These principles, based on ELCA related social statements, were affirmed on March 11, 1994 by the Board of the Division for Church in Society, as the current basis for ELCA public policy advocacy related to welfare reform and for the purpose of ongoing deliberation in the ELCA.
The current public welfare system is in need of significant reform. The purpose of these working principles is to clarify the bases for ELCA public policy advocacy regarding legislative proposals for reforming the welfare system, especially the federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Many of the principles are also applicable to welfare-related proposals at the state level.
Poverty is the underlying problem welfare programs seek to alleviate. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (with its predecessor churches) has a long and extensive history of involvement in this area. The ELCA-affiliated net-work of social ministry organizations is financially the largest such on-profit network in the country. Many of these organizations have long histories of serving people in situations of poverty (presently serving over 300,000), including significant work in the area of refugee resettlement. The women's organization of the ELCA has taken initiatives to respond to people living in poverty in their communities through social service efforts (such as food programs and shelters), through pastoral care, and through advocacy and organizing efforts.
These principles presume and build upon the biblical, theological, and ethical understandings articulated in the social statements of the ELCA and its predecessors, as indicated in the endnotes. In these social statements, The ELCA has, among other things, committed itself to "defend human dignity, to stand with poor and powerless people, and to advocate justice."  The economic sector, families, and voluntary associations play important roles in this. However, the focus on these principles is on the role of government.
In 1986-87, a "More than Charity" campaign (of the church bodies that formed the ELCA) held hearings on poverty and welfare reform throughout this country. Out of this process came "Guiding Principles in Social Welfare Reform," which have informed the development of the following principles. In 1993 the ELCA adopted a many-faceted strategy on "Women and Children in Poverty," as a priority emphasis for the rest of this decade. That strategy recognizes that, in addition to the many kinds of church-based assistance, policy and practices that create and sustain poverty need to be challenged and changed.
The following format sets forth:
Some basic theological affirmations, grounded in Scripture, the confessions, and the social statements of the ELCA.
Some ethical interpretations and implications of these theological affirmations for the discussion of welfare reform today.
Some specific public policy positions that can be deduced from the above.
In moving from broad affirmations to specific positions, ELCA members are likely to have significant differences and to give different weight to the various principles. As a church we encourage ongoing deliberation as to what policies will best serve God's intentions for persons in community. Although the positions cited here are intended to serve as a current basis for ELCA public policy advocacy, they are subject to change in the future, especially through the study and deliberative processes that will occur as part of the development of an ELCA economic social statement.
The Obligation of Government: The government's obligation under God includes establishing justice, protecting and advancing human rights, welfare of all persons. 
Government has the responsibility to help meet the needs and uphold the rights of those who are at the margins of the economic system. 
Government is responsible to establish just welfare policy. This includes determining who receives welfare and raising necessary revenues.
REFORM OF THE SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT-PROVIDED WELFARE SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN LIGHT OF SOME BASIC AFFIRMATIONS ABOUT HUMAN BEINGS...
Dependent on God: As human beings we are dependent on God for all we have and are. 
None of us are truly "self-sufficient," "deserving," or autonomous. These distinctions are only relative and should not be used to separate some people (i.e., those on welfare) from others, as if they were somehow of less value.
Welfare policies that make distinctions between persons who are "deserving" and those who are "undeserving" need to be questioned.
"Self-sufficiency," although an important goal in welfare reform, should not necessarily be seen as the only or highest goal in all cases.
Interdependent with Mutual Responsibilities: Human beings are intended by God to live in interdependent relationships with one another. It is in the basic human relationships of domestic, political, and economic life that persons share in their common humanity.  A society and the persons in it have mutual responsibilities toward one another.
In the public realm, this interdependence is reflected in income-support programs that transfer funds from taxpayers to a designated group of persons within a society. Most citizens, at some time during their lifetime, are both payers and receivers of public transfer payments, some of which are means-tested (e.g., welfare programs), others of which are not (e.g., Social Security, Medicare, veteran benefits, unemployment compensation). 
Welfare reform should be motivated not primarily by the cost to taxpayers but by a sense of interdependence and responsibility toward all people.
