ELCA Releases First Draft of Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement: Discipleship in a Democracy

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in American (ELCA) has shared The First Draft of the Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement: Discipleship in a Democracy. The development of this message on government, civic engagement, the relationship of church and state and related matters, was called for by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. This is not an official social teaching document of the ELCA.

This draft is shared for public comment beginning March 20, 2020. What are you invited to do? Our church develops its social-teaching documents through a standard protocol that encourages individuals from each of the ELCA’s three expressions (congregations, synods, churchwide) to review and comment at identified points. From March 20 to May 20, 2020, you are invited to read a draft of a social message on government and civic engagement and share your thoughts about it.

How do I do this? There are two ways to share your comments. 1) You are encouraged to use the survey form at this link. 2) You also are welcome to write your thoughts in an email to All comments received by May 20 will be reviewed by researchers and members of the consulting team. (A report summarizing response patterns will be prepared and shared with the ELCA Church Council.) Feel free to share the draft with others and perhaps have online conversations. Responses from individuals or groups are welcome.

Click here to access additional frequently asked questions about the Draft of a Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement: Discipleship in a Democracy.

What is the overall project? The goal is to develop an ELCA social message with an accompanying basic study guide by the end of July 2020. This project was set in motion in November 2019 when the ELCA Church Council authorized “the development of a social message on the vocation of citizenship, civic engagement, and church and state” (CC19.11.47w).

What are social messages, and how are they developed? Social messages are teaching documents of the ELCA focused on special social topics. They are intended to focus attention and urge action on timely, pressing matters of social concern to church and society. As such they are to be consistent with existing ELCA social teaching but to elaborate and extend this church’s address on a topic. The work is directed by the director for theological ethics in the Office of the Presiding Bishop and has utilized a group

Lutherans care about government because it is a gift from God intended for the safety and 9 flourishing of human life.2 Yet too often and in too many ways, this gift has been abused. 10 There is a spirit of broad dissatisfaction, mistrust, 11 and even hatred of government in the United States 12 at the time of this writing. According to a Pew 13 survey, the percentage of U.S. citizens who trust 14 the federal government to do what is right all or 15 most of the time fell from 77% in 1964 to 17% in 16 2019.3

Lutherans need to affirm government in a way that realistically acknowledges its limitations and failures while holding fast to the belief that it is fundamentally necessary. Government at all levels in the United States merits both the active support and critical engagement of Lutherans.

Continue reading A Draft Social Message on Government and Civic Engagement: Discipleship in a Democracy. 

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