It has been a long time in coming. Women are 50% of the world’s population, and more than 50% of the church. As a church, we have had social statements and social messages over the years on a whole host of topics from economic well-being to mental health. But we have not yet adopted a social statement on women and justice. Even the current statement being considered by the Churchwide Assembly in August, has taken longer than any other social statement in our history. First proposed in 2009, it was delayed by other pressing matters the church was dealing with, and by a staff reduction caused by financial shortfall. The length of time for the study, once it got under way, was also longer than previous studies.
The final title for the proposed social statement is “Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Lutheran Call to Action.” It is available at www.elca.org. The writing team decided to make it available in two forms: there is a brief, 8 page synopsis of the study, and then a longer, 30+ page version, followed by a glossary of terms and implementing resolutions.
The statement begins with the fundamental teaching that God desires abundant life for all. Included in this are:
1. God’s intention is revealed in Scriptures.
2. All people are created equally in the image of God.
3. Humans exist in sin, alienated from God and one another.
4. Christ heals and redeems us from this alienation.
5. Because we are freed in Christ, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
6. God’s grace and mercy are for all people.
7. Reason and knowledge are gifts from God for the common good.
8. The church is called to live justly in the world
The statement goes on the describe how sin subverts human flourishing in many ways that oppress people and restrict them. Patriarchy and sexism are among the forces that prevent women and girls from realizing abundant life fully. They also prevent men and boys from realizing life fully.
“As Christians, we see that patriarchy and sexism prevent all human beings from living into the abundant life for which God created them. Patriarchy and sexism reflect a lack of trust in God and result in harm and broken relationships. Just as this church has identified racism as sin, this church identifies patriarchy and sexism as sin. We confess that, as God’s people forgiven in Jesus Christ, we are simultaneously liberated and sinful.”
The statement goes on to say how the Christian tradition is both a challenge and a resource. While tradition has often been used to reinforce patriarchy and sexism, central Lutheran and Christian doctrines free Christ’s beloved people to challenge all forms of oppression.
The statement continues with suggested actions for us as a church, including:
1. Celebrating the gifts of women and girls.
2. Promoting scriptural translation and interpretation that rejects the misuse of scripture.
3. Promote theological language that responds to the gender-based needs of the neighbor.
4. Using inclusive language for humans and expansive language for God.
5. Promote women’s leadership, especially women of color.
6. Promote economic justice
7. Affirm the Lutheran World Federations’s “Gender Justice Policy.”
The statement also calls the ELCA to action to advocate for justice in society.
It is important to note that this statement does not denigrate men. It’s premise is that all people are made in God’s image, and that both men and women, girls and boys will be better off when we live into that reality.
There will be a workshop at the Synod Assembly on the proposed Social Statement. And the Churchwide Assembly in August will vote on it, as well as on the implementing resolutions.
Jessica Crist, Bishop
Bishop Jessica Crist
Bishop of the Montana Synod of the ELCA