Debates about the appropriate relationship between religious organizations and the state (government or political authority) today range from those who object to or are even hostile to religious expression in the public realm  to Christian nationalists who idealize and advocate a fusion of certain understandings of Christianity with American civic life.  What distinguishes the ELCA’s particular stance in these debates?

The Rev. Dr. Roger Willer, ELCA Director of Theological Ethics in the Office of the Presiding Bishop, will offer this year’s keynote “Discipleship in a Democracy: Sorting out a Lutheran View.”  giving attention to the biblical, theological, and historical sources that undergird the cornerstone concept that this church shall: “work with civil authorities in areas of mutual endeavor, maintaining institutional separation of church and state in a relation of functional interaction.”  In this way we will sort out–distinguish–the ELCA approach compared to several other views and provide a refresher for our Lutheran Day in the Capitol.

Willer has served as co- or lead staff person with all the writing projects of ELCA social teaching documents since 2005. He earned his PhD from the University of Chicago (2009) in theology and is a contributing scholar in theology and ethics for both church and academic audiences.   Prior to work in the Churchwide office, he served as pastor for a decade in one urban and one suburban congregation on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio.  He currently is directing the work toward a social message on climate care and development of a social statement lead by the ELCA Task Force on Civic Life and Faith.

Lutheran Day registration opens this week! Mark your calendar and plan to join Lutherans from around the state for a day of learning and advocacy on April 27.  We’ll start at Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, with the keynote, workshops and a celebration of advocates before heading to the Capitol for legislative visits.  We’ll get policy updates on priority issues from hunger to housing and homelessness, climate and more. Continuing education certificates for rostered leaders will be available.

Among the workshops, Willer will offer: “God’s Gift of Temporal Government: An Introduction to the ELCA study Curriculum.”

The ELCA is developing a social statement on government, civic engagement, the relationship of church and state, and other related matters, as called for by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. In January the task force published a study curriculum as a guide into the issues at stake and as an invitation for participant feedback.  This workshop will give participants: a) a taste of the study, b) an introduction to a couple of the themes, and c) tips on how to make use of it.  For a look at the study itself, visit

This event is part of United Lutheran Seminary’s Spring Convocation, 2023.

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