Lutheran women in the United States have been gathering in mission since the 1800s, and we owe much to our foremothers who responded to God’s call, created a place and lived out a purpose when women had no voice in the church.
Three groups came together in 1987 to form Women of the ELCA. These groups were the American Lutheran Church Women (of the American Lutheran Church), the Lutheran Church Women (of the Lutheran Church in America) and Women in Action for Mission (of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches). The constituting convention was held June 13-14, 1987, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with the theme “Embrace God’s World.” The organization was officially constituted Jan. 1, 1988, with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Communication tools would soon follow. The magazine Lutheran Woman Today began publishing in January 1988 and Newsletter (the predecessor to Interchange) followed in June of that year. The organization’s first website was inaugurated in 1995. Café, our electronic magazine for young women launched in 2006, with podcasts soon to follow.
In 2011, Lutheran Woman Today changed its name to Gather, and continued providing award-winning content (Bible studies and articles) to more than 45,000 readers, with a pass-along rate of 3 additional people per subscriber.
Various program initiatives were launched in 1988, some of which continue today such as the grants and scholarship programs. Initiatives came and went, meeting the needs of the women at the time. Raising Up Healthy Women and Girls, the organization’s health initiative, began in 2005. Bold Women’s Day, an annual celebration of our mission and the women who accomplish it, launched in 2007.
Today the organization is active in approximately 7,000 congregations of the ELCA and in 64 of the 65 synods (the only synod without a synodical organization is the Slovak Zion Synod, the ELCA’s only non-geographical synod).
Our purpose hasn’t wavered since we created our first constitution. “As a community of women created in the image of God, called to discipleship in Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we commit ourselves to grow in faith, affirm our gifts, support one another in our callings, engage in ministry and action, and promote healing and wholeness in the church, the society and the world.”
Since constituting in 1988, Women of the ELCA has belonged to the women; it is self-incorporated. No money from the ELCA budget is given to Women of the ELCA; all monetary support comes from the women themselves.
Thanks to you, Women of the ELCA continues its ministry today.