Social Teachings

Lutherans have never believed that following Jesus was purely a spiritual idea that has no real consequences in the world.

We recognize that our faith is not just about what we do in church on Sunday, but how we live our lives during the week.

However, we also recognize that sharing one faith does not mean we all come to the same conclusions when it comes to living out that faith.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is made up of faithful people who differ in opinions on everything from what a traditional funeral lunch is to how to address pressing social issues.

To help congregations and individuals, the ELCA has developed Social Statements.

Social Statements are teaching documents. They are not written to tell us what to do. They are to help us think through difficult, but important issues.  They are for us to use, along with prayer and bible study, in conversation with other people of faith to decide what is the best way for us to live faithful lives of service and love for our neighbor.

“What does the church say?”  For Roman Catholics, the people turn to the Pope.  Other denominations simply say, “Let your conscience be your guide.”  For us, we say, “Let us study together and decide together.”

We believe that the faith is given to the whole church.  Therefore, the implications of the faith are determined by the whole church. This is why our social statements and messages are such a gift to the church.

~ Bishop Steven Ullestad

Social Statements come about because ELCA members have asked for them.   They don’t come from churchwide.  Usually, members bring resolutions to their synods to ask for these statements.  Then a resolution is brought to the Churchwide Assembly, which is the highest authority in the ELCA.

A Statement takes several years to complete.  A task force is formed, made up of members who have expertise in the area, from all parts of the country, lay and clergy, to study the issue.   Drafts are sent out for people to read and submit feedback.  Changes are made based on that feedback.  Listening events are held throughout the church for feedback.  More changes are made based on that feedback.  And finally, it is voted on and approved (often with changes) by the Churchwide Assembly.  It is a document for and by the whole church.

For more information on how a Statement comes about, see

Policies and Procedures of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for Addressing Social Concerns

To download ELCA Social Statements see Social Statements

The ELCA has other resources for moral deliberation

Social Messages

Social messages of the ELCA are topical documents adopted by the ELCA Church Council to focus attention and action on timely, pressing matters of social concern to the church and society. Each message is reviewed by the Conference of Bishops and adopted by the ELCA Church Council.

For more information see Social Messages.

Social Policy Resolutions

Social policy resolutions normally are brief and limited in scope. They present timely resolutions that commit this church to particular actions that are derived from and consistent with the teachings and policy of the ELCA.

They are adopted either by an ELCA Churchwide Assembly or the ELCA Church Council to address the need for special resolutions or actions related to specific social concerns.

For more see Social Policy Resolutions

Both Social Messages and Social Policy Resolutions must be consistent with existing Social Statements.  Together they reflect the conversations and convictions of our church as we engage with the world.

 

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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.

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