contract with a different company or better yet start their own. They are big enough. There used to be AAL and LB and that was when there were far fewer folks with far less funds. Now with more people and more money surely it is feasible to just have our own company with the just the more conservative Lutheran synods. On average the religious are good risks compared with the general public.

  4. “Thrivent Financial is a financial services organization that helps Christians be wise with money and live generously,”

    Is it just me that does not see in that statement that they do not claim to be a Christian organisation, rather just an organisation that helps Christians?

  5. @Stefan #4 No, Stefan, it is not just you. As much as I despise saying this, Thrivent is right and many are wrong – in this respect: Thrivent is no more a Christian organization than the USA is a Christian country. Kingdom of the left. They are profane. They are using the LCMS and other churches to promote a product. Savvy business. But we let them. Fool me once, your fault. Fool me twice, mine. Never in an article does the call go out for repentance on our end.

    If Mrs. Hume wants to start her own insurance company, through the church, she is mixing the two kingdoms, and she will still end up with an insurance company, but not a “Christian” one. That’s just putting lipstick on a pig. If I had my way, the LCMS would have a committee every few years to let bids out for the Concordia plan, management of the Foundation, and even Church Extension monies. We don’t need all those staff members on LCMS payroll doing all those kingdom of the left jobs whenever many, if not most, of the time the secular companies do it better anyhow. Free enterprise will promote competition and the ever fattening wallets of the LCMS bureaucracy will get put on a diet. All this latest debacle has done is reveal to many, especially pastors, that they have been used to promote an insurance company. From this article, it sounds like they are finally starting to get it right.

  6. Stefan :
    “Thrivent Financial is a financial services organization that helps Christians be wise with money and live generously,”
    Is it just me that does not see in that statement that they do not claim to be a Christian organisation, rather just an organisation that helps Christians?

    The problem (well, one problem) is that that particular statement was not always how Thrivent identified itself, nor is it always now …

  7. @Stefan #4

    They have BECOME this. However, as Jais mentions, that is not how they used to refer to themselves. Nor is it completely accurate to say this is how they currently identify themselves. On their “ABOUT US” page, they still identify themselves by saying: “We’re a faith-based organization, called to care for others.” If not Christianity, what “faith” are they “based” upon?

    My difficulty with Thrivent in this situation is simple. They are a MEMBERSHIP organization. Therefore, their decisions and actions are *all* ON BEHALF OF their members. As such, the activity of the organization as a whole IS the activity of the individual members acting together through the organization. Therefore, when the treasurer of THRIVENT signs a check for Planned Parenthood, de-facto *I* am signing a check for Planned Parenthood.

    This differs from a normal commercial company with whom I contract for services. I pay them a fee to do specific tasks in my name on on my behalf. The other tasks they do, even if they use the profit from the fee which I pay them, they do apart from my intention, assent, or direction and therefore they do without my complicity. I may decide to do business with a company BECAUSE they promise to do something with the profit – in which case – I become complicit because of my intent to help them in their goal.

    The latter circumstance applies to the LCMS/MetLife arrangement. The LCMS has a responsibility to WARN MetLife that their practices are wrong and seek to dissuade them from continuing. To be sure, one very effective way of expressing such a warning is to cease commercial ties as it most clearly expresses displeasure with an activity when that activity is cited as the reason for the termination of the relationship. But so long as the agreement/contract making another party your agent doesn’t extend to committing sin ON YOUR BEHALF, you are not responsible for their sin. MetLife bears it’s own sin for funding PP, it does not redound to the LCMS or any other MetLife contract holder.

    Again, this differs substantively from a MEMBERSHIP organization which, by its nature, acts in the name on on behalf of its members in all of its activities.

    If THRIVENT ceased to be a MEMBERSHIP organization and became simply another “financial services company” – this issue would be moot (so long as they cease a profession that they are “faith-based” and claim to promote “Christian” ideals).

    The comparison between the MetLife/LCMS situation and the Thrivent situation is a comparison between apples and flying monkeys (even a comparison of “apples and oranges” is a comparison of fruit).

  8. Speaking of Thrivent as a membership organisation:
    I am puzzled to begin with by the claims that Thrivent Management is morally entitled to do whatever they want with the charitable funds available, and that it is illegitimate for the members to have opinions on this.

    But even more puzzled am I by the presentation of the whole affari (typically given by Thrivent employees) that Thrivent management has found itself caught between a rock and a hard place in this issue.

    I can see how the LCMS can be a hard place (in this metaphor as well as in so many other contexts), and the other Christian Lutheran churches; but who is the rock, other than Thrivent management itself?

