This series is intended to be a public conversation among teaching theologians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day. It invites readers to engage and dialogue with the ELCA's teaching theologians. The series is edited by Philip D.W. Krey, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries.
James Childs: Lutherans haven't always been clear or consistent about the church's mandate to be involved in the fight for social justice. Though individual Christians were admonished to be good citizens and support a just society, justice was a matter for the civil use of the law entrusted by God's design to civil authorities.
Within the framework of the church's gospel mission, the love for neighbor that Christ commanded was to be practiced in one's personal relations as reflective of God's love.
This love ethic also led concerned pastors and laity in the American scene to develop what is now a vast network of social ministry organizations that serve justice in the sense of meeting the needs of many.
However, the separation of love and justice often meant the church was silent in the face of clear injustices.
Thankfully, the mid-20th century brought an awakening of the church's need to speak on issues of justice. The ELCA and its predecessor churches began to produce social statements on a number of justice concerns. These statements were to serve as study documents and guidance for individual Christians, congregations, synods and churchwide advocacy. They make clear that love and justice aren't separated — justice is the form love takes when responding to need on the societal level.
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© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers