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Women and justice task force at work

Women and justice task force at work

The 2009 Churchwide Assembly called for the development of a social statement on women and justice. After a delay because of limited staff capacity and a lengthy search, a task force charged with the responsibility to lead this process was formed and began meeting in the fall of 2012. The process now bears the name “Women and Justice: One in Christ Task Force.”

The task force consists of 20 people, clergy and lay, male and female. At least two of those people are familiar among Women of the ELCA participants: Diane Brauer, of Scottsbluff, Neb., who served on the churchwide executive board from 2005-2011, and Viviane Thomas-Breitfeld, an ELCA pastor who’s been active in the Greater Milwaukee Synodical Women’s Organization. Thomas-Brietfeld is co-chair of the task force, along with Brad Wendel of Ithaca, N.Y. 

Women of the ELCA executive director, Linda Post Bushkofsky, serves as one of two advisers to the task force.
“This work is critical, not only to our life together within the church but also in our Christian witness to the world,” Bushkofsky says. “We live in a world where rape is a tool of war, where women earn less than men for the same work, where trafficking of women and children is a multi-billion dollar industry (third only to weapons and drugs). How far have we come from God’s beloved intention of creating men and women in God’s image?”

What’s a social statement?

As the ELCA website explains, ELCA social statements are teaching documents that assist members in their thinking about social issues. Social statements aid in communal and individual moral formation and deliberation. Social statements also set policy for the church and guide its advocacy and work in the public arena. In the ELCA’s first 25 years, 11 social statements have been adopted: abortion, church in society, death penalty, economic life, education, environment, genetics, health and healthcare, peace, race, ethnicity and culture and sexuality. Voting members at the August 2013 churchwide assembly will consider a social statement on criminal justice.

What’s the process?

As with the development of any social statement, the process involves several steps that invite ELCA members to participate. The task force is currently in the study stage, as the members learn more about the myriad issues falling under the title of “women and justice.” Task force members read and study and learn from experts. For example, at its May 2013 meeting, the task force heard Dr. Kris Kvam, associate professor of theology at St. Paul School of Theology (Kansas City, Mo.) on 21st-century implications of Martin Luther’s study of Genesis, especially the Adam and Eve story. The Rev. Ann Svennungsen, bishop of the Minneapolis Area Synod and also a task force member, offered a history lesson on women’s leadership in non-profits and within the ELCA.

While the task force engages in study and reflection, members are also engaging people in a variety of listening events. These events are designed to surface concerns and provide input and suggestions from ELCA members that the task force can consider and possibly discuss or study in depth. Listening events will continue throughout this year and into 2014 and 2015. Listening events will be scheduled during the Ninth Triennial Convention and Gathering in Charlotte, N.C. in July 2014.

Also at this time the task force is pulling together resources for church members to use in addressing issues relating to women and justice. Included is a study guide to accompany the documentary “Miss Representation,” a film that explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.

A study document will be published in late June 2016. All members of the ELCA are then invited to engage with that study document and provide responses to the task force. The response period ends in June 2017. A draft social statement will then be published in October of 2017. Again, comments on that draft are invited over the next year. A proposed social statement is produced in the spring of 2019, and the churchwide assembly in August of that year considers the proposed statement for adoption.

How can we get involved?

Here are three easy ways for you and your congregational unit of Women of the ELCA to get involved in this work right now.

  1. Contact your ELCA Resource Center and borrow a copy of “Miss Representation.” Download the study guide offered by the task force and hold a discussion in your congregational unit or host an intergenerational screening and discussion for your entire congregation.
  2. Send a request to womenandjustice@elca.org to learn of a listening event near you. If one isn’t scheduled, invite a task force member to meet with your group and open it to your local congregations.
  3. Use the Bible study, “In Good Company: Stories of Biblical Women,” available in Gather magazine, starting September 2013 through May 2014.