Although previous ELCA social policy documents have referred to human rights, citing agreement with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the ELCA does not have a policy document on human rights per se. At the 2016 Churchwide Assembly, in debate on responsible investment in Israel and Palestine, the voting members directed the ELCA’s Corporate Social Responsibility review team to develop a human rights screen, particularly related to the ELCA’s Middle East Strategy.
Social criteria investment screens are usually based on Social Statements or Social Messages, but in this case there wasn’t one yet. So the Church Council asked for one, to be considered at its November 2017 meeting. Now available at www.elca.org/socialmessages is a draft message. You are encouraged to read it and make comments between now and August 31. Below is my summary of the draft.
Quoting one of the ELCA’s very first Social Statements, Church in Society, the draft states:
“The God who justifies expects all people to do justice.” And then, quoting again:
“Along with all citizens, Christians have the responsibility to defend human rights and to work for freedom, justice, peace, environmental well-being and good order in public life.”
The draft says:
“In the name of the God who creates every human being out of love, this church believes human rights belong to every person. In adopting this social message, the ELCA Church Council recognizes the need for greater attention as a church to addressing the scope of human rights as the basis for more expansive action. It also believes the time is right for more Christians to enter public conversation and to take action insisting that neighbors, especially the vulnerable, be treated with the dignity due to all children of God.”
The document describes the ELCA’s convictions about human rights:
Affirming the complexity of human rights, the availability of resources, and the context of sociopolitical realities, the document affirms broad categories as useful for Christian discernment about human rights.
The draft then describes Christian responsibilities:
The document concludes with concrete commitments of the ELCA:
This document is a draft, and the church is looking for comments, by August 31. I will be sending in mine. I have some questions in the section on sin. It seems to skip lightly over original sin and doesn’t engage simul justis et peccator. I also find it odd that this message, which comes out of the Middle East conflict, is so generic that it doesn’t mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was the whole reason it was written. I encourage you to send in your comments, as well..
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA