OUR CALLING IN EDUCATION
THIS SOCIAL STATEMENT ADOPTED BY BY THE TENTH BIENNIAL CHURCHWIDE ASSEMBLY OF THE ELCA (AUGUST 2007) CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.
This brief summary is an overview of the approved document (72 pages) and has been prepared by Pastor George Brookover.
The calling of Lutherans and of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in education is closely tied to a Lutheran understanding of vocation. While many understand vocation as a job or career or as the call to be a pastor or priest, Lutherans understand vocation as a calling from God that encompasses all of life for all the faithful. Martin Luther educated as an attorney and then changing “careers” upon becoming a monk studied and taught at a high level. Throughout his status as a ‘reformer’ he noted for zeroing in on the need for all God’s children to be aware of the way that one’s faith is a both a call and a responsibility for sharing the love of God for every person.
Vocation involves God’s saving call to us in baptism and life lived in joyful response to this call. In Jesus Christ we are loved by a gracious God who frees us to love our neighbor and promote the common good; in gratitude for God’s love, we live out our vocation in our places of responsibility in daily life—home, congregation, workplace, neighborhood, nation, and global society.
Education belongs to our baptismal vocation. Our particular calling in education is two-fold: to educate people in the Christian faith for their vocation and to strive with others to ensure that all have access to high-quality education that develops personal gifts and abilities and serves the common good. This calling embraces all people in both Church and society.
The ELCA’s calling in education recognizes special responsibilities and accountability in certain specific areas:
·It affirms the essential role of parents and congregations in the faith formation of young people and urges revitalization of the baptismal commitment to educate in the faith for vocation, a commitment that continues throughout life.
·In light of the essential role of public education in serving the common good of the society and in the face of continuing concern for the effectiveness of some public schools, the lack of equitable access for many students to high-quality schools, and the often inadequate provision of financial resources, the ELCA affirms and advocates for the equitable, sufficient, and effective funding of public schools.
·In view of the expanding role of ELCA early childhood education centers and schools in providing outreach and distinctive religious educational opportunities to growing numbers of children, this church affirms these schools and encourages synods, pastors, congregations, and members to claim and support this unique mission opportunity.
·In gratitude for the extraordinary work of ELCA colleges and universities in preparing students for vocation in the Church and world and for ELCA seminaries in their preparation of leaders for our church, this church affirms the role of these institutions and encourages them to sustain and strengthen those elements that distinguish the Lutheran tradition in higher education and theological education.
Our particular calling in education is two-fold: to educate people in the Christian faith for their vocation.
Education, as understood in this social statement, refers in a broad sense to learning, teaching, and knowing as a dimension of human life. It is a lifelong activity that permeates all that we do. In a narrower sense, education refers
to intentional activity in which we engage one another in learning. People create institutions and situations whose purposes are to encourage, transmit, and advance human learning and to shape and equip new generations.
Through education human beings are formed as people, acquiring knowledge, wisdom, attitudes, beliefs, skills, and abilities to think, feel, and act in particular ways. When the Christian Church talks about education, it does so in the light of its faith in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christians believe that God creates human beings with ability to learn, teach, and know and that God is active in and through education. God’s creative activity encompasses all people and their education, and the redeeming gospel of Jesus Christ gives the Church a distinctive mandate in education.
The ELCA lives its calling in education today in a world that is increasingly interconnected and in a society that is becoming more pluralistic. Contemporary culture brings new marvels yet Confident that the God revealed in Jesus Christ is the source of all truth, we affirm and value the discovery and transmission of true knowledge wherever and however it occurs.
Our Calling in Education also conveys messages that there are individuals and groups that hinder learning and clash with the Church’s beliefs. Science and technology continuously reshape our world, bringing new benefits as well as new dangers and creating new moral dilemmas and theological challenges. Many voices point to the crucial significance of early childhood education as well as to the need for and the possibilities of lifelong learning. Millions of men, women, and children in our affluent society live in poverty, and most young people who live in poverty do not have fair access to good schools. The needs of students with differing abilities are not always being met effectively. Recognizing how essential formal education is for living in today’s world, our society has developed an elaborate array of public and private schools from preschool through postgraduate. Yet performance of educational institutions in this society is often criticized, and many reform proposals are advanced. Within this complex, changing, and challenging context the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America claims and aspires to renew its calling in education.
We are grateful for and challenged by the legacy we have received, and we are aware that we too often fall short in our calling. We pledge to sustain, renew, and where need be, reform our calling in education for this time and place so that we will be a stronger, livelier, and more faithful teaching and learning church.
This calling in education belongs to this whole church. Individuals, families, congregations, early childhood education centers and schools, colleges and universities, seminaries, outdoor ministries, campus ministries, lifelong learning centers, publishing ministry, social ministry organizations, synods, and the churchwide organization all participate in this calling. It involves lifelong learning in formal and informal settings. It includes pastors and bishops as teachers of the faith who speak to heart and mind and who address public issues of education. In this calling in education we learn from ecumenical partners, We pledge to sustain, renew, and where need be, reform our calling in education for this time and place so that we will be a stronger, livelier, and more faithful teaching and learning church.
Other churches, and the Church throughout the world and ages as well as from other religions and secular knowledge. We honor and support parents, pastors, students, educators, citizens, and all who carry out their callings in education.
This social statement calls the ELCA in light of our faith to engage, deliberate, and act with respect to four contexts: home and congregation, public education, this church’s educational institutions, and public colleges and universities. Our calling in education is to:
·communicate the faith to children and youth with power and conviction in home and congregation where lifelong learning in the faith is expected and encouraged;
·advocate equitable access to excellent education for all young people;
·sustain and strengthen early childhood education centers, schools, colleges and universities, and seminaries as an integral and integrated part of this church’s mission in education; and
·support public higher education to serve the common good and rejoice in the faithful presence of campus ministry in public colleges and universities.
Returning to the central idea of vocation, the statement’s conclusion leaves each of us with a challenge: “May we faithfully and boldly be a teaching and learning church, educating in the faith for vocation and striving with others so that all people have equitable access to a high-quality education.”