Editor’s Introduction: The Lutheran Catechism as a Call Towards Our Ethical Concerns

[1] As we head towards Reformation Sunday, this issue of JLE presents four articles on how understanding Luther’s teachings calls us to consider our ethical responsibilities. These four articles were research presentations in the “Luther and Religion” seminar within the 14th International Congress for Luther Research held at California Lutheran University in 2022.  I am pleased to present them to a wider audience here, and I am especially grateful to Mary Lowe’s work with her fellow participants to make this issue possible.

[2] Lutherans are used to asserting that faith is more important than works.  Of course, there is also the understanding that our faith calls us to see the world in such a way that we see better our obligations to our neighbor and feel freer to answer those obligations in love.

[3] The first two papers in this issue deal specifically with Lutheran understandings of the Eucharist.  Mary Lowe’s paper explains the orthodox Lutheran view of the Eucharist and how this view relates to queer theologies that invite all of ourselves to be welcomed at the table.  She explains that the “for you” is especially important for those who too often feel excluded from the table and from the community for who they are.

[4] Mary Streufert’s paper explains how thinking about Luther’s theology of Communion, especially as expressed in “Against the Fanatics,” makes clear our ethical obligations. Sharing the stories of pastors who have reported sexual harassment and assault in their churches, Streufert demonstrates that there is a theological crisis in the church that is leading to abuse.  She uses Eucharistic theology to help readers understand the roots of the problem as well as providing a more ethical way to behave.  Like Lowe, she also asserts that the sacrament of Communion itself binds us in fellowship with our neighbor and changes us and reforms us so that we might better see and act with each other.

[5] The third paper focuses on Luther’s understanding of Genesis and the creation story as explained in his Large Catechism section on the credal sentence, “I believe in God, the Father, the Almighty, the Creator.”  Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir uses this theology about creation in order to address our call to be stewards for the planet and our need for ethical responses to climate change.

[6] Finally, the last paper focuses on a recent ELCA document, the 2019 “Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment,” which addresses how Lutherans are called to be in relationship with their neighbors who adhere to a variety of different religious traditions as well as to those with no religion at all.  Deanna Thompson discusses how this piece of Lutheran theology calls us ethically to support, stand with, and advocate on behalf of those in our communities whose religious affiliation is different from our own.

[7] Sometimes, Lutheran theology is criticized as being quietest. These four essays show that Lutheran theology calls loudly to us to act, to welcome, to protect, to care, and to support in very specific ways.

[8] The next issue of JLE is about ethical responses to domestic abuse and child abuse.  We are still taking submissions on this important topic.  Please send proposals to the editor at Jennifer.Hockenbery@elca.org by October 20th.


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.