Government is especially obligated toward those who are the most vulnerable. Structures and supports are required to undergird the development of skills and capabilities needed for persons to function in society and thus live out their obligation to contribute toward the social good.
Welfare reform should seek to enable persons to rise out of poverty, affirm their human dignity, and empower them through education, training, and services to achieve long-term economic sufficiency.
Long-term economic sufficiency cannot occur apartfrom adequate social, structural, and relational support, including stablefamilies, safe communities, adequate schools, preparationfor, access to, and opportunities for jobs.
When persons cannot generate an income adequate to live in a decent, humane way, a safety net must continue to be available to meet their basic needs.
Persons fulfill their obligation to society not only by becoming economically self-sufficient, but also by contributing to the common good of a society in other ways (e.g., caringfor children).
Human Dignity and Basic Needs: All human beings are entitled to the basic necessities of a dignified, humane existence and/or to the means of securing such. A right is what justice requires in response to particular human needs. 
Human dignity should not be violated through provisions of a welfare policy that view human beings primarily in terms of their cost to the wider society, their job skill value, or the income they are able to generate.
Public policies should assure persons of their fundamental rights to adequate income, decent housing, health care, nutrition, and education.
In order to bring those in need closer to a sustainable income, the benefit level for the federal Aid for Families with Dependent Children program (AFCD) should reflect regional differences and cost-of-living increases.
In addition to income support:
- nutrition programs should be made more available through improved access and education;
- the number of safe, affordable housing units needs to be expanded;
- universal health care coverage, key in reducing the need to stay on welfare, should be in place; 
- educational systems, key in preparing people for changing employment opportunities, need to be revitalized.
Freedom and Initiative: Human beings have been created with moral agency and freedom, with a power to act responsibly in light of their particular circumstances, accountable to God, self and others.  God has given human beings the capacity and initiative to define the problems of material existence in community and to effect positive change.
A society is healthier when its members are encouraged to participate responsibly in deterrnining their own lives rather than being only the passive consumer of goods and services.  No person or community should relinquish the initiative or capacity to affect the conditions of their life, and social and political institutions should encourage such initiative. 
Welfare policies should nurture fhe power to act responsibly, with possible incentives and rewardsfor accomplishing planned goals. Coercive or punitive measures should not be used to compel human action.
Inadequate grant levels force most recipients of welfare to seek unreported income if they are to survive, and thereby encourage lying and cheating.
Grant levels either must be increased so they are adequatefor the basic necessities of life, and/or the present earned income "disregard formula" must be adjusted to allow families to keep a greater portion of the income they earn and to savefor the future. Grants, loans, or scholarships for education and training should not be factored into income.
Human Work: Through work, human beings are privileged and obligated to reflect the Creator whose work they are. The exclusion of persons from the community of work is a denial of the opportunity of realizing God's intention for humanity. Work is important for human well-being, but not as an end in itself. Work is thus meant for persons in community, not persons for work. 
Making it possible for people to move from welfare to work is important because employment is a means by which people become contributing participants in society. However, this is hindered in a labor market increaingly dominated by low-wage, part-time or temporary jobs that cannot support a family.
Effective job training (on the job, technical, and non-traditional) and educational programs (vocational, secondary, and higher) must be expanded so that participants can acquire the skills necessary for stable employment.
Stable jobs with living wages and adequate benefits should be the goal. Provision of these jobs should be done in ways that do not have the direct effect of displacing other workers.
Welfare-recipients should not be forced into jobs that will make them worse off, that is, low-paying jobs without basic benefits they receive under welfare (e.g., health care, child care,food stamps, transportation). Such benefits should carry over temporarily and be phased out only as the employment income and benefits increase.
"Workfare" (requiring work in exchangefor welfare) may not actually increase people's long-term employability, but may contribute toward a permanent working underclass, eroding both wages and employment standards for other workers. Short-term structured work experience, however, may have a positive effect on some persons who have never been employed outside the home.
For all workers, the minimum wage should be increased and indexed according to the rate of inflation. In addition, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC ) is important because, in effect, it subsidizes low-paying jobs through the tax system.
Investment in Families: Families are the basic communities in which personhood is fostered, and from which members move out to participate in society.  Families are entitled to protection from forces that would tear them apart. 
