Talking Together as Christians about Tough Social Issues
In its first social statement, “The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective” (1991), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America — in all its expressions — committed itself to foster moral deliberation on social questions, seeking to:
- be a community where open, passionate, and respectful deliberation on challenging and controversial issues of contemporary society is expected and encouraged;
- engage those of diverse perspectives, classes, genders, ages, races, and cultures in the deliberation process so that each of our limited horizons might be expanded and the witness of the Body of Christ in the world enhanced;
- address through deliberative processes the issues faced by the people of God, in order to equip them in their discipleship and citizenship in the world;
- arrive at positions to guide its corporate witness through participatory processes of moral deliberation; and
- contribute toward the up-building of the common good and the revitalizing of public life through open and inclusive processes of deliberation.
The 1997 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted seven “Initiatives to Prepare for a New Century.” The third initiative, “Witness to God’s Action in the World,” is intended to encourage congregations to “model life in community as they address pressing social issues, ethical questions, and community renewal.” Part of this includes congregations developing and exercising their skills in faith-based deliberation about tough social issues. This guide has been written in response to that initiative. It is intended for leadership teams of pastors and lay people. Here “talking together” is used as a more accessible synonym for what has previously been referred to as “moral deliberation.”
The suggestions in this guide have been gleaned from groups and organizations with considerable experience in helping people with conversations such as these. In November of 1998, the ELCA convened a gathering of representatives of a number of these groups, some of whom are listed in Appendix A. We are grateful for their generous time, experience, and knowledge. You may want to contact them for further resources or assistance.
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