“This church shall develop social statements … that will guide the life of this church as an institution and inform the conscience of its members in the spirit of Christian liberty.” (ELCA social statement, “The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective.”)
ELCA social statements are teaching and policy documents that provide broad frameworks to assist us in thinking about and discussing social issues in the context of faith and life. They are meant to help communities and individuals with moral formation, deliberation and thoughtful engagement with current social issues as we participate in God’s work in the world. Social statements also set policy for the ELCA and guide its advocacy and work as a publically engaged church. They result from an extensive process of participation and deliberation and are adopted by a two-thirds vote of an ELCA Churchwide Assembly.
The description and procedures for developing and adopting social teaching and policy documents are established by “Policies and Procedures of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for Addressing Social Concerns,” adopted by the 1997 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and revised periodically by the ELCA Church Council.
ELCA Social Statements:
Abortion / Aborto (1991)
Church in Society / Iglesia en la Sociedad (1991)
Criminal Justice / La Iglesia y la justicia penal (2013)
Death Penalty / Pena de Muerte (1991)
Economic Life / Vida Economica (1999)
Education / Educación (2007)
Caring for Creation / Medio ambiente (1993)
Health and Healthcare / Salud y Asistencia Sanitaria (2003)
Human Sexuality / La Sexualidad Humana (2009)
Peace / Por la Paz (1995)
Race, Ethnicity and Culture / Raza, Etnicidad y Cultura (1993)
Sexism / Sexismo (2019)
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. They are used to address pressing contemporary concerns in light of the prophetic and compassionate traditions of Scripture and do not establish new teaching or policy. Rather, they build upon previously adopted teaching and policy positions, especially from social statements.
These messages draw attention to specific topics or social concerns that arise from our participation in God’s work in the world, and they encourage moral discernment, thoughtful discussion and action. Each message is reviewed by the Conference of Bishops and adopted by the ELCA Church Council, and expresses the convictions of the leadership of this church.
At this time, there are sixteen social messages. All can be accessed on the ELCA website:
Current Writing Projects
A Draft Social Statement on Civic Life and Faith. The ELCA is developing a social statement on civic life and faith, the relationship of church and state, and related matters, as called for by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. At this time the task force encourages you to study and give feedback on a draft version of the social statement. You can participate by filling out a survey, found here, or by participating in a hearing in your synod, if available. Hearings are public gatherings where participants share their specific affirmations or concerns about a draft statement. To find out if your synod will host a hearing, or to learn how to host one, please email us here.
The feedback period will be open until Sept. 30, 2024.
A Draft Social Message on Gun-Related Violence and Trauma. The draft will be revised in light of the public feedback and then considered for adoption by the ELCA Church Council in late March of 2024.
Reconsiderations of Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust. After a seven-year process of discernment and dialogue across the ELCA, the 2009 Churchwide Assembly voted to adopt Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust as a social statement of the ELCA. In 2022, the Churchwide Assembly authorized two reconsiderations (see pages 4-5 and 11) of the social statement. In response to these actions, a task force will begin working in 2024 on both reconsiderations. Throughout the process, the task force will be listening deeply and working closely with people across the ELCA. More information about the process and specific opportunities for joining the conversation will be shared as soon as possible.