When I moved into my church office, I found a copy of the ELCA’s social statement on Criminal Justice on my desk. I haven’t read it all the way through yet, but it occurred to me that, while I am familiar with all the ELCA’s social statements, I’ve only read one cover to cover. So, I’ve decided to read them all and write about each.
What are Social Statements?
Social Statements are a way for the ELCA to set a framework for thinking theologically about the many social issues that we face every day. They guide policy and advocacy work in which the ELCA engages. They are passed by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the highest governing body of the church made up of hundreds of lay and clergy delegates.
Each of the predecessor bodies of the ELCA (the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church) also had their own social statements, and the ELCA still refers back to them when appropriate for guidance. Since the incorporation of the ELCA, the Churchwide Assembly has passed twelve social statements:
- “The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective” (1991)
- “The Death Penalty” (1991)
- “Abortion” (1991)
- “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice” (1993)
- “Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture” (1993)
- “For Peace in God’s World” (1995)
- “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All” (1999)
- “Caring for Health: Our Shared Endeavor” (2003)
- “Our Calling in Education” (2007)
- “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust” (2009)
- “Genetics, Faith and Responsibility” (2011)
- “The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries” (2013)
I referenced the social statement on abortion on a hotly debated post, and the effects of the 2009 social statement on Human Sexuality are well-known in the Christian community. The others are by and large forgotten, even (especially?) within congregations. Therefore, I plan to read and discuss each one over the coming months, and I invite you to join me.
If you would like to get a head-start, all of the ELCA’s social statements can be found here. I’ll go in the order listed above, starting with “The Church in Society”.