Memo to planning groups for the 2017 Observance of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation
From Lutherans Restoring Creation and friends (www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org).
Regarding the importance of embracing “care for creation” as an integral part of all our planning and all aspect of our observance.
We affirm that caring for creation is integral to the life and mission of the ELCA. Reformation theology strongly affirms God as creator of heaven and Earth, the Son as redeemer of creation, and the Spirit as sustainer and fulfiller of creation. Martin Luther expressed his conviction about the goodness of creation, indeed the sacramental nature of life. Given the current ecological degradations to the health of our planet including the catastrophic threats to human life, it is incumbent upon us to incorporate care for creation in all that we do: our events of observance, our worship, our theological statements, and our actions. Our church is committed to “continuous reformation.” And it is time to rise to this occasion.
Martin Luther affirmed the full presence of God without remainder in every grain and leaf. He witnessed to the presence of Christ in, with, and under all things. These affirmations are grounds for humans to reverence life as the basis for our relationship with the whole natural world. Science has made it clear that human activity has been the source of most of the current destructive ecological conditions, which are undoing the very global ecosystems upon which life on this planet depends. The church itself has been culpable in its biblical interpretations, in its theology, and in its actions and neglect. Now we are called to reverse this dynamic and fully embrace “the care and redemption of all that God has made.”
Our Lutheran heritage has always stood with the most vulnerable by seeking to minister to the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the ill, among many other vulnerable people and communities. Rooted in a theology of the cross, we are called to grasp the personal and systemic evils of injustice and racism inherent in the degradations of our planet and to stand in solidarity with the vulnerable people whose personal lives and communities are already suffering the most from such environmental phenomena as climate change and who have the fewest resources with which to cope, and to act boldly on their behalf.
Both in our biblical foundations and in our Lutheran theological heritage, it is our human vocation “to serve and to protect” Earth community. Therefore, we are called to change our destructive lifestyles and to take personal actions to diminish human behavior that has a negative impact on Earth. We are called to transform our congregations and ELCA organizations into communities that embrace economic and ecological justice. And we are called to advocate and work for Earth-justice laws, policies, and practices in the public sphere at the corporate, local, regional, national, and global levels.
The 2017 anniversary of the reformation and the events leading up to it provide an opportunity for all of us to draw upon our rich Lutheran heritage regarding creation, to model care for creation, and to infuse into the church itself an eco-justice reformation. We therefore call upon you to incorporate care for creation into the substance and procedures of any and all activities related to the anniversary.
Ecological justice for Earth community is not an add-on, not one more cause, not just for those who happen to be interested in it. Rather, caring for creation is an essential dimension of our love of God and of our love of all of our neighbors in Earth community. Ecological justice is integral to our faith.
These commitments will put us in line with the commitments of global Lutheranism. The Lutheran World Federation has called for the church global to become more deeply involved in creation care as an integral part of faith and love for God and neighbor. One theme they lift up is “Creation—not for sale.” As such, “nature has to be fully respected and protected as God’s good creation, entrusted to human care.” It “cannot be subject to exploitative human domination nor can its resources be concentrated and exploited as commodities,” but aim for sustainable development.
Materials have been provided to assist planners of the observance to take this step. For resources, please consult the section on “The 500th Anniversary” at Lutherans Restoring Creation: www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org.