Category Archives: why the elca

Why is this research focused on ELCA congregations?

Lutherans in the Suburbs

The Deep in the Burbs Research Project is a story of a particular place in Midwest suburbia. It was necessary to pursue this research in a specific location, through participatory action research within three neighboring congregations, because it is my assumption that a reasonably adequate Christian theology is done in, with, under, against, and for the local congregation.1 To know anything truly, especially how God is at work in the world, is to study the particularities of it.2 This research project asks how an increased awareness and understanding of the social Trinity might impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations. This implies, and I assert, that it might have far different effects on people in different contexts. Therefore, I must limit my inquiry to a specific group of people in a specific place. There are two classifications in which I will describe the people in this study and frame the question.3 The first is suburban. The second is Lutheran. read more

  1. I am indebted to Dr. Patrick Keifert for this important understanding of the nature of theology. This is his modification of David Kelsey’s assertion that theological education—To Understand God Truly—is done about, against, and for the local congregation. Kelsey. []
  2. This asserts an Aristotelean vs. Platonic approach to knowledge. It also denotes the nominalism of Jon Scotus Duns who believed that we can only know the incarnation within the particulars of creation, not in the abstract universal ideals. Further, it takes a phenomenological understanding that all knowledge is bracketed by the experience of the perceiver and communicatively interpreted. []
  3. In spite of the particularist nature of this inquiry, classifications are still helpful for communication. []

How the ELCA is Situated for a Missional Imagination

The three congregations represented in the RT are unique, but they are also similar in that they are members of the ELCA. Let us now turn our attention to the ELCA and explore how the ELCA context both contributes to and hinders the communicative space created in the DITB project and projected for the future of the missional church. One of the greatest dangers that the church faces in the twenty-first century is the increasing polarization between various factions along various ideological lines and the violence that often accompanies the disagreements between them. I have already noted, in the previous section, that the pedagogical shift toward communicative action is necessary for a missional imagination for spiritual formation in the local congregation that will find a third way between these dichotomies. I will further argue in the next section that the move toward a postfoundational theology will help the church hold the tension between these extremes and find a third way that leads to the peace of God in the world. Here, I will argue that the ELCA is well positioned to embrace the paradoxical tension held in the communicative space between polar extremes. read more

The ELCA

The three congregations represented in the RT are unique, but they are also similar in that they are members of the ELCA. Let us now turn our attention to the ELCA and explore how the ELCA context both contributes to and hinders the communicative space created in the DITB project and projected for the future of the missional church. One of the greatest dangers that the church faces in the twenty-first century is the increasing polarization between various factions along various ideological lines and the violence that often accompanies the disagreements between them. I have already noted, in the previous section, that the pedagogical shift toward communicative action is necessary for a missional imagination for spiritual formation in the local congregation that will find a third way between these dichotomies. I will further argue in the next section that the move toward a postfoundational theology will help the church hold the tension between these extremes and find a third way that leads to the peace of God in the world. Here, I will argue that the ELCA is well positioned to embrace the paradoxical tension held in the communicative space between polar extremes. read more