    I have looked in vain for any indication that anybody other than Thrivent management itself has insisted that it Thrivent on the one hand would not be part of financing the slaughter on the unborn, it would not be legitimate for Thrivent on the other hand to financially support agencies and institution that would actually aid pregnant women in difficult situations in a life- and faith affirming manner.

    Among the comments posted on Thrivent’s own web site about this the vast majority expresses outrage at Thrivent’s decision – whereas the most severe outrage I have come upon railing against Thrivent members objecting to their organisation funding the slaying of unborn children is from Pastor Robert Fleischmann, National Director of the WELS-affiliated Christian Life Resources, which, is another puzzling matter all to itself.

    As it appears, this seems to be mostly a conflict between Thrivent Management and Thrivent Members.

    And the “neutrality policy” seems to be a hostile act engineered to punish the Christian Thrivent members who have had the insolence to speak up for the unborn. Something along the lines of: “If we cannot support and endorse the charities of which we approve without you interfering in (y)our business, then your charities won’t get any money, either. So there! See what you did!”

  9. O, and the latest issue of Thrivent Magazine not mentioning this matter with a word, which – according, again, to Thrivent Employees defending Thrivent’s disregard for the life of the unborn – has taken up so much time and effort within the Organisation; to me that seems to indicate that Thrivent Management somehow still maintains some hope that a portion of the membership might still be kept unaware of the anti-pro-life position Thrivent has taken. Or in other words: that Thrivent is still hoping to be able to benefit from the illusion that Thrivent is still a Lutheran and/or Christian organisation.

  10. Note that now that Thrivent is a “Christian” Fraternal organization rather then Lutheran, they will now be supporting other non Lutheran seminaries, churches etc… ( I have a e-mail from Thrivent confirming such.) Do I want money from my investments supporting false doctrine? No! (Yes the ELCA has much false doctrine, but at lest they “said” that they confessed the Augsburg Confession and believed in Justification by Faith.) They changed over the years not Thrivent, now Thrivent has changed.

    Now, yes, possibly, Met Life does support things that I find objectionable. I do not know what Met Life supports and as far as I know have no investments with Met Life through Concordia Plans. They do not claim to be Christian or Lutheran. They exist to make money and make money for their clients. In this case it is buyer beware.

    So what to do with Thrivent? Here are some of my suggestions.

    1. As a congregation still take still take the “Thrivent Choice” Dollars. After all church members bought AAL/Lutheran Brotherhood/Thrivent products to help “Lutheran Church causes etc.” Again Thrivent has changed, not our members.

    2. Do not withdraw your funds from Thrivent just because of this change. Withdraw based on good financial principals etc…

    Example. My wife and I have investments with Thrivent. We are waiting to withdraw our investments when the penalty for early withdraw expires.

    3. Find a different company in which to invest your new money. Yes, secular companies such as Edward Jones, Scott Trade etc… will give to things we will find objectionable. But they make no pretense of being “Christian” or “Lutheran” and or having faith principals.

    These are my thoughts, but what I would really like to see is a paper, a report form CTCR or one of our Pastors on Fraternal Organizations.

    What makes them acceptable or unacceptable to be involved or associated. For example are not the Masons. Elks, Moose etc Fraternal organizations? We are opposed to those organizations. What makes Thrivent different?

  11. I don’t personally agree with Thrivent’s neutrality, but we holier-than-thou Lutherans need to loosen up a bit. Thrivent is a separate nonprofit organization that must cater to Christians of many stripes. Thrivent is not the LCMS seminary. It’s hypocritical to buy fuel from a non-Christian gas station while withdrawing one’s business from a Christian organization which isn’t sufficiently orthodox.

  12. What’s lost in your analogy is the character of Thrivent’s business model. They are not merely another business from which people purchase goods and services. They are a membership organization (“Fraternal Benefits Society”). The decisions and actions of the corporation are an expression of “the collective will” of the membership. The doing of the corporation *IS* the doing of it’s members (in those areas where the membership has authorized actions and decisions on its behalf).

    The corner gas-station does not speak in my name or on my behalf. Thrivent speaks in the name and on behalf of its members.

    In part, the mission of Thrivent states, “Our purpose is to serve our members and society by
    guiding both to be wise with money and live generously,” and “We believe that all we have is a gift from God and that generosity is an expression of faith,” (Thrivent Mission Statement: https://www.thrivent.com/aboutus/ourorganization/mission_vision_values.html).

    As a result, the “neutrality policy” is a statement made in the name and on behalf of the members that giving to organizations that actively work to end abortion is “unwise” and as an “expression of faith” by it’s members indicates that the membership believes that God is opposed to funding these controversial groups.

