Why Lutherans Care for Creation

Why Lutherans Care for Creation

Lutherans are uniquely positioned to address the critical issues of the environment from theological, ethical, and practical perspectives.

Lutherans have a creation-centered theology oriented to celebrate the gifts of creation. The theology of the cross leads us to be in solidarity with the human situation in all its pain and agony. Our affirmation of resurrection offers hope for new life in this world. Our sacramental theology claims that the finite can bear the infinite. We understand that the church exists for the sake of the world. We do not have an escapist theology. When Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, he supposedly replied, “Plant a tree.”

Lutherans have a situational ethic built not on rules that can be confining, enslaving, and limiting. We are free to address new and complex problems, such as the environmental 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 gratitude and with grace.

Lutherans have a history of social service to the poor, the elderly, the sick, the oppressed, the marginalized—hospitals, homes for the elderly, Lutheran Immigration Service, Lutheran World Relief, and on and on. We extend that commitment to protecting and healing Earth community.

Lutherans have a long-standing social statement outling our commitment to be "Caring for Creation." Bishop Hanson has issued statements about our commitment to care for creation. As a denomination, we have had for several decades a fulltime person in environmental/hunger advocacy in Washington. We have others working on these issues in the headquarters in Chicago. Lutheran Public Policy offices address regional issues of advocacy. Many synod have passed resolutions to lower carbon emissions as means to address global climate change. The ELCA offers grants for environmental projects for seminaries, synods, and congregations.

We have a organization Lutherans Restoring Creation dedicated to bringing care for creation into the full life and mission of the ELCA. Several synods that have declared themselves to be Green Synods. Many synods have care-for-creation committees and hold lectures, workshops, and conferences on eco-justice subjects. There are many Lutheran congregations across the church with 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. Lutherans have spearheaded the Green Congregation Program, the Green Seminary Initiative, and the resources on the Web of Creation (www.webofcreation.org) and related sites. We have led the way in promoting a Season of Creation in the church year (www.seasonofcreation.com).

There are many outstanding Lutheran scholars in different fields who have written on this subject: Peter Bakken, Terry Fretheim, Norman Habel, Diane Jacobson, James Martin-Schramm, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Larry Rasmussen, David Rhoads, Barbara Rossing, Paul Santmire, Joseph Sittler, George Tinker, among others.

Lutherans are in a critical position to listen to the cry of the poor along with the cry of the Earth and to take leadership in addressing these critical issues of our day.