Last week I got an email from a pastor requesting a public statement on gun violence. That statement was emailed out on Friday, and the responses to it have been, as to be expected, mixed. The pastor who asked for the statement on gun violence added, in parentheses, “(We need one on sexual abuse, too.)” And we do. In 2016, the Church Council adopted a social message on Gender-Based Violence, available at www.elca.org.
For the last half-dozen years, the ELCA has been in the process of developing a broad Social Statement on Women and Justice.( A task force was appointed to represent various kinds of people, and various points of view. After a number of years of talking and studying (and putting out a study document last summer), the task force has produced a draft social statement. A copy was mailed to every congregation, and you can easily download a copy at www.elca.org/womenandjustice.
Between now and September 30, 2018, congregations, groups, and individuals are encouraged to read the draft and submit comments. After that, a final copy will be written, submitted to the Church Council, and, if all goes according to plan, submitted to the Churchwide Assembly for a vote. Now is the time to have your say.
The Synod Council will spend some time with the draft in their meeting this week. And we will have a hearing on it at our Synod Assembly in June. I encourage you to look at it in your congregations—in your youth groups and men’s groups, women’s groups and adult studies. It could be an excellent extra discipline in Lent, or maybe a way to get together informally over the summer.
Although the document may seem long, the essence of it is in the first 10 pages. After that you will find 44 pages of elaboration on the points in the first 10 pages, and a 3 page glossary.
The draft statement begins with a prologue, “Our Common Foundation,” grounding the study in Lutheran Christian theology.
Section I, “Core Convictions,” lists 7 convictions:
1. God’s intention that all people flourish and have life abundantly
2. All people are created equally and in the image of God
3. God creates humanity in diversity, including sex and gender
4. Sins of patriarchy and sexism disrupt God’s intention
5. God’s people are simultaneously liberated and sinful
6. We are justified by grace through faith, and committed to neighbor justice
7. Our vocation is to live justly
Section II is an “Analysis of Patriarchy and Sexism.” The subpoints include:
8. Patriarchy and sexism are a mix of power and privilege and prejudice
9. References to women in the statement are inclusive
10. Intersecting burdens are real
11. Gender-based violence and human trafficking deny that all are created in God’s image
12. Men and boys are harmed, too, as are gender non-conforming people
13. We are relational beings
The next section lists resources for Resisting Patriarchy and Sexism:
16. Law and Gospel
17. Christian Doctrine
18. Justification by grace through faith
19. Progress in society
The fourth section is a “Response to God’s Work:
Call to Action and New Commitments in Society, with 10 action steps. The fifth section lists action steps for the Church, in “Call to Action and New Commitments Regarding the Church. The steps include:
30. Honor and support women and girls
31. Promote scripture translation and interpretation that supports gender justice
32. Promote theological reflection that attends to gender-based needs of the neighbor
33. Use inclusive language for humankind and expansive language for God.
34. Resources to promote authority and leadership of women in the church
35. Economic justice for women employed by the church
36. Work with LWF’s “Gender Justice Policy”
The document ends with; “Hope for Justice”
“We know that the Church of Christ in every age is beset by change, but as Spirit led, is called to test and claim its heritage. We celebrate the Holy Spirit’s work in this church to urge ongoing reformation toward equity and equality for all. Most of all, we live in hope because through Jesus Christ we trust that God’s promises will not fail.”
Jessica Crist, Bishop