    As a sidebar – I find it intriguing that so often the charge is made that those who insist upon correct theology do not take that theology into the public square and live it. In this instance and in the instance of OBAMACARE, when people endeavor to do just that, they are told to ignore theology in favor of some man-made ideal of “the greater good.”

    Why is it so wrong that that people of faith wish to live a life of integrity and honesty and actually live and act in all way according what they believe?

  13. @B Morten #12
    I am not really sure that if one is displeased to learn of a non-Lutheran and anti-Christian testimony given by a so-called faith-based membership organisation to which one belongs – because when one joined this so-called faith-based membership organisation it claimed to be Lutheran and Christian – one is therefore necessarily a “holier-than-thou Lutheran”.

    I am not sure, either, that choosing not to continue to belong to and thus identify with a so-called faith-based membership organisation in the policies and practices of which one can no longer recognise one’s own faith, a Christian necessarily becomes a hypocrite by doing business with secular business that make no claims whatsoever, true or untrue, of being Lutheran or Christian or otherwise faith-based, wherefore doing business with them can not in any way be equated with making a confession of faith.

    It seems to me that these are very severe accusations to make, and that this is very judgemental language to employ.

    I am not sure, either, that the free choice made by a so-called faith-based membership organisation to invite non-Lutherans into its membership can accurately be described with an absolute statement to the effect that this so-called faith-based member organisation “must cater to Christians of many stripes”.

    Finally, I am not enitrely convinced, either, even given that a so-called faith-based membership organisation actually had to “cater to Christians of many stripes”, that this need would necessarily mean that this faith-based member organisation had no choice but to cater also to the ungodly wishes of non-Christians by supporting such clearly anti-Christian causes as the slaughter of unborn children – or that, when it is requested by a large portion of the membership that the so-called faith based member organisation not support such clearly non-Christian causes, that the only possible – or even reasonable or fair – manner in which the so-called faith-based membership organisation could respond would be to declare as a matter of policy that the so-called faith-based membership organisation will not distinguish between on the one hand Christian and religiously neutral causes, and non-Christian causes on the other ….

  14. Bravo, bravo, bravo.

    Now apply that same reasoning to LCMS participation in an promotion of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which is politically aligned with leftist, statist, Progressive groups financially underwritten by “open borders” advocate, George Soros.

    The LCMS needs to quit playing footsy with organizations, whose first principles are antithetical to its own doctrine and practice.

  15. Let’s cut to the chase: I’m being pursued by a Thrivent rep to increase the business I do with them. Should I seek another provider of services or not? Should we continue to do business with them in hopes of a change, or should we pull out and take our business elsewhere?

  16. @Miguel #17
    How about letting your Thrivent rep know that you are seriously considering withdrawing from completely from any and all association with Thrivent unless something changes, and ask him to take that piece of information back to his overlords?
    If enough Christians let Thrivent know how we feel about things, and that our feelings about things might actually cost Thrivent actual money, some things might change.

    And then wait and see – at least until after the next election.

    I shall not be holding my breath – but I think, out of decency, and for good order, we need to give Thrivent a chance to respond to our concerns -and not with hostility, like last time.

    Or could it be true, perhaps, although it is not easy to imagine, that Thrivent Management actually thought that their denunciation of Christian care and concern for the unborn (also known as their “neutrality” policy) would be perceived as an attempt to accommodate everybody, including us?

    If so, they will probably know better by now …

  17. A conservative LCMS Thrivent agent such as the one in the original post is caught in a bind. He does not have a choice about Thrivent national policies. At least one agent I know left the ELCA for a conservative LCMS congregation.

  18. @Miguel #17

    Look around, go elsewhere. See who can give the best Return On Investment.

    Remember, this company is chasing mammon. AAL might have been good, but LB was always pan-Lutheran. ELCA has gone heterodox./heretical/apostate. Since they are the majority of Thrivent members, so the math. It will keep getting worse. Especially with their Common Bond. Likely to chase after ELCA’s very liberal ecumenical partners. Even if there are Catholic spouses that join in, well… how much do they adhere to their teachings, since Lutherans are an anathema?

    I know I am painting with a broad brush, but I have been following stories. I have interacted with a handful of reps, some of whom I think have gray ethics. And I am a chapter officer (begrudgingly). Anybody who thinks Thrivent will get better or return to any kind of ‘orthodox’ Lutheran position is living in fantasyland. I sadly feel that we must shake their dust of our feet.

