About 25 years ago, the word from the pulpit, pews and synod offices was that Lutherans should be more outward looking. That is, we should support charities and projects outside of the Lutheran structure. We wanted to serve the wider community and let people know Lutherans aren't just insulated and focused on ourselves.
So congregations began including in their stewardship plan entities such as Habitat for Humanity, food banks, women's shelters, Ronald McDonald Houses, United Way, cancer research, Flying Doctors of Mercy, and countless other worthwhile local and international projects. I championed this shift in the congregations I served. Our success has been significant, and I am the first to say this is a good thing. But a downside has also occurred.
Because of our success in intentionally supporting charities beyond the Lutheran community, our in-house Lutheran ministries have become underfunded. For example, at one time a student preparing for ordained ministry could count on his or her seminary education being virtually covered by the Lutheran community. Today, seminarians must add tens of thousands of dollars to their educational debt load as they prepare to serve the church.
Besides a drastic reduction in support for our eight ELCA seminaries, funding for our 28 ELCA colleges, 150 campus ministries, church camps and retreat centers, Lutheran Social Services (including adoption, refugee resettlement and nursing care), ELCA Global Mission, Lutheran Volunteer Corps, ELCA World Hunger, synod and ELCA offices, and more has also been steadily reduced.
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