2017 marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting The 95 Theses in Wittenberg, Germany. (Brief scholarly articles covering Lutheran theology, events and persons are available from Oxford Research Encyclopedias.)
Lutheran means we take our confessional cues from the key theological insights highlighted by Luther and his colleagues like Phillip Melanchthon. Luther prioritized God’s initiative in grace through Jesus Christ for human beings. Faith as reconciled relational trust between human beings and God is initiated and sustained by the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Human beings are beloved of God and are freed for lives of love for God and for neighbor/Creation as self. Every descriptor that follows flows from this prioritization of God’s grace and love for the whole Creation.
We are a missional faith community rooted in the Lutheran tradition. We are committed to loving God and our neighbor: fellow church member, our out-group neighbor, and the nonhuman members of Creation. We conceive our work as collaborative partnership with God and neighbor for the flourishing of all within our “common home,” to borrow a phrase from Pope Francis. We are broken, too, and in need of continual renewal. Who we are equally means we who we are becoming. We are a local church always undergoing God’s transformation.
“GOD DOES NOT LOVE SOME IDEAL PERSON, BUT RATHER HUMAN BEINGS JUST AS WE ARE, NOT SOME IDEAL WORLD, BUT RATHER THE REAL WORLD.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, MEDITATIONS ON THE CROSS
We are followers of Jesus. We are imperfect, sometimes conflicted, but never without passion for the big things in life. We envision our life together beginning and finding fulfillment in communion with the triune God. God’s gracious love sustains and challenges us.
For us, a local church means a practicing Christian community…
- receiving God’s liberating grace daily,
- following Jesus (i.e., lifelong, intergenerational community discipleship),
- attuning our community rhythm with the movement of the Holy Spirit in us and creation,
- gathering around Word and Sacrament every week,
- proclaiming Gospel for all,
- putting faith in action socially, locally, economically, ecologically and politically,
- forming strategic partnerships for new life and hope,
- opposing evil,
- enacting restorative justice for the oppressed, marginalized and poor,
- welcoming the guest and the refugee,
- caring for those who suffer,
- valuing the body, work and sabbath rest, and the inseparability of the three,
- practicing peace and reconciliation,
- listening and living contemplatively,
- sharing stories and laughs around tables with good food and drink,
- encouraging the lonely,
- celebrating beauty,
- embodying creativity,
- accompanying the young and old,
- befriending the stranger,
- engaging theological imagination and dialogue with friends and others,
- living joy,
- tending grief,
- risking reputation for the greater good,
- and making sense of what it means to live deeply, abundantly generous and loving lives for the sake of the whole Earth locally and globally.
I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me. Jesus, Matthew 25:40, The Message
Let’s be unequivocal about who have been historically marginalized in society and around the world: the immigrant, the refugee, people who identify as LGBTQ+, women, the elderly, the unemployed, the homeless and hungry, the poor, the prisoner, people of color, religious and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and mental illness….made in the image of God and the neighbor we are called to love. Quite a number of us can personally identify with the list above. We know firsthand the trauma and challenges caused by society and even the very church called to love, not hate.
Our local church mirrors the above concern shared by the larger church we belong. We are a member church in a geographically-bound cooperative of congregations called the South-Central Synod of WI (SCSW), a Reconciled in Christ Synod. Check out what that means here: https://www.reconcilingworks.org/about/. What is another implication of our biblically grounded, Christlike values? We do not believe in building walls, but welcoming our refugee, immigrant neighbor in life together. (I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Jesus, Matthew 25:35-36, NRSV). The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, our denomination, articulates our shared value well:
Inclusion and diversity – As Christ’s church, we value the richness of God’s creation and offer a radical welcome to all people, appreciating our common humanity and our differences. We are a church that does not view diversity as a barrier to unity. We recognize and will challenge dynamics of power and privilege that create barriers to participation and equity in this church and society – for women, people of color, minority ethnic groups, people with disabilities, people who are marginalized or living in poverty, and the LGBTQ community.
Equally, we are an “all hands on deck” and “many hands make light work” kind of church against a consumeristic, individualistic distortion of Christianity endemic in the U.S. We are the body of Christ, a mutually-interdependent contrast-community where social status is grounded in our baptismal, missional identity not privilege or power. The journey you join may include filling your perceived need, but it is so much more than that. Your presence means we will love you right where you are at, somewhere between broken and whole. God is not yet finished with you (or anyone of us!). When you participate, you join a radical, local mission intended for hope, justice and transformation in this local community. Maybe most important to a curious prospective partner, i.e., YOU, we welcome you to this journey.
The behavioral values that ground our communal life together have consistently included the following:
- Collaborative Partnerships for Restorative Justice (shalom) and the Common Good.
- Lifelong Community-based Discipleship.
- Creative, Adaptive Approaches to Mission and Ministry.
- Enacting Compassion Locally and Globally .
- Distributed Responsibility for Spiritual Care and Ministry.
- Hospitality and Inclusion for the Marginalized.
- Courageous Stewardship.
- Struggle in Making Sense of being the Body of Christ in a World of Flux.
Disclaimer: We are in process. The vision above imagines who we have been and hope to be at our best. We are not monolithic in all of our beliefs nor at the same place theologically and spiritually. May our journey be marked by humility, healthy laughter, hope, compassion and joy.
FLC is a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin (SCSW). (The SCSW is 145 congregations in a common geographical region.)