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2017: The church at a crossroads


Five hundred years after the Reformation, the ELCA faces “a Lutheran crossroads” that will determine the future of the church, Malpica Padilla said. But for many Christians in a North American context, he said, Jesus is regarded less as the source of our love for neighbor and more as a “personal spiritual trainer—that’s how we have reduced Jesus, so that the trainer works on us one hour a week.” The disconnect between self and neighbor,


Faith in action: Domestic Mission


When Stephen Bouman, director of ELCA Domestic Mission, considers a Lutheran approach to social action, he looks to “the powerful public nature of the sacraments.” “Luther always called us to the world,” he said.


“When we baptize a child, it’s baptismal ministry to follow her into the world ... we struggle for the world of that child.” Likewise, sharing communion also means considering those who need to eat, “extending the eucharist into the world,” he added. Since 2009, Domest ic Mi s sion has been


committed to making sure that at least 50 percent of new-start congregations serve immigrants, places of deep poverty or communities of color. In 2016 that number hit 57 percent. “We are slowly becoming a church that is changing [to reflect] what America is becoming,” Bouman said. This strategy, far from a church dictated by


culture, represents for Bouman a reclaiming of the roots of the Reformation—and Christianity itself.


church and world, faith and action, means “we have domesticated Luther, [making him] hostage to cultural and institutional life,” he warned. “[Yet] our Lutheran identity pushes us into the world.” If Lutherans reclaim the love of neighbor that


was so central to the teachings of Jesus and Luther, Malpica Padilla believes “the core identity of our theology” will show our neighbors, including the “spiritual but not religious,” that “Lutheran identity means something.” On his way to the march that January day, when


he was asked “What kind of priest are you?” Malpica Padilla responded by telling the women that he was a Lutheran pastor. As he shared with them the theological identity that prompted him to march, the women inquired: “Where is your church? We’d like to go.” Faith in action, Malpica Padilla concluded, is not only identity and calling—it is also evangelism.


Download a study guide by clicking on the “Spiritual practices & resources” tab at livinglutheran.org.


FIVE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER THE REFORMATION, THE ELCA FACES “A LUTHERAN CROSSROADS” THAT WILL DETERMINE THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH.


Meghan Johnston Aelabouni is an ELCA pastor studying full-time for her doctorate. She and her family live in Fort Collins, Colo.


LIVINGLUTHERAN.ORG 19


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