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What Does It Mean to Be a Lutheran in Social Ministry – a review

The Lord be with you

This booklet (18 pages) was written by Matthew Harrison for an event sponsored by Lutheran Service in America on the topic of Lutheran identity in Social Ministry. Those who prepared papers were asked to reflect on two questions:

1. What are the unique Lutheran accents in Christian theology that inform our ministry of caring for the needs of our neighbors?

2. What are some of the issues and concerns that boards of Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs) ought to pay attention to if they are to ensure that the ministry of the agency is faithful to the Gospel, the Lutheran tradition and their church?

Many might answer these questions by asserting we need to represent a Christian ethic. But Harrison wrote, “Ethics are not what constitute, define or mark something as Christian. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that not one of Jesus’ ethical assertions was unique to Him. Not ‘Love your enemy as yourself,’ not the idea of self-sacrifice, not ‘judge not lest ye be judged.’ None of it. All these ethical prescriptions are found in other ancient sources.”

Lutheran identity is found, rather, in what we believe, teach and confess. To guide him though this idea, Harrison uses the six chief parts of the Small Catechism by Martin Luther and Luther’s 1539 book, “On the Councils and the Church.” Actually, he spends more time with the second document, providing insightful comments on each of the seven marks of the Church. These marks line up very well with the Small Catechism.

I feel the best way to read this is to treat it as goals or ideals to work for. Many “Lutheran” RSOs probably do not manifest all these traits. Certainly some will find some of the goals more difficult to integrate into their overall program due to the nature of their program. That being said, if we wish to bear a “Lutheran” witness in our mercy missions, this pamphlet gives us great guidance. As we, at Our Redeemer, look forward to our community garden, I am certainly considering how we can use this guidance to enhance our participation.

Blessings in Christ,

What Does It Mean to Be a Lutheran in Social Ministry

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