For Congregational Discussion: The Ethics of Pan-Lutheran Dialogue and Debate

[1] The Journal of Lutheran Ethics hopes to provide reading material to stimulate thinking and conversation among academics, clergy, and laity.  To this end, this section of JLE is designed to encourage constructive discussion within congregations about the topics discussed in JLE.  Consider using this section in formal adult education classes or in informal small group discussions.

[2] The October/November 2021 issue of JLE is dedicated to the topic of the importance of discussion among Lutherans.  The following questions and quotes might be used to generate discussion about the emotions and reasons surrounding congregation members’ opinions about the possibility of theological and ethical discussion with Lutherans outside of the ELCA.

[3] Conversation starters:

  1. The Lutheran Church is a global church made of many different associations. Have you had the chance to visit a Lutheran church outside the ELCA and in another country? If so explain what was powerful and what was difficult in that experience.
  2. Charlotte John-Gomez and Michelle Burmeister reflect on the following statement concerning three associations of Lutherans in the United States: “WELS, LCMS, and ELCA Lutherans are woven together by the redemptive love and salvation of Jesus Christ, freely offered to all of God’s children. A common faith in this redemptive love opens our hearts to explore lessons learned from working in a pan-Lutheran context.” What are some of the experiences (both positive and negative) you have had working with Lutherans outside of the ELCA in the United States?   What are some areas and issues on which collaboration seems most possible and most necessary?
  3. David Nelson writes the following:  “Hosting a conversation in an age of ideological extremes isn’t easy.”  He then quotes theologians Amy Carr and Christine Helmer who write “It is only through patient discussion with each other that we both can come to better understand what we believe and think and become aware of different perspectives.” In what ways can patient discussion help us understand ourselves and our position better even if we do not come to an agreement with another person or group?
  4. Robert Kolb’s essay explains how Luther’s faithful trust that in God’s love made him a bold preacher and dialogue partner. He writes, “Therefore, taking Luther’s example seriously . . . contemporary Lutherans must actively engage in winsome, clear conversation with other Christians (including other Lutherans) and those outside the faith to share our heritage of confident, bold declaration of God’s love for sinners.”   In what ways do you find the need for pan-Lutheran conversation to be both Lutheran and evangelical?




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.