CTCR eyes environmental report delivery formats

By Linda C. Hoops

Podcasts, videos, PowerPoint presentations, plus blogs and Web sites were some of the formats suggested for disseminating a future report on the stewardship of the environment from the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) in a daylong consultation held during its Sept. 21-23 meeting. 

A group of individuals with expertise in the environmental and marketing fields –scientists, pastors, teachers, and laity — were invited to discuss various ideas and formats for delivery of the document to audiences both within and outside of the Missouri Synod.

Titled “Together with All Creatures,” the document discusses Christian stewardship of the environment from a Lutheran perspective.  It was written by Dr. Charles Arand, a CTCR member and chairman of the Systematics Department at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in response to a 2007 convention resolution asking the CTCR to address environmental issues “in a scriptural and confessional way.”

“This document provides a means for us to share with people how a Lutheran understanding of creatureliness — grounded in the scriptural story that moves from creation through Christ to the new creation — can be applied to a topic like environmental stewardship,” said Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR executive director.  “The topic is addressed more significantly than most people realize throughout Scripture and in our Confessions.”

Three versions of the document were reviewed at the meeting: a 100-page paper that could be released in book format; a smaller version — adaptable for use in various forms by students at LCMS colleges and universities, young adults, and Bible study in congregations; and in a single-page format that provides a “bullet-point” summary. 

“We want to reach as many people with the information contained in this report as we can,” Lehenbauer said, “and we hope that providing three versions will make it usable and understandable for all age groups and levels of education.”

This was the second of two consultations hosted by the CTCR (the first was held Feb. 11) which are supported by a grant from the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation.

Dr. Larry Meissner, professor of biology at Concordia University Texas, Austin, and one of the consultants, said, “We should address our changing culture and how people learn.”  He suggested using electronic delivery systems for the college-age level, “using the media they use.” 

The document is important, he added, because “it offers hope that a conservative church body can provide guidance that encourages attitudes and actions toward the environment that honors God and cares for His creation regardless of one’s individual political persuasion.”

Another consultant, Faith Spelbring, manager of U.S Ministries Program Research and Development for Lutheran Hour Ministries, said she was proud that the Missouri Synod wants to discuss a matter that is of importance to many non-Christians.  “Non-Christians often see the church as being against them.  When we care about the environment alongside of them, we have a common ground upon which we can build a foundation to share the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of the world.”

A CTCR committee will offer a completed report for the full commission to consider for adoption at its Dec. 10-12 meeting.

In other action, the CTCR unanimously adopted for forwarding to LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick a report titled “Church Relations in the 21st Century.” This report suggests ways of responding to overtures for closer relationships between the LCMS and like-minded Lutheran churches and groups in unique, emerging and/or challenging situations “where a formal declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship may not be appropriate or feasible.”  

The report had been requested by Kieschnick in response to such overtures and will be published soon on the CTCR’s Web site, www.lcms.org/ctcr.

During its meeting, the CTCR reviewed the most recent draft of “The Creator’s Tapestry,” a document on the scriptural relationship of men and women, and asked the committee to provide a revised draft to the commission at its next meeting.
The commission also heard reports from Kieschnick and Dr. Samuel Nafzger, LCMS director of church relations, regarding their recent meetings with the International Lutheran Council and the Missouri Synod’s response to the recent actions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly regarding same-sex marriage and ordination of practicing homosexuals.

“The Synod will continue to seek to nurture relationships with other Lutheran churches and groups within other churches that are intentionally supportive and fundamentally constructive of confessional Lutheran theology, while also being respectful of existing relationships,” said Nafzger.

The CTCR also thanked Dr. Gerhard Michael, who is retiring as president of the Florida-Georgia District, for his 14 years of service to the commission, most recently as the Council of Presidents’ representative to the CTCR.

Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.

Posted Oct. 15, 2009

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