"The Lord works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed." (Psalm 103.5)
Recently the National Football League has been in the news for tolerating domestic violence. And before that it was the military that was in the news for tolerating sexual harassment. Brutal regimes across the globe routinely use sexual violence as a way to conquer and intimidate. Our church, the ELCA, has spoken out against domestic violence and the trafficking of women and children. Now our church is in the process of writing a social message on gender-based violence.
The first draft of this social message is now available online, at www.elca.org/socialmessages. I encourage you to read it and send in your comments by November 25, 2014. The writing team will consider all the responses and write a second draft to present to the ELCA Church Council for adoption in April, 2015. Your input matters.
This social message is part of a larger work, a social statement on Women and Justice, to be presented at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. Because violence is so much a part of women's experience, the task force recommended that this separate social message address the issue of gender-based violence. It is true that women are not the only victims of gender-based violence, only the primary victims.
Many of our congregations are already involved in efforts to address domestic and sexual violence. In many a congregation's ladies room I see posters on what to do about domestic abuse and rape. In the public rest stops along the highways I see posters directed towards those who may be victims of trafficking.
Congregations work at domestic violence shelters, make prayer shawls, house anger management groups. Congregations address issues of gender-based violence through sermons and prayers, bible studies and support groups. Congregations adopt zero-tolerance policies for sexual harassment, and require training in boundaries in order to be safe places.
For years, women's groups in church and outside the church have focused on the issues of sexual harassment, sexual assault, trafficking and gender-based violence. But until men and women together focus on these issues, there is little hope of change. In invite you to study this draft document in mixed groups, and to send in your feedback. And I invite you to find ways to make a difference in your community.
Pastor John Lund of our Synod was one of the people involved in drafting the message. He joins me in asking you to read it and discuss it. Cluster groups would be a natural group in which to discusss. Think creatively.
"There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all are one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3: 28)
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA