From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Social Ministries: Bold Strategies

From George Conklin <>
Date 10 May 1996 15:25:21

May 10, 1996


        NORFOLK, Va. (ELCA) -- About 420 people
came from 35 states and Washington, D.C., to the 1996
Triennial Conference of Lutheran Social Ministry
Organizations here April 25-28.  They represented many
of the 250 social ministry organizations of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America.
        Speakers and workshops concentrated on the theme
#Bold Strategies for Turbulent Times.#
        The theme #highlights the need for proactive
responses to the many challenges facing the church and its
social ministries,# said the Rev. Charles S. Miller,
executive director of the ELCA Division for Church in
Society.  The division sponsored the conference.
        Many social service agencies face financial
difficulties.  ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson
brought words of encouragement.
        "If money is the bottom line, then you haven't got the
whole picture," he said.  "People must be the bottom line."
        Anderson reassured them of the church's support.
"There is an army of friends out there to help when you are
beleaguered,# he said.
        "Your work is God's work.  God wants it done even
more than you do," said Anderson.  He suggested that the
boldest strategy for turbulent times may be to "ask for
forgiveness for getting in the way and then listen again for
what God wants of you."
        The Rev. Fred Kammer, S.J., president of Catholic
Charities USA, defined the turbulent times for American
charities -- increasing need, restructuring economy, the
changing role of government, infrastructure changes (like
managed care) and maintaining a Catholic or Lutheran
        "How do you maintain your Lutheran identity in the
midst of all these forces that are affecting you and the great
diversity of your own staff, boards, leadership and the
people you serve?" he asked.
        "We have to speak out more strongly about what we
do, the people we serve and the quality of the services we
provide," said Kammer.  "Most Americans don't think
anything works.  They don't think any good is taking
        Among the bold strategies available to religious
charities, he said, "We can build new, stronger alliances
among ourselves to face some of the structural issues or to
position the organizations to work better together, to be a
stronger voice in American society."
        Many of the world's health problems have social
solutions, said Dr. William H. Foege, health fellow at the
Carter Center and executive director of the Task Force
for Child Survival and Development, Atlanta.  The doctor
is a member of St. Michael Lutheran Church, Doraville,
        "Look at what is happening with violence and drug
use.  Many young people really don't have an opportunity.
They grow up in an environment that never puts any
premium on developing one's skills.  They end up leading
stunted lives despite great potential," said Foege.
        "The church is in a position to do much about the
social capital -- improving trust, improving participation,"
he said.  The 300,000 congregations, synagogues, temples
and mosques in the United States "could have a
tremendous impact if they share some goals."
        Foege commended Lutheran social ministry
organizations for coming together to set common goals
with the church.  "You can't have leaders or followers
without shared goals," he told them.

                    -- 30 --

For information contact: Ann Hafften, director, ELCA
News Service, 312/380-2958; Frank Imhoff, associate
director, 312/380-2955; Lia Christiansen, assistant
director, 312/380-2956.

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