Ten Reasons Why Lutherans Care for Creation
Lutherans have strong theological, ethical, and practical foundations for Earth-care.
1. Theology: Lutherans have a creation-centered theology oriented to celebrate the gifts of creation. We affirm God as creator of all things. We have a deeply incarnation theology that cherishes the presence of God in, with, and under all reality. We see redemption as the restoration of creation, indeed as “new creation.” We see the future as straining toward the fulfillment of creation.
2. Cross and Resurrection: The gospel of the cross leads us to see that God is in solidarity with the human situation in all its pain and agony. Our theology of the cross gives us solidarity with “creation groaning in travail” and stresses that God redeems all creation. Our affirmation of resurrection also offers hope for new life in this world.
3. Worship and Sacraments: In light of our affirmation that the material is a vehicle of the divine, we affirm that Christ is present in such ordinary elements of life as grapes and grain. Our worship invites us into transforming encounters with God deep in the flesh and in the world. We are called to worship God with creation.
4. Ecclesiology: We are called in our human vocation “to serve and to preserve” the Earth. We believe that the church exists for the sake of the world, especially now in this time of ecological crisis that affects all living things. We do not have an escapist theology. When Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he apparently replied, “Plant a tree.”
5. Ethics: We Lutherans have an ethic of faith-active-in-love for neighbor and for all creation. Liberated from a legalism that limits and enslaves, we are freed to address new and complex situations, such as the ecological state of the world. We do so not as ones who dominate and exploit but as servants to our human and non-human neighbors. And we do so not out of fear or guilt or shame or arrogance but out of grace, love, and gratitude.
6. Social Ministry: With a heritage that reaches back to the Reformation, we Lutherans have a history of social service to the poor, the elderly, the sick, the oppressed, the marginalized—through hospitals, homes for the elderly, social ministry agencies, Lutheran Immigration Service, Lutheran World Relief, among others. We have extended that commitment also to protecting and healing all Earth community. (www.elca.org/careforcreation)
7. Advocacy: We ELCA Lutherans have a social statement publically announcing our “Caring for Creation.” As a denomination, we have had for several decades a fulltime staff person in environmental/hunger advocacy in Washington, DC. We have others working on these issues in the headquarters in Chicago. Lutheran Public Policy offices in many states address regional issues of advocacy. (www.elca.org/advocacy).
8. Scholarship: Many Lutheran scholars have written and spoken on this subject: Peter Bakken, Terry Fretheim, Norman Habel, Diane Jacobson, James Martin-Schramm, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Richard Perry, Larry Rasmussen, David Rhoads, Barbara Rossing, Paul Santmire, Joseph Sittler, George Tinker, among others. Colleges and seminaries of the ELCA have care-for-creation programs and courses that prepare Lutherans for leadership in the church and the world.
9. Caring for Creation across the church: Several synods have declared themselves to be Green Synods. Many synods have care-for-creation committees and hold lectures, workshops, and conferences on eco-justice subjects. Many Lutheran congregations across the church have Care for Creation teams that work to incorporate the environmental commitment into parish life—worship, education, building and grounds, discipleship at home and work, and public ministry. Lutheran camps and our educators program have brought environmental concerns to countless numbers of people. The ELCA headquarters has a Green Team working to model environmental action. The ELCA offers grants for environmental projects.
10. Organizations for Earthkeeping: For a decade, we have had the organization Lutheran Earthkeeping Network of the Synods (LENS) giving leadership in the ELCA. Lutherans have spearheaded the Green Congregation Program, the Green Seminary Initiative, and the resources on the Web of Creation (www.webofcreation.org). We have led the way in promoting a Season of Creation in the church year (www.seasonofcreation.com). And now we have the new program Lutherans Restoring Creation. (www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org).
Lutherans are in a critical position to listen to the cry of the poor along with the cry of Earth and to take leadership in addressing these critical issues of our day. In whatever context you may be serving, we encourage you to participate in this endeavor.