Adopted by a more than two-thirds majority vote as a social statement of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America by the third Churchwide Assembly on August 28, 1993, at Kansas City, Missouri.
P R O L O G U E
Christian concern for the environment is shaped by the Word of God
spoken in creation, the Love of God hanging on a cross, the Breath of God
daily renewing the face of the earth.
We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are deeply concerned
about the environment, locally and globally, as members of this church and
as members of society. Even as we join the political, economic, and
scientific discussion, we know care for the earth to be a profoundly
As Lutheran Christians, we confess that both our witness to God’s
goodness in creation and our acceptance of caregiving responsibility have
often been weak and uncertain. This statement:
offers a vision of God’s intention for creation and for humanity as
acknowledges humanity’s separation from God and from the rest of
creation as the central cause of the environmental crisis;
recognizes the severity of the crisis; and
expresses hope and heeds the call to justice and commitment.
This statement summons us, in particular, to a faithful return to the biblical vision.
E v a n g e l i c a l L u t h e r a n C h u r c h i n A m e r i c a
Caring for Creation:
Vision, Hope, and Justice
A Social Statement on:
I. T H E C H U R C H ’ S V I S I O N O F C R E A T I O N
A. God, Earth, and All Creatures
We see the despoiling of the environment as nothing less than the degradation of
God’s gracious gift of creation.
Scripture witnesses to God as creator of the earth and all that dwells therein (Psalm
24:1). The creeds, which guide our reading of Scripture, proclaim God the Father
of Jesus Christ as “maker of heaven and earth,” Jesus Christ as the one “through
[whom] all things were made,” and the Holy Spirit as “the Lord, the giver of life”
God blesses the world and sees it as “good,” even before humankind comes on the
scene. All creation, not just humankind, is viewed as “very good” in God’s eyes
(Genesis 1:31). God continues to bless the world: “When you send forth your
spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground” (Psalm 104:30). By
faith we understand God to be deeply, mysteriously, and unceasingly involved in
what happens in all creation. God showers care upon sparrows and lilies (Matthew
6:26-30), and brings “rain on a land where no one lives, on the desert, which is
empty of human life” (Job 38:26).
Central to our vision of God’s profound involvement with the world is the
Incarnation. In Christ, the Word is made flesh, with saving significance for an
entire creation that longs for fulfillment (Romans 8:18-25). The Word still comes
to us in the waters of baptism, and in, with, and under the bread and wine, fruits of
the earth and the work of human hands. God consistently meets us where we live,
through earthy matter.
B. Our Place in Creation
Humanity is intimately related to the rest of creation. We, like other creatures, are
formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7, 9, 19). Scripture speaks of humanity’s kinship
with other creatures (Psalm 104, Job 38-39). God cares faithfully for us, and
together we join in singing the “hymn of all creation” (Lutheran Book of Worship,
page 61; Psalm 148). We look forward to a redemption that includes all creation
Humans, in service to God, have special roles on behalf of the whole of creation.
Made in the image of God, we are called to care for the earth as God cares for the
earth. God’s command to have dominion and subdue the earth is not a license to
dominate and exploit. Human dominion (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8), a special
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responsibility, should reflect God’s way of ruling as a shepherd king who takes the
form of a servant (Philippians 2:7), wearing a crown of thorns.
According to Genesis 2:15, our role within creation is to serve and to keep God’s
garden, the earth. “To serve,” often translated “to till,” invites us again to envision
ourselves as servants, while “to keep” invites us to take care of the earth as God
keeps and cares for us (Numbers 6:24-26).
We are called to name the animals (Genesis 2:19-20). As God names Israel and all
creation (Isaiah 40:26; 43:1; Psalm 147:4) and as the shepherd calls by name each
sheep (John 10:3), naming unites us in a caring relationship. Further, we are to live
within the covenant God makes with every living thing (Genesis 9:12-17; Hosea
2:18), and even with the day and night (Jeremiah 33:20). We are to love the earth
as God loves us.
