Reflections on a Lutheran Approach to Public Policy

By Rev. Fred Hinz

“The Church’s place in our culture has changed dramatically!”

A statement like that, of course, comes as no surprise to anyone. Everyone knows that while the influence of the church in public life was once nearly universally regarded as a necessary and good thing, that influence is now suspect, and indeed, many now seem dedicated to removing the church’s influence entirely. As Christians, however, we are called, in our baptism, to exercise our faith by showing our love for neighbor not just in private settings but in the public square as well. Indeed, we consider it our Christian duty to take an interest in the society in which we live and to try and shape that society in ways that will benefit everyone, believers and non-believers alike. And therein lies a tension-a tension that every Christian feels much more keenly today than even a few years ago.

It is, in part, to help us deal with this tension and to help us navigate this new cultural landscape with greater confidence, that the Minnesota Districts of the LCMS have decided to be more intentional in offering guidance to pastors and laypeople regarding matters of public policy. That is, they’ve decided to provide members with more timely, reliable information concerning the pressing public policy matters of the day and with sound advice regarding how to properly distinguish the role of the individual Christian citizen and that of the Church as a whole, particularly in light of our Lutheran doctrine of the two kingdoms.

Historically, the Church has been very selective in addressing only those issues that Scripture itself addresses or which directly impact our ability to preach and teach the Gospel, and so it will continue. While there are many practical questions to be answered about how best to accomplish these goals, and while the “learning curve” will no doubt be steep, we trust that the Spirit will guide us as we endeavor to be faithful in our calling of reflecting Christ’s love to those around us.