Men and women should not become parents until they are able to nurture and support their children. Public policies should support responsible family life.
Appropriate forms of sexuality education in the schools, community pregnancy prevention programs, and parenting preparation classes are to be supported.  Programs to enhance self-esteem and life options are important deterrents to teenage pregnancies.
Welfare policies should encourage continuing parental or other adult support and guidance for minor parents,for example, through mentors and living in a household with a responsible adult (when appropriate). Minor parents should never be required to return to an abusive home in order to qualify for government assistance.
Policies that require or encourage parents to remain unmarried or to separate in order to quality for welfare programs must be changed.
Nurture and Support of Children: All children have the right to parental care and affection.  Caring for and providing for the manifold needs of children is an important way in which people contribute to the common good of society.
In each set of circumstances, there must be a realistic assessment of what is necessary to bear, nurture, and provide for children over the long-term, and what resources are available or need to be provided for this purpose. 
Single parents of young children should not be required to seek employment outside the home if they decide that the good of their children, and thus the social good, is best served in their circumstances through the work of nurturing their family, rather than through efforts to become economically self-sufficient.
Quality, affordable child care should be made available to parents who are employed outside the home, or who participate in education, training, and job search programs.
Strong child support and/or assurance programs are needed.
The law must hold both parents responsible for the financial support of their children. 
Programs such as job training, education, and/or substance abuse treatment can help some custodial as well as non-custodial parents to meet their child support obligations. Custodial parents should generally be given priority.
Families with children should be helped to move out of poverty, rather than penalized.
Sanctions should not be imposed if additional children are conceived by parents already receiving AFDC.
A refundable children's credit, in place of a tax deduction, can help provide greater tax equity and assist low-incomefamilies to rise out of poverty.
Caring for the Stranger: "You shall not oppress a resident alien... for you were aliens..." (Ex. 23:9). Regardless of their citizenship, all human beings are equally entitled to what they need to live in meaningful relation to God and neighbor. 
A society's health can be measured by how it treats those in its midst who are most impoverished, who often are refugees and non-citizens.
Refugees have distinctive needs, which should continue to be addressed under a separate program and not subsumed into the AFDC program.
After an initial period of residency, welfare benefits should not be denied to legal immigrants, who typically contribute to the economy and pay taxes.
Supporting welfare reform by taking from other disadvantaged groups is unacceptable.
Each is Unique: As creations of God, each human being and the circumstances of his/her life are unique.
A welfare policy must have flexibility in the kinds and length of assistance and supportive services that are provided.
Individual plans should be developed that respond wholistically and directly to a family's particular needs and challenges. In addition to an income grant, some combination of job training, education, job counseling and placement, personal management skills, parenting skills, and substance abuse treatment may be needed. Child care and transportation must be available to those who need it.
Time limits on the receipt of benefits should not be arbitrary. They should take into account individual circumstances, the needs of dependent children, and the failure of the economy to generate enough jobs with adequate income and benefits.
Some persons may not be employable or should not be expected to work, such as those caring for disabled persons or children. Some requiring assistance may have been traumatized by physical or sexual abuse, pennanently damaged by substance abuse, or have experienced another type of trauma or disability. An expansion of the SSI program may be necessary to assist persons in these situations.
A case manager approach should be morefully utilized. Trained with skill and culturally-specific sensitivities, such a case manager works with a client in a spirit of respect. The task is to develop a plan, monitor it, and provide the ongoing personal support that enables a client to carry out the plan. The two work together, with mutual responsibility and accountability. If the assisting agency does not provide the services designated in the plan, client should not be obligated to fulfill their commitments, and any mandated sanctions should not be imposed.
While innovative demonstration projects should be encouraged, they must not impose punitive behavioral requirements or result in further deprivation of recipients.
The listed principles should be considered in the negotiating an budgeting processes for welfare reform. Given limited revenue programs consistent with these principles that begin on a small-scale are preferable over large-scale programs that are inadequately funded and less likely to be effective.
For further information contact the Lutheran public policy office in your state, or the
Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs
122 C. St., NW Suite 125
Washington, D.C. 20001