We are called to live according to God’s wisdom in creation (Proverbs 8), which
brings together God’s truth and goodness. Wisdom, God’s way of governing
creation, is discerned in every culture and era in various ways. In our time, science
and technology can help us to discover how to live according to God’s creative
Such caring, serving, keeping, loving, and living by wisdom sum up what is meant
by acting as God’s stewards of the earth. God’s gift of responsibility for the earth
dignifies humanity without debasing the rest of creation. We depend upon God,
who places us in a web of life with one another and with all creation.
II. T H E U R G E N C Y
A. Sin and Captivity
Not content to be made in the image of God (Genesis 3:5; Ezekiel 28:1-10), we have
rebelled and disrupted creation. As did the people of ancient Israel, we experience
nature as an instrument of God’s judgment (cf., Deuteronomy 11:13-17; Jeremiah
4:23-28). A disrupted nature is a judgment on our unfaithfulness as stewards.
Alienated from God and from creation, and driven to make a name for ourselves
(Genesis 11:4), we become captives to demonic powers and unjust institutions
(Galatians 4:9; Ephesians 6:12; Revelation 13:1-4). In our captivity, we treat the
earth as a boundless warehouse and allow the powerful to exploit its bounties to
their own ends (Amos 5:6-15). Our sin and captivity lie at the roots of the current
Vision, Hope , and Justice 3
B. The Current Crisis
The earth is a planet of beauty and abundance; the earth system is wonderfully
intricate and incredibly complex. But today living creatures, and the air, soil, and
water that support them, face unprecedented threats. Many threats are global; most
stem directly from human activity. Our current practices may so alter the living
world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner we know.
Twin problems—excessive consumption by industrialized nations, and relentless
growth of human population worldwide—jeopardize efforts to achieve a sustainable
future. These problems spring from and intensify social injustices. Global
population growth, for example, relates to the lack of access by women to family
planning and health care, quality education, fulfilling employment, and equal
Processes of environmental degradation feed on one another. Decisions affecting
an immediate locale often affect the entire planet. The resulting damages to
environmental systems are frightening:
depletion of non-renewable resources, especially oil;
loss of the variety of life through rapid destruction of habitats;
erosion of topsoil through unsustainable agriculture and forestry practices;
pollution of air by toxic emissions from industries and vehicles, and
pollution of water by wastes;
increasing volumes of wastes; and
prevalence of acid rain, which damages forests, lakes, and streams.
Even more widespread and serious, according to the preponderance of evidence
from scientists worldwide, are:
the depletion of the protective ozone layer, resulting from the use of
volatile compounds containing chlorine and bromine; and
dangerous global warming, caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases,
especially carbon dioxide.
The idea of the earth as a boundless warehouse has proven both false and
dangerous. Damage to the environment eventually will affect most people through
increased conflict over scarce resources, decline in food security, and greater
vulnerability to disease.
Indeed, our church already ministers with and to people:
who know firsthand the effects of environmental deterioration because
they work for polluting industries or live near incinerators or waste dumps;
4 Caring for Creation:
who make choices between preserving the environment and damaging it
further in order to live wastefully or merely to survive; and
who can no longer make their living from forests, seas, or soils that are
either depleted or protected by law.
In our ministry, we learn about the extent of the environmental crisis, its
complexities, and the suffering it entails. Meeting the needs of today’s generations
for food, clothing, and shelter requires a sound environment. Action to counter
degradation, especially within this decade, is essential to the future of our children
and our children’s children. Time is very short.
III. T H E H O P E
A. The Gift of Hope
Sin and captivity, manifest in threats to the environment, are not the last word.
God addresses our predicament with gifts of “forgiveness of sins, life, and
salvation” (Luther, Small Catechism). By the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
God frees us from our sin and captivity, and empowers us to be loving servants to
Although we remain sinners, we are freed from our old captivity to sin. We are
now driven to God’s promise of blessings yet to come. Only by God’s promise are
we no longer captives of demonic powers or unjust institutions. We are captives
of hope (Zechariah 9:11-12). Captured by hope, we proclaim that God has made
peace with all things through the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:15-20), and that
the Spirit of God, “the giver of life,” renews the face of the earth.
