For Congregational Discussion: Protecting Children: What Is the Role of the ELCA?


Please note: Congregations looking to have discussions on child abuse and its prevention might also look to the discussion guide in the December 2023 issue:

Each of the essays in this issue might be occasions for a discussion within a congregation that wishes to consider new ways of thinking and new practices that protect children and care for those who have been abused.

In discussing Marcia Bunge’s essay, congregants might consider the following three simuls about children:

  • Children are developing and in need of instruction and guidance AND ALSO already fully human, made in the image of God, and worthy of dignity and respect.
  • Children are vulnerable and in need of protection AND ALSO strong and insightful models for adults.
  • Children are sources of joy AND ALSO creative social agents with gifts and strengths that contribute to our families and communities.


Questions to discuss:

  1. What examples have you seen in your own church or in your own families of children being both/and in terms of innocence and wisdom, of vulnerability and strength, of play and seriousness?
  2. How might we honor children as both/and in terms of worship, education, and leadership in the church?

In discussing Victor Vieth’s essay, a discussion group might consider the following important questions:

  1. What are the sources for spiritual pain that survivors of child abuse might find in the church according to this essay?
  2. What are the sources for spiritual strength and care might churches provide to survivors of child abuse according to this essay?
  3. What call to action do you hear in this talk by Vieth?







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.