One thing that can be said about this election’s political climate is that it has sparked a nationwide conversation on sexism, sexual harassment, and abuse.  The ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice, which is writing a statement to be presented to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, has many resources for congregations who wish to address these issues in the context of faith.

In 2009, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to develop a social statement on Women and Justice.

The original plan was for the statement to be presented to the 2015 Assembly but because of staff limitations, there was some delay in putting together a task force to write the statement.  One of the members of that task force is Rev. Dr. Kit Kleinhans, McCoy Family Distinguished Chair in Lutheran Heritage and Mission at Wartburg. The study is now on schedule to be completed and presented to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.

Beginning in 2013 listening events were held throughout the church.  Several were held in our synod, including at the 2014 Synod Assembly and the Synodical Women’s Organization gathering. This was a time for members to discuss and express what they wanted the statement to address.

Out of those listening events, the task force heard an overwhelming concern with gender-based violence and in response, wrote a Social Message on Gender-Based Violence.

What is the difference between a Social Statement and a Social Message?

ELCA social statements are teaching and policy documents that provide broad frameworks to assist us in thinking about and discussing social issues in the context of faith and life.  They set policy for the ELCA and guide its advocacy and work as a publically engaged church. They result from an extensive process of participation and deliberation and are adopted by a two-thirds vote of an ELCA Churchwide Assembly. See more about Social Statements.

Social messages of the ELCA are topical documents adopted by the ELCA Church Council to focus attention and action on timely, pressing matters of social concern to the church and society. For more about ELCA Social Messages see Social Messages.

The social message on “Gender-based Violence” seeks to raise awareness about the growing level of gender-based violence in U.S. Society. “Gender-based Violence” includes, but is not limited to, rape, sexual abuse, physical and sexual assault, domestic and dating violence, and sexual harassment.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness and would be a good time to study this message.

Download “Gender-based Violence”

Bishop Eaton has released this video on the Message:  Bishop Eaton on Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

The Task Force has also released a new study:  Faith, Sexism, Justice: Conversations Toward a Social Statement.   This study was written after receiving feedback from the listening events held throughout the church.

This study is meant to be used in many contexts, in groups or as individuals to learn more about the issues involved in women and justice, discuss with other church members and to respond with feedback to the Women and Justice Task Force as they prepare to complete this statement.

Social Statements are never written in a closed environment.  They are prepared by ELCA members from a wide variety of backgrounds and points of view.   But they are also the result of listening to hundreds and hundreds of members from around the church.  They are written in response to those conversations, questions, and concerns that you raise.  Your input is valued.

When I was doing listening events around the synod, I was surprised by the interest and passion with which this subject was met by women of all ages and backgrounds.

But this is not just a “woman’s issue”.  There is no justice until there is justice for all.

I know that pastors are busy and many things demand your attention.  You may think “another social statement” is the last thing you need to deal with.  You may think that your members are not interested but perhaps they are very interested in it and are just waiting for you to ask.  You need to ask.  And listen.  And encourage people to respond to the task force so that our church can present a statement on this that will help people address these issues in a meaningful way.


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About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson

The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.


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