Captured by hope, we dream dreams and look forward to a new creation. God
does not just heal this creation wounded by human sin. God will one day
consummate all things in “new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at
home” (2 Peter 3:13). Creation—now in captivity to disruption and death—will
know the freedom it awaits.
B. Hope in Action
We testify to the hope that inspires and encourages us. We announce this hope to
every people, and witness to the renewing work of the Spirit of God. We are to be
a herald here and now to the new creation yet to come, a living model.
Our tradition offers many glimpses of hope triumphant over despair. In ancient
Israel, as Jerusalem was under siege and people were on the verge of exile, Jeremiah
purchased a plot of land (Jeremiah 32). When Martin Luther was asked what he
Vision, Hope , and Justice 5
would do if the world were to end tomorrow, he reportedly answered, “I would
plant an apple tree today.” When we face today’s crisis, we do not despair. We act.
IV. T H E C A L L T O J U S T I C E
Caring, serving, keeping, loving, and living by wisdom—these translate into justice
in political, economic, social, and environmental relationships. Justice in these
relationships means honoring the integrity of creation, and striving for fairness
within the human family.
It is in hope of God’s promised fulfillment that we hear the call to justice; it is in
hope that we take action. When we act interdependently and in solidarity with
creation, we do justice. We serve and keep the earth, trusting its bounty can be
sufficient for all, and sustainable.
A. Justice through Participation
We live within the covenant God makes with all living things, and are in
relationship with them. The principle of participation means they are entitled to be
heard and to have their interests considered when decisions are made.
Creation must be given voice, present generations and those to come. We must
listen to the people who fish the sea, harvest the forest, till the soil, and mine the
earth, as well as to those who advance the conservation, protection, and
preservation of the environment.
We recognize numerous obstacles to participation. People often lack the political
or economic power to participate fully. They are bombarded with manipulated
information, and are prey to the pressures of special interests. The interests of the
rest of creation are inadequately represented in human decisions.
We pray, therefore, that our church may be a place where differing groups can be
brought together, tough issues considered, and a common good pursued.
B. Justice through Solidarity
Creation depends on the Creator, and is interdependent within itself. The principle
of solidarity means that we stand together as God’s creation.
We are called to acknowledge this interdependence with other creatures and to act
locally and globally on behalf of all creation. Furthermore, solidarity also asks us
to stand with the victims of fire, floods, earthquakes, storms, and other natural
6 Caring for Creation:
We recognize, however, the many ways we have broken ranks with creation. The
land and its inhabitants are often disenfranchised by the rich and powerful. The
degradation of the environment occurs where people have little or no voice in
decisions — because of racial, gender, or economic discrimination. This
degradation aggravates their situation and swells the numbers of those trapped in
urban or rural poverty.
We pray, therefore, for the humility and wisdom to stand with and for creation,
and the fortitude to support advocates whose efforts are made at personal risk.
C. Justice through Sufficiency
The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. No person or group has absolute
claim to the earth or its products. The principle of sufficiency means meeting the basic
needs of all humanity and all creation.
In a world of finite resources, for all to have enough means that those with more
than enough will have to change their patterns of acquisition and consumption.
Sufficiency charges us to work with each other and the environment to meet needs
without causing undue burdens elsewhere.
Sufficiency also urges us to care for arable land so that sufficient food and fiber
continue to be available to meet human needs. We affirm, therefore, the many
stewards of the land who have been and are conserving the good earth that the
Lord has given us.
We recognize many forces that run counter to sufficiency. We often seek personal
fulfillment in acquisition. We anchor our political and economic structures in
greed and unequal distribution of goods and services. Predictably, many are left
without resources for a decent and dignified life.
We pray, therefore, for the strength to change our personal and public lives, to the
end that there may be enough.
D. Justice through Sustainability
The sabbath and jubilee laws of the Hebrew tradition remind us that we may not
press creation relentlessly in an effort to maximize productivity (Exodus 20:8-11;
Leviticus 25). The principle of sustainability means providing an acceptable quality of
life for present generations without compromising that of future generations.
