Lutherans in the Twin Cities

Metro ELCA synods to consider action on youth, war, conscience

How should Lutheran congregations prepare their youth for making decisions about military service?

That question is key to a resolution headed for consideration in May by assemblies of the Minneapolis and St. Paul Area synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Titled “Lutheran Youth, the Call to War, and the Call from Jesus,” the resolution urges parents, pastors, and other teachers of church youth “to teach what Jesus taught and lived” concerning violence, according to its authors, and to advise youth about “the often-destructive consequences of combat and of training to kill.”

The resolution summarizes New Testament teaching on putting aside “the way of the sword” and its call to love of enemies. It points to Lutheran teaching on the role of faith-filled conscience when believers are assigned to active duty in areas of conflict. Cited are war/conscience positions articulated by both Martin Luther and the 1995 ELCA social statement, “For Peace in God’s World.”

Noting that a young person’s volunteering to enter military service is a “profoundly moral decision,” the resolution states that Christian education is lacking “to enable young people to make fully informed, morally responsible decisions concerning military duty.”

The resolution asks that the two synods’ Joint Peace with Justice Committee “provide congregations with resources for addressing the issues of faith and conscience inherent in military service.”

Why now?

When asked what prompted development of the war/conscience resolution, Dick Hilden, chair of the sponsoring committee, said, “Clearly the context is our Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the devastating emotional impact they are having on returning veterans and their families.”

Hilden, a U.S. Air Force veteran himself, noted that “most of our congregations wrestled with war and conscience concerns during the Vietnam Era several decades ago. Since drafting into compulsory [military] service ended, congregations have largely ignored that agenda. Today it surfaces for those who volunteer to serve, then have ethical qualms about the war they’re thrust into.”

Action on the resolution is expected at assemblies of the two synods this spring — the Minneapolis synod meets May 7; St. Paul’s May 21.

A focused discussion of the resolution is set for Sunday, April 10, 12:30-2:00 p.m., in the fellowship hall of Central Lutheran Church, downtown Minneapolis. Voting members of the two synod assemblies are specifically invited, but the forum is open to any interested persons.

For the text of a draft version of the resolution, go to http://pwjc.wordpress.com/discuss.

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