Great Stuff — Thrivent’s Dangerous Game

A great post found over on


thriventfinancialappletonwisconsinsignEarlier today, I was alerted to the presence of an entry in the Thrivent Choice database. The entry was for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota. It can be found here.

Planned Parenthood is the leading abortion provider in the United States, having performed around 327,000 abortions in 2012.

Thrivent Choice is described in this way on Thrivent’s website: “The Thrivent Choice® program lets members recommend where some of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans’ charitable outreach funds go by directing Choice Dollars®.”

Thrivent is “a faith-based, not-for-profit membership organization nearly 2.5 million members strong.” Why is Thrivent providing a way for Planned Parenthood – an abortion business that commits atrocities every day that are completely contrary to the will of God – to receive charitable contributions from them?

I asked Thrivent on Twitter:

Thrivent responded with a few tweets, neatly summed up here:

I’m not a Thrivent member, so I’m not entirely clear on how the Thrivent Choice program works. Browsing the Thrivent Choice website, I came across a similar list of requirements for an organization to be listed in the Thrivent Choice catalog:

Organizations Eligible for Choice Dollars

  • 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations and congregations that meet program eligibility rules; and
  • Recommended by a benefit member; and
  • Approved by a Thrivent Chapter/chartered Thrivent FR Community leadership board before being added to the online catalog.

Notice that these three requirements need to be met before the organization is listed in the Thrivent Choice online catalog. Planned Parenthood is currently listed in the Thrivent Choice online catalog. Which means that the local chapter board has already approved of Planned Parenthood as a fitting organization to receive Thrivent Choice dollars.

It’s puzzling to me that Thrivent has left themselves open to dollars being given to an organization that would so clearly be offensive to a large portion of their members. So I asked:


Thrivent responded:

Then, thankfully, this:

So, while at this point Thrivent Choice dollars can be awarded to Planned Parenthood by a Thrivent member designating their own Choice dollars to Planned Parenthood, it has not yet actually happened. Thanks be to God.

Thrivent is playing a dangerous game. They have created a charitable giving program that lacks any sort of rules limiting eligible organizations to those that are consistent with the word of God. At any time, Thrivent Choice dollars could easily end up in the hands of Planned Parenthood.

It seems that Thrivent could change this quickly. The Terms & Conditions for organizations participating in the Thrivent Choice program clearly state that “Thrivent Financial adopts Terms and Conditions as well as other Program Rules for Thrivent Choice at its sole discretion. Thrivent Financial may change, limit, modify, cancel or revoke Thrivent Choice and/or Terms and Conditions and/or other Program Rules at any time and for any reason, with or without notice…” In other words, Thrivent can make a rule eliminating the eligibility of organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Likewise, the member’s direction to Thrivent to give Thrivent Choice dollars to a specific organization is only a direction – in other words, similar to advice. According to the Terms & Conditions for members, “Thrivent Financial retains total discretion as to whether or how all Choice Dollars are distributed. Any “direction” that I provide to Thrivent to designate recipients of Choice Dollars is a request and recommendation from me suggesting a recipient of Choice Dollars funding which Thrivent is under no legal obligation to approve or follow. The use of the term “direct,” “direction,” “choose,” “choice” or other terms in these Terms and Conditions or in any communications regarding Thrivent Choice, does not provide me with any authority to make any decision regarding the use of any funds.”

So Thrivent can act to do the right thing. They should eliminate eligibility for organizations such as Planned Parenthood that carry out purposes contrary to the will of God. They should inform their members that may have directed Choice Dollars to such organizations that they will not be paying any money to those organizations.

Others have been engaging Thrivent on Twitter today as well, and it’s encouraging that Thrivent is at least listening, responding, and promising to get the feedback to the Thrivent Choice team. It seems that right now it’s very important to get the word out so that current Thrivent members can contact Thrivent and encourage them to modify the Thrivent Choice policies. Urge Thrivent to block eligibility to organizations like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions or in other ways act or lobby contrary to the will of God.

