Editor’s Introduction: December 2021/January 2022, 2020-2021, A Retrospective

[1] As the secular year draws to a close and the new church year opens into the season of Advent it seems a fitting moment to take a pause and to reflect on the turbulent last two years. This issue of JLE, therefore, is not introducing a new topic but is instead drawing together some of the articles previously published on three issues that loom large this December: Climate Change, COVID 19, and Possibilities for Dialogue.

[2] The purpose of a retrospective issue is to encourage readers to look back on articles that they might not have had the time or energy to read when first published.

[3] The first topic is Climate Change. While the news cycles and our lives in most of 2020 and 2021 have been dominated by the concerns of the pandemic, we remember that in January of 2020 the prominent conversation globally was the reality of the effects of climate change as many parts of the world were, quite literally, on fire.  This November the COP 26 UN Climate change conference met in Glasgow in an effort to begin substantial work towards more ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gasses and slow the rate of warming.  This December, we invite readers to look at the three articles published in February 2020 on the questions of how people of faith might best seek constructive solutions using faith, reason, and natural science to help us move forward as a species on this planet. You can read the articles here.

[4]  The next topic, of course, must be the pandemic and COVID 19.  There have been many articles in JLE on this topic since May, 2020 when we ran a special issue on the pandemic.  In particular, readers ought to re-read Richard Perry’s paper “I’m Tired of the Okey Doke” in which Dr. Perry asks critical questions that concern the twin pandemics of racism and COVID 19. Additionally, readers should look again at Patricia Beckman’s essay on “The Gendered Impact of Covid.”  Finally, William Rodriguez’s essay is very important in its discussion of the role of conspiracy theories and truth telling during times of national crisis in his essay “COVID 19 and Conspiracy Theories.”

[5] This brings us to the last topic for this retrospective issue, namely the question of the possibility for dialogue that can lead to constructive solutions to ethical quandaries.  So often the central question in ethical deliberation is the possibility of deliberation itself given the human mind’s natural fallibility and limitation and our sinful inclination towards bias to ideas that appear to be in our own short term self-interest.

[6] We invite readers to consider three specific articles on the ethics, possibility, and fruits of dialogue. The first is the intellectually challenging piece by Drs. Christine Helmer and Amy Carr on the theological foundations for difficult and even divisive conversations, “Theological Touchstones for Disagreeing in the Body of Christ.”  The second is the culturally challenging piece by Dr. Jacqueline Robinson-Hunsicker and Ms. Amy Parry on the importance and possibility of leading conversations about race in congregations, “Pursuing a More Diverse Church: A Report and Two Reflections.” The third is the hopeful report made by Ms. Charlotte John-Gomez and Michelle Burmeister about their work fostering conversation between WELS, LCMS, and ELCA congregations in order that they might do productive service together, “Transcending Differences to Fulfill God’s Calling.”

[7] In addition, we would like to point readers to the fact that the ELCA provides two important resources for guiding difficult conversations:

 Talking Together about Tough Social Issues 

Talking Together as Christians Cross-culturally

[8] It is our hope at Journal of Lutheran Ethics that these articles and resources will be inspiring and helpful to readers as we end 2021 and begin 2022.  In February, we will publish our issue on Pastoral Ethics.  Additionally, a new call for papers is available, check it out here.  We look forward to submissions for 2022.


Jennifer Hockenbery

Jennifer Hockenbery serves as Editor of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics .  She is Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Humanities at St Norbert College. She attends Grace Lutheran Church in Green Bay, WI.