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Protection of species and their habitats, preservation of clean land and water,
reduction of wastes, care of the land—these are priorities. But production of basic
goods and services, equitable distribution, accessible markets, stabilization of
population, quality education, full employment—these are priorities as well.
We recognize the obstacles to sustainability. Neither economic growth that
ignores environmental cost nor conservation of nature that ignores human cost is
sustainable. Both will result in injustice and, eventually, environmental
degradation. We know that a healthy economy can exist only within a healthy
environment, but that it is difficult to promote both in our decisions.
The principle of sustainability summons our church, in its global work with poor
people, to pursue sustainable development strategies. It summons our church to
support U.S. farmers who are turning to sustainable methods, and to encourage
industries to produce sustainably. It summons each of us, in every aspect of our
lives, to behave in ways that are consistent with the long-term sustainability of our
We pray, therefore, for the creativity and dedication to live more gently with the
V. C O M M I T M E N T S O F T H I S C H U R C H
We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America answer the call to justice and
commit ourselves to its principles—participation, solidarity, sufficiency, and
sustainability. In applying the principles to specific situations, we face decisions
made difficult by human limitation and sin. We act, not because we are certain of
the outcome but because we are confident of our salvation in Christ.
Human behavior may change through economic incentive, guilt about the past, or
fear about the future. But as people of biblical faith, who live together in trust and
hope, our primary motivation is the call to be God’s caregivers and to do justice.
We celebrate the vision of hope and justice for creation, and dedicate ourselves
anew. We will act out of the conviction that, as the Holy Spirit renews our minds
and hearts, we also must reform our habits and social structures.
A. As Individual Christians
As members of this church, we commit ourselves to personal life styles that contribute
to the health of the environment. Many organizations provide materials to guide us in
examining possibilities and making changes appropriate to our circumstances.
8 Caring for Creation:
We challenge ourselves, particularly the economically secure, to tithe
environmentally. Tithers would reduce their burden on the earth’s bounty by
producing ten percent less in waste, consuming ten percent less in non-renewable
resources, and contributing the savings to earthcare efforts. Environmental tithing
also entails giving time to learn about environmental problems and to work with
others toward solutions.
B. As a Worshiping and Learning Community
1. The Congregation as a Creation Awareness Center
Each congregation should see itself as a center for exploring scriptural and
theological foundations for caring for creation.
Awareness can be furthered by many already in our midst, for example: Native
people, who often have a special understanding of human intimacy with the earth;
scientists, engineers, and technicians, who help us to live by the wisdom of God in
creation; experts in conservation and protection of the environment; and those
who tend the land and sea. We also will learn from people suffering the severe
impact of environmental degradation.
2. Creation Emphases in the Church Year
Congregations have various opportunities during the year to focus on creation.
Among these are Thanksgiving, harvest festivals, and blessings of fields, waters, and
plants and animals. Many congregations observe Earth Day or Soil and Water
Stewardship Week. As a church body, we designate the Second Sunday after
Pentecost as Stewardship of Creation Sunday, with appropriate readings (as a
development of the traditional Rogationtide).
3. Education and Communication
This church will encourage those who develop liturgical, preaching, and
educational materials that celebrate God’s creation. Expanded curricula, for use in
the many contexts of Christian education, will draw upon existing materials. We
will promote reporting on the environment by church publications, and encourage
coverage of this church’s environmental concerns in public media.
4. Programs throughout This Church
This church commends the environmental education taking place through
synodical and regional efforts; camps and outdoor ministries; colleges, seminaries,
and continuing education events; and the churchwide Hunger Program. We
especially commend this church’s Department for Environmental Stewardship in
the Division for Church in Society, for its network of caregivers, its advice to
church members and institutions on innovative caregiving, and its materials for use
in environmental auditing.
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C. As a Committed Community
As congregations and other expressions of this church, we will seek to incorporate
the principles of sufficiency and sustainability in our life. We will advocate the
environmental tithe, and we will take other measures that work to limit
consumption and reduce wastes. We will, in our budgeting and investment of
church funds, demonstrate our care for creation. We will undertake environmental
audits and follow through with checkups to ensure our continued commitment.