  19. Don’t take the term “member” too seriously in this context. Thrivent’s “fraternal” framework is simply a business model to attain non-profit status and reduce expenses, which benefits members/investors/customers through dividends or charitable donations. It has nothing to do with the grace of our salvation as described by St Paul and Luther.

    If one wishes to shoot one’s self in the foot, by instead dealing with a for-profit non-Christian entity, be my guest.

  20. @B Morten #21
    So you are saying that when Thrivent presents itself as faith-based, and as a member organisation, and refers to its customers as members, and publishes a magazine with supposedly edifying artcles and articles on church and faith related topics, and acts in other manners along the same line, this is all hypocrisy on Thrivent’s part. But Thrivent is, nonetheless, and I am quoting you “a Christian organization”, and one has to continue to do business with Thrivent, for anybody that doesn’t is a hypocrite, but, quoting you again, “be my guest.” Interesting logic.

  21. After years of holding my nose, I went to a financial planner at EdwardJones and discovered I could divest fully from Thriven’t without losing a penny. I’m sentimental, so it wasn’t fun for me, but I do sleep better now.

  22. @Jais Tinglund #22 I would say the faith-based, magazine articles are hypocrisy. Basically, they are playing to members felt needs. As far as calling policyholders “members” this is a correct term. If one lives in a rural area, they could be a “member” of an electrical cooperative. Mutual companies have “members” as well, but they are for profit. Fraternal companies, which is what Thrivent is, have “members” and are not for profit. Corporate companies have shareholders. These are all technical terms. Unfortunately, a few years back, “members” of Thrivent allowed (by not voting and thereby giving proxy status to the head honchos) the liberal LB guys to take the company over. Just like in government, voting counts. We members blew it. Now we are reaping the rewards.

  23. Every LCMS meeting I attended on a district level was held at a Marriott resort. I got sick of opening my bedside table to the Book of Mormon, expressed my distaste, and was told the price determined the location. So I quit going. Drink a Coke, support a Mormon. You cannot be IN the world without coming into contact with the profane. The hypocrisy of Thrivent is what rankles. But, in the end, we members and church leaders allowed it to go the path it has taken by our lack of interest and action. This is a good object lesson for the doctrinal disputes of the LCMS. Read the ACELC admonitions, then sign on the dotted line, and join the outcry.

  24. LadyM :
    You cannot be IN the world without coming into contact with the profane. The hypocrisy of Thrivent is what rankles.

    I cannot say that I disagree with you, there. The point is that Thrivent presents itself as much more than merely a business – when that is what is deemed convenient …

    I am just trying to make sense of the reasoning according to which one has to either do business with Thrivent or not be in. (as opposed to of ) the world, for otherwise one would be “hypocritical” because Thrivent is “a Christian organization” – whereas, according to the same reasoning, one should not take Thrivent’s presentation of itself as a faith-based membership organization too seriously, for it really is just a business, and all the Christian stuff is just for show, all the “faith-based membership” stuff – even though it is your continued membership of the “Christian organization” Thrivent that determines whether or not you are “hypocritical” – but if one does not want to continue to do business with the “Christian organization” Thrivent, which, according to the same reasoning, is also nothing more than a “business model”, then “be my guest” – but the judgement is still “mine”, and “I” condemn you as a hypocrite, just as “I” have already condemned you as a “holier than thou Lutheran” because you have objections to the slaughter of unborn children to begin with, for the slaughter of unborn children is just one of “many stripes of Christians”.

    It is this line of reasoning I have a hard time, not only taking seriously, let alone stomaching, but following in the first place …

  25. LadyM :
    But, in the end, we members and church leaders allowed it to go the path it has taken by our lack of interest and action.

    Agreed. The membership (myself included) needs to look in the mirror. For too long we were complacent and figured “oh, they’re Christian, they’ll make the right decisions – I don’t need to keep an eye on them.” And now we are where we are. Thrivent/AAL/LB members are ultimately to blame for the mess. And the sad thing is, through our apathy and complacency, we have allowed ourselves to be locked out of any internal redress. The only option left is to withdraw if some movement isn’t made by the Board of Directors.

    As G.K. Chesterton is reported to have said in a letter to the editor of the Times when the newspaper posed the question, “What’s wrong with the world today,” we ought all to look first in the mirror and respond, “I am.”

  26. I agree with Pastor Eric. Thrivent neutrality is akin to tolerance and compromise. I for one am pro-life and support traditional marriage, like millions of Christians, and am troubled by Thrivent’s ambivalence.

  27. Now to break myself of using their desk planner… I’m a real creature of habit and I’ve been using it for decades. They send a free one to every pastor on several rosters, I think. Imagine how much lower our premiums could have been…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.