Sustainability: A Pathway to a Resilient Future


Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA (Credit: Chuck Moore/Random Snaps Photography)

Sustainability is the capacity of natural and social systems to survive and thrive together over the long term. What is sufficient in providing for people’s wants often conflicts with what can be sustained over time. (See the ELCA’s 1999 social statement Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All.)


In our sustainability work, we must explore ELCA churchwide and congregational strategies and activities that care for and protect all of creation and pull these together into a coordinated, holistic effort, becoming more effective stewards of God’s good creation.

Sustainability builds ELCA capacity at all levels, equipping the church to actively utilize our many gifts in witness and service in response to human need in our communities, our countries and the world.

Faith and Sustainability — The Why


Visual display of interconnectivity of people and our home earth. (Credit: Chuck Moore/Random Snaps Photography for Living Lutheran/ELCA)

A sustainable world provides sufficient resources for current generations without sacrificing future populations. Reaching sustainability is possible but comes with tensions and challenges that are social (inequality, racism, human rights violations,) economic (poverty, food insecurity, wealth disparity, water rights) and environmental (ecological and biodiversity losses, energy and transportation, human waste production, climate change.)

The ELCA recognizes these obstacles to sustainability. But in our global work with poor people, we are summoned to pursue sustainable development strategies. Each of us, in every aspect of our lives, is summoned to behave in ways consistent with the long-term sustainability of our planet. We pray, therefore, for the creativity and dedication required to live more gently with the earth. (See the ELCA’s 1993 social statement Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice.)

The Constitution of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) calls for this church to be an advocate in the public square, to “lift its voice in concord and work in concert with forces for good, to serve humanity, cooperating with church and other groups participating in activities that promote justice, relieve misery, and reconcile the estranged” (See Constitution.)

In 2015, the United Nations provided a shared blueprint (Agenda 2030) for the peace and prosperity of people and the planet, now and into the future, via 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have been adopted by all member countries of the U.N. The SDGs rely on a strategic plan to achieve the goals by 2030, promoting prosperity while protecting the planet.

“Lutherans are called to listen to the cry of the Earth along with the anguished cry of every broken soul so that we assume personal, ecclesial and public leadership in addressing both human justice and Earth justice together. Such comprehensive ecological justice is for everyone. It is foundational for our faith. This is how we love God in, with and under all creation — as neighbors of one another and of all living things on Earth and as kindred spirits with all things in the cosmos. The church calls upon Christians and all people of goodwill and conviction to participate in this great work of our time. Together we may be able to renew and re-form our church to embrace ‘the care and redemption of all that God has made.’”


―Rev. David Rhoads, “Why Lutherans Care for Creation