From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Unveils Online Congregational Study of Economic Life

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Mon, 17 Jun 2002 14:13:30 -0500


June 17, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In 1999, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) adopted a social statement on economic life.  To help
congregations examine the statement and the issues it raised, the ELCA
Division for Church in Society has created a Web-based study guide,
"Receive with Thanksgiving!" at
     "A social statement is a theological, complex, multiply-
undergirded document," said Kaari M. Reierson, associate director for
studies, ELCA Division for Church in Society.  "For every paragraph that
makes it into the social statement there are 10 other things you could
write to help people understand it better, but we simply can't write a
social statement that long and complex," she said.
     The materials were designed for the ELCA's 10,816 congregations to
use in adult education or confirmation classes, said Reierson.  Reierson
authored the study guide in collaboration with the Rev. Paul E. Lutz,
associate director for adult education, ELCA Division for Congregational
     The study guide's title came from Martin Luther's 16th century
explanation of the Lord's Prayer.  On the petition, "Give us this day
our daily bread," Luther wrote, "In fact, God gives daily bread without
our prayer, even to all evil people, but we ask in this prayer that God
cause us to recognize what our daily bread is and to receive it with
thanksgiving."  Luther continued that "daily bread" is "everything
included in the necessities and nourishment for our bodies."
     It's important for the study guide to draw from Lutheran theology,
said Reierson, especially Luther's broad application of Christian
teachings.  Keeping God's commandments means more than refraining from
stealing or killing, she said; it means "promoting the health and well-
being of our neighbor."
     The study guide "asks people to read the social statement," said
Reierson.  "It uses examples from the social statement.  It asks people
to study the calls to action in the social statement," she said.
     The guide poses several questions to help the reader consider the
possible causes of poverty and what can be done to overcome them.  It
also addresses the Lutheran concept of vocation as the expression of
one's Christian faith in one's daily activities or profession and
pondered what that may mean for employee-employer relations.
     The study looks at the statement's title, "Sufficient, Sustainable
Livelihood for All."  It provides materials defining "sufficiency" and
"sustainability," and questions "whether sometimes we confuse what we
want and what we need," said Reierson.
     "What in our society encourages us to think that we really need an
SUV, when perhaps we could really just use a smaller car?" she asked as
an example.  "Are the practices that we carry forth now going to leave
enough resources for our children and grandchildren?"
     "The economic life social statement is an important document of
the ELCA," said the Rev. John R. Stumme, director for studies, ELCA
Division for Church in Society.  "This social statement holds out a
moral imperative to create a society with a 'sufficient, sustainable
livelihood for all.'  It's very important we talk about that and how we
can contribute to a more just economic order," he said.
     "Often in the church, perhaps too often, we ignore or don't talk
seriously about the economic life realities of our own life or of our
society -- our buying, our selling, our work, our consuming, our saving
and all the rest -- as well as the poverty within our society," said
     Since the church was formed in 1988, the ELCA has adopted seven
social statements dealing with such topics as abortion, the death
penalty and racism.  The Division for Church in Society has developed
study guides based on most statements, but this is the first to be
entirely Web-based.
     "We're not printing copies of this study guide," said Reierson.
Online files of the document were drawn up to be printed and photocopied
easily, she said.  Churches that do not have access to the Web can get
copies of the study from ELCA resource centers in their areas.
     Placing the study on the World Wide Web allows the reader to use
the Internet to bolster materials in the study with those on related
sites, Reierson said, such as a government Web site that helps U.S.
citizens look up poverty statistics in their neighborhoods.
-- -- --
     The ELCA social statement on economic life, "Sufficient,
Sustainable Livelihood for All," is available at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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