In the beginning, Lutherans knew Katie Luther as the wife of Martin Luther. When Women of the ELCA first established the Katharina von Bora Luther Fund Endowment in 1997, Katie was a mystery to many.
But over the years, through resources, scholarships, articles, and skits, Women of the ELCA told the story of this bold and brave woman who brewed beer, raised cattle, managed a busy household, and kept a theologian in line.
These days, Katie Luther is loved and admired by those who know her. Many women see a bit of themselves in this legend who wore many bonnets.
Building a future
Women of the ELCA established Katie’s Fund 10 years after the organization was founded in 1987, said Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director since 2002. For 25 years, women have given to Katie’s Fund to support and sustain the ministries of Women of the ELCA.
And the organization hopes giving will last far into the future. That’s why they created a new capital campaign, 2122: Growing Katie’s Fund for the next 100 years with a goal to raise $1 million.
“By expanding Katie’s Fund by one million dollars through this new campaign, Women of the ELCA can continue to multiply the reach and impact of women’s leadership and ministry in the church,” Bushkofsky said.
Dollars given to Katie’s Fund are invested in ministry, now and future, she said. Katie’s Fund supports ministry in three areas: leadership development, global connections, and living theology.
“We use the fund to raise bold leaders for the women’s organization and support creative ministry for generations to come,” Bushkofsky said.
From advocacy to education
And those ministries run the gamut from enabling women to attend advocacy and immersion events to educating young people about human trafficking at ELCA Youth Gatherings. The ministry funds include providing scholarships for young women to participate in Women of the ELCA triennial gatherings and supporting documentaries about vital women’s issues.
In April 2019, Katie’s Fund dollars sent five women to Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., an event that supports Christians who mobilize for advocacy. Two of those women—Lois Griffiths of Pennsylvania and Shirley Paulson of Wisconsin—continue to combat human trafficking in their states.
“How did women in our synod grow from concerned but shy Christians into strong advocates to end human trafficking?” asked Paulson, former president of the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin women’s organization. “We did what we felt God was calling us to do, one step at a time, one act leading to another, using what we had learned and the connections we had made.” Read more about the anti-trafficking work in the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin.
Educating youth about trafficking
Katie’s Fund supported human trafficking education for teens and adult leaders attending the ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston in 2018. In its exhibit space, Women of the ELCA demonstrated that sex trafficking could affect youth of all cultures and backgrounds. In the exhibit area, the teens and adult leaders assembled hygiene kits for local agencies caring for youth affected by sexual abuse or trafficking.
“In Houston, we partnered with a local organization that supports victims of human trafficking and at-risk youth,” said Elizabeth McBride, who led the event for Women of the ELCA. “During the three days our exhibit was open, youth assembled 2,005 hygiene bags.”
In every bag, youth inserted a pamphlet with Houston-area phone numbers and resources available to help, McBride said. “Visitors to our space also added a compassion card to every bag with messages of kindness and hope. The notes were handwritten by youth gathering participants and read, ‘You are loved,’ ‘You matter,’ or ‘I’m praying for you.’”
In 2005, the Rev. Jessica Olson Miller, now serving The Neighborhood Church, Fargo, N.D., was one of 22 who received a Katie’s Fund scholarship to attend the Sixth Triennial Gathering in San Antonio, Texas, with the theme: Act Boldly. Katie’s Fund paid for travel, meals and hotel rooms.
“I experienced four days of conversation, prayer, laughter, worship, praise, lament, challenge and invitation,” recalls Miller, then in her 20s. “I was reminded this boldness can have many forms…and that each woman in this church has been called by God to share her gifts.”
In 2015, Katie’s Fund sent 11 young women (clergy and lay, seminarians, college students) to the Holy Land on a journey of accompaniment and discovery with the ELCA’s Global Mission and Young Adult Ministry program, Peace Not Walls.
The 10-day journeys were not field trips or service trips. They were journeys of transformation. The young women, whose travel and learning opportunities were supported by gifts to Katie’s Fund, discovered new insights into peace, justice and the roots of shared faith. And they shared their wisdom with the larger church.
“These journeys have changed how I read Scripture for I envision spaces and places I have actually walked,” said the Rev. Dr. Jeanette Bidne, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Blue Earth, Minn. “The experience has spilled over into my Bible study teaching, preaching, and understanding of news headlines in other places of the world. I have faces and names to go along with the words: refugee, occupation, and oppressed.”
Other ways your gifts to Katie’s Fund support women’s ministry
- In 2004, it provided a scholarship and travel for a Lutheran World Relief-sponsored coffee trip that led to the campaign, “Pour Justice to the Brim: A 90-Ton Challenge,” to double the amount of fair-trade coffee purchased through the Lutheran Coffee Project. The campaign was a great success. In just one year, thousands of women educated and mobilized their congregations around fair trade and exceeded the 90-ton goal.
- Also, in 2004, Katie’s Fund allowed two women to attend a Lutheran World Federation-sponsored forum on water issues.
- In 2006, it allowed one woman to travel to India for the 300th anniversary of Protestant/Lutheran presence there and contributed to a Women of the ELCA exhibit at the Youth Gathering.
- In 2010, Katie’s Fund provided crucial support for “I Believe You,” a documentary about domestic violence and faith. The film received Emmy nominations and aired on ABC and NBC stations. The same year, it supported Words Matter, a symposium coordinated by the National Council of Churches of Christ that provided tools to help Christians think about how language affects their relationships with God and with each other.
- In 2011 and 2012, Katie’s Fund dollars supported scholarships for two women to attend the Young Women’s Leadership Experience at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
- In December 2012, it helped two young women travel to Liberia to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Women of the ELCA and the longstanding partnership between Lutheran women in Liberia and the United States.
- In 2014, it allowed Women of the ELCA to provide two DVDs to each resource center in the ELCA. The documentaries, “I Believe You” and “Harvest of Empires,” were screened at the 2014 Triennial Gathering. By providing the DVDs to resource centers, women were able to use the documentaries for unit and other local gatherings.
- In 2017, it funded the redesign and redevelopment of welca.org, gathermagazine.org and boldcafe.org, websites that support women within the organization.
- In 2018, it facilitated a delegation to the First International African Lutheran Conference, Moshi, Tanzania. The delegation was diverse in age (three generations), leadership expressions (churchwide, synodical and unit), ethnicity (African American and African National) and regionally (2B, 4F, 6F and 8F).
- In 2019, it supported the Women’s Theological Conference of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (for women clergy and lay leaders) and the churchwide president’s participation in the conference. Also, in 2019, Katie’s Fund covered a portion of the cost for a participant to attend the Third International Seminar for Lay People in Leading Positions hosted by the Lutheran World Federation.To learn more or to give, call 800-638-3522, ext. 2740 or visit welca.org/katiesfund.
Women of the ELCA includes participants who gather in more than 4,000 congregations and special units in the U.S. and the Caribbean for service, study, advocacy, fellowship and more. The organization embraces ministries that support its mission to mobilize women to act boldly on their faith in Jesus Christ. WELCA is a separately incorporated ministry of the ELCA supported by individual and group offerings.