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Journal of Lutheran Ethics Issue Index October/November 2019: The Ethics of Dialogue and Debate

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Editor's Introduction


Jennifer Hockenbery Dragseth, Editor
In an age of conflict and division between political parties and within political parties, between churches and within churches, American Christians often mourn disagreement, regret the diversity of opinion, and sigh for unity. This issue looks into the reality of disagreement in our nation and in our churches without rebuke. Disagreement, even radical and even uncivil disagreement, is a part of human social life, including church life. Thus, this issue is dedicated to answering the following question both theologically and practically: How do we have dialogue and debate on social and political issues with our neighbors?  Read more.

For Congregational Discussion: The Ethics of Dialogue and Debate
The Journal of Lutheran Ethics hopes to provide reading material to stimulate thinking and conversation among academics, clergy, and laity. To this end, this new section will be included in each issue of JLE in order to encourage constructive discussion within congregations about the topics discussed in JLE.  Consider using this section in formal adult education classes or in informal small group discussions. Read More. 


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Theological Touchstones for Disagreeing in the Body of Christ by Amy Carr and Christine Helmer

As Christians, we know that we often disagree. Sometimes the heart of the conflict is related to content, and sometimes it's related to the way we communicate. No matter the nature of the discussion, we remain connected as the Body of Christ. Carr and Helmer acknowledge the need for conversation and disagreement and outline three theological themes that help us to think about how to disagree constructively. 

A Different Way of Talking by R. Gregg Kaufman

How do Christians bring the Gospel into a world divided? What resources exist for congregations to talk together about tough social issues? Kaufman outlines the process of deliberative dialogue and how it can be used to help people find common ground and to move them from dialogue toward action.

by Leah D. Schade

What theological underpinnings do we have to help pastors to think about preaching on social issues? And how can they do so effectively? Drawn from a nationwide survey and multiple case studies, Schade takes readers through her sermon-dialogue-sermon model to demonstrate an effective way for constructive conversations to occur. 



Book Review Introduction

Nancy Arnison, Book Review Editor

The book reviews in this issue carry forward the theme of dialogue found in the essays.  First, Sarah Bereza reviews Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide by Leah D. Schade.  Schade proposes a sermon-dialogue-sermon model for eliciting grace-filled conversations about divisive topics. Next, we pioneer a new format for a Journal of Lutheran Ethics book review.  Together, Angela Khabeb and Ingrid Rasmussen conduct a book review in the format of a conversation that brings into striking relief the impact of one’s social location in responding to a book. These two ELCA pastors discuss Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the United States by Lenny Duncan, also an ELCA pastor. We close with notations of additional resources for engaging congregations in dialogue about difficult issues in church and society. Read more. 


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Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide by Leah D. Schade

Review by Sarah Bereza

Good morning congregation, let’s talk about women’s reproductive rights! Or maybe gun control? How about immigration? If a sermon or adult forum on these topics doesn’t elicit some nervousness for you as a pastor or layperson, I bet you can think of several other topics that would be controversial—and likely divisive—in your congregation. Hot button topics that could make some congregants angry and might drive some away. Topics where we each have our own viewpoints that we think are grounded in truth and rooted in love, but which are directly opposed to many of our neighbors’ perspectives. In Preaching in the Purple Zone: Ministry in the Red-Blue Divide, Leah D. Schade argues that we, as congregations and congregational leaders, can have grace-filled conversations about the topics that divide us and divide our broader society. At the least, these conversations can help us carefully consider each other’s viewpoints, and at the best, these conversations may even build truth and empathy in our churches.

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the United States by Lenny Duncan

Review by Angela Khabeb and Ingrid Rasmussen

Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the United States is written by Lenny Duncan, a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Duncan was a “free-agent Christian” until he met the ELCA through an open communion table. This revolutionary symbol of grace and welcome later led him to seminary and now guides his ministry at Jehu’s Table in Brooklyn, NY. Pastor Ingrid Arneson Rasmussen and Pastor Angela Khabeb serve together at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, a congregation in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The following is the conversation they shared after reading Dear Church, an epistle written to the denomination in which they are both ordained.

Articles published in the journal reflect the perspectives and thoughts of their authors and not necessarily the theological, ethical, or social stances of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.​

© October/November 2019
​Journal of Lutheran Ethics
Volume 19, Issue 5 



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