D. As a Community of Moral Deliberation
As congregations and other expressions of this church, we will model the principle
of participation. We will welcome the interaction of differing views and
experiences in our discussion of environmental issues such as:
nuclear and toxic waste dumps;
logging in ancient growth forests;
personal habits in food consumption;
treatment of animals in livestock production, laboratory research, and
land-use planning; and
global food, development, and population questions.
We will examine how environmental damage is influenced by racism, sexism, and
classism, and how the environmental crisis in turn exacerbates racial, gender, and
class discrimination. We will include in our deliberation people who feel and suffer
with issues, whose economic security is at stake, or who have expertise in the
natural and social sciences.
We will play a role in bringing together parties in conflict, not only members of
this church but also members of society at large. This church’s widespread
presence and credibility provide us a unique opportunity to mediate, to resolve
conflict, and to move toward consensus.
E. As an Advocate
The principles of participation, solidarity, sufficiency, and sustainability will shape
our advocacy—in neighborhoods and regions, nationally and internationally. Our
advocacy will continue in partnership, ecumenically and with others who share our
concern for the environment.
10 Caring for Creation:
Advocacy on behalf of creation is most compelling when done by informed
individuals or local groups. We will encourage their communication with
governments and private entities, attendance at public hearings, selective buying
and investing, and voting.
We will support those designated by this church to advocate at state, national, and
international levels. We will stand with those among us whose personal struggles
for justice put them in lonely and vulnerable positions.
1. Private Sector
This church will engage in dialogue with corporations on how to promote justice
for creation. We will converse with business leadership regarding the health of
workers, consumers, and the environment. We will invite the insights and
concerns of business leadership regarding responsible environmental actions. We
will urge businesses to implement comprehensive environmental principles.
Government can use both regulations and market incentives to seek sustainability.
We will foster genuine cooperation between the private and public sector in
2. Public Sector
This church will favor proposals and actions that address environmental issues in a
manner consistent with the principles of participation, solidarity, sufficiency, and
These proposals and actions will address: excessive consumption and human
population pressures; international development, trade, and debt; ozone depletion;
and climate change. They will seek: to protect species and their habitats; to protect
and assure proper use of marine species; and to protect portions of the planet that
are held in common, including the oceans and the atmosphere.
This church will support proposals and actions to protect and restore, in the
United States and Caribbean, the quality of:
natural and human habitats, including seas, wetlands, forests, wilderness,
and urban areas;
air, with special concern for inhabitants of urban areas;
water, especially drinking water, groundwater, polluted runoff, and
industrial and municipal waste; and
soil, with special attention to land use, toxic waste disposal, wind and
water erosion, and preservation of farmland amid urban development.
This church will seek public policies that allow people to participate fully in
decisions affecting their own health and livelihood. We will be in solidarity with
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people who directly face environmental hazards from toxic materials, whether in
industry, agriculture, or the home. We will insist on an equitable sharing of the
costs of maintaining a healthy environment.
This church will advance international acceptance of the principles of participation,
solidarity, sufficiency, and sustainability, and encourage the United Nations in its
caregiving role. We will collaborate with partners in the global church
community, and learn from them in our commitment to care for God’s creation.
C L A I M I N G T H E P R O M I S E
Given the power of sin and evil in this world, as well as the complexity of
environmental problems, we know we can find no “quick fix”—whether
technological, economic, or spiritual. A sustainable environment requires a
sustained effort from everyone.
The prospect of doing too little too late leads many people to despair. But as
people of faith, captives of hope, and vehicles of God’s promise, we face the crisis.
We claim the promise of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1), and
join in the offertory prayer (Lutheran Book of Worship, page 109): “Blessed are you,
O Lord our God, maker of all things. Through your goodness you have blessed us
with these gifts. With them we offer ourselves to your service and dedicate our
lives to the care and redemption of all that you have made, for the sake of him who
gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Permission is granted to reproduce this document as needed, providing each
copy displays the copyright as printed above.
Copyright © September 1993 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Produced by the Department for Studies of the Division for Church in Society.
Reprinted May, 1999
Printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink