By Linda C. Hoops
At its Feb. 11-13 meeting, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) adopted “in principle” a document responding to 2007 convention Res. 3-06 requesting it “to develop a biblical and confessional report on responsible Christian stewardship of the environment for use by Synod entities including our schools and churches as they develop resources for the church at-large.”
This same resolution noted that “there is a lack of resources in the LCMS addressing environmental issues in a scriptural and confessional way” and that “there is a need for study, for service, for responsible Christian citizenship, and for concerted action on environmental issues based on an examination of biblical and confessional resources.”
“This is a major report on an issue that is of great interest and concern to many people – especially young people – in today’s society. It addresses a topic that has profound theological and societal implications, yet has not received much focused attention or theological treatment in the LCMS over the years,” said Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR executive director.
Drafted by Dr. Charles Arand, a CTCR member and chairman of the systematics department at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the document – more than 150 pages in manuscript form – will be published in a small book format.
Titled “Together With All Creatures: Caring for God’s Living Earth,” the document is designed “to help people embrace their identity and calling as God’s creatures to care for God’s living earth,” according to a brief summary provided by Arand.
“Toward that end, it first places our lives within the context of God’s own delight in and commitment to His entire creation, both human and non-human,” the summary states. “This commitment is carried out within the context of a story that extends from the beginning of creation, continues with the renewal of creation in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and culminates when the Holy Spirit sets it free from its bondage to corruption with the return of Christ.
“Second, the document encourages Christians to ‘get out’ into God’s world and discover our many connections to His living earth, so that we may delight in His handiwork even as we hear the groaning of creation (Rom. 8:19-23). As we behold and receive God’s living earth with joy and delight, we can better care for it – so that all of God’s creatures may be allowed to flourish and together give witness to the glory of God, in anticipation of being set free when Christ returns.”
The report also will be released in several smaller or summary versions which are intended for use by small groups, congregational Bible study classes, or as teaching tools in various educational settings. A final, revised version will be approved by the commission at its April 22-24 meeting.
“The commission is hopeful that the report will be ready for publication in some form by mid-July, in time for the Synod’s National Youth Gathering,” said Lehenbauer. “The CTCR plans to sponsor an exhibitor’s booth at the gathering highlighting the preparation and release of this new report.”
The CTCR hosted two consultations in 2009, which brought together a variety of individuals with interest and expertise on this topic for their input on the document itself and the best ways to disseminate it throughout the Missouri Synod, the wider church, and beyond. The consultations were funded by a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
“We are extremely grateful for all the people who took the time out of their schedules to meet with us, share their ideas and encouragement, and help bring this project to completion,” Lehenbauer said.
In other action, the CTCR encouraged LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick to respond positively to a recent request from Archbishop Robert Duncan to “explore dialogue” between the Missouri Synod and the recently-formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which Duncan heads. This was in response to Kieschnick’s request for “input and counsel” from the Commission.
The ACNA, with 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes, was formally recognized as a “province-in-formation” in April 2009 by leaders of Anglican churches representing 70 percent of active Anglicans globally. It is based in Pennsylvania.
According to its Web site (http://anglicanchurch.net/) the church body “represents the reuniting of orthodox Anglicans who have been squeezed out of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada by successive changes to historic Christian teaching and Anglican practice.”
In his letter of response to Duncan, Kieschnick wrote, “I believe that discussions such as you have outlined would prove to be a blessing for each of our churches.”
Dr. Samuel Nafzger, LCMS director of church relations, will meet with the appropriate ACNA officials to work out the details of how to facilitate these discussions. Nafzger attended ACNA’s Inaugural Assembly last June in Bedford, Texas.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted Mar. 3, 2010