(Thanks to Steven Cholak for bringing this to my attention.)

Update: I’ve followed up with some further research into Thrivent Choice.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Thrivent’s Dangerous Game — 18 Comments

  1. FWIW: “Approved by the local board” is really misleading. I sit on a local board, and the rules state that if we do nothing the organization is approved automatically after a period of time. If we do not want to approve them, we have to give them a valid reason. From the Thrivent documents:

    [The leadership board must give] The reason the leadership board feels the organization does not meet the eligibility criteria.

    This is found on page 7 of this document.

    From what I’ve heard from my contact at Thrivent, including the words “meet the eligibility criteria” means that the local board CANNOT deny an organization if it meets Thrivent’s lax criteria — a 503(c)3 organization is about the only requirement. Nowhere in this document I showed above does it state that the local organization can give a reason of disapproval of the goals of an organization.

    From what I’ve read, the only reason for the local board approving is to have someone located where the organization is based to verify that the organization exists and is a nonprofit.

  2. IN FACT .. here’s their criteria for determining which local board gets to “approve” an organization, from page 3 of this website:

    No, the process is designed to only have one leadership board at a time review an organization’s application.

    If multiple benefit members nominate the same organization (and the organization subsequently applies), the organization’s application will go to the leadership board of the first nominating benefit member’s local Chapter or chartered Thrivent FR Community for review. If the application is denied by the first leadership board, it will then be sent on to the leadership board of the second nominating benefit member. This process will continue until the organization’s application is approved or it has been sent to all the leadership boards of those benefit members who nominated the organization.

    Please note — if multiple benefit members that fall under the same leadership board nominate the organization, its application will be sent to the leadership board only once for review.

    IN OTHER WORDS … even if some local board does deny an organization, Thrivent will let any other local boards have a chance to approve it .. all they need to do is get a Thrivent member (note: no longer required to be lutheran!) to submit the organization. I’m sure each local board is NOT told that this organization was previously denied by another local board!

  3. I just saw this morning, on a different news site.
    I’ll know that this too, along with many another line item, matters, when the Presidents of both LCMS & WELS make a very public, public, comment. I am not holding my breath for one.

    Can either Synod survive, w/o Thrivent? Will they be steadfast & of courage, should they do so, knowing what could come from it? Again, I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Thrivent Choice terms and conditions, from their website as of (12/19/13)

    Thrivent retains the overall control of monies, terms, and conditions for the distribution of choice dollars.

    Looking forward to seeing “Official” statements with regard to this matter.

    I have been directed by my District to contact :
    “the LCMS Church Information Center for an official statement regarding Thrivent and their supposed approval of Planned Parenthood as a recipient of Choice Dollars at (888) 843-5267.”

  5. It is time to talk about in an open honest and truthful way about Thrivent and it’s concept of what it means to be a fraternal organization.

    This is especially true since the membership has been opened to all Christians. When this happened I asked by e-mail I asked does this mean Thrivent will be supporting Baptist seminaries etc.. the response received was , “yes.”

    So I am not surprised about the Planned Parenthood Issue.

    But I am surprised that Thrivent still sends out mailings etc.. with Lutheran attached. With the common Bond vote results I was looking “for Lutherans” to be dropped from their materials.

    To end I would like to see LCEF look into adding a fraternal side to the service it provides to the church.

  6. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) is deeply concerned by the news that Thrivent Financial has recognized Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota as a potential recipient of funding through its Thrivent Choice Dollars grant program. The LCMS always has been, and will continue to be, clear and faithful in its proclamation of the sanctity of all human life from conception until natural death. We are currently in conversation with Thrivent Financial and pray for a God-pleasing resolution to this matter so that the pro-life witness of individual Lutherans and the LCMS will not be compromised.

