Why Lutherans Care for Creation

Why Lutherans Care for Creation

Foundations for an Eco-Justice Reformation

 

1. Theology: Rooted in the theology of Martin Luther and the Lutheran reformation tradition, we affirm God as creator of all, with an incarnation theology that cherishes the continuing presence of God in, with, and under all reality. We see redemption through Christ as a “new creation.” We experience the Holy Spirit as sustainer of all, straining toward the fulfillment of creation.


2. Cross and Resurrection: The gospel of the cross leads us to see God in solidarity with the human situation and all creation in its pain and agony, especially the most vulnerable humans and other forms of life. A theology of the cross gives us communion with “creation groaning in travail” and stresses that God redeems all creation. Justified by grace, we are freed to acknowledge our complicity in personal and systemic sin against creation, to repent, and to empty ourselves in service to Earth community. Our affirmation of resurrection offers hope for new life in this world as we rise daily to new creation and fresh beginnings.


3. Worship and Sacraments: We affirm that the material world is good and capable of bearing the divine and that Christ is present in such ordinary elements of life as grapes, grain, and water—the basis for our delight in and reverence for all creation. Our worship invites us into transforming encounters with God in the flesh and in the whole natural world. We are called to worship God with creation, as an integral part of God’s beloved creation.


4. Vocation: Our biblical vocation is “to serve and to preserve” Earth. Because the church exists for the sake of the world, we are called to “ongoing reformation” from generation to generation in response to new needs and current crises of this life. Our vocation to economic/ ecological justice is an expression of “the care and redemption of all that God has made.”


5. Ethics: We have an ethic of faith-active-in-love for vulnerable neighbors including the vulnerable throughout Earth community. Liberated from a legalism that limits and enslaves, we live in the freedom to address new situations, such as the ecological state of the world. We do so not to dominate but as servants to Earth community. We do so not out of fear or guilt or arrogance but joyfully out of gratitude, grace, and love. 


6. Social Ministry: With a heritage rooted in the Reformation, 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 Disaster Relief, the Malaria Campaign, and Lutheran World Relief. ELCA’s commitment to racial justice and economic justice recognizes that ecological degradation disproportionally devastates communities of color and the poor, both in the US and globally. We frame and expand all these commitments as the healing and restoring of Earth community (www.elca.org/careforcreation).


7. Public Witness and Advocacy: The ELCA has official social statements “Caring for Creation” and “Sustainable Livelihood for All,” a fulltime Director of Environmental Education and Advocacy in Washington DC., and Lutheran Public Policy offices in many states (www.elca.org/advocacy). ELCA calls its people to the Stewardship of the Earth—“to speak on behalf of this earth, its environment and natural resources and its inhabitants.” The ELCA expects its ordained ministers to “be exemplary stewards of the Earth’s resources” and to “lead this church in the stewardship of God’s creation” (from “Visions and Expectations”).


8. Scholarship and Education: Lutheran scholars have taken the lead in promoting ecological theology, ethics, Bible study, and social commentary. ELCA colleges and seminaries have ecological justice programs and Earth-friendly campus lifestyles that prepare Lutherans for leadership in the church and in the world. Continuing education events for clergy and laity highlight creation-care and eco-justice.


9. Caring for Creation across the church: Some synods identify themselves as creation-care synods. Synodical and church-wide resolutions call us to address environmental crises. Many Lutheran congregations incorporate Earth-care commitments into their worship, education, building and grounds, discipleship at home and work, and public witness. Lutheran camps have brought environmental concerns and positive experiences with nature to many youth. ELCA headquarters has a Green Team that models environmental action. The ELCA offers grants for environmental projects.


10. Organizations for Earthkeeping: Lutherans have led in the Green Congregation Program, made available care for creation worship (www.letallcreationpraise.org), and provided resources and programs through Lutherans Restoring Creation (www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org).

 

Lutherans are in a critical position to listen to the cry of the Earth along with the cry of the poor and to take leadership in these critical issues of our day. Ecological justice is not an add-on. It are foundational to our faith. The care and redemption of all that God has made IS the full way in which we love God in, with, and under all creation and the full way in which we love all of our neighbors that together comprise Earth community. We call upon everyone to participate in this great work of our time.