Listening to People: Plant Closings
A Study Paper of the Lutheran Church in America (1983)
On May 20-21, 1983, a group of LCA members from nine synods met
in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. They included persons who were
recently unemployed and those who had been out of work for many
months, spouses of unemployed persons and counselors of the
unemployed, corporate executives and union representatives, persons
involved in community organizations to address unemployment and
members of the clergy. They came together to share their insights
and feelings about the causes and effects of plant closings and
The following statement is addressed to their brothers and
sisters in the church. It is not to be construed as an official
statement of policy of the Lutheran Church in America.
WE BELIEVE THAT GOD CARES
We believe that God cares for each of us. We believe that
what happens in people's lives is of the utmost importance to God
and to each of us. We believe that we, as the church, must address
the causes and consequences of unemployment in light of our living
We affirm the church in addressing the issue of plant
We believe the church should address the issue in its ministry
with persons who are victims of plant closings.
We further believe the church should address the systemic causes
that allow for widespread movement of capital and job displacement
due to plant closings.
A CALL TO THE CHURCH
We call on the Lutheran Church in America to commission a
comprehensive study of the effects of plant closings on people and
their communities; to develop and distribute a resource manual
outlining effective methods for synods, church-related agencies and
congregations to use in building local programs that assist
unemployed persons; and to expand its teachings on the intrinsic
worth of all God's people in order to counteract the societal
attitude that equates human value with status, productivity, or
We call on the church to commission a comprehensive study of the
causes of structural unemployment and at the same time to develop
and implement strategies for response that involve both the public
and private sectors. The LCA Social Statement on Economic Justice
should serve as a guideline for the development of such
We call on the church to address the systemic issues
surrounding plant closings by:
- Advocating legislation that will require socially responsible
decisions regarding plant closings
- Providing support for individuals and community organizations
working to develop local ownership of resources. Such support
should include, as appropriate, revolving loan funds, grants, and
- Informing LCA members about legislation related to all aspects of
- Providing opportunities for LCA members to receive training in
- Serving as a catalyst to promote trust and dialogue between
labor, management, and government.
We call on synods and their appropriate agencies and
institutions to minister with persons hurt by unemployment
- Providing opportunities for cluster meetings where unemployed
persons can develop networks that enable peer employment
counseling, job referrals, talent banks, and job retraining.
- Supporting conferences that help pastors and lay persons develop
skills in working with unemployed persons.
- Creating a revolving loan fund to provide emergency mortgage
relief and an emergency assistance fund to help meet basic needs of
We call on synods to be especially sensitive to congregations in
places where unemployment is a severe problem and to offer whatever
support is possible.
We call on bishops to consult with other denominational and
community leaders in order to identify and carry out cooperative
responses to issues of unemployment.
We call on congregations to support unemployed persons
in their communities by:
- Creating revolving loan funds that encourage local economic
health, development or redevelopment.
- Supporting or creating local crisis centers, social service
agencies, and community action groups.
- Publicizing the availability of governmental assistance programs
for unemployed persons.
- Encouraging mutual support such as sharing of personal talents
for work exchanges, sharing information about job opportunities,
providing child care and transportation assistance for persons
The church is unique. It is both a community and an institution.
In the community are gathered persons from the labor force, from
management, and from government. The church can be a healing
community. It can be the setting where trust and understanding
replace suspicion and insensitivity.
As an institution the church can carry out its prophetic
ministry. It can seek out and define the causes of unemployment. In
its efforts to bring about just and equitable solutions to the
problems of unemployment, the church can speak to its own members,
and it can address other private and public institutions as
As the church, we ask the church to hear