    Maggie Karner, Director
    LCMS Life and Health Ministries

    Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, President
    The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

    @Pastor Wright

  7. LCMS and WELS have no option at this point but to sever ties with Thrivent.

    The LCMS does not “need” Thrivent. Non-Lutheran denominations have done well enough without it. The ELCA has received much more money from Thrivent than we have, because they are larger in size and have more members in Thrivent. Now that Thrivent serves any “Christian” denomination, the LCMS will receive even less money from them. We’ll now be competing not just with the ELCA but the RCC, SBC, UMC, Episcopalians, etc. There is no benefit in staying with Thrivent, though even if there was, it would still be sinful to do so, given that Thrivent is willing to donate money to the most evil, antichrist, genocidal murderers in the country.

    And where does Thrivent receive much of its money from? From the ELCA, a long time member of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (formerly called the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights).

  8. Does anyone have a suggestion for alternative places to invest personal and congregation funds in a way that would not be contrary to beliefs?

  9. Where I used to serve Lutherans For Life was excluded from receiving support through the local Thrivent chapter on the grounds that it was allegedly “political” – partially, but not exclusively, because of the strong ELCA influence …

  10. Members, Thrivent Take Action on Thrivent Choice® Issue

    December 20, 2013

    Background: This is Thrivent Financial’s statement regarding a recent issue related to the addition of a Planned Parenthood affiliate to the catalog of eligible Thrivent Choice organizations. The statement outlines our position on this issue and describes the actions of our members and organization.

    Thrivent Financial is a membership organization of Christians with more than two million members in more than 1,300 local chapters nationwide. While our membership holds diverse points of view on faith and social issues, we share a common purpose to be wise with money and live generously.

    We listen to concerns from all of our members, and we are listening now.

    As a grassroots organization, we are committed to honoring the desire of our members and local chapters to choose and support the non-profit organizations that are meaningful to them. We recognize that the eligibility of a Planned Parenthood affiliate, approved by one of our local chapters, has been controversial.

    After input, discussion and a review of the concerns from Thrivent members, the leadership of this local chapter voted Thursday to remove it (PP) from the Thrivent Choice program effective immediately. Given the deeply held views on this issue across our membership, we also are taking action to address the concerns of our membership. These steps include temporarily suspending all pro-choice and pro-life organizations from the Thrivent Choice program, placing a temporary hold on the addition and removal of nonprofit organizations from the program, and conducting a comprehensive program review.

    The Thrivent Choice program is highly valued by our members. More than 270,000 members have used it to direct some $47 million – 91% of it to Christian congregations, schools, camps/outdoor ministries, and social ministries. We will seek input from our members, chapter leaders and others in the communities we serve with the goal of designing and delivering a program that continues to support the priorities of our members and our common purpose.

    Thrivent Choice Program
    4321 N Ballard Road
    Appleton, WI 54919

  11. These steps include temporarily suspending all pro-choice and pro-life organizations from the Thrivent Choice program, placing a temporary hold on the addition and removal of nonprofit organizations from the program, and conducting a comprehensive program review.

    Technically, would that not mean, since the LCMS is a Christian church body and thus pro-life, that any LCMS-related entities are now barred from receiving Choice Dollars?

  12. Until Thrivent permanently rescinds its intent to allow its funds to be funneled to pro-choice organizations, LCMS ought to suspend its affiliation with them – no contact whatsoever. Consider Matt. 6: 19-20, 24. Weasel words will not do.

  13. “Don’t actively endorse”. Yeah we do, every time we have a rep come into any Congregation, LCMS or WELS, for stewardship drives etc.

    I have a really, really, hard time, this was “new news”. No it’s not. If ya know what common stock, open market mean, yeah, quite a few knew. It just got “public”. Sever as a Synod, either WELS or LCMS, or deal with the issues that come from not doing it.

    Just cause it was birthed here, don’t mean it follows it’s foundations & that happened years ago.

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