In a recent mailing, the folks at Global Refuge—formerly known as Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service—informed us about the new name they’ve decided on. What similar name changes have purported to offer is acceptance by a wider audience or donor/client base—something potentially more diverse than a presumably diminishing church-body tag.
This continuing rebranding makes me sad: NOT that denominational identity may be disappearing, but that the renaming feels like it’s based on an unnecessary inferiority complex–yielding to the continuing phenomenon of irreligiosity in the nation/world. Thinking that highly effective Lutheran-identified enterprises aren’t attracting enough attention.
I wasn’t part of the decision-making process, so I don’t know all of the factors that lead to the decision—data and projections that may have yielded an unavoidable conclusion: “Lutheran” may not be as strongly attention-worthy as it has been.
The opposite may be true in this case, though: LIRS is an organization with nearly 85 years of internationally regarded work, welcoming over 750,000 people seeking safety and well-being. The logic of enlarging LIRS’s audience seems to fly in the face of those many decades, during which the “Lutheran” part of LIRS may have been its key identifier for clients, donors and partners. What has served to set aside this NGO from others doing similar work—that description is gone. While it’s possible that “Global Refuge” will gradually attract its own loyal adherents, it’s perhaps also feasible that this new name will become part of a pool of blandly generic brand-names, easily confused with other organizations with Global in their name.
As I said, I’m a sad (but still-proud) Lutheran….