Our understanding of God's grace plays a major role in the way we approach both social and personal morality. Just as a child does not earn the love of parents, Christians do not earn God's love. God loves us first! A moral and ethical life is our loving response to God.
Martin Luther taught that God looks after what goes on in the world in two very distinct ways. This theory is called the "two kingdoms" or "two realms" theory. Luther developed it at a time when there was still a rigid feudal system in Germany and everyone was still sure of their place in the scheme of things. In our day the distinctions between rulers and the ruled are not as clear cut as they were in Luther's time, but his theory still provides some helpful insights.
According to the two kingdoms theory, God provides governments for basic social order. For this reason, Lutherans have been active in supporting the positive role that governments play.
On the other side of the two kingdoms theory, God provides the church to proclaim the Gospel. The church's 'business' is to share God's grace and to remind Christians of their responsibility to their neighbors.
Both realms—church and government—have a responsibility to each other. Luther actively reminded those in public office of their responsibilities to ensure justice and preserve peace. He was particularly active in helping leaders establish programs of social welfare for the burgeoning numbers of poor in Europe at that time. He also did not hesitate to call political leaders, laborers, business leaders, even judges to account for their actions.
The ELCIC sees its responsibility to government as part of its public witness. There are times when we need to denounce injustice and to announce the good news that God intended something different. Some call this our prophetic task. Much of this work is done ecumenically in partnership with other churches in Canada.
We also have a pastoral task. It is important for us to help people and communities understand issues and then make decisions in this complex world of ours.
So that we can carry out our roles responsibly, we need to talk about the important questions that confront people in the world today and reflect on their moral and ethical implications. Some of this is done through a wide variety of Christian education programs in our church for both children and adults.
Sometimes we consider the matter so important that we develop a Social Statement about it. I use the word "we" very deliberately. We try to give everyone in our church a chance to help to prepare our Social Statements. We develop study papers and invite all our members to discuss them and to make suggestions for ways to improve and strengthen them.
Our Social Statements have three purposes. They are an opportunity to teach people and to help them to understand the issues by providing some guidance and support for individual Christians who are living with the situations described in the statements and who may have to make decisions concerning these issues.
Social Statements guide the ELCIC in looking at how the ELCIC itself does things. In other words, do we practice what we preach?
Social Statements also serve as polices to guide our church in its discussions with government. Our leaders can speak with the confidence that this is not the opinion of just one member, but the official position of our church.
Even when we adopt a Social Statement or take an official position on an issue, every member of the ELCIC still remains free to support a different view. Luther described this in his treatise to the German nobility as the freedom of the Christian.
Although the ELCIC has official positions—some in the form of Social Statement—about such things as abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, economic justice and ecology, the details are too complex to include in a booklet such as this. While you can access many of them from this website, your congregation also should have the documents that discuss these positions or be able to get copies of them